Numlock News: June 1, 2021 • Isaac Newton, Humpback Whales, Newborn Devils

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Quiet

A Quiet Place Part II has a projected four-day holiday weekend gross of $57 million in North America, which is both the best domestic performance of the pandemic and on par with the $50.2 million the initial film, 2018’s A Quiet Place, made in its opening weekend. Combining the two biggest trends in internet videos of the 2010s — ASMR and jump scares — the success proves that there is robust demand for films involving the origin stories of monsters, backdoor prequels, and the repeated exploitation of valuable franchise IP. At the same time, Disney’s Cruella which dropped simultaneously on Disney+ and made only $26.5 million at the box office during its opening weekend, yet again demonstrated a national fatigue with films involving the origin stories of monsters, backdoor prequels, and the repeated exploitation of valuable franchise IP.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

The Notebook

Some of Isaac Newton’s pages of notes to Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica will be auctioned off by Christie’s next month. The page and a half of notes are from a brainstorm sesh that Newton had with Scottish mathematician David Gregory in the 1690s while Newton was working on a revised edition of the book, which is a seminal work in mathematics and sets out the laws of gravitation and motion. The notes would not actually be useful — Newton gave up on the revisions and it wouldn’t be until 1713 that a new edition dropped — but if anyone is interested in the equivalent of Isaac Newton’s Patreon bonus content it’s got an expected sales price of £600,000 to £900,000 ($850,000 to $1.3 million).

The Associated Press

Seltzer

Hard seltzers exploded in popularity last year with the closure of bars and restaurants and the seeming inability of Americans to get the mix right on a vodka soda without the enlistment of professional aid. Alcoholic hard seltzers had $500 million in sales in 2018, which popped to $4 billion in 2020. Analysts project that the growth in the sector — dominated by two brands, White Claw and Truly, which for now combine to about 70 percent of the market — will put it over $8 billion in annual sales sometime within the next four years.

Julie Creswell, The New York Times

Taz

For the first time in over 3,000 years, a litter of Tasmanian Devils was born on the Australian mainland, with the 7 newborn Devils prompting hope for a rebound for the largest living marsupial carnivore. Previously confined to the island of Tasmania, the Devils were wiped out by dingoes on the island of Australia. Since the 1990s, a facial tumor disease has begun to afflict the Tasmanian Devils on Tasmania, which has prompted conservationists to attempt to create a new breeding population in Australia by releasing 26 adults into the wild in late 2020. There are believed to be fewer than 25,000 left in the wild.

Reuters

The Beach

An American Express survey found 61 percent of people plan to spend more than they normally would on a vacation this year because of an inability to travel last year. In the United States, the travel market has rebounded owing to high rates of vaccination: after being largely wiped out, as of April U.S. car rentals were at 104 percent of the level seen in April 2019, spending on lodging was at 95 percent, and flights were at 57.7 percent. Globally, lodging spending in April was at 52.7 percent of the 2019 level, car rentals were at 40 percent, and flights were at 34.8 percent.

Rani Molla, Recode

Margins

Despite their key service becoming more popular than ever last year, large tech-connected delivery services still manage to lose a bunch of money. The margins are razor thin on a given delivery: a Deutsche Bank analysis suggests that after advertising costs and refunds, DoorDash is left with an average of 2.5 percent of an overall delivery cost, and that’s the best in the industry. While DoorDash and Uber expect that by expanding into alcohol and offering grocery delivery they can get those numbers up, the math is sufficiently bad that rival Grubhub is actually attempting to shift away from the delivery business and serve more as an intermediary facilitating restaurants delivering their own food to customers.

Preetika Rana and Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal

Save(d) the Whales

From May to November, 40,000 humpback whales will swim along the eastern coast of Australia from their Antarctic feeding grounds to the Great Barrier Reef, where the calves are born. Turns out that when you stop killing them, the whales can bounce back really robustly. Hunting humpbacks was banned in the 1960s, and there were only an estimated 200 left in eastern Australia and just 800 alive off the west coast. The good news is that humpbacks turn out to be rather good at scaling population up again, and lately their population off the Australian coast has risen by 10 percent every year, a rate of reproduction described by experts as “almost biologically implausible” and “the rabbits of the ocean,” great job whales we’re all duly impressed.

The Economist

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