Numlock News: June 17, 2021 • Hadal Zones, Supergiant Stars, David Bowie

By Walt Hickey

Cameo

A new analysis of rates charged on Cameo — a service for the mildly famous where celebs can sell personalized messages directly to fans — found that male celebs were charging measurably more for their time than women were. According to an analysis of the top-20 highest-priced active actors on the platform, the average man was charging $626 for a cameo while the average woman charged $326. Among musicians, the average fee for a man to cut a quick video was $590, while the average woman in the top-20 charged $362.

Lila MacLellan and David Yanofsky, Quartz

Oddity

A painting by David Bowie, one of 47 pieces created by the artist between 1995 and 1997, is up for auction at Cowley Abbot, and with a week to go, the highest bid for DHead XLVI is already up to around $18,000. This is particularly remarkable because of how the unnamed seller — let’s just call them The Man Who Sold D Head — came by the painting, at a donation center in Canada for $4.09, a real diamond dog in the rough situation.

Arielle Retting and Leila Fadel, NPR

Cocoa

Ghana, which grows the second-most cocoa in the world, is poised to post its biggest harvest in a decade, with production hitting 965,493 tons as of the end of the main crop harvest on June 3. Given the 12-week mid-crop season to come — projected to produce around 50,000 tons of cocoa — it’s very likely going to meet or beat the 1 million ton harvest logged in the 2010-11 season. Last year saw a five-year low, and cocoa was projected to come in at just 850,000 tons for the season ending September. Ghana and Ivory Coast recently negotiated a raise from Hershey and Nestle, and will get a premium of $400 per ton starting in October.

Ekow Dontoh, Bloomberg

Explosion?

The red supergiant Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion did something mega weird in late 2019, early 2020, and when big stars do something hella odd, people start paying attention. At the time, people speculated that Betelgeuse was potentially about to go supernova. Though, to be a little more specific, given its distance of 550 light years it’d be more accurate to say “it blew up half a millennium ago, and we’re just hearing about it.” The star, which I refuse to name for a third time for reasons, naturally brightens and darkens every 400 days, but the dimming observed in early 2020 was not on schedule. A new paper published in Nature and based on observations of the Very Large Telescope in Chile concluded that the off the books and extracurricular dimming was actually the result of a giant dust cloud between Earth and the star, and not in fact an end for Betelgeus—

Jonathan Amos, BBC News

Buzz

The North Carolina House passed a bill that would finally legalize the operation of bars on chartered busses, a landmark decision that brings the state in line with other extremely cool states that know what’s up. The bill, which passed 89-14, and now moves on to the state’s senate, would open up alcohol permits for bus trips of at least 75 miles — Charlotte to Raleigh, or Raleigh to Wilmington, really Raleigh to anywhere (this is pretty great for Raleigh) — when the destination is at least 10 miles from the origin, so none of the “get drunk on a loop around the city” plans that I immediately thought of attempting.

Colin Campbell, The News & Observer

Churn

According to newly reported internal numbers, prior to the pandemic Amazon was seeing about 3 percent of its hourly associates leave the company every week, a rate of turnover so high that executives were actually worried the company could run out of workers given the rate of churn and the sheer size of Amazon’s employment footprint. That 3 percent weekly rate would sketch out to a 150 percent turnover rate among its workforce per year, which means that to maintain its workforce, Amazon would need to hire the equivalent of its entire workforce one and a half times annually. Amazon’s entry into a community was even found to materially affect the overall yearly turnover rate for warehousing and storage employees after a new warehouse opened; according to the data, two years before an Amazon warehouse opened in a county the average turnover rate was 53 percent; two years after one opened, that rate rose to 83 percent on average.

Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford, The New York Times

Mercury

A new analysis of sediment cores from hadal zones, which are ocean areas 6 kilometers deep, found that the metal mercury is accumulating in those areas at a rate six to 56 times greater than the previous estimate, an indication that more mercury than previously understood is accumulating down below. Human activity — gold and silver mining from 1520 to 1920, fossil fuel use, and some smaller existing gold mines of today — fuel the accumulation. The concentrations observed in places like the Atacama trench off the coast of Chile were concerning, because the level of mercury found there was on par with concentrations observed in the Mediterranean Sea and St. Lawrence Gulf, areas which were directly contaminated by mercury.

K.E.D. Coan, Ars Technica

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