Numlock News: May 28, 2019 • Aladdin, Amber, Iceland

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back! Doing a new thing with the subject lines.


Burmese amber is the best look at the cretaceous period we’ve got. There are loads of species from the times of the dinosaurs locked eternally into sap that became rock over eons, and the scientific impact of that amber making its way into China and into the hands of paleontologists is remarkable: in 2018, scientists reported 321 new species preserved in Burmese amber, making the total number of species discovered in the rock 1,195. However, you can’t really think of a “conflict mineral” worse than it: the Tanai region where it’s mined in dangerous conditions and environmentally awful processes is also where two armies have been fighting to maintain control and using amber sales to fund their work. The amber is smuggled into China to avoid taxes in a trade that is, ballpark, $725 million to $1 billion back in 2015.

Joshua Sokol, Science


Bikeshare is increasingly looking like the commute of the future as bikeshare technology finally becomes ubiquitous and easy enough to make a serious dent in the way people travel. There were 320,000 bikeshare rides in 2010, a figure that grew to 28 million in 2016. Dockless bikes in particular show promise, because the docks are expensive to install and don’t solve the last mile so much as they solve the 5,230 feet of the last mile.

Clive Thomas, Wired

These Fish Are Millennials

A new study found that the sound of boat motors disturbs the growth of fish embryos. The experiment measured the development of clownfish and spiny chromis under two possible conditions: the ambient sound of the Great Barrier Reef, or that plus the sounds of a two-stroke engine. Embryos in the experimental group had heart rates 10 percent higher than the control, and the spiny chromis exposed to the motor went through their yolk sacs — their energy reserve in the egg — faster, resulting in a yolk sac 13 percent smaller at hatching and 5 percent larger than normal. I’m no ichthyologist, but I do know stress eating when I see it. The experimenters concluded that the increased metabolism occurs because their sensory organs developed, but their response systems have not, that the “embryos can perceive and identify threats, but cannot respond to them,” which is a familiar sentiment to any Great Recession-era college grad.

Grant Currin, Hakai Magazine


The European Union held parliamentary elections and saw a 20-year high in turnout, with 51 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. This year was an interesting one, with the traditional center-left and center-right parties losing ground to other, more unambiguously pro- or anti-EU parties. One clear winner: the Green parties. The German Green party got 20 percent of the vote and came in second, the UK Green party tripled its vote share with 12.1 percent of the vote and the total environmental party bloc is poised to increase to at least 70 seats from the 52 of 751 seats it held in the previous parliament.

Akshat Rathi, Quartz

Make Way For Prince Ali

They cleared the way in the old bazaar: the live action remake of Aladdin beat expectations to scoop up $112.7 million domestically over four days, the fifth highest Memorial day weekend. Original expectations were in the $75 million to $85 million range, but theatergoers were eager to be the first on their block to meet his eye. Despite mixed reviews from critics, audience turnout was strong, definitely. Aladdin faced those critical hoards — a hundred posts with low scores — and sent those boos to their Lord, yes, Prince Ali. He’s got 58 on Rotten Tomatoes, yet with viewers he’s got low 90s. Though when it comes to markets that travel, he has got a few, I’m telling you, but China’s a catastrophe for Disney.

Dave McNary, Variety


There’s a ton of money flowing into professional videogaming — last year an estimated $682 million flowed from investors and sponsors into esports, with some of that trickling down to players and lots filtering up to publishers. This flood of dough has put some in fear of a bubble, particularly as niche leagues compete for viewers that cannot, at this time, actually be verified. Those fans are also an unknown quantity. Fans of traditional sports spent $710 per year attending events in 2017, but NewZoo estimated the most die-hard fans of esports spent $5 last year, and mid-level fans half that. None of this is a death sentence — new things require a ramp-up! — but the current level of investment is probably more than the eventual esports market will pay out, and those risks shouldn’t be underestimated. Not everyone gets to be the NBA, and you oftentimes don’t know you’re the Jai Alai until after the fact.

Cecilia D’Anastasio, Kotaku


Wow Air was a budget airline that was really good at finding people who were not in Iceland and then taking those people to Iceland. It declared bankruptcy in March and folded immediately, and now it’s more difficult to drag people to Iceland. This bankruptcy is having a colossal ripple effect, as Iceland’s central bank changed its 1.8 percent economic growth forecast last week to a 0.4 percent contraction. While 2018 saw 9.8 million people travel through Keflavik Airport — the first step on any Instagrammable Icelandic journey — this year the forecast is 8.9 million.

Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir, Bloomberg

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores