Numlock News: April 28, 2021 • Demon Slayer, Traffic Jams, Overboard

By Walt Hickey

Demon Slayer

Japanese film Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train scored the top-grossing foreign language debut in the history of the U.S. box office, bringing in $21.1 million over its opening weekend. The film had already become the top-grossing film of all time in Japan when it made about $350 million and dislodged Spirited Away from the top spot. It’s about a person trying to save his sister from a demon curse, and is based off an incredibly popular manga and anime franchise.

Ana Diaz, Polygon


The IRS has been rendered toothless when it comes to investigating wealthy tax evaders, auditing the richest 1 percent of Americans just 1.6 percent of the time in 2019, down from 8 percent in 2011. A recent economic analysis found that as much as $1.4 trillion in additional revenue could be raised with more personnel to chase down people underpaying and evading taxes. One of the biggest sources of new revenue in a forthcoming domestic policy plan is actually increasing the budget of the IRS and enabling them to chase down tax cheats. Since 2010, the IRS has lost 18,000 full-time positions thanks mostly to budgetary cuts, and the number of auditors is down to 1950s levels. The administration is reportedly looking to increase the IRS budget by $80 billion over 10 years, which would raise as much as $700 billion from increased enforcement over the next decade.

Jeff Stein, The Washington Post


In 2021 alone, 1,127 containers have fallen overboard off of large container ships, a pace that would make this year even worse than 2020, when 3,112 containers fell off ships. That year was a seven-year-high, the worst year since the MOL Comfort broke in two in 2013 and sank with 4,293 containers. One reason for the lost cargo has been time pressures, whether it was when containers were loaded on to ships in backlogged ports, ships stacked high with cargo trying to make the most out of each trip, or unpredictable weather affecting larger and larger ships.

Ann Koh, Bloomberg

Fish Sticks

Fish sticks first rolled out in October 1953, a reaction to a new form of refrigeration and food processing that came to post-war fishing. Superior nautical technology meant larger and larger catches in the post-War period, and to prevent spoilage, the fish were prepped and then frozen onboard into blocks. These blocks were not particularly a hit in the grocery aisle — turns out that people don’t like “miscellaneous fish blocks” the way they do bologna or ice cream — and thus the fish stick, which mechanically cut these blocks into sticks using bandsaws, was born. Today fish sticks are, surprisingly, some of the most sustainable things you can eat, sourced from well-managed Alaska Pollock fisheries and posing basically as minimal a climate impact as one could hope for. A kilogram of fish sticks produces 1.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, compared to beef which is about 100 times that.

Ute Eberle, Hakai Magazine


Two years ago, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory set Chattanooga, Tennessee in its sights for an experiment designed to reduce emissions by slashing time wasted in traffic. Nationally, the goal was to cut back on the 46 hours spent stuck in traffic endured by the average driver, which would not only reduce an aggregate of 8.8 billion hours of lost productivity but also save 3.3 billion gallons of fuel. NREL designed a supercomputer to simulate the city of Chattanooga to optimize the town. One move they did — adjusting the timing on Shallowford Road — led to a 16 percent decrease in fuel use on the highway. While time stuck in traffic jams is down during the pandemic — time in jams is down 26 percent — on the other side of it, traffic is primed to surge again.

John Fialka, E&E News


A new report from the Energy Transitions Commission estimated that between 500 to 800 million tonnes of clean hydrogen will be needed per year in order to attain a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2050, which would be about five to seven times as much hydrogen in use as today. Green hydrogen is sought-after because it can be produced using renewables like wind and solar power, breaking water down into usable hydrogen fuel. That’s key because internal combustion is still rather handy when it comes to things like aeronautics or industrial purposes, so a green fuel that burns is going to be rather clutch. The production cost of green hydrogen could fall below $2 per kilogram by 2030, according to the report.

George Heynes, H2 View


This year’s Kentucky Derby will be the first to ban Lasix, properly furosemide, an injection dosed four hours before a race as a diuretic and way to cut exercise-induced lung bleeding. The $20 injection has the general effect of making horses lose 20 to 30 pounds of fluid through its diuretic properties, which makes them go faster. The last time a horse won without Lasix was in 1996, and the organizers want to eliminate its use to bring the Derby in line with international horse racing. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will take effect on July 1, 2022, and will unite the 38 racing jurisdictions under a single doping law — the goal is to eliminate Lasix prior to then. A day in the life of a racehorse sounds ridiculous; you’re brought to a random place in Kentucky, a strange man injects you with some drugs, shortly after you pee 30 pounds, you then run for two minutes while a bunch of inebriates yell at you, and best case scenario they give you a hat and you get to visit New York. I can understand why Hunter S. Thompson saw the appeal — that frankly sounds like a solid Saturday.

Beth Harris, The Associated Press

Correction: On second reference a volume of horse urine incorrectly used the unit of gallons, it was in pounds.

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