Numlock News: March 7, 2022 • Batman, Robbery, Bird Seed
By Walt Hickey
The Batman made $128.5 million domestically in its opening weekend, the second-best opening of the pandemic. The film made another $120 million overseas, for a worldwide opening of $248.5 million. The audience skewed young — 60 percent were aged 18 to 34 — and male (65 percent). The film tells the story of Batman, a crime fighter who dresses like a bat and patrols the streets of Gotham, but the movie also seems to devote a weird amount of attention towards a local billionaire playboy named Bruce Wayne for no apparent reason, like, are they trying to set something up for the sequel here? I get that they seem to share a butler or something but like, come on, enough of this Wayne guy, this is a Batman movie. It’s like how half of Superman movies have a bunch of scenes with Lois Lane’s weird co-worker.
Building codes are incredibly technical, and for that reason the codes produced every three years by the ICC — a group that takes input from governments, industry and environmentalists — are the boilerplate building codes adopted by local municipalities around the country. For such a niche topic, there’s a ton on the line here; the energy use of buildings is around 40 percent of all carbon emissions, factoring in the cost of heating them. In 2019, lots of cities that were ticked off with how slowly the ICC was upping the energy efficiency requirements of homes got motivated and started ramping up participation. The effect was massive: The 2018 code improved efficiency by 1 percent, but the 2021 code increased efficiency by up to 14 percent, which would reduce up to 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030. That success triggered a reaction from the industry, though; last March, they revoked local official’s vote on the final version of codes, and already gas companies are getting new potential requirements about in-home electric vehicle charging infrastructure pulled from the 2024 code.
The pandemic fueled a surge in bird feeding. The global market for bird food was already somewhere between $5 billion to $6 billion in 2018, and the new surge in backyard bird feeders has scientists interested in how that might affect the avian ecosystem. In the U.K., for instance, about 64 percent of households put out bird seed to the tune of 165,000 tons per year, which is enough to sustain triple the island’s feeder species of birds. The data we do have on bird feeders is they tend to reward aggressive generalists — Great Tits are up 40 percent over the past 25 years, Eurasian Nuthatches are up 83 percent, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are up 150 percent and Ring-necked Parakeets are up 1,480 percent — but those birds’ success comes to the detriment of woodland species that avoid the feeders. For instance, the U.K. Willow Tit has seen its population crash by 87 percent as the Great Spotted Woodpeckers that compete for the same nest holes have thrived, fueled by bird seed.
A thief broke into a box truck in Denver on Thursday morning and stole a dolly and one 20 x 15 x 18-inch box with “Science Care” written on the side. It’s unclear what exactly the thief was hoping to get out of their crime, or believed the box would contain. The box is actually full of several human heads bound for medical research, so, not exactly a black market for those. The police have not indicated the precise number of heads that were in the box. No arrests have been made, and Metro Denver police is asking locals for help if they have any identifying information or clues as to who the suspects may be. Perhaps they could look for people who have been screaming non-stop for the past 72 hours; that’s what I would do in this situation.
Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries that still hunt whales commercially, and Iceland has indicated it expects to end whaling in 2024. Annually, Iceland permits a quota of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales from 2019 to 2023. Over the past three years, the two license holders have suspended their whale hunts, and only one minke whale has actually been killed in the past three years. The reason is increased costs, a no-fishing coastal zone and a lack of a market: Japan is the main market for whale meat, and after it returned to commercial whaling in 2019, it no longer needs to import whale meat.
The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” isn’t particularly great, nor really garbage, nor really a patch. If you were in a boat there, it would just appear to be ocean; the waste there is usually smaller than a pea and is just below the surface. While there have been some high-profile attempts to clean it, that’s actually not really worth it: The energy expenditure involved will cause more pollution than it cleans, and the same nets that would be used to scoop it all up can have dangerous impacts on marine life too. Only about 1 percent of the plastic dumped into the oceans ends up in a patch at the center of a gyre — the rest, it’s not really all that clear — and the better focus would be on beach trash pickups, and reducing the 460 million metric tons of plastic produced annually.
The power grid is actually lots of different grids that often don’t or barely connect, and a key way to improve national energy efficiency in the future will be to connect different grids along their seams so that regions with a surplus of clean energy can actually get it to regions which need to fill demand. A new study between the Southwest Power Pool, a grid that covers an area from Montana to Texas, and the Midcontinent ISO, which covers from Minnesota to Louisiana, found seven possible transmission projects that, for a cost of $1.65 billion, would enable at least 28 gigawatts — and possibly up to 53 gigawatts — of generation capacity. In the upper plains, a lack of transmission is cutting down on the ability to install new wind and solar projects.
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