Numlock News: October 8, 2019 • Moons, Wine, Foreign Films

By Walt Hickey


About 60 percent of commuters like to stand on escalators, while the rest like to walk up the escalator. This has led to a compromise that all seem fairly cool with: walkers to the left, standers to the right. But the research is clear: this is not the most efficient way for a society to handle escalation. With 40 percent of the people using 50 percent of the space, a traffic jam forms below so that slows everybody down, but especially the standers. The hybrid walking/standing social contract meant that, in one study, walkers made it to the top in 46 seconds while standers made it to the top in 2.3 minutes. When everybody just stands — two-by-two, nice and orderly — the wait time is equalized to be 59 seconds. This finding has thrown me into personal turmoil, pitting my fast-walking sensibilities against my urge to obtain collective social progress.

Claire Suddath, Bloomberg

Killer Whales

The Salish Sea is a body of water between Washington state and British Columbia that is excellent for whale watching. In 2011, the United States doubled the distance that boaters had to keep from killer whales, doubling it from 100 to 200 yards. This regulation — intended to ensure that humans kept their distance and their motors well away from the aquatic mammals — incidently had a wholly unexpected secondary effect, namely that the whales seem to be exposed to way fewer polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), considered to be one of the most hazardous substances tracked. Researchers have been collecting whale poop to analyze for the presence of PAH since the Deepwater Horizon spill demonstrated how little was known about the baselines. The year before the rules extending the distance, four fecal samples had concentrations of PAH from 11 to 104 parts per billion. Of the 70 collected from 2010 to 2013, most were below 10 parts per billion.

Larry Pynn, Hakai Magazine


The most popular playwright in America is Lauren Gunderson, who in the 2019-20 season will have 33 productions of her plays around the country. That is more than Shakespeare and 15 more than the second-place playwright, Lauren Yee. Every fall, American Theater checks on what 400 regional theaters are doing to find the most-produced playwright, setting aside the twin perennials of A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare. Gunderson — who has never had a play on Broadway, and has made a career writing comedies about plucky women in the regional scene — has regularly been at or near the top of the list for the past several years. The smaller theatergoer is more voracious than the Broadway New Yorker, too: according to a 2015 study the average Broadway playgoer goes to nine shows per year, but the average off-off-broadway theatergoer attends 23 shows per year.

Dan Kois, Slate


The 2019 wine report is in, and this year should prove to be a great year. France was hard-hit by heat waves, spring frosts and wildfires, with the nation’s overall wine output estimated to slip 12 percent this year. While that’s clearly not ideal, the quality of what was harvested is excellent according to French winemakers. Meanwhile in California, there may in be a grape glut following a summer full of ideal conditions for vineyards in Sonoma and Napa.

Elin McCoy, Bloomberg

Put A Ring On It

Following the discovery of 20 additional moons, Saturn jumped above Jupiter as the planet with the most known moons in the solar system, with 82 moons compared to the 79 that orbit Jupiter. Each of the moons is roughly three miles across and were detected when algorithms were set upon older images collected from the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea. Of the new moons discovered, three orbit Saturn in the same direction it rotates (prograde) and the other 17 orbit in retrograde, which is how astronomers pronounce “backward.” Two of the prograde moons are in a group named after Inuit mythology, the 17 retrograde moons are in a group named after Norse mythology, and given that no group was offered for the 20th moon and it’s 2019 I’m just going to assume they’re going to name it something like Liam, Emma or Noah.

Ian Sample, The Guardian


When it comes to the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film — the Oscars’ new name for Best Foreign Language Film — the actual nominee is not the director, nor the film itself, but, in fact, the country. This year, there are a record 93 countries that have submitted a feature-length film for consideration for the Oscar this year, with Ghana, Nigeria and Uzbekistan submitting films for the first time. The previous high, 92, was set in 2017. This year also saw the most films — 28 films with 29 directors — with women auteurs. The frontrunners this year are Parasite, the South Korean film from Bong Joon-ho that’s in the mix for Best Picture, and Pain and Glory, Spain’s entry from Pedro Almodovar starring Antonio Banderas.

Steve Pond, The Wrap


Facebook will pay $40 million to settle claims that they inflated the average amount of time that users viewed video on the platform, which will end a class-action lawsuit that plaintiffs say will recover $100 million to $200 million in damages. The suit alleged that Facebook inflated views by 150 percent to 900 percent. Of the $40 million, $12 million is earmarked for attorneys, and the rest would go to those who purchased ad time in videos.

Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter

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Correction: A previous version said that regional theatergoers went to 23 productions annually, this was the number of plays attended by off-off-Broadway theatergoers.

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