Numlock News: November 11, 2021 • Bees, Battle, Power Outage

By Walt Hickey


The highest grossing film of 2021 worldwide is The Battle at Lake Changjin, a Chinese war movie that’s made $877 million at home and is now the second-highest grossing film of all time in China. The movie now mounts its international tour, and will hit screens in the United States and Canada on November 19, Australia in December, and has planned releases in the U.K., Ireland and Malaysia. It will be interesting to see how the film does overseas, especially given that the baddies in this particular Korean War film are the Americans and United Nations forces. A sequel, which will tell the story of the company’s campaign to blow up a strategically important bridge that is the only hope the Americans have of retreating, is reportedly in development now with I presume the working title of This Will Make Zero Dollars In North America.

Rebecca Davis, Variety


The average American lost power for eight hours last year, the highest average outage time since at least 2013. Absent storms and extreme weather events, the average American puts up with about two hours of outages annually, but last year’s tumultuous weather pushed the outages higher than they’d been in a long time. It wasn’t equally applied, either: The average Louisianan lost power for more than 60 hours last year thanks to the five hurricanes that hit the state, the average Oklahoman just shy of 50 powerless hours mostly due to an ice storm, and the average Connecticut resident putting up with around 44 hours without power mostly due to Tropical Storm Isaias. Maine, Alabama, Iowa, and Mississippi residents all had to put up with 25 to 30 hours without power.

Justine Calma, The Verge

Prodigal Tentacled

In 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the tentacled butterfly ray as critically endangered and possibly extinct. No human eyes had glimpsed the creature since 1986, off the coast of Pakistan. The situation was dire and all too common, with the animal wiped out from the Red Sea to the Bay of Bengal, another casualty of the biodiversity crisis, and actually wait whoops people have all of a sudden started finding these suckers constantly. From October 2019 to November 2020, across 96 shrimp trawler hails, researchers found 367 tentacled butterfly rays across 39 catches, making up 15 percent of all rays in the by-catch; they’re doing fine, false alarm, carry on people, great work.

Priyanka Runwal, Hakai Magazine


While the chip shortage has caused a lot of consternation across supply chains, American chipmakers are seeing it as their opportunity to get some incentives and subsidies to ramp up domestic production. In the 1990s, about 37 percent of global chip production took place in the United States, a figure that today stands at 12 percent. Other countries directly subsidize their domestic chip business in order to prop it up amid global competition, and companies like Intel, Texas Instruments, Microchip Technologies, GlobalFoundries and Wolfspeed are angling to make more of the building blocks stateside.

Rebecca Heilweil, Recode


According to the USDA, frozen turkey inventories are 24 percent below the average three-year volume. It’s not a shortage, precisely — farmers did not forget that Thanksgiving was on the calendar this year, and to my knowledge a semiconductor is wholly unnecessary in roasting a bird — it’s just that the logistics of getting birds into freezers has been more tumultuous than typical. That’s putting the price of frozen turkey up an additional 26 cents per pound so far. There are an estimated 46 million turkeys eaten every Thanksgiving in the United States, but that fluctuates: last year for instance, amid a raging pandemic, the demand was for smaller birds and more of them as households made their holidays a little more contained.

Emily Stewart, Vox

Call Box

The United Kingdom is home to 21,000 phone booths, the iconic yet vestigial public institution that Ofcom, the communications regulator, is beginning to retire. Some 150,000 calls were made to emergency services from public call boxes from January to May 2020, or a little more than one call per booth per month. The U.K. is moving its analog telephone system to fully digital, and will turn the old system off by the end of 2025, meaning that any public phone booth that’s going to stick around needs an upgrade. Already around 6,000 kiosks have been transitioned to libraries or defibrillators, and the regulator has set the bar at which a box can be saved for phones: 52 calls over a 12-month period, and the box stays in service.

Bill Chappell, NPR


Researchers collected 30,000 signals made by bees in Vietnam over the course of 1,300 minutes, and then analyzed the sounds as spectrograms to try to learn more about apian communication. Hissing, for instance, when bees lower their bodies and move their wings at the same time, happens constantly but moreso when a hornet is present. Piping sounds were 95 percent of the sounds in the data set, when a worker vibrates its wings or thorax during swarming or in response to a predator or food. About 62 percent of them were “stop signals,” but several signals that seemed to be linked to hornet attacks were harsher and irregular and seemed to give a heads up that there was an intruder.

Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica

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