Numlock News: July 27, 2020 • Amber, Diamonds, Puppies

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Dino DNA

A paper published in Nature on March 11 describing what was then believed to be the smallest-known bird-like dinosaur ever — a specimen in amber from Myanmar with a skull less than 2 centimeters in length — has been retracted, with the authors acknowledging that the immortalized beastie was, in fact, a lizard. While that is indeed a prehistoric reptile from 100 million years ago, it’s a different group of reptiles than the flashier dinosaurs. Again, still quite cool, just not, you know, “cameo in Jurassic World: Dominion and inclusion in subsequent toyline” cool.

Giuliana Viglione, Nature

PD

Earlier this year, A&E cancelled Live PD, a controversial television show that featured live ride-alongs with police across the United States. The show is now being investigated for alleged deletions of footage that reflected badly on the officers they were tagging along with. The cancellation was a tough call, mainly because some weeks Live PD and its various spin-offs accounted for 85 percent of daily programming on the Arts & Entertainment Network. Before the show was pulled from the airwaves, viewership was up 4 percent at the network, but since it was yanked average viewership at the Disney-owned network is down 36 percent. The Live PD shows brought in $292.6 million in advertising in 2019, and in the first quarter of 2020 alone brought in $95.8 million. Still, things are changing, and certainly there must be ways to make money in entertainment without making the very foundation of a television network the daily broadcast of the worst days of people’s lives.

Joe Flint, The Wall Street Journal

Diamonds Ain’t Forever

The collapse of the diamond business has been incredibly rough for De Beers, the company that maintains an iron grip on diamond production and wholesale. In the second quarter, De Beers sold $56 million in rough diamonds, down 96 percent from the previous year, with RBC Capital projecting a $100 million loss in the first half of 2020. The business is not anticipating sales to get much better in the back half of the year, as De Beers’ buyers — about 80 accredited customers who come to Botswana a few times a year to buy their diamonds, which then fuels the global market for stones — aren’t moving much product at this point.

Thomas Biesheuvel, Bloomberg

Shellacked

In a typical season 2.3 million pounds of in-shell peanuts are consumed by fans at Major League Baseball Games. Needless to say, those 2.3 million pounds of peanuts will not be consumed in 2020. The peanuts intended for 2020 ballgames were harvested in October, and farmers are left holding the bag, which in this case is a bag full of peanuts that normally would sell for $4. The peanut that’s sold is the Virginia peanut, which only accounts for 14 percent of the annual peanut crop, a fifth of which end up in ballparks, while the rest end up in other retail outlets, still in their shells. The ones that end up in peanut butter are runner peanuts, which constitute the bulk of peanut production. Many Virginias are being sold directly to homebound consumers, others are staying in cold storage, but some may end up as the legume equivalent of steaks ground into burger meat: peanut butter.

Kim Severson, The New York Times

Shhh

A report published in Science from 76 scientists in 27 countries shows a consistent pattern worldwide that the surface of the earth is unusually calm when everyone shuts human activity down. Data from 286 geological research stations found background noise down across the board: a station in Sri Lanka saw a 50 percent drop, Central Park in New York saw a nightly decrease of 10 percent.

Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post

Solar System

Last week scientists released a photograph of two planets orbiting a star 300 light-years away from earth. The star — with the catchy name TYC 8998-760-1, in the constellation Musca — has planets orbiting at 160 and 320 times the distance that Earth is from the sun, or roughly four and eight times the distance Pluto is from the sun. The farther one is six times the mass of Jupiter and the inner one is 14 times its mass. The snapshot was scored by an instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. It’s a deeply young system compared to our own, at just 17 million years of age compared to our 4.5 billion year old solar system. Basically, it’s the astronomical equivalent of posting a baby photo to Instagram.

Karen Kwon, Scientific American and Marina Koren, The Atlantic

Puppies

At the dawn of stay at home orders, the shelters were emptied of doggies by people who realized a little companionship goes a long way. This led to the inevitable: people posting about that dog on social media, and these days dog influencers are distinctly in compared to their feline counterparts. CrowdTangle reported that posts mentioning puppies jumped 38 percent in the last week of March compared to the year-to-date average, while mentions of cats rose just 9 percent during its 2020 pandemic-era peak.

Tracy Alloway, Bloomberg

This week’s subscriber Sunday edition was wan interview with Maria Sherman, author of the brand new book Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS. It’s an outstanding book, a top-to-bottom cultural history of the boy band genre, I really loved it and you should check it out. I dropped the paywall today only if you want to peek the interview, it’s a good one.

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