Numlock News: August 6, 2021 • Nintendo, Birds, Reefs

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend! You should check out the Numlock Podcast, the once-monthly audio version of the weekend interview. Last Sunday was with my friend and former FiveThirtyEight colleague Ben Casselman, who covers business over at The New York Times. We talked all about a fascinating American Time Use Survey, check it out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

South Park

South Park show-runners Matt Stone and Trey Parker have inked what’s reported to be a $900 million deal with ViacomCBS to keep the show on Comedy Central through 2027, in addition to producing 14 original South Park films. ViacomCBS has had a rough patch in the new era of streaming, having had to rebrand their CBS All Access to Paramount+ to keep up with the cool kids. Between Showtime and Paramount+, the company has 42 million streaming subscribers. Congrats to Stone and Parker as they get another 14 attempts at EGOTing.

Frank Pallotta, CNN Business


A new study pulled in data for 724 bird species from the citizen science app eBird, using them to make estimates for the overall population sizes of 9,700 species of birds, or about 92 percent of all the birds on Earth. There are four species with more than 1 billion birds: the House Sparrow (1.6 billion), the European Starling (1.3 billion), the Ring-Billed Gull (1.2 billion) and the Barn Swallow (1.1 billion), none of which are pigeons so I’m an incredibly confused New Yorker. There are 1,180 species of birds — 12 percent of bird species — that have fewer than 5,000 individuals remaining, creatures like the Great Spotted Kiwi, the Malaita Fantail and, I’m just guessing here but presumably, the Articuno.

Clara Moskowitz, Jen Christiansen and Liz Wahid, Scientific American


Nintendo logged a 17 percent decline in year-over-year operating profit in the April-June period, which sounds bad until you remember that last April-June was when the entire world was simultaneously attempting to play Animal Crossing. Nintendo still made 119 billion yen in profit this year and logged 322 billion yen in revenue. That’s just 10 percent lower than the same quarter last year, which again I remind you is when society came together and decided to get several grand in the hole to Tom Nook. This quarter, Nintendo sold 45 million games, with hits like New Pokemon Snap and Mario Golf: Super Rush each moving over a million units, which is great, but Animal Crossing really killed it last year selling 10 million copies in three months and 33 million total.

Jada Nagumo, Nikkei Asia


Global trade works in large part thanks to the standard 40-foot container, which are in short supply. They’re not actually in short supply precisely, it’s more that they’re in short supply where they’re needed and in large supply in places they’re not. To no one’s surprise, the pandemic is mainly to blame, since it caused cancelation of supply lines and “container dislocation” inland. Production of the steel boxes is scaling up as prices for the containers jump. Their annualized $2,800 in 2019 is up to $5,795 for a 40 foot box in 2021. This year factories are projected to produce 5.4 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEU) worth of containers, up from 2.8 million TEUs in 2019.

Paul Berger, The Wall Street Journal

Artificial Reefs

Because of how effectively humans have wiped out existing coral reefs, there’s a lot of interest in artificial reefs, where ships, concrete, military surplus and more is sunk to the bottom of the ocean to jumpstart a coral reef that provides a habitat for reef life. A new study looked at the oldest existing artificial reef, the stone ruins of an 18th-century jetty and a 19th-century breakwater in the tropical waters of Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean. In 1834, hurricanes washed the structures away beneath the waves. The findings weren’t super encouraging. Compared to a nearby natural reef, the artificial site had fewer species of coral, less species interactions, and lacked the abundance of the natural reef. This is evidence that it takes longer than 200 years for a coral reef to grow.

James Urqhart, Hakai Magazine

Sing Us A Song

In 2019, 1.3 million people visited Alaska on a cruise ship. In 2020, that number was 48 people. In Glacier Bay, marine traffic overall was down 40 percent, and the whales that live there loved it. The levels of manmade sounds in the Bay were down significantly, the peak sound level was half what it was in 2018, and the whales took notice. Whales can now hear each other from 1.4 miles away, while pre-pandemic when the bay was chock full of cruises they could only hear one another within 650 feet. Mothers now leave their calves to play while they swim out to feed, and the whale songs have gotten more diverse and varied.

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News


A news study published in Nature Climate Change analyzed a century of temperature and salinity data and found significant changes in 8 different measures of the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The AMOC is what moves warm waters from the tropics to Europe and moves cold water south along the ocean floor. It’s enormously important for the stability of weather and there’s evidence that it could be approaching a total collapse due to warming waters. The last time that the AMOC shut down was at the end of the last ice age, when a glacial lake burst. What followed was 1,000 years of cold in the Northern Hemisphere. So, there’s that.

Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post

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