Numlock News: September 12, 2022 • Barbarian, Salt, Donkeys
By Walt Hickey
This week a movie called Barbarian dropped at the box office, and America, which hasn’t seen a new movie in weeks, said to hell with it, let’s hear them out. The film made $10 million despite expectations of just $5 million to $6 million, with about 29 percent of that out of large format and Imax theaters. The movie involves a protagonist attempting to obtain a rental in a major American city, so obviously it’s a horror. Other new movies include Bramastra Part 1: Shiva, a Bollywood movie, and Lifemark, which is one of those faith-based movies. Don’t worry, we’ll get Oscar bait soon enough.
Days of Our Lives
The soap opera Days of Our Lives is leaving NBC and headed for streaming service Peacock today, which has meant a pretty frantic couple weeks for the children of Days of Our Lives fans to get their parents set up on a streaming service. A daily average of 1,878,000 people watched Days this year, and NBC wants to convert that viewership into paying subscribers to Peacock, which can currently boast about 13 million paying subscribers. Three-quarters of the Days viewership is over the age of 55, which screams “extremely easy to transition to a digital streaming service” if I’ve ever heard it.
When whales die, it’s a massive ecological event that takes a massive pile of nutrients that was once a whale and then distributes them up and down the food chain, from scavengers to the microorganisms. It’s literally the circle of life: Big animals die, small animals prosper, then bigger animals can eat the smaller animals and everyone wins. The issue, though, is that when whales die on beaches it smells really bad, and rather than let the animal decompose, authorities usually haul it off to a landfill. While probably pretty good for tourism, it basically yanks a whale-sized volume of nutrients out of an ecosystem. According to one study, only 28 percent of cetacean carcasses remain where they wash ashore, mostly on remote beaches and in Alaska.
The Great Salt Lake in Utah is smaller than ever and, owing to the nature of salinity, now saltier than any time ever. The southern arm of the lake is an important habitat for birds, as migrating birds in need of a meal and a drink will have little besides the Great Salt Lake to sustain them on long flights through the arid West. Last week researchers measured the salinity at 18 percent, which is bad, because it’s usually at 14 percent and at 17 percent we see mass die-offs of the cyanobacteria that form the mats of microbes that provide much of the nutrient base of the lake. If those die, then the brine shrimp and brine flies lack food, and then the birds that eat brine shrimp and brine flies might not make it.
This year at the Emmy awards there are 106 total actors nominated across 16 acting categories. The issue is that there are a ton of overlaps in different categories, with 48 percent of those nominated sharing a category with a fellow castmate, up from 33 percent in 2020. Essentially, fewer and fewer shows are serving as the platforms for acting nominations, potentially a sign that the glut of choice is leading Emmy voters to hone in on just a few shows that seem to be contenders. It’s causing some traffic: Only three of the 16 categories don’t have two or more people from the same show competing.
Incremental policy gains expanding the social safety net have seen child poverty in the United States decline substantially over the past three decades, a new study found. From 1993 to 2019, child poverty fell 59 percent in the U.S., dropping from 28 percent of children who are poor down to 11 percent in 2019. In 1993, a large expansion of the earned-income tax credit and social safety net programs cut poverty by 9 percent than it would have otherwise been, programs that by 2019 cut child poverty by 44 percent.
A new analysis of the donkey genome looked at the genomes of 207 modern donkeys and compared them to DNA from the skeletons of 31 donkeys who were alive as far back as 4,000 years ago. A previous study had suggested that donkeys had been domesticated two times, once in Asia and once in Africa, but the emergence of new data pushed those researchers to expand the analysis. Now, the hypothesis is that donkeys were domesticated just once around 7,000 years ago in Africa, that domesticated donkeys were increasingly common 5,000 years ago, and that within 2,500 years they were everywhere in Europe and Asia.
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