Numlock News: October 8, 2020 • Chess, T. Rex, Magma

By Walt Hickey

T. Rex

The Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil placed up for auction at Christie’s sold for $31.8 million, which is several times its estimated price and about four times the previous record-setting specimen, the $8.4 million sale in 1997 of the T. Rex now in the Field Museum in Chicago. All told, roughly 50 Tyrannosauruses have been found, and this one is an excellent and nearly complete fossil at 188 bones, about 13 feet high and 40 feet long.

Agence France-Presse

Beverages

The functional beverage space is a $125 billion slice of the beverage industry. Drinks that have any number of allegedly positive additives — from magnesium to hemp — have been taking up more and more space on shelves. Now, the biggies are getting in on the game, with Coke and Pepsi attempting to get a slice of the market by rolling out new angles. Coke introduced 500 new drinks in 2017, and Pepsi is diving directly in with a new product called Driftwell, which has L-theanine and magnesium and is purportedly going to help with sleep. This is a bit of a back-to-basics for the pair of beverage conglomerates, as Coke was obviously a cocaine-infused beverage intended to replace morphine, and Pepsi was originally marketed as a digestive aid, or, the best available thing whenever the restaurant didn’t have Coke

James I. Bowie, Marker

Chess

Last week, the Armenia Eagles had their victory at the Chess.com Pro Chess League Championship overturned, and chess grandmaster Tigran L. Petrosian was banned for life from both Chess.com and the Pro Chess League for violations of unspecified fair play regulations. The victory for the Eagles was a significant one, and an underdog one at that: despite Petrosian being the 97th-ranked player, he defeated the 6th-ranked, 11th-ranked, and 21st-ranked. This tour de force performance raised suspicion, especially given that the competition was held remotely, and while the specifics of the violations were not disclosed, the Eagles have threatened to leave the Pro Chess League in protest.

Patrick Redford, Defector

Magma

A new study analyzing 56 volcanoes in geologically active areas on five different continents looked to find the locations of the reservoirs of magma that fueled those volcanoes. They found that about a third of the volcanoes were four kilometers or more away from the magma reservoirs that they draw from, and five volcanoes were more than 10 kilometers away. This is important information for me because most of the things I was worried about as a kid — quicksand, asteroids, most things from Jumanji — never really lived up to the hype, but the fact that a third of volcanoes have an off-site stash of magma to keep some gas in the tank, that’s what I’m talking about.

Katherine Kornei, Scientific American

Retail

The fourth quarter is a big deal for a whole lot of retailers, with one fourth of the year responsible for 34.82 percent of Best Buy’s sales, 34.61 percent of Kohl’s sales, 33.95 percent of Macy’s sales, and 30.51 percent of American Eagle Outfitters’ sales. This year is pretty much a fiasco and nobody has any idea whatsoever what is going to happen during the most critical couple of months of the retail calendar. Stores, the merchants they buy from, and the manufacturers who sell to them are seriously stressing the holidays in 2020. Since shutdowns began in March, $122 billion in U.S. retail sales have dissipated, and sales of clothing and accessories were down 34.9 percent in the first eight months.

Jordyn Holman, Kim Bhasin and Katherine Doherty, Bloomberg

Beetles

There are 600 species of bark beetles in the United States, creatures that have developed assorted relationships with the trees that serve as their hosts. Lots of those feast on dead or dying trees, others live in the living, and a few of those can have enormous catastrophic effects. The mountain pine beetle killed 100,000 square miles of trees in western North America in the past decade from British Columbia to New Mexico. The cold spells that would kill that beetle are fewer and further between, and the trees they attack are affected by drought. The result is that these beetles are responsible for weakening the very forests that have been roiled by unprecedented fires: the U.S. Forest Service estimates that 80 percent to 90 percent of what’s burning in the 309,033-acre Creek Fire is beetle-killed timber.

Hillary Rosner, National Geographic

Cities

This year municipalities could lose $134 billion due to declining sales, tourism, and hospitality taxes, and are poised to lose $360 billion through 2022. The impacts are particularly acute in tourist towns, places like Anaheim, which is staring down a $100 million deficit due to the closure of not only Disneyland but also the convention center and hotels that fuel their coffers. From Hawaii’s beaches to Dollywood, cities that depend on tourism dollars may have to cut back on essential services and community resources next year unless aid comes.

Terry Nguyen, Vox

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