Numlock News: September 28, 2020 • Trucks, Tornadoes, Tenet

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Tenet

Tenet by Christopher Nolan is cleaning up internationally, racking up $283.2 million worldwide despite a tepid $41.2 million from North America. Many cinemas around the United States are cutting hours of operation or closing because of a lack of product Hollywood is willing to launch in theaters in the United States. Indeed, the top five movies in the Untied States this past weekend were Tenet, then The New Mutants and Unhinged — the former of which was dumped by Disney at the end of summer after inheriting the doomed picture from Fox, the latter a small road rage movie starring Russell Crowe — and then a BTS concert movie, and then Empire Strikes Back, which made $908,000.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

Trucks

Class 3 trucks are the smaller delivery vans and step vans that typically encompass the local fleets of companies like UPS and Amazon, weighing 5 to 7 tons fully loaded. In 1981, there were 13,000 such trucks in the United States. Last year, there were 325,000 Class 3 trucks, a 2,500 percent increase. The case for electrifying those vehicles rather than running them on diesel engines is really clear: heavy-duty trucks make up 10 percent of the vehicles on the road but are responsible for 28 percent of carbon emissions, and those trucks produce 45 percent of nitrous oxide emissions (which cause smog) and 55 percent of particulate matter from vehicles. So, if you’re running the fleet of small trucks in cities (the places where all the people live), basically, that’s the last place you want to be reducing air quality.

David Ferris, E&E News

The Great Gig In The Sky

New measurements from a Chinese-German team analyzing data from the Chang’e 4 lander on the far side of the moon finds that the lunar surface is radioactive as all heck, with astronauts getting 200 to 1,000 times more radiation on the moon than experienced on Earth, or about five to 10 times the amount absorbed by passengers on a trans-Atlantic flight. This is not a problem for a quick visit — listen, Buzz Aldrin is 90, and I bet that guy could still kick my butt if it came to it — but if the objective is to land astronauts and have them settle in for a bit, they could sustain sufficient damage to cause health problems down the line. The researchers suggest shelters made of moon dirt should have walls 80 centimeters thick, as any thinner and the radiation will get through and any thicker and the dirt will regrettably emit secondary radiation in substantial enough amounts to also cause damage.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Startups

Applications for employer identification numbers — the IRS identifiers that entrepreneurs and self-employed gig economy workers obtain to form a business — have hit 3.2 million in 2020, surpassing the 2.7 million obtained at the same point in 2019. Lots of that is people turning to gig work as other jobs dry up, but even still the filings specifically pertaining to the type of business owners who generally employ other people hit 1.1 million as of mid-September, up 12 percent over the same period last year. Lots of this is churn — some 700,000 firms will go out of business this year, according to a projection from a George Washington University economist — but the crisis has presented at least some opportunities amid the adversity.

Gwynn Guilford and Charity L. Scott, The Wall Street Journal

Wrestling

The WWE — the largest professional wrestling outfit on the planet — has been having a bad year, with its stock down 45 percent compared to this time last year. Their main show — Raw — lost 2 million viewers in 2020 compared to 2015 viewership, close to a 50 percent drop. A YouGov survey of 471 adults who once watched at least one wrestling promotion but had since stopped found 30 percent cited it being more cartoonish than when they enjoyed it, while 29 percent cited uninteresting storylines, 28 percent cited Bad characters, and 26 percent cited uninteresting matches. As it stands, 12 percent of American adults said they watched professional wrestling, and 43 percent used to watch pro wrestling. As we all know, I can definitively state pro wrestling peaked in 2015, when lots of my friends revealed themselves to be smarks and The Mountain Goats released wrestling-themed concept album Beat The Champ.

Gavin Bridge, Variety

Pot

October is when outdoor cannabis is harvested, but wildfire smoke is prompting growers to harvest early as the ash and smoke released by the fires causes problems for the plants. In a given year, 2 percent to 5 percent of California marijuana crops fail mold tests, but this year that could double because the smoke blocking out the sun makes marijuana more susceptible to mold and other pests, an issue that may even affect greenhouse-grown plants. If we learned anything from the rush to obtain essentials like toilet paper and dry goods this spring, I urge you this is no time to panic, but prepare for significant upheavals in the market for marijuana as illicit, illegal marijuana farms lose crops to the fires and undermine the supply chain of the black market, pushing people towards the legal market. The average price of raw flower in California is $9.60 per gram before taxes.

Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg

Tornadoes

An analysis of NOAA data on tornadoes bears out what appears to be evidence for a southeastern shift in the powerful storms over the past several years. Though overall tornado activity was flat over the period — of 38,000 analyzed since 1950, there were 18,922 tornadoes from 1950 to 1984 and 19,418 from 1985 to 2019 — the number of tornadoes in the Southeast was up 42 percent in the second period compared to the first, while the number on the Great Plains was down 20 percent. The cause is still unclear, yet while there was no difference in intensity in tornadoes between the two regions, the ones in the Southeast were deadlier, with the average tornado in the Southeast twice as deadly as one in the Great Plains. The two regions accounted for 62 percent of all tornadoes since 1950, and the Southeast has several vulnerabilities — namely, higher population density, a higher likelihood of striking at night, and unique patterns of tornadoes — that make the shift more dangerous.

Thomas Frank, E&E News

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