Numlock News: November 16, 2020 • Bubbles, Mummies, Birds

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


A Belgian-bred racing pigeon has sold at auction for 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) to a Chinese buyer. New Kim, the million-dollar bird, beat the record sale price for a racing pigeon — set last year by the pigeon Armando — by 350,000 euros ($406,000), and Armando’s owner is reportedly the buyer. The sport — once a niche hobby in Western Europe that has since exploded among wealthy elites in China — is booming, and the cause for the auction was a breeder behind one of Belgium’s finest coops retired and was looking to unload his 445 birds. Belgium had been the center of the breeding component of the sport for some time, and while the game is in decline there — after World War II there were 250,000 Belgians in the pigeon fancier federation and today there are just 18,000 — the rise of the fandom (and gambling on it) in China has given the moribund hobby a new lease on life.

Raf Casert, The Associated Press


Quebec has announced it will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles within the province as of 2035. The province has committed to a $6.7 billion investment over the next five years to deal with climate change, a large chunk of which will be applied towards electrifying vehicles. After 2035, Quebecers will have to buy used internal combustion vehicles or get electric-powered. Similar policies are planned for California in 2035. As it stands today, less than 2 percent of cars and trucks in Quebec are electrics or hybrids, but thanks to a significant rebate available to those who buy electric, Quebec accounts for 50 percent of Canadian sales of electric vehicles.

CBC News


Meanwhile, in other news, an oil well in northeast India that has been on fire for five months is no longer on fire. The fire started in Assam when an Oil India well exploded in June following a discharge of natural gas. Experts from around the world gathered to attempt to extinguish the inferno over the ensuing months, eventually dousing it with brine, though the well has not yet been capped. Thousands of villagers nearby had to be moved over the course of the five-month inferno, which damaged homes and killed livestock. The Baghjan oil field is right next to a wetland habitat home to multiple endangered species, next to a National Park, and also the region is home to many bird sanctuaries. The disaster cost $30.5 million as of late September, but it was on fire for two months after late September, so now probably costs more. Anyway, congratulations to Quebec on their electric car thing.

Agence France Presse

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Archaeologists revealed over 100 exhumed wooden coffins and 40 funeral statues that were discovered in Saqqara, an ancient burial ground, which is, so far, the largest find this year. They date back 2,500 years and some of them contain mummies, which, I don’t know, speaking for the crowd here, but that sentence “some of them” sits inelegantly with me. Because reading between the lines here that would imply that a bunch of people in 2020 decided to open up an ancient sarcophagus they found to check to see if there was anything in there, and then they did this at least 99 more times, and I don’t know, let me just throw this out there, is this the energy we really need in 2020, my dude? The subsequent remark by Khaled el-Enany, Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, saying some are “in perfect condition of preservation” further underscores my shock that we’re just going to crack open ancient tombs with what’s going down this year. I am not a superstitious man, far from it, but Khaled, hey, maybe we just tone down the tomb raiding until we get to the other side of New Year’s, hm? It says here that the experts also opened a coffin and scanned a mummy with an X-ray during the press conference, which is enormous “act one of a movie where bad things happen to museum employees” vibes. Why is the guy in charge of archaeology science also in charge of tourism?

Isabella Kwai, The New York Times


New technology angling to make shipping more efficient and save on fuel costs is in steep demand, and one emerging technology — the Silverstream System — basically shaves off serious fuel consumption by generating air bubbles to ease the ship’s run through the ocean. The device, which is near the bow, generates a carpet of millimeter-sized air bubbles that lubricate the ship. This effect has been understood for a while — air’s less dense than water and the bubbles reduce resistance between the hull and the water — but new tech will allow older ships to be retrofitted with the devices. The effect is solid: air lubrication can cut fuel consumption by 5 to 10 percent, which given the $5 to $10 million annual fuel cost for a single average-sized commercial shipping vessel can add up to serious money.

Chris Baraniuk, Hakai Magazine


Shipping analysts ShipMatrix forecast that between Thanksgiving and Christmas roughly 7 million packages per day could face delays. The total expected capacity of the shipping industry in the U.S. is estimated to be 79.1 million parcels per day over the course of the 34 days, but the problem is that a projected 86.3 million packages per day will be moving through the system. By comparison, last year demand was just 67.9 million packages per day, while overall capacity was 65.3 million.

Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press


On Sunday, 15 countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement in Singapore, a multilateral trade deal that aims to unite the nations of the Pacific in a post-pandemic economic engine. The framework — between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and China — is an accord uniting around 30 percent of global GDP and roughly the same percent of population. This is the first free trade agreement to connect Japan and China, and will eliminate tariffs on 86 percent of Japanese goods exported to China. It’s the first time China has entered into a multilateral free trade agreement of this scale, and the largest since the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was the 11-member version of the U.S.-orchestrated Trans-Pacific Partnership that the other countries did after the U.S. yanked itself out of that agreement it set up.

Kentaro Iwamoto, Nikkei Asian Review

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