Numlock News: March 19, 2021 • Oumuamua, Madness, Storms

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend! Last day of the 14.00 percent off flash Stimulus sale.


NOAA is reconsidering how to calculate what an “average” hurricane season is, which given the usual 30-year update model would have a “normal” season involve 19 percent more named storms and hurricanes. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization announced their new plan for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, forgoing a move to make the proper season start in mid-May but opting to eliminate the increasingly necessary backup alphabet, which is tapped when there are more than 21 named storms in a given year. Yes, no longer will the back nine of hurricane season sound like a frat house, as the WMO decided to eliminate the “Alpha,” '“Beta,” “Gamma” naming structure in favor of just having a backup list of names. This past year there was confusion over storms Zeta, Eta and Theta, which is pretty much exactly what the storm naming system seeks to avoid, so instead they’re ditching the classics and going with a more modern batch of second-stringer storm sobriquets.

Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press


A new survey found 31 percent of U.S. adults planned to tune into March Madness this year, down from 43 percent in 2017. While there are many possible reasons for this — declining viewership of cable television, the fatigues of the pandemic, the lack of joy to be had from watching Duke lose on live television, cord-cutting — what is on the rise is people tuning in through streaming, with 42 percent of adults planning to watch saying they will do so over a virtual distributor like YouTube TV, Hulu or Sling, up from 37 percent last year.

Alex Silverman, Morning Consult


Netflixageddon is nigh, with the company experimenting with a crackdown on multiple households utilizing the same Netflix account. There are 74 million subscribers in the United States and Canada, and the company is simply out of room to grow unless it manages to shuffle people off their roommate’s sister’s girlfriend’s dad’s account. That said, Netflix — where 16 percent of U.S. households are using an account paid for by another household — is on par with its peers, comparable to Hulu (14 percent) and Disney+ (14 percent). Contrast that with Prime Video, where 8 percent of households are using another’s login or Apple TV+, which also has 8 percent using another’s account, but incidentally has the far bigger problem of 62 percent of its userbase accessing it through a free promotion.

Lillian Rizzo and Joe Flint, The Wall Street Journal


The mysterious 148-foot object named Oumuamua that was first observed traveling through our solar system in 2017 is, according to a new study, not actually a cigar-shaped rock but rather shaped more like a cookie, and is neither a comet nor an asteroid but rather a chunk of an icy nitrogen covered planet. The authors of the study argue that it was knocked off of its planet by an impact 500 million years ago so hard that it exited its solar system and careened towards ours. While many continue to hold that it’s a cigar-shaped rock, the new research argues it’s more of “one wafer of an Oreo” in dimension.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Spotify has released some data about its artists, namely the fraction of them that take in a livable income from the streaming service. The company paid out $5 billion to rights-holders in 2020, up from $3.3 billion in 2017. According to Spotify, 1.2 million artists have over 1,000 listeners, but only 184,000 generated recording and publishing royalties of over $1,000. There were 13,400 artists who made over $50,000 in royalties from Spotify, 7,800 who made at least $100,000 in royalties and a select few 870 artists on Spotify whose catalogs generated $1 million or more in royalties.

Ashley Carman, The Verge

Earth 2

Researchers in Europe have laid out a strategy paper to design a highly sophisticated computer system with the goal of simulating climate and weather on the entirety of Earth, feeding in continuous streams of real-time data and facilitating more complex and, hopefully, more accurate climate and weather forecasts. The project — which has the backing of the European Space Agency, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts — would further allow researchers to evaluate the impact of new developments and policies on the highly accurate digital model, which would aid in the pursuit of shifting to a carbon-neutral society. It would also require roughly 20,000 GPUs to operate a digital twin of Earth at scale, which would consume 20 megawatts of power, and they would need to work that bit out up front. Hey, if all goes well, finally a new Overwatch map, sweet.

Simone Ulmer, ETH Zurich


Both Apple and Google retain around 30 percent of the money spent on apps and the in-app purchases within those apps. By comparison, credit card companies charge about 3 percent for facilitating a purchase. This adds up: Apple made $72 billion from App Store fees and Google made $39 billion from the Google Play store fees last year, according to Sensor Tower. As scrutiny over allegedly monopolistic and anticompetitive business practices heats up, those fees are drawing significant attention. This week, Google announced it’d reduce its commission on some sales, but bills introduced in New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Arizona would actually prevent Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their in-house payment platform.

Matt Stoller and Pat Garofalo, The New York Times

This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Aaron Gordon who wrote “The US Invented Life-Saving Car Safety Ratings. Now They’re Useless” for Motherboard. It was a great chat about how for years the U.S. was at the vanguard of regulation, and other countries looked to it as an example of how to model their own programs. Then some stuff happened. You should check out his piece. Aaron can be found at Vice, and he’s got a newsletter called Urbababble where you can keep tabs on what he’s up to.

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