Numlock News: May 31, 2022 • Robotic, Cardinals, Nuclear Waste
By Walt Hickey
The house that inspired the movie The Conjuring sold for $1.525 million last week, well above the $1.2 million asking price in the latest evidence of a truly ridiculous housing market. The events described in the film allegedly happened to a family in the 1970s, and since then the occupants have begun a thriving business of day tours, events and paranormal investigations that occur nightly. Despite those repeated nightly hunts for ghosts, given that I haven’t seen the headline “proof of ghosts found in Rhode Island” quite yet, one must truly imagine Sisyphus happy and also rich.
Top Gun: Maverick, a film that argues against the drone war but, like, not the way you think, made $156 million at the domestic box office over the long Memorial Day weekend, a record for the largest debut over the four-day weekend in history. The film, a product of a top-of-the-line consent manufacturer Paramount, played in 4,732 cinemas in North America, which is good for the widest release of all time. The Boeing F/A-18 infomercial is now the largest debut in Tom Cruise’s lengthy career, and the first time he’s opened a movie to over $100 million in one weekend. The movie, the geopolitical version of “why don’t we just teach the astronauts to use an oil drill instead of sending Bruce Willis,” even managed to draw older audiences back to the cinema, with 55 percent of ticket buyers over age 35.
Pope Francis announced that this summer he will introduce 21 new cardinals, which would increase the 208 Cardinals in the College of Cardinals to 229 Cardinals. It would also up the number of cardinals who can elect the next pope at a time that becomes necessary from 117 electors to 131 electors. Places that will now get a cardinal include San Diego, Hyderabad in India, Brasilia in Brazil, Ghana, Singapore, Mongolia, and Asuncion in Paraguay. For American readers this may come as a shock, but sometimes old institutions can get new members added to them to correct for historic imbalances in geographic territory and population.
In 2021, there were 16,755 orders for industrial robots in the North American automotive sector and 22,953 orders for industrial robots from everywhere else, several thousand more than any other year on record. The $1.6 billion in orders was up 22 percent year over year. Demand is only rising: In the first quarter of 2022, orders for workplace robots were up 40 percent compared to the same quarter of 2021. The automobile business was responsible for 71 percent of robot orders in 2016, but the rest of the industrial economy has caught on to the appeal of robots, and now that share is down to 42 percent last year.
While containers and pallets get all the attention, shrink wrap is one of the MVPs of the containerized economy. In 2007, about a billion pounds of stretch wrap was produced globally, good enough for 3 billion pallets. It’s now everywhere in making sure that pallets stay a single unit, and the technology and chemistry of it is only getting better: Wrapping machines worth $10,000 are using LLDPE plastic that can stretch up to 300 percent, both maximizing the strength of the hold as well as cutting the amount used. The next problem to solve, though, is the recycling of it: Despite being fairly uniform across the industry, incredibly common, homogeneous, and with pretty clearly defined end-points of use, only 5.4 percent of the stretch wrap is actually recycled.
In 2019, official sales of Parmigiano Reggiano reached $2.63 billion, a massive chunk of change for a massive chunk of cheese. However, all is not well, as counterfeit sales of Parmigiano Reggiano, the kind of cheese that is passed off as the bona fide article but not actually produced under the official auspices of the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium, is estimated to be worth about $2.14 billion. So deep is their fury over the fraud that this year, the group will begin embedding tracking chips in the rind of 100,000 wheels of the real stuff, and if it works they’ll roll it out across the whole industry. That said, it’s only righteous indignation if it’s from the Indignazione region of Calabria; otherwise it’s just hella pissed.
Small modular reactors are argued to be the next generation of nuclear energy, a class of small atomic reactors that can be deployed alongside renewables to supplement them with clean energy. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, though, points out a small problem that the SMRs have compared to their counterparts of substantial size: namely that they may produce up to two to 30 times more nuclear waste than convention plants. And listen, nobody loves subterranean nuclear waste caverns deep beneath the New Mexican desert full of striking warnings for a future generation we are incapable of understanding pleading with them to not dig at our accursed waste dumps more than me, but all this argues is that we may need to build out some new wings in the radioactive tombs.
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