Numlock News: August 24, 2021 • Vanilla, Tetris, Asteroid

By Walt Hickey

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False Advertising

In 2011, just 53 false advertising food and beverage suits were filed. The case numbers rose to 145 in 2016 and 2017, 164 in 2018, and 179 suits in 2019. The rate has been growing since. A spate of suits regarding vanilla flavoring is the largest driver, with litigants arguing that products labeled with vanilla don’t actually contain vanilla. Defendants have included Wegman’s ice cream, Westbrae Natural’s soy milk and Blue Diamond’s almond milk, but these cases have been dismissed. Other false flavors are targets too: the Tostitos “hint of lime” chips contain a hint of artificial flavoring that technically resembles lime. Another suit targets TGI Fridays’ onion ring snacks, which are alleged to not contain any onions.

Pooja S. Nair and Cate Veeneman, FoodDive


Since its creation in 2010, just four people have won the Classic Tetris World Championship, an Esports league for the 1989 version of Tetris released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. For a while, the scene was dominated by contenders in their late twenties and early thirties, namely the late Jonas Neubauer, who won a run of 7 first-place wins over the course of eight championships. These players dominated with an exploit called the delayed auto shift, which allowed players to speed up the rate at which pieces fell. Now, a new class of even younger players have come on to the scene with a technique called hypertapping, and the results have been remarkable. It’s allowed them to make it past the once nearly impossible “kill screen” level 29, and new world records — someone hit level 41 on June 2 of this year — have fallen repeatedly.

Dylan Tate, Upcomer


That the United States has vaccinated 70 percent of adults with at least one shot against Covid-19 makes the vaccination one of the most popular and shared experiences across the entire country, per a polling analysis. It’s more than the 69 percent who use Facebook, the 66 percent who know their own blood type, the 65 percent who drink alcohol, the 63 percent who like any sport team, the 62 percent who voted in 2020, and the 56 percent who have cable or satellite television. In a few more percentage points, being vaccinated can become more ubiquitous than the, apparently very popular, pastime of flying a kite.

Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN

Flew Too Close

Researchers using the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera have observed an asteroid with the shortest-known orbital period. This speedster of the solar system, designated 2021 PH27, is just about 12 million miles away from the sun at its closest, and orbits every 113 days, crossing the orbits of Mercury and Venus on an elliptical path. These kinds of asteroids are hard to get a good shot of, given their proximity to the brightest thing in the neighborhood. The temperature of this interplanetary Icarus is likely up to 500 degrees C, which can melt lead.


Big Red Box Office

Analysis from The Numbers now projects the 2021 domestic box office will finish with $4.7 billion, down from their estimate of $5.8 billion last month. The cause for the adjustment was largely due to the cancelled debuts of Hotel Transylvania 4 and Clifford the Big Red Dog, as well as the box office underperformance of The Suicide Squad. The downward revision for those three films alone accounted for $365 million of the $1.1 billion drop in expectations.

Bruce Nash, The Numbers


Tulu is a language spoken by about 1.8 million people across several Asian countries, mostly in India’s state of Karnataka. It’s been around for 2,000 years, but the Tulu-Tigalari script is at risk of being lost because it has proven particularly difficult to digitize with the Unicode standard, which is the way that computers can consistently display any language. It’s one of 192 languages from India that are considered “in danger” by UNESCO, and one of a far larger consortium of imperiled tongues worldwide. Overall, 40 percent of the 7,000 languages spoken by humankind are at risk, with hundreds going extinct in just the last century. Digitization is an opportunity to stave off that lingual death, but given that computers were designed first for the Roman alphabet, it’s not easy.

Varsha Bansal, Rest of World


Starting in the second fiscal quarter, Amazon took the large step of ejecting some 50,000 retailer accounts from their Fulfillment by Amazon program for third-party merchants. The retailers, which are largely in China, got the boot over violations of the program’s rules designed to subvert pay-to-play reviewing, a technically against-the-rules practice that swelled in popularity to the point of becoming untenable. The ban has led to lost sales of 100 billion yuan per the Shenzen Cross-Border E-Commerce Association, or about $15.4 billion. Roughly half of the top sellers on Amazon’s marketplace are based in China, up from 13 percent in 2016. Some have even become huge established brands, like Anker, which sold $1.4 billion in chargers and accessories last year, up from $378 million in 2016.

Bloomberg News

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