Numlock News: April 6, 2021 • Chopper, Ketchup, Yahoo Answers

By Walt Hickey

Get To The Chopper

A 4-pound solar-powered helicopter successfully endured its first nights on Mars, having been deposited by the Perseverance rover ahead of a first planned flight on April 11. The $85 million drone is the first helicopter to go to a non-Earth world, and carries two cameras to document the planned series of flights of ever-increasing lengths around the Jezero Crater over the next 31 Martian days. The drone has four rotor blades that can hit up to 2,537 RPM, and if it works out it will presumably become the hot stocking stuffer for Martians in short order.

Tariq Malik,

Classic Rock

Last year $4.67 billion in music catalogs changed hands, up 14 percent over the 2019 business as the thriving streaming industry has created a period where music rights for popular artists have higher value. For the older, classic artists, the rates haven’t been this good in ages; ten years ago, the payout for an artist’s catalog averaged 9.2 times annual net royalties, but artists today have been getting north of 20 times annual royalties. Older catalogs, especially those from the ‘70s and ‘80s, are seeing triple-digit streaming growth as the streaming services expand their customer base beyond the younger listeners that originally constituted the bulk of their streams.

Carol Ryan, The Wall Street Journal


The third-party streaming analytics firm Samba TV has released numbers indicating that Godzilla vs. Kong — a new boxing flick where a down-and-out brawler is pulled back into the ring to fight an up-and-coming overseas contender who won a title belt up in Boston — was the best release for the new streaming service HBO Max so far. According to Samba, 3.6 million households watched at least five minutes of Godzilla vs Kong, which incidentally is the exact amount of time you need to pretty much catch the drift. That’s higher than the 2.2 million who tuned in opening weekend to Wonder Woman 1984 for at least five minutes, or the 1.8 million who watched more than five minutes of Zach Snyder’s Justice League in its first four days.

Anthony D’Alessandro, Deadline

Under The Sea

The United Kingdom is installing a network of undersea cameras on carbon fiber sticks to monitor 4 million square kilometers of ocean. The project, which will cost about $3 million over four years, aims to log information about hard-to-monitor wildlife in the areas around the Cayman Islands, St. Helena and Anguilla. The teams will be able to get 100 samples over seven to 10 days in an area to get a snapshot of fish and wildlife populations in areas that are not reefs, which are often hard to survey given their remoteness.

Alexandra Marquez, NBC News

how is babby formed?

Verizon’s Yahoo will casually murder the Yahoo Answers service after approximately 16 years of operation, with plans to make the site read-only on April 20 and eventually completely shut it down on May 4. Yahoo Answers was launched in 2005 with the goal of helping “people around the world connect and share information,” which they objectively failed at repeatedly for years. People who have submitted incredibly poorly-worded and incoherent questions will have up until June 30 to request an export of their history. The casual press release was signed by “The Yahoo Answers team,” a vexing signature that implies there were genuine human beings earning a crust by facilitating this service, which most of us had assumed was launched, then immediately taken over by wolves and forgotten entirely by the multinational tech conglomerate that birthed it. In lieu of flowers, just leave an iTunes rating on My Brother, My Brother and Me or something.

Nick Statt, The Verge


We’re Out Of Ketchup

Individual ketchup packets have replaced the communal ketchup pumps that once doled out the condiment in many chain restaurants, and a surge in takeout has only increased demand. As a result, packet prices for ketchup are up 13 percent since January 2020. About 300,000 tons of ketchup were sold to food service last year, and on top of the high demand at home — retail sales hit $1 billion last year, up 15 percent — any shift in how you move 300,000 tons of something around is going to cause some issues. Heinz, which has 70 percent of the market, is adding two new manufacturing lines for packets this month, upping production by another 12 billion packets a year.

Heather Haddon and Annie Gasparro, The Wall Street Journal


A new study published in Computational Biology dives into just how whiskers on rats help them in a sensory sense. Rats have about 30 large whiskers and lots of smaller whiskers, each follicle connected to a “barrel” of up to 4,000 neurons. The network of neurons allows rats — and other mammals like cats and otters and so on — to build a mental understanding of their environment through the sweeping motions their whiskers do about five to 12 times per second. When the whiskers bend, this sets off a signal that allows the animal to get a better “look” at where it’s at. This is really fascinating stuff, but it is a gigantic bummer that once we understand how whiskers work mechanically, inevitably they’re going to install them on those already-menacing robotic dogs, and then we’re all well and truly screwed.

Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica

The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2021 Sunday subscriber editions: Post-pandemic Cities · Facebook AI · Fireflies · Vehicle Safety · Climate Codes · Figure Skating · True Believer · Apprentices · Sports Polls · Pipeline · Wattpad · The Nib · Driven

2020 Sunday editions: 2020 · Sibling Rivalries · Crosswords · Bleak Friday · Prop 22 · NCAA · Guitars · Fumble Dimension · Parametric Press · The Mouse · Subprime Attention Crisis ·
Factory Farms · Streaming Summer · Dynamite · One Billion Americans · Defector · Seams of the Grid · Bodies of Work ·
2020 Sunday Edition Archive
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive