Numlock News: October 19, 2020 • Santa, Nazca, Bennu
By Walt Hickey
Are you a weird aristocrat with too much money and no remaining patience for the Elf on the Shelf of the hoi polloi? Well great news, because the original Santa and Rudolph puppets from the 1964 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are hitting the auction block, selling for an estimated $150,000 to $250,000 on November 13. The puppets’ journey from Rankin/Bass productions to a memorabilia auction is a complicated one: made by Ichiro Komuro and used for stop-motion at MOM Productions in Tokyo, they later resided at the Rankin/Bass HQ in New York until Rankin gave the puppets to his secretary, who gave them to her nephew, who hawked them to a collector in 2005. Now they can be yours, if you want to scare the kids into good behavior by bringing in the top brass to oversee the situation.
The federal duck stamp is sold by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to would-be duck hunters, with the proceeds going towards preservation of ducks in the U.S. to significant effect: $1 billion since 1934. The design of the stamp is the result of an annual contest, which is basically the Super Bowl for people who like to paint ducks. In May, the Fish and Wildlife Service added in a new and permanent rule requiring that artists celebrate the hunting part and feature an “appropriate waterfowl hunting scene and/or accessory” rather than, you know, some nice ducks chilling out and not being shot. Many contestants resent being told that they have to cram a shotgun into their gorgeous scenes of natural splendor, and many are getting creative: by Audobon’s count, 24 out of the 138 artworks in this year’s contest featured a duck call or shotgun shell in the water or on the edge of the water, with the winning entrant for the 2020 Duck Stamp contest featuring a Lesser Scaup duck and also a lost duck call tangled in some weeds. Non-hunters also buy and collect the stamps, which is important for preservation as well, as while 4 percent of Americans over 16 hunted in 2016, 34 percent participated in wildlife watching.
An investigation into mortality in 500 United States jails between 2008 and 2019 has found that the death rate of inmates is up 35 percent in the decade ending last year, with 7,571 inmates dying in a U.S. jail in that period. Distressingly, 4,998 people were never convicted of the charges on which they were held, meaning two-thirds of the people who died in jail had never had their innocence or guilt determined and were merely detained awaiting arraignment or trial. This subverts the right to due process outlined in the U.S. Constitution and underscores how lapsed the requirement for humane detention conditions are in jails around the country. About 300 died after being behind bars unconvicted for a year or more.
For the past two years or so, the satellite of the Osiris-Rex mission has been circling the asteroid Bennu. This week, the van-sized satellite will strike, as Tuesday it’ll attempt to descend to the surface of the asteroid and grab a bunch of rubble with the hope of bringing back 2 ounces of asteroid. The site of interest is a crater called Nightingale, which is about the size of a tennis court and is surrounded by building-sized boulders. NASA will attempt to make the landing happen from 200 million miles away, with an 18-minute communication lag. If it fails, they will likely have a few other chances to make a connection, and the spacecraft is slated to return to Earth in 2023.
A bar-tailed godwit tagged with a tracker has set the new record for non-stop avian flight, making the journey from southwest Alaska to New Zealand — a 7,500 mile journey — in 11 days. The bird, deemed 4BBRW, made a recorded flight of 12,854 kilometers in 224 hours, vastly crushing the previous record of 11,680 kilometers recorded in 2007. There are not many places in the world where birds need to make such a long flight with no land in sight whatsoever, but there are advantages given the lack of predators and favorable winds above the Pacific.
Coca-Cola announced it’s killing Tab, the company’s first-ever diet soda launched in 1963. The beverage really began to pop in the 1970s, and by the 1980s it had a massive lead over other diet sodas, but when Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke in 1982, it was the beginning of the end for Tab: by ‘83 Diet Coke was 17 percent of the diet soda business in the U.S. and the 4th most popular soft drink in the States. Since then, Tab has remained around for the most committed buyers, but hasn’t had a penny in marketing spending since 2008. As it stands today, Tab is 0.1 percent of the $22 billion global diet cola business, significantly behind sibling brands Diet Coke (35 percent) and Coke Zero Sugar (22 percent). According to Nielsen, Tab is less than a quarter of a percent of Diet Coke sales, so when Coca-Cola announced they’d cut their 500 brands by half last month, Tab’s time was out.
Peru is home to Unesco World Heritage Site, the Nazca lines, which are colossal geoglyphs carved into the earth 2,000 years ago depicting images and patterns. The cultural ministry was planning to install a new path to an observation platform to see the glyphs, only visible from a higher altitude, when they found a heretofore undiscovered 120 foot-long geoglyph of a cat right where they wanted to put in the path. The chief archaeologist of the site believes the kitty cat predates the Nazca culture, which put in most of the figures from 200 AD to 700 AD, and the cat was drawn sometime between 500 BC and 200 AD.
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