Numlock News: August 10, 2020 • Pandas, Supernovas, Mask

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


The Calgary Zoo is home to two giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, and very much would prefer that to no longer be the case. Pandas only eat fresh bamboo, and the zoo had been importing that from China, but owing to the coronavirus those fresh air shipments have been grounded. The zoo has since improvised, trucking in bamboo from other parts of Canada, which is not a place normally renowned for its vast miles of bamboo forests. In May, the zoo said it’s trying to get the pandas out of the country and back to China where bamboo is ample — they eat 88 pounds of it per day, and it’s 99 percent of their diet — but needless to say both China and Canada have bigger things on their plates right now vis-à-vis import laws and quarantine infrastructure. The clock is ticking, as the bamboo supply — hauled into Alberta from neighboring British Columbia — is expected to run out in September.


Live Stream

In May, users spent 1.72 billion hours watching livestreamed content on Twitch, up from 867 million hours in December. This is more than just a bunch of teenagers clicking heads on Fortnite, as all sorts of people — cooks, coaches, DJs and more — are turning to livestreaming for fun and profit. Twitch said it’s added hundreds of thousands of new broadcasters since the start of the year, YouTube and Patreon have seen substantial increases in livestreaming, and over at Facebook, the big news is they got mentioned briefly in a Wall Street Journal story about livestreaming, so they’re presumably just happy to be included.

Sarah E. Needleman, The Wall Street Journal


Etsy has continued its transition from online indie crafting warehouse to crisis-mode mask industrialist, with the company reporting that from April to June 110,000 Etsy sellers sold 29 million reusable face masks worth $364 million, and 7 percent of buyers on Etsy, or 4 million people, came there just for the masks. Fully 14 percent of all of Etsy’s sales in the period were face masks. Granted, those can-do bottom-up mask sales aren’t anticipated to last indefinitely — major players are moving in to satisfy the need currently being fulfilled by the indies of Etsy, and let’s all hope that eventually they become less than necessary — but market estimates for mask sales range fairly wildly from $1 billion in sales by 2021 to $9 billion, the latter estimate which is based on an optimistic $9 to $11 price point and consumers buying five masks each.

Parija Kavilanz, CNN

Let’s All Go To The Lobby

AMC Entertainment lost $561.2 million dollars from April to June, with revenues for the cinema chain hitting just $18.9 million, approximately a 98 percent year-over-year drop. The good news is, shockingly, that’s a little better than Wall Street anticipated — analysts projected an $11.9 million revenue figure — so, a company that lost $561.2 million in three months saw its stock go up after announcing this information in public.

Brent Lang, Variety


According to Global Land Analysis and Discovery, a satellite-based warning system operated by WWF Germany to identify loss of tree cover, forest loss alerts have been up 77 percent compared to the typical rate from 2017 to 2019 over the course of the pandemic. It would seem that some are using declines in oversight and a global distraction to increase the rate of deforestation, particularly in Asia and Africa in the first six months of the year, and especially in April and May. Indonesia saw cleared forest land up 50 percent in the first 20 weeks of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. Brazil saw a 35 percent rise in forest clearing according to a government agency there, and from August 2019 to July 2020, a region of the Amazon rainforest the size of Cyprus was cleared by loggers and ranchers. WWF Nepal found that illegal extraction of forest resources was up 227 percent in the first month of lockdown.

Anna Gross, Andres Schipani, Stefania Palma and Stephanie Findlay, Financial Times

Nova Corpse

In February 1987, Earthlings observed a supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way. It was the closest supernova to earth in hundreds of years at just 168,000 light-years away. The results of that explosion — a giant blue star gave up the ghost in the event known as Supernova 1987A — have been evident since, leaving a bunch of glowing material where once there was a perfectly neat star named Sanduleak -69° 202. What has not been seen is the star’s core, which could have become a black hole, a neutron star, or a white dwarf. According to a new pair of papers, astrophysicists now believe the core became a neutron star, with the first paper finding a blob of dust pumping out 100 times as much energy as the sun, and the second concluding “yup” and estimating the neutron star would be 2 million to 4 million degrees Kelvin right about now, which is in line with expectations. Now all that’s left to do is to figure out precisely how to hurl my student loans directly into it.

Dennis Overbye, The New York Times


Recent studies show that a two degree increase in global temperatures will reduce the global availability of food by approximately 99 calories per day, but if, er, recent events are to be taken seriously there’s little reason to believe those deleterious effects will be felt anywhere near evenly across rich and poor. Cities in the Northern Hemisphere are, from a temperature standpoint, basically moving southward at a rate of about 12.5 miles per year. That’s no small thermodynamic distance, and breaks down to about a half-millimeter every second.

Bill McKibben, New York Review of Books

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