Numlock News: March 9, 2022 • Charizard, Vampyropods, Mezcal
By Walt Hickey
Team Rocket Blasting Off Again
A 31-year-old Georgia man was sentenced to 36 months in prison after using $57,789 of a $85,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan to purchase a first-edition shadowless holographic Charizard Pokémon card with a 9.5 gem mint rating. The EIDL program was part of the federal pandemic relief plan, and the Pokémon fanatic and future felon claimed that he owned a small entertainment services business that supported the livelihoods of 10 employees, which purchasing an admittedly pretty rad Pokémon card would not exactly support.
McDonald’s will temporarily close its 850 locations in Russia, but will continue paying its 62,000 employees there, toeing a line between keeping open in one of its largest markets and joining large-scale American business defections from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. McDonald’s has 100 locations in Ukraine as well, with the two countries combining for 2 percent of the company’s restaurants. However, those 2 percent of restaurants are mostly directly owned and operated by McDonald’s, rather than franchised, and combine for 9 percent of McDonald’s global revenue and 3 percent of operating profit. It’s unclear how this will affect the Hamburgler, who made a real killing during perestroika buying up metallurgical concerns and was last seen spotted on a luxury yacht making a mad dash for Cyprus where he’s socked away the millions laundered on behalf of Plenipotentiary Representative McCheese.
A new study published in Physiological Entomology found that the Joro spider, an orb weaver which is native to China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea and is about the size of your hand, has a 77 percent higher heart rate and double the metabolic rate of the golden silk spider, a close cousin. This is important, because 160 years ago the golden silk spider migrated to the U.S. from tropical climates and has since only successfully adapted to the southern United States. That nugget of American biological history is relevant, because last September the Joro spider swarmed North Georgia by the millions. Given that their hatchlings are able to fly 100 miles on parachute-like webs, and that this study determined they’re likely very resilient to colder climates, the Joro spider is likely to dominate the Eastern Seaboard in no short time.
In South Africa, poachers are digging up rare succulent plants from the genus Conophytum, many of which are critically endangered and sought after by ornamental plant collectors. It’s been illegal to take Conophytum from the wild in South Africa since 1974, but that hasn’t stopped organized bands of thieves. The Springbok Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit in Northern Cape made five arrests of alleged cono poachers in 2017, but 55 in 2020. The amounts can put entire species in jeopardy: In June 2021, a dozen people with over 4,000 Conophytum acutum in bags from a single farm were busted in the Western Cape province, an amount of that species of cono that had previously not been known to exist in the wild period.
The Great Old One
Paleontologists in Montana have described a 330 million-year-old fossilized ancestor of an octopus, showing that the vampyropods predate the dinosaurs, at least. The 4.7-inch fossil has 10 limbs each with two rows of suckers, meaning that at some point in the past few million years the decapus shed two spares and slimmed down to the charming octopuses we’re accustomed to today. The fossil had sat in a drawer from 1988 until further inspection revealed the little beastie. The earliest known vampyropod was 240 million years old, so this extends the timeline a great deal.
A decade ago mezcal started getting really popular, and from 2013 to 2019 exports of mezcal from Mexico jumped from 2.7 million liters to 5.8 million liters. That’s made agaves a very valuable commodity, prompting theft and people gathering wild plants. There are 53 species of agave that can be used to make mezcal all scattered around Mexico, but they’re also important elements of their ecosystems: Bats sip nectar from agave flowers, and those bats pollinate the vegetation in Mexico. This is prompting regulation, both public and private; some mezcal producers have formed a cooperative to build a seed bank for agave, while others are growing sustainably by harvesting 70 percent and leaving the other 30 percent to the bats.
In the United States, 11.5 million homes with some 30 million residents use wood as their primary or secondary heat source. As other sources of emissions have tightened, wood’s remained pretty much untouched, but it has a serious impact on interior and exterior air quality. A 2015 estimate published in Environmental Health Perspectives estimated 4.8 million people live in homes where they’re substantially exposed to particulate matter from wood stoves. Nationwide wood smoke from residential burning is responsible for an estimated 6 percent of fine particulate matter emissions, a figure that changes a lot based on location and seasons: In western states in the winter, residential wood burning is responsible for between 11 percent and 93 percent of PM2.5 emissions.
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