Numlock News: November 14, 2022 • Hot Air Balloons, Spacecraft, Mammoths
By Walt Hickey
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever nailed sky-high expectations at the box office this weekend, opening to $180 million domestically and $150 million overseas for a stunning $330 million opening. That’s a hair behind what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness pulled in earlier this year but is as much as Distinguished Competition’s Black Adam made globally in its first three weeks. It’s lower than the $202 million domestic that Black Panther made in 2018, but expectations were already tempered owing to the tragic death of star Chadwick Boseman in 2020.
Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter
The Toledo City Council voted 7-5 to spend $800,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to partner with nonprofit group RIP Medical Debt to buy up hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of medical debt currently saddled on Toledo citizens. This follows an $800,000 commitment from the Lucas County Commissioners, for a grand total of $1.6 million. Medical debt can cause harassment from debt collectors and seriously destabilize the finances of a household, but due to the difficulties in actually collecting it, on debt markets the debts are commonly sold for pennies on the dollar. As a result, that $1.6 million would be able to buy and forgive $190 million to $240 million in debt.
Trevor Hubert, The Blade and Nancy Gagnet, The Blade
The U.S. military’s robotic experimental X-37B spacecraft has touched down at Kennedy Space Center after a record-breaking 908 days in orbit, an achievement for the spacecraft. This was the sixth such fight of the Boeing-built spacecraft, which looks like a fully-autonomous fun-sized version of the retired space shuttles and clocks in at 29 feet long. It’s thought that the Space Force — yes, this is their thing now, even though it’s still got Air Force stenciled on the side — has two of the vehicles that have flown since 2010. Their payloads are classified, as is their orbit, and the parameters of their flight plans, just when they go up and when they go down.
A gripping trial in the Netherlands has placed a parrot owner in direct conflict with a hot air balloon pilot amid allegations that the balloonist scared three parrots to death during a competition. The incident in question took place during a hot air balloon competition in 2017 near the town of Zundert and allegedly the noise from the balloon blowing by at a low altitude caused the birds to die, and the owner wanted €100,000 in compensation. At first it seemed that the plaintiff had little evidence, and it looked to be a slog to demonstrate not only that the stress killed the birds but also that it was this balloon and not any of the other 21 balloons, that is until the GPS data came out and showed the defendant’s balloon was 52.2 meters away from the parrot cages, closer than any other contender, and that the rules were broken in the process. Now the ballooner is on the hook for a €55,000 euro bill, plus fees and costs that bring it to €68,000.
Congress is increasingly fond of using backronyms to name legislation, such as the Daylight All Year Leads to Ideal Gains in Happiness and Temperament Act (DAYLIGHT Act), Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections Act (ZOMBIE Act) and so on. The 117th Congress included the CROOK Act, the GIVE MILK Act, the CONFUCIUS Act and the CONSCIENCE Act, among others. As it stands, about 10 percent of bills and resolutions over the past two years were backronymed words, up from about 5 percent a decade ago and under 1 percent in the late 90s. The real trendsetter here was the USA PATRIOT Act, which as it was so named made it pretty difficult to argue against.
The ivory market has been flooded with mammoth ivory, and whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate. On one hand, ivory from African elephants fetched $3,000 per kilogram on the black market and as a result some 55 elephants are killed per day for tusks. Since China shut down the legal ivory carving scene in 2018, and it’s gotten harder to source elephant ivory, organized crime is using mammoth ivory. Private tusk hunters in Russia find mammoth skeletons, harvest the tusks, and leave the skeleton to destruction. From 2002 to 2014, mammoth ivory has grown from pretty much no sales to 40 percent of ivory sold in Beijing and 70 percent in Shanghai. The fear is that mammoth ivory, rather than replacing demand for elephant ivory, is merely augmenting demand for ivory.
In general, animals of similar sizes tend to have similar lifespans. The exceptions is birds, which for whatever reason on average live two to three times longer than mammals of the same sizes. Mice rarely survive over a year, but similarly-sized House Sparrows can live up to 20 years. The relationship between size and lifespan does hold in birds — hummingbirds live three to five years while Bald Eagles can live to their 30s — but exceptions tend to exist on the seashore, where seabirds of all sizes tend to live longer than expected. The why of this is unclear, but being able to fly and having a high metabolic rate is thought to have something to do with it.
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