Numlock News: February 1, 2019
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Be sure to check out the Awards Supplement this weekend for the latest on the Oscar race. As a special treat, everyone gets this Sunday’s special edition with my friend Christie Aschwanden!
While the North American box office hit new highs in 2018, Western Europe slumped. In Germany, ticket revenue fell 16 percent to $965 million, Italian cinema revenue was down 5 percent to $633 million, France and Spain’s box office were down a respective 3 percent and 2 percent and the U.K had a flat box office, making $1.63 billion, a 0.1 percent decline. Buckle up Hollywood, here’s my plan to fix it all. We turn the French numbers around by rewriting the Star Wars: Episode IX ending to reveal the true villain the whole time was ennui, we pump up those Italian figures by casting Roberto Benigni as Batman, give Avengers: Endgame an intermission to get the Spaniards in the seats and boost the German box office by tossing the keys to the flagging Transformers franchise to Werner Herzog. Britain gets to make Paddington 3 because they deserve it.
Legos As Investments
Lego makes about $5.3 billion in revenue annually, moving 75 billion bricks per year in 3,700 varieties. And it turns out that they’re a fairly reliable investment vehicle: a study of 2,000 Lego sets released 1980 to 2014 found that in 2015 plenty of Lego sets could reliably pull an 11 percent return, and one — a Star Wars Darth Revan set sold in 2014 for $3.99 — could post a 613 percent return on the secondary market.
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The humble lugworm can survive for six hours out of water without breathing. The 10- to 20-centimeter worm eats sand and extracts nutrients and then poops that sand out and goes about its life. Its ability to spend half its life in an environment where it cannot breathe makes it worthy of study, and in the 1990s something astonishing was discovered: in human blood, one hemoglobin protein can transport four oxygen molecules at a time. Lugworm hemogloblin holds 156 oxygen molecules. From 2016 to 2018, 60 patients received kidney transplants of organs stored in a product derived from the worms, and recovered faster and had better renal function afterwards. Apparently, organs can survive for days in the solution without damage rather than hours.
Despite the insistence from many major social networks that personalized advertisements are somehow “better” for consumers, survey data strongly disputes that. One study found asked respondents whether they wanted websites they visited to inform advertising they saw. All told, 61 percent said they didn’t want tailored ads for products or services, 56 percent said they didn’t want tailored news, 86 percent said they didn’t want tailored political ads and 46 percent said they didn’t want tailored discounts. When like half of people are so sketched out by surveillance that results in free money perhaps your panopticon is a bad thing.
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Royale With Cheese
McDonald’s will invest about $6 billion into 8,700 U.S. restaurants by 2020 to revamp the restaurant’s look. The push will refresh decor, add self-ordering kiosks, add digital menu boards and enable table service. This is a steep investment: the 750 stores in New York alone will cost an estimated $320 million to remodel. Still, this is being met by pushback from franchisees, who are presumably balking at the prospect of dropping a half-mil on a store to add in a kiosk that you just know is going to be a petri dish by the lunch rush. I’m kind of with them; until the process of translating “uhhh no ketchup on the burger please” takes fewer than three taps to translate into robot, I’m not sure about this bold future.
Japan is working on making a better adult diaper, and the success or failure of their efforts to develop a flushable adult diaper could have ramifications around the world. As it stands, the adult incontinence market in Japan was $1.8 billion in 2016, about 20 percent of the world market. That generates lots of waste and finding a way to more efficiently dispose of the waste is a fascinating engineering question for the nation. There’s a potential fortune at stake internationally: from 2015 to 2020, baby diaper sales in the U.S. have been projected to rise 2.6 percent, compared to a forecasted increase of 48 percent for adult diapers.
Were we to reintroduce commercial supersonic transport aircraft, the environmental and living effects could be dire. A new model of a new network of 2,000 supersonic jets by 2035 — which would support 5,000 flights daily at 160 airports — would lead to widespread noise pollution from sonic booms and would be catastrophic environmentally. Such a fleet would put out somewhere between 88 million and 114 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The 96 million metric ton estimate is roughly the combined output of American, Delta and Southwest Airlines in 2017 combined.
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