Numlock News: November 15, 2021 • Ammonites, Jupiter, Britney

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


In the biggest opening for the “unstoppable mutant kaiju ravages innocent American city despite the desperate efforts of scientists and authorities” genre since Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the film Clifford the Big Red Dog hauled in $22 million over 5 days at the domestic box office this past weekend. That wasn’t enough to beat Eternals, which grossed $27.5 million and now has a 10-day haul of $118.4 million. The movie’s done really well overseas, though, with $162.6 million from 45 markets for a $281.4 million global total.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter


On Friday a Los Angeles court put an end to the conservatorship that governed Britney Spears’ life for nearly 14 years. The current conservator will settle the myriad ongoing concerns related to the case, but Spears is once again in control of her finances, body and business after wresting control back from the conservatorship orchestrated by her father in 2008. Her father was in control of — and lavishly compensated from — her $60 million fortune, and Spears has indicated an interest in recovering assets she believes were frivolously or inappropriately spent. The 2013 Britney: Piece of Me residency grossed a reported $138 million over 250 shows, and $138 million is incidentally considerably larger than $60 million. I, for one, am looking forward to the Britney era where she exacts financial vengeance on the family that took advantage of her like it’s the “Layla” sequence of Goodfellas.

Joe Coscarelli and Julia Jacobs, The New York Times

Been Spending Most Their Lives Living As Giant Ammonite

A new study published on PLOS ONE describes 154 specimens of two species of fossilized ammonites. One species, Parapuzosia seppenradensis, could grow to the diameter of 1.5 meters to 1.8 meters, an enormous sea beastie that was a bit of an enigma to researchers. The theory is that the species split off, evolving from the smaller Parapuzosia leptophylla as the mosasaurs that hunt them got bigger over the same period; the reason these ammonites became ridiculously large is that the things that ate them were getting bigger, and they can’t eat what they can’t fit in their gob.

Bob Yirka,


In 2018, Facebook was wondering why Cambodian users were responsible for 50 percent of all global traffic for the voice function of their Messenger app. The reason had less to do with the company’s theory — low literacy — and more to do with the very structure of the keyboard interface. Computers weren’t designed with the Khmer language (which needs keyboards that can accommodate the 74 characters) in mind, and while Khmer unicode was standardized between 2006 and 2008, keyboards lacked that. So when Facebook got popular in Cambodia in 2009, they never really bothered to solve the typing problem, and Cambodians simply started skipping the keyboard and sending voice messages, a pattern that holds also on Telegram, WhatsApp and LINE.

Vittoria Elliott and Bopha Phorn, Rest of World

Reading for Fun

The percentage of American kids who read for fun on a nearly daily basis dropped significantly, and is down to levels not seen since the question was first asked in the 1980s. The percentage of 9-year-olds who read almost every day is down to 42 percent, from 53 percent in 1984. The percentage who read never or hardly ever is up to 16 percent. That gets worse as kids get older: the percentage of 13-year-olds who read for fun daily fell from 35 percent to 17 percent between 1984 and 2020, and the percentage who read never or hardly ever rose from 8 percent to 29 percent. Reading for fun has been linked to a host of positive outcomes for kids, from better test scores to a higher likelihood of life-long reading.

Katherine Schaeffer, Pew Research Center

And tell me, did you fall from a shooting star?

Jupiter, as the second-most appealing gravity sink in our little solar system, takes a lot of hits from meteors. At absolute minimum, an estimated 20 objects hit Jupiter every year, and there’s lots of interest in studying them and sneaking a better look in order to better understand small asteroids. In September and October, two different asteroids hit Jupiter, and scientists were able to actually catch them in action. Conveniently, the October collision took place on a spot of Jupiter that the Juno spacecraft happened to fly over 28 hours later, grabbing a photo of the atmosphere that revealed no trace of the disturbance from two days prior.

Meghan Bartels,


Motor scooters are responsible for about 70 percent of India’s gasoline consumption, and high fuel prices worldwide are pushing some towards electric models. The most fuel efficient scooter on the market consumes 100 rupees ($1.30) for a 100-kilometer ride, a distance that can be covered at a sixth of the cost with an electric. Up-front prices are on the higher side, but BloombergNEF projects that electric motorcycles and scooters will rise from less than 1 percent of the market to 74 percent of all scooters sold in India by 2040.

Saket Sundria and Debjit Chakraborty, Bloomberg

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2021 Sunday subscriber editions: Giant clams · Instagram · Remote Work · Latinos · Vapes · Smoke · Jeopardy! · Mangoes · BBLs · Summer Box Office · Time Use · Shampoo Bars · Wikipedia ·

Thriving · Comic Rebound · Return of Travel · Sticky Stuff · For-profit Med School · A Good Day · Press Reset · Perverse Incentives · Demon Slayer · Carbon Credits · Money in Politics · Local News ·
Oscar Upsets · Sneakers · Post-pandemic Cities · Facebook AI · Fireflies · Vehicle Safety · Climate Codes · Figure Skating · True Believer · Apprentices · Sports Polls · Pipeline · Wattpad · The Nib · Driven
2020 Sunday Edition Archive
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive