Numlock News: January 7, 2019

By Walt Hickey

Liking Numlock? Forward today’s email to a friend you think may enjoy it and might subscribe.

Act Like You’ve Been There Before

Tonight Clemson will play Alabama in College Football’s Playoff title game, but that sentence has become increasingly boring to write. This is the fourth time in the past four years that Alabama has played Clemson in the playoffs and two of those were also the Championship game. That’s having an impact on how much fans are willing to pay to attend the game: when what for most college programs would be a once-in-a-lifetime sporting event happens annually, people stop shelling out once-in-a-lifetime dollars to attend. Five days ahead of the 2017 title game (Clemson vs. Alabama) the average resale price for a ticket was $1,466, and five days ahead of the 2018 game (Georgia vs. Alabama) the average price was $2,969. Five days out from the 2019 game, the average resale price is $566.

Eben Novy-Williams, Bloomberg

And, Action!

A new study that looked at the top 100 films at the box office in each of the past 12 years found that women made up only 4 percent of the 1,335 directors involved in those projects. Moreover, of the 46 individual women who directed films, only four were Black or African American, two were Asian and only one director in the past 12 years — Patricia Riggen, who directed Under the Same Moon in 2007 — was Hispanic or Latina.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Angel Choi and Dr Katherine Pieper, USC Annenberg

King of the Over Seas

Aquaman has become the highest-grossing DC Comics movie since The Dark Knight Rises, making $940 million worldwide so far. Aquaman tells a universal, trans-cultural story of a boy who talks to fish because his dad slept with a mermaid. This supplants the previous story of a rich kid who decides to take vengeance on the concept of crime by taking on the affectations of a flittermouse. Meanwhile, Aquaman is losing overseas to Bumblebee, the story of a girl who was emotionally unfulfilled until she received her first Transformers product.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

A Lot Of Bull

Competitive bull riding has worked over the past 15 years to breed bulls that are harder to ride. These high-tech methods — including a database of 180,000 bulls and cows and advanced reproduction techniques — have made the sport more universally difficult. In 1995, cowboys finished their ride 46 percent of the time, which means they lasted eight seconds on top of a bull actively attempting to remove them. By 2012, that success rate fell to 26 percent and only recently increased to 29 percent successful bull rides. Now if, say, hockey pucks had been improved on to make them increasingly hard to hit, perhaps the worst thing about that would be hockey being less fun to watch. But when that means an athlete is hurled from a live animal on to the ground 71 percent of the time, that can lead to wear and tear or serious injury.

James Gorman, The New York Times


Congress has only allocated funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the end of January, and the emergency reserves of the food assistance program would cover a mere 64 percent of February’s obligations. Should the government shutdown continue into March, there will not be funding for SNAP. As it stands now, 95 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s office that administers food assistance has been sent home without pay.

Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, The Washington Post

Netflix and Fill The Gaping Maw of Content

A Quartz estimate of the over 345 Netflix original titles found the streaming service published about 90,000 minutes of original series, movies and other productions in 2018. It would have taken four hours per day every day of 2018 to watch all of that. There were 58,000 minutes of Netflix original series added, 10,100 minutes of original documentaries, 8,500 minutes of movies, 4,800 minutes of kid’s TV and 3,600 minutes of stand-up. Based on my experience with Netflix originals, I can conservatively estimate 28,000 of those 90,000 minutes involved third act problems, pacing issues, padded-out second halves, unnecessary subplots, and filler material to stretch out what would be a 22-minute comedy episode to 30 minutes.

Ashley Rodriguez, Quartz

They Fixed Photosynthesis!

When plants make sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugar — photosynthesis — the enzyme Rubisco makes an error and grabs oxygen rather than carbon dioxide roughly 20 percent of the time. When that happens, the ensuing compound needs to be recycled by the plant through a process called photorespiration. Researchers from the University of Illinois and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have engineered crops with a shortcut, the end result being they’re 40 percent more productive. Based only on the calories lost to photorespiration in the Midwest, you could feed an additional 200 million people, so any efficiencies engineered are huge when analyzed on a global scale.

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores