Numlock News: September 15, 2022 • Volcanos, Redshirts, Lies
By Walt Hickey
After 20 years in and out of court, a lawsuit regarding the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach is coming to a conclusion, as Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling in favor of the Royal Forest Department whereby 20th Century Fox and a local film studio will pay 10 million baht ($273,000) to rehabilitate the beach they ruined while making the movie. When the film crew arrived 24 years ago to begin production, they uprooted native plants, significantly changed the ecosystem, ripped out bushes that were preventing erosion and added in dozens of non-native palm trees. Since then it’s been a dispute over who will pay to fix it. It’s critical that the nearly 25-year-old matter is settled now, as soon Leonardo DiCaprio will no longer have any interest in putting it to bed.
Emmy ratings collapsed this year, with a total of 5.9 million tuning in to the broadcast on NBC this past Monday. That’s down from 7.8 million last year and down from 11.4 million as recently as 2017. It’s got to be frustrating, as last year the broadcast saw an increase of 23.1 percent when it came to viewers compared to 2020, and it’s not like there’s all that much change year to year when it comes to who’s nominated for these things. Perhaps the main lesson is not to put your awards show up against the Monday Night Football opener that grabbed 19.9 million viewers.
Negotiations between workers and the major U.S. railroads are careening to a brink, as 125,000 workers may go on strike on Friday if a deal is not reached. It would be the largest work stoppage since 1992, and the negotiations are so important they’re being facilitated by the Labor Secretary. About 26.9 percent of the freight in the United States moves by rail, and there would simply be no alternative if the people who move that freight walk off the job. A stoppage would halt 7,000 long-distance trains a day, a volume of freight that would require a half-million trucks and 80,000 drivers to fill the gap, which don’t exist.
As of 2021, self-checkout was used in 30 percent of all grocery store transactions in the United States, up from 18 percent of transactions in 2018. All told, according to a Food Industry Association report that surveyed 38,000 stores, 96 percent of the retail stores are equipped with them. Grocery has a high rate of employee turnover — 48 percent in 2021 — and with a tight labor force the automation has made the self-checkout systems more appealing to grocers, as they require just one employee for every five to 10 machines.
It’s become increasingly popular to hold kids back a year before entering them into kindergarten, as the extra year gives the students a perceived edge when it comes to emotional intelligence and self-control that can lead to better academic success down the line. It’s particularly common among boys, who mature later than girls. Before the pandemic, about 6 percent of kids waited an extra year before starting kindergarten, a trend seen more commonly among affluent families and particularly among summer-born kids who would be young for their years. In 2010, 20 percent of summer-born boys from families where the parents had a bachelor’s degree were redshirted and held back a year.
A new study found that people were more willing to lie for personal gain when negotiating via a laptop than over a phone screen. Among 137 subjects playing an ultimatum game where they got to keep whatever money they split with a randomly-assigned partner, 82 percent of laptop participants were deceptive compared to 62 percent of phone users. On average, laptop users claimed the $125 pot of money they would hypothetically split was $20 less than it actually was. A second experiment involved a hypothetical real estate negotiation involving a property that was estimated to be worth $21 million. Laptop users in their negotiation said the value was $16.7 million on average, while phone users said it was worth $18.1 million on average. This is a fascinating study, but since I read it on my laptop and not my phone I’m now inherently more skeptical of it.
There are approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanos in the world, about 500 of which have erupted at least once in historical times. Lots of them are smoking guns, and are pretty clearly active, while others have been dormant. The problem is that there’s a limited amount of money for volcano monitoring, and the big loud mountains tend to get the most attention. This may be an issue, because plenty of chill mountains randomly reveal themselves to be active volcanos and announce this information explosively, like the Chaitén Volcano in southern Chile in 2008. Volcanos are flagged as worthy of concern when there’s a historical record of it acting up, but if those records were destroyed or never made then we don’t know what we don’t know. As a result, while 800 million people live near active volcanos and presumably know it, it’s likely that hundreds of millions more in fact do but don’t know it.
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