Numlock News: March 12, 2021 • Producers, Astronauts, Laser Operators

By Walt Hickey

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A digital work by an artist who goes by Beeple has sold for $69,346,250 at Christie’s, an explosive debut for Non-Fungible Tokens on the established art auction scene. The work — a collage of 5,000 images taken over thirteen years called Everydays - The First 5000 Days — will also net the artist royalties built into the NFT contract, with Beeple receiving 10 percent of the sale price each time the NFT is sold subsequently. Art NFTs are about a quarter of all NFT sales, which so far have amounted to a volume of $415 million.

Elizabeth Howcroft, Reuters

Laser Hair Removal

As it stands 44 states consider laser hair removal a medical treatment that requires the supervision of a trained medical professional, like a doctor or physician assistant, and in another five states, it’s subject to a form of regulation at the state level. The sole holdout is the free-wheeling, anti-regulation, small-government, anarchic, come-and-take-em wild west state of… New York? The reason that laser hair removal — where, again, somebody shoots lasers at you until the capillaries that feed hair get sufficiently murdered — is completely unregulated in New York of all places traces back to a 1935 legal decision that somewhat arbitrarily decided that removing hair does not count as practicing medicine no matter how sophisticated the tech is, and 86 years later this decision somehow still manages to hold. A law under consideration would bring New York up to speed with the rest of the country.

Elizabeth Stanton, Bloomberg


Right now, the NFL overtime structure benefits the winner of a coin toss. Since 2017, the team that gets the ball first in overtime has a 28-20-4 record, meaning that it’s entirely possible to lose a game based on the outcome of a coin flip, which understandably ticks off the losing teams. A new proposal from the Baltimore Ravens — which has the backing of Nobel Prize winning economist Richard Thaler — would remove chance from it, but wouldn’t remove the risk: the team that wins the coin toss would select a starting position on the field, and then the other team would get to choose whether they want to go on offense or defense given that spot. First person slices the cake, other person chooses the piece, nice and easy.

Andrew Beaton, The Wall Street Journal


A new report from McKinsey found new depths to the issues of diversity and inclusion in the television and film industry and compelling evidence that the lack of diversity among producers is holding the industry back from its goals. The study found among the 92 percent of films released from 2015 to 2019 that had no Black producers, only 3 percent had a Black director and less than 1 percent had a Black writer. Among the 8 percent of films where there was at least one Black producer, 42 percent had a Black director and 73 percent had a Black writer. The absence of Black executives and subsequent lack of equity leads to, according to the study, an abandonment of $10 billion in annual revenues for the industry as a whole.

Jonathan Dunn, Sheldon Lyn, Nony Onyeador and Ammanuel Zegeye, McKinsey & Co


A new project from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is trying to reckon with the number of unintentional astronauts currently hitching a ride on the International Space Station. In February, an astronaut swabbed 1,000 different locations in the ISS, which is about 100 times as many swabs as a typical tracking study. In a few months time those samples will be sent back to Earth, where researchers will attempt to make a 3D map of the microbiome of the ISS, which sounds extremely gross. Cleaning on the ISS is a serious chore, taking up about three hours per week, given the nature of the space station pretty much precludes the possibility of sweeping dust under the rug since the concepts of “sweeping,” “rugs,” and honestly even “under” are meaningless in zero-gravity.

Shannon Hall, Scientific American

5-Minute Crafts

You know those really weird videos that take normal consumer products and do something completely inexplicable with them and pretend it’s a life hack? The videos that basically look like the intersection of Procter & Gamble and David Lynch, but with the color saturation of a Disneyland commercial? Yeah, they make a ton of money. The channel 5-Minute Crafts has made 4,600 of these videos, and have been viewed 19 trillion times, making it the 11th most followed channel on YouTube. The channel is estimated to make $11.7 million per year from YouTube ads alone.

Jen Doll, Marker


A $1.5 billion coastal restoration project in Louisiana — paid out of money from the settlement of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill — is slated to begin construction in late 2022, and just got a draft environmental impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers this week. The project would redirect 12 percent of the flow of the Mississippi River into Barataria Bay, which is a 600,000-acre degraded marsh that right now is being drowned with salt water. It would pump 75,000 cubic feet of water per second from the main stem of the Mississippi and, if all goes well, build 50 square miles of wetlands over 50 years with millions of tons of sediment getting into that basin over the next half-century. It’s the largest coastal restoration project of its kind in the country, but faces opposition from commercial and recreational fishing interests.

Daniel Cusick and Hannah Northey, E&E News

This past Sunday, I spoke to Alexander Kaufman, who wrote “U.S. Trade Authorities Deal Blow To Biden’s Electric Vehicle Plans” for HuffPost. We spoke about these odd little organizations and how they wield so much power, and what people can do to get popular policies across the finish line without them discreetly killing them. Alex can be found at HuffPoston Twitter, and has a personal Substack where he blasts out cool stories he works on like these.

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