Numlock News: May 24, 2023 • Betelgeuse, Chinese Food, Lofi Hip-Hop Radio Beats To Relax And/Or Chill To
By Walt Hickey
The Original Score to Star Trek (2009)
In the music industry, the subset of music designed to help listeners sleep, study or relax — think of stuff like lofi hip-hop beats to relax and/or chill to and similar playlists and stations — is called “functional music,” and it’s thought to be a big market. In many major streaming services, some of the most popular playlists are ones that purport to be designed for meditation or studying or reading. In early 2022, the size of the functional music market was estimated to be 10 billion streams a month, which was since raised to 15 billion streams a month. It’s an interesting niche, as it’s not one that major labels really are built to serve, but in an algorithm-driven space are looking into.
Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse
Over the course of the past several weeks the star Betelgeuse has been 50 percent brighter than normal, which has attracted the attention of astronomers. The star is 650 light-years away, and will eventually explode in a supernova, and the fluctuations in brightness are giving some hope it could happen soon — or has happened — and be visible to us 650 years later. It’ll be spectacular, with Betelgeuse getting 10,000 to 100,000 times brighter than it normally is, half as bright as a full moon, visible during the day. Unfortunately for us, on a stellar scale “soon” means that it’ll happen sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years.
Meta was forced to sell Giphy, the animated gif search engine, after the United Kingdom’s antitrust authority claimed the merger gave Meta an unfair advantage. The sale, for $53 million to Shutterstock, comes three year after Meta paid $315 million to buy it, meaning they took a $262 million loss. While it’s a tough loss to stomach, it’s also a sign that regulators are going to apply more and more scrutiny on the company as it dominates social media ad markets, a significant shift from the days where it scooped up Instagram, Oculus and Whatsapp with little trouble.
Jorō spiders are native to Japan, but after being introduced are expanding across the United States. They’re big, colorful, and according to a new study, extremely nervous. The study compared over 450 subjects of 10 different species of spiders reactions to a disturbance — two quick puffs of air — and found that Jorō spiders would remain motionless for over an hour after the incident, which is significantly more than the reactions of the other species. They also analyzed similar data from 389 other spiders including an additional five species, and all of those started moving again after a minute and a half. The Jorō spiders are harmless to people and pets.
Los Angeles has rolled out a set of new structures designed to offer shade and lighting at bus stops, and they’ve been largely panned as being bad at offering shade. It’s a turquoise 24-inch elevated metal grate at the top of a bus pole, and the first prototype cost $10,000. Shade is a serious issue in L.A., with 642,000 bus boardings a day, and not a lot of tree cover. Indeed, 18 percent of the trees in Los Angeles cover 1 percent of the population, and majority Black and Latino neighborhoods have disproportionately little tree cover.
In the United States, 12 percent of restaurants serve Asian food, and the vast majority of them encompass just a few national cuisines. Of the Asian restaurants, 39 percent serve Chinese food, 28 percent serve Japanese food, and 11 percent serve Thai, accounting for 71 percent of the share. Other cuisine is represented, just at diminishing rates: 7 percent of Asian restaurants are Indian, another 7 percent Vietnamese and 6 percent Korean food, with Filipino, Pakistani, Mongolian and Burmese coming in at 1 percent or less, the remaining balance of restaurants being unspecified or other. This is interesting, in that while Indian and Filipino Americans account for 40 percent of Asians in the U.S., Indian and Filipino restaurants combine for just 8 percent of Asian restaurants.
An analysis of all the book challenges filed over the 2021-22 school year in 153 school districts that received a formal request to remove books found that a small group of people were responsible for the vast majority of all book banning attempts. Eleven people who filed 10 or more requests to challenge books were responsible for two-thirds of the challenges, with one person filing 92 challenges. Just 6 percent of book challengers were responsible for 60 percent of the filings to ban books. Most of the requests were attempts to get books with LGBTQ content banned, with 68 percent of the challenges happening over LGBTQ content. Often they don’t even have a connection with the school: Only one in five challengers even identified as parents.
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