Numlock News: October 23, 2023 • Q-Day, Trinity, Caterpillars
By Walt Hickey
Hope you enjoyed the book excerpt yesterday. Tomorrow is the big day, thank you all so much for your support throughout this book launch process, it has meant the world to me. Today is the last day of the preorder gift, so claim it soon or you’ll miss out.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon made $23 million domestically and $21 million overseas for a total of $44 million, Scorsese’s third-best opening ever behind Shutter Island ($41 million domestically) and The Departed ($26.9 million). That’s even in addition to the reality that the stars were unable to promote it owing to the strike. The movie, a $200 million epic produced by Apple, is now the widest-ever release for a movie backed by a streaming service. It’s the first in a series of experiments by Apple — along with Ridley Scott’s Napoleon and Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle — to test the waters of producing films that get a wide release.
Africa’s streaming market is dominated by two big players, Netflix and South Africa’s Showmax, which are poised to get to 18 million subscribers on the continent by 2029. Netflix has invested big time into production, investing $125 million in South Africa to license 173 titles and commissioning 16 original shows, as well as $23.6 million in Nigeria, where it’s licensed 283 titles and commissioned another three originals. The issue for the streaming business in Africa lately has been the difficulties that local operations have succeeding given the presence of the titans of streaming: In 2022, Vodacom killed its Video Play platform despite a 17 percent market share in sub-Saharan Africa, and Telkom shuttered TalkomOne and sold it off to a government broadcaster.
Two days a year, in April and October, the Trinity Site National Historic Landmark opens to spectators. Usually, the site where the United States detonated the first atomic bomb is closed because it’s pretty close to White Sands Missile Range and it’s near the impact zone. According to White Sands officials, in no small part due to the success of the film Oppenheimer, cars were lined up for two miles before tours began on Saturday, a record attendance with waits as long as two hours. Only about 5,000 visitors can make it within the six-hour window to enter the gate.
The recent announcement from Pratt & Whitney of contaminants in the geared turbofan engines that are in about 40 percent of the Airbus A320neo fleet means that something like 700 engines in hundreds of planes may need to undergo a 300-day repair, which could ground planes through 2026. This news has sent the value of 10-year-old planes shooting up, with the cost of an Airbus A320-200 up 10 percent since August.
The emergence of the Brood X cicadas every 17 years has fascinating reverberations across the ecosystems they’re born into, and a new study shows that one reverberation is that their emergence spares the lives of countless caterpillars, who go on to chow down on oak trees at a higher-than-typical rate. In 2021, researchers found that at least 82 bird species ate the cicadas, which are easy to catch and downright voluminous. The researcher glued clay caterpillars to trees to measure how often birds tried to eat them, and in the year before Brood X about 25 percent of fake caterpillars were pecked in a given week. But in 2021, when the smorgasbord of cicadas emerged, that figure dropped to just under 10 percent, and then by August when the cicada brood died out those levels returned to 25 percent. However, the months that the caterpillars were spared led to higher survivability — 13 percent made it to the third larval instar rather than the typical 1 percent — and ate way more oak leaves than usual.
A new NOAA study published in PNAS sought to figure out why exactly there were a number of unexpected elements like niobium and hafnium embedded in particles of sulfuric acid in the stratosphere above the Arctic. These are incredibly rare elements, so it was a shock to find them in the upper atmosphere. The thing is, they’re rare in the world in general, but they are very commonly used in semiconductors, in rocket chambers, and in spacecraft manufacturing. When spacecraft are deorbited, they often burn up in the atmosphere, and the new study argues that in the process they’re leaving a lot of those weird metals — in addition to other elements like aluminum, lithium, copper and lead — in the stratosphere. An estimated 10 percent of sulfuric acid particles had trace metals they could attribute to spacecraft reentry, but that figure could rise to 50 percent or more given the increase in satellite launches.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, with the most powerful quantum device using 433 qubits, which is the quantum equivalent of a transistor. That’s going to rise, and there’s a fear that at some point on a day referred to as Q-Day a quantum computer would be able to solve the math problems that, owing to their current unsolvability, today serve as the bedrock of all encryption. A sufficiently powerful quantum computer — which might need tens of thousands or even millions of qubits — could conceivably render all currently encrypted data breached. In 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology received 82 submissions from the international community of cryptographers of new, quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms. The NIST hopes to migrate as much of the federal government as possible to these algorithms by 2035, but that’s ambitious.
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