Numlock News: March 30, 2021 • Tokyo, Charizard, Invasive Species

By Walt Hickey

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Cards

A 1999 first-edition “Shadowless” holographic Charizard Pokémon card sold for $311,800 through PWCC Auctions over the weekend after 124 bids. What makes this card particularly valuable, besides Charizard being pretty much the best Pokémon, is that this specific card is one of just 122 Pokémon cards that have received a 10 Gem Mint rating from the PSA, the third-party evaluator of collectible cards. If you’re bummed about missing out on this Charizard, don’t worry, I hear the buyer only has like three badges and there’s no way it’s going to obey them.

Nicole Carpenter, Polygon

Games

The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are feuding with the middlemen that hawked tickets abroad over the decision that no foreign spectators will be allowed to see the games. About 600,000 tickets have been sold to overseas buyers, and 68,000 people in the U.S. planned to attend the games in one way or another. The status of ticket refunds is just the beginning, as would-be attendees try to claw back airfare and hotel reservations as well. The organizers say they’ll only refund the face value of the ticket, which is a bummer for buyers because CoSport tacked on a 20 percent service fee on top. This means that an American who spent $1,514 for two tickets to swimming medal events will only get back the $1,397 face value, eating $117 in the process.

Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal

Kicks

Nike is suing MSCHF Product Studio over a limited satanic edition of the Air Max 97 sneaker sold for artist Lil Nas X, who is not being sued. The studio launched 666 pairs of the shoes, which sold out pretty much instantaneously and allegedly contain actual human blood. Nike alleges that MSCHF altered its trademarked product without its permission, suing specifically for trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition. It’s not entirely clear why Nike thinks its brand may be linked to Beelzebub, as based on my recollection from Catholic high school it’s pretty well documented in the literature that the devil wears Prada.

Ashley Cullins, The Hollywood Reporter

Pakistan

Stripe, the largest financial technology company in Silicon Valley, is moving into Pakistan, a difficult market to bust into but primed for a financial revolution soon. Over 60 percent of the country is below the age of 30, and 50 percent are unbanked, with the majority of digital transactions being just ATM use. There are about 60 million internet users in Pakistan, with 11 million of them added in 2020 alone, and the market’s exploding: e-commerce increased 35 percent year-over-year in Fall 2020, but the majority of those purchases were paid for with cash on delivery.

Varsha Bansal, Rest of World

Museums

An October survey from the American Alliance of Museums found that 2020 was a hard year. If it were a tastefully produced diorama, it would involve a stuffed director selling off a piece of art from the collection in order to keep the lights on. On average, museums expected to lose 35 percent of their budgeted income in 2020 and 28 percent of typical operating income this year, with 12 percent saying they were at significant risk of permanent closure. Last year, the Association of Art Museum Directors suspended their typical sanctions on museums that “deaccession” artworks, which is art-speak for “selling the stuff in the back to keep the place running.” Normally, proceeds can only go to buying more art, and if they don’t the museum catches heat, but the moratorium on sanctions will run through April 2022. This has prompted some to ask: why not longer? Large museums display just 5 percent of their collections at a given time, and some wonder if those works could see the light of day at smaller outfits with little downside.

Virginia Postrel, Bloomberg

MOXIE

Lots of people want to go to Mars, which is great. You love to see the ambition, but there is the tiny matter of astronauts requiring oxygen in order to continue being astronauts (among other things) and the reality that Mars lacks enough of that. That’s one reason that NASA sent MOXIE along with the Perseverance rover, a $50 million instrument that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen through solid oxide electrolysis. They plan to run it for a collective 10 hours over the next several years, two hours at a time, attempting to generate 6 to 10 grams of oxygen each time. If it pulls it off, they can scale it up: a four-person crew will need a version of MOXIE that can pump out 2 to 3 kilograms per hour of oxygen for 10,000 hours. Making this harder is Martian air pressure, which is about 4.5 Torr, compared to 760 Torr on Earth.

Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics

Adorably Invasive

A new study of invasive species found that they’re 7.4 times as likely to be kept as pets than would be expected given their overall frequency among vertebrate populations. This means that often the most dangerous animals to be injected into new ecosystems are also some of the most commonly found companion animals. Invasive mammal species are found in the pet trade at five times the rate that they are in the wild around the globe, eight times as much among amphibians and 10 times as common in fish. Another analysis of ant populations sold as pets found they were 6.6 times more likely to be invasive than you’d expect, and of the 19 most invasive ant species, 13 were sold as pets. It’s a little unclear if this is a tautology — the animals that are good at surviving in captivity tend to get dragged to new exciting places by humans where they can invade — but either way it’s a sick burn on humans that we just have destructive taste in companions, scientifically.

John Timmer, Ars Technica

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