Numlock News: May 20, 2020 • Jupiter, Cuneiform, Madonna
By Walt Hickey
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In 2014, arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby purchased the 5-by-6-inch Gilgamesh Dream Tablet for more than $1.6 million, a 3,500-year-old object that I suppose technically qualifies as an art and/or craft. The goal for the purchase was for the clay tablet to be displayed in the company-owned Museum of the Bible, but on Monday, U.S. federal prosecutors filed a complaint seeking the tablet’s return to Iraq, where it is believed to have been looted from, possibly when nine of the country’s 13 regional museums were ransacked in 1991. Hobby Lobby purchased the item from a major auction house, which had declined to auction it because of its unclear origin: it was originally bought for $50,350 in 2003, passing through two other owners and was linked with false letters of provenance.
The law firm of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks was attacked with ransomware earlier this month, with a hacker group going by REvil claiming responsibility. The hackers stole 756 gigabytes of data and are threatening to release those documents unless the firm pays a $42 million ransom. The firm works as attorneys for lots of actors and musicians — Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Usher among them — and the group said they’ll begin to release documents unless their demands are met. An employment contract for Madonna’s world tour was leaked as proof, and the hackers say they’ll auction off one person’s file every week, starting with Madonna on May 25. Listen, nobody has this much vitriol for Madonna except one person: Cher. What do you think the odds are that she pulled a Britney and picked up some Python, maybe started lurking on HackForums? It’s the perfect crime.
The greatest coach in the history of the Olympic Games has retired: Ratko Rudic, the Bill Belichick of water polo, has retired at age 71. He’s appeared nine times at the Olympics, winning six medals — five as coach, one as player, four of them Gold — for five countries, which is the most appearances, golds, medals and longevity for any coach in Olympic history. He one time yelled at a ref so hard they asked him to stay away from water polo for a year. He was a legend and all who come after him will be merely treading water in his enormous wake.
According to an analysis by Merriam-Webster, people have seriously cut back on saying that vastly popular things “go viral,” because of reasons. Overall use of the word “viral” is up 46 percent in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same four months of 2019, but the use of the shorthand for posts is down: based on a computation linguistic analysis of news articles, there are 15 percent fewer “viral videos” and 21 percent fewer “viral photos” over the period, and all told the frequency of the phrase “go viral” is down 26 percent.
Congratulations to the airline industry, which has just knocked it out of the park with a 123 percent increase in weekly air travelers in just a month! Granted, that’s an increase from an average 95,161 people going through U.S. airport security daily in the week ending April 17 compared to 212,580 on average last week, which is way, way down from the 2.4 million travelers seen a year ago. This is just one reminder that lots of economic data is going to look deeply weird for quite some time.
Spotify bagged Joe Rogan, inking a deal where they will be the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of his vastly popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Rogan is a massive presence atop the Apple Podcast charts, a service that accounts for over 60 percent of the listeners of most podcasts. Spotify is attempting to solve that problem the old-fashioned way, by throwing gobs of money at it, and it appears to be working out for them: though they paid Rogan tens of millions — perhaps north of $100 million — to jump ship, Spotify shares jumped 11 percent on the news, a market cap increase of several billion dollars, drawing comparisons to Howard Stern getting poached from terrestrial radio to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2004.
A new astronomical model lays out a theory for how the four moons of Jupiter formed, arguing that they accumulated from millimeter-sized grains of hail that were produced during the formation of the solar system. Essentially, the four Galilean moons formed bit by bit, one grain at a time: first the dust accumulated into a disk around Jupiter, then moons began to agglomerate. In the model, Io formed in 1,000 years, then Europa formed 10,000 years later over the course of 1,000 years, then 30,000 years later Ganymede formed over the course of 2,000 years, then Callisto — which had the least material to work with — formed over the course of 8 million years.
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