Numlock News: March 9, 2021 • Pop Stars, Jet Packs, Fallout
By Walt Hickey
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced it’s looking for research concepts assessing the feasibility of military jetpacks, confirming that they’ve also been rewatching a bunch of Marvel movies in the past couple of weeks. There are two phases of jetpack research laid out in the proposal, a Phase I period where proposals will cost up to $225,000 over six months to try to demonstrate feasibility, and a Phase II period where the proposals that make it out of Phase I will cost up to $1.5 million for up to two years. I’m looking forward to when these proposals are eventually released, and it’s a bunch of people who have clearly developed sophisticated, yet off-the-books, unregistered and deeply illegal jetpacks, all pretending they’ve just sketched out this hypothetical angle and that they definitely don’t fly in the vicinity of LAX, and in no way do the jetpacks reside under the floor boards in the pool house.
It’s long been understood that birds are able to use Earth’s magnetic field to determine the direction they intend to fly, but a new study suggests that the amount of information migratory birds discern from the magnetic field is considerably more substantial than previously understood, and that outside of merely “where’s north” birds are able to extrapolate their position from the magnetic field and course-correct. The researchers tested 24 birds and found that they were able to fool the birds initially with false magnetic fields into flying the wrong direction, but after a bit of flight the birds were able to course-correct, which wouldn’t be possible if the birds were only using the magnetic field as a compass.
The European Union has given the go-ahead to Microsoft in its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, owner of the popular game studio Bethesda Softworks, which is behind the Fallout franchise. When the deal closes Microsoft will have a total of 23 first-party studios. This includes game producers like Arkane, which makes the Dishonored adventure franchise; id Software, which makes the horror shooter Doom; MachineGames, which makes the Wolfenstein shooter; and Microsoft Office, which makes the puzzle game Excel, a classic where players must spend hours trying to make dates render correctly.
A new study found that sea slugs who were decapitated were able to completely regenerate their body in some cases. The researchers cut the heads off of 16 sea slugs, and found that six began regenerating bodies and that eventually three survived. Two species of slugs were able to do the regeneration — one of which is fairly large at up to 6 inches in length — which is among the most extreme known case of autotomy, when animals grow stuff back that had previously been lost. The way they’re able to pull this off is that on a certain diet of algae, they’re able to photosynthesize food from just sunlight and oxygen.
A new analysis of the 100 most popular songs on the Billboard year-end chart of each year from 2012 to 2020 found that of the 173 artists who sang the top songs of 2020, 79.8 percent were men and just 20.2 percent were women. Looking strictly at solo artists, overall only 30 percent were women, and that number was actually lower in 2020 — 22.5 percent — than in previous years in the analysis. Of the 51 bands represented in the sample, just 7.3 percent of members were women. The gender disparities in pop are even more stark looking at songwriters: of the 449 songwriters credited in 2020, 12.9 percent were women, a hair higher than the 12.6 percent notched over the course of the nine years studied. In 2020, 65 percent of songs on the Hot 100 year-end list didn’t include a single woman as a songwriter.
Last year orders for large container ships were up 64 percent on a capacity basis. In 2019, the new orders for container ships were able to haul a collective 649,157 20-foot equivalent units; last year, that figure hit 1,066,341 TEUs. The shipping industry is on a buying spree: this year the first quarter is expected to see orders for 58 new ships, which is up from five ships in the same quarter of 2020.
Monday night’s CBS special interview, where Oprah Winfrey interviewed beloved Suits actress Meghan Markle and her companion, averaged 17.14 million viewers in the United States according to the preliminary Nielsen numbers, which, aside from the show that came on after the Super Bowl, is the largest audience for any non-sports program on broadcast networks this season. It was by far the most-watched thing on Sunday night by a mile, so apologies to the Critics Choice Awards.
For the month of March, you can claim a limited edition Numlock sticker pack by upgrading to paid or telling some friends.
There are three ways to get one:
Upgrade and become a paid subscriber
Or, tell five people about the newsletter
Or, be a paid subscriber and just give away two of the free trial memberships that come with your subscription
The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.