Numlock News: January 15, 2020 • Stardust, Jewelry, Aoudads

By Walt Hickey

Jewels

A group of professionals absconded with 114,179 pieces of jewelry from the Tiffany building in New York City in what those close to the matter believe to be an inside job. They believe it to be an inside job because it was. The Tiffany company hired movers because it’s vacating its building and needed to empty the 10-story fortress of a building, and then cross the street to the Nike store they’ll soon take over. The operation involved 300 cameras, 30 security officers, and a surreptitious and unannounced move.

James Barron, The New York Times

Aoudads

Aoudads are native to Africa but have taken hold in North America after being imported by zoos and set loose by private owners. Picture a particularly sturdy goat with large, swooping horns and a scruffy look about them. They filled a gap left by the native desert bighorn sheep, which once flourished across the southwest but were decimated by overhunting and habitat loss. In 2018, a census found 5,000 aoudads across just two mountain ranges in West Texas, while even decades of work could only get the desert bighorn numbers up to 1,500 across 11 mountain ranges. All told, North America has 75,000 aoudads, while in North Africa — their home — there are less than 10,000, one reason that while Americans are trying to cull them, North Africa hopes for a rebound.

Marion Renault, The Atlantic

Bus

In 2018, U.S. bus ridership stood at 4.671 billion, down from 5.605 billion in 2008. Desiring to reduce congestion and improve transportation efficiency, cities are increasingly experimenting with reducing or eliminating fares for bus rides. Lawrence, Massachusetts used a $225,000 reserve to waive fares for two years, and the results were considerable: year over year, ridership on the Route 37 route increased from 17,712 to 20,958 during one quarter. It’s estimated that every bus service in Massachusetts could be free for just $60 million per year.

Jon Kamp, The Wall Street Journal

Funds

BlackRock manages $7 trillion in assets on behalf of investors, most in passively managed index funds, making it the largest asset manager on the planet. That last part is significant, because the company’s CEO announced that the company will increase environmental monitoring, and moving forward will require disclosure of climate risks and the companies’ plans to operate under the Paris Agreement. It will also use its shareholder status to vote against management that doesn’t move the ball forward on sustainability goals. A quarter of BlackRock’s assets are actively managed, and for those portfolios BlackRock announced it will drop any company that makes more than 25 percent of revenue from coal production.

Laurel Wamsley, NPR

WNBA

The WNBA and the players’ union have agreed in principle on a collective bargaining agreement that contains new benefits for players, including paid maternity leave, a $5,000 child care stipend, an increase to the maximum WNBA salary by 83 percent from $117,500 to $215,000, and also an increase to the players’ share of revenue in the event the league hits certain revenue markers. In exchange, players are giving up their ability to show up late to training camp, typically a necessity to wrap up work overseas in other women’s leagues.

Howard Megdal, The New York Times

Rocks

Stardust extracted from a meteorite that landed in Australia 50 years ago has been determined to be about 7 billion years old, which would be 2 billion to 3 billion years older than our own solar system. Previously, the oldest stardust dated in a laboratory was estimated to be 1 billion years older than our solar system. So, you know, if you’ve been feeling weird about turning 30 this year, think about it that way or something, get a little perspective.

Maria Temming, Science News

Fans

Amazon is not just selling books, they’re publishing them, and that’s giving pause to established publishers. Amazon scooped up writers like Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell, who tend to have enormous fanbases but diminishing sales. Cornwell has an estimated core audience of 2.9 million people, the 11th largest in fiction, while Koontz has a core audience of about 4.4 million people, which is good for fifth place behind Stephen King (10.6 million), James Patterson (7.3 million), John Grisham (6.9 million) and Tom Clancy (4.9 million). Still, sales are softer for the two Amazon signed: Koontz’ The Night Window sold 40,000 copies in its first 13 weeks after release in May 2019, down from the 60,000 copies of The Whispering Room released in late 2017.

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, The Wall Street Journal

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