Numlock News: April 14, 2020 • Supernova, Olympics, The Beatles

By Walt Hickey

Don’t Make It Bad

The sheet of paper that Paul McCartney used to jot down the lyrics of “Hey Jude” during its original recording session sold at auction for $910,000, which was significantly higher than the anticipated sale price in the range of $160,000 to $180,000. That’s outstanding for a piece of paper where more than half of the words are “na,” and by my count is an impressive sale price of $4,026.55 per “na.” Other Beatles’ memorabilia that sold at the auction included a $200,000 bass drumhead from their 1964 U.S. tour and an $83,200 shooting script page for the “Hello, Goodbye” music video with handwritten sketches from Mal Evans (who was their road manager), George Harrison (a financier of Life of Brian) and John Lennon (you know, Yoko’s husband).

Ellen Gutoskey, Mental Floss

Games

As the misremembered old saying goes, “Idle hands are Nintendo’s playthings,” and it’s been a boom time for handheld games of all stripes. The week of March 29, worldwide people downloaded over 1.2 billion mobile games, which is 50 percent higher than the typical weekly load. A Nielsen survey of 3,000 gamers found that in the U.S., 70 percent said they were spending more time gaming, while 39 percent were spending more money. According to SuperData, the amount of money being spent on video games in the week of March 15 was about three-quarters of what people spent in the run up to Christmas, and it’s possible that large publishers may see a 10 percent to 20 percent jump in revenue as long as folks are stuck at home.

Olga Kharif, Bloomberg

Pubs

The United Kingdom’s 39,000 pubs are all shut down, and finally some people around here are crunching my kind of numbers. The average pub is estimated to have 15 barrels of beer in their cellar at a given time, and most lager beer can last three to four months in a keg after delivery and remain fresh, while most ale and unpasteurized beers max out at six to nine weeks. This means — given 88 pints in a keg — about 50 million pints of beer are imperiled as we speak. Per Treasury rules, publicans needn’t pay duties on spoilt beer, which is definitely a law that just by the phrasing of it I can tell was written prior to the U.S. Constitution, so good luck with that one. All I’m saying is to all the people who told me it was dumb to hoard all those cans of 2011 Vintage Four Loko, well, guess who’s laughing and also having heart palpitations now??

Justin Parkinson, BBC News

Olympics

Japan’s estimates the overall cost of postponing the Olympic Games at $2 billion to $6 billion, and given the historical customs of fast-and-loose Olympics accounting I can only suppose it’ll actually finish at eleventy bazillion dollars. The International Olympic Committee, the globetrotting shakedown organization behind the biennial infrastructural sabotage, is on the hook for at most a few hundred million of that. Prior to the delay, the official cost of the games was said to be $12.6 billion, though a government audit estimated the real costs were double that. The original estimate for the games was $7.3 billion. All in all, by far not the worst Olympics in recent memory to be honest?

Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

Supernova

In February 2016, a telescope spotted a supernova, later named SN2016aps, and it lasted over 1,000 days and had five to 10 times the mass of a typical supernova. Basically, stars that big are not really all that common anymore, though they had been in the early universe. According to a new paper published in Nature Astronomy, the supernova could be an example of a rare pair instability supernova, where a massive star’s core collapses and prompts a nuclear chain reaction that blows the star apart while leaving nothing whatsoever behind. The sheer amount of hydrogen ejected — 50 to 100 times the mass of the Sun — has made this especially interesting to scientists, who also speculated it might have involved two smaller stars. Reading this, I now understand how I sound to other people when I rant about the sublime, tragic beauty of MoviePass.

Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Gizmodo

Warehouse

All the changes in consumer spending seen in the past several weeks may have a significant impact on how companies move and store their stuff. Logistics companies think that one side effect will be that companies throw down for more warehouse space, so that they have more safety stock on hand and more wiggle room if all of a sudden they have lots of stuff coming in but very little coming out. Growth in the online grocery space could be a big deal: right now only about 3 percent of U.S. grocery sales are online, but if people start liking the system they’re forced into, that could mean a massive shift in how food gets into fridges. Namely, CBRE Group projects online grocery sales will necessitate a further 75 million to 100 million square feet of industrial freezer and refrigerator warehousing space over the next five years. Last month, Walmart moved $900 million in product through their online grocery option, up 21 percent over February and double March 2019.

Jennifer Smith, The Wall Street Journal

Water

The Mekong River is one of the most fertile on the planet, and has its headwaters in the Tibetan Plateau, then runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s critically important to those economies, and the upstream Mekong, which provides 70 percent of the downstream water in dry seasons, is firmly in China’s control. The Chinese section of the river has 11 major dams, which produce more power than needed by the region, and interrupt the flow of water to the downstream countries. During last year’s wet season, China enjoyed an above-average volume of water while downstream was in a crushing drought. An outside estimate calculated that the 11 dams held back 410 feet of river height, an allegation disputed by China.

Hanna Beech, The New York Times

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