Americans spend more on video games than on tickets to the movies. Grand Theft Auto V was the fastest selling entertainment product of all time, with sales of $1 billion in just three days.
But when you factor in everything — not just movie tickets, but on demand, rentals, etc. — Americans still spend way more on movies than they do on video games.
"In the film industry, the box office is only the first release," NYU economist Bill Greene told me. "The revenue stream goes on and on and on."
This is very different from the way the video game industry works.
"You buy the game and can use it in that medium forever. There's one point of sale and that's it," said professor Robert Bloomfield, who studies video game and virtual world economies at Cornell.
But that model is changing, Bloomfield says. Candy Crush Saga, the wildly popular mobile game, is free — but players can pay for tools that help finish them finish levels or advance to the next level. Players spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on those tools.
We guarantee this is the saddest and cutest story you'll hear about all day: About 263 seal pups were swept away from their mothers by a massive tidal surge near Norfolk in the U.K. recently.
Now, a wildlife center is struggling to cope with about 100 of them, who will need to be bottle fed and rehabilitated.
The BBC went to the center and talked to Alison Charles, a manager at the East Winch Wildlife Centre. She said the pups need to be feed often and it will take four to five months before they can be let back out to the wild.
The video shows the pups crying out for their mom.
"They're young pups," Charles says. "They're missing their moms. They're hungry. They're waiting for their feed. We're just warming it up."
Charles told The Independent that if the pups had been left in the wild, they would have starved to death. The paper adds:
"At one breeding ground in Horsey, volunteers counted 440 pups on the beach before the surge and only 177 after it hit.
"But National Trust rangers at Blakeney Point, one of the largest colonies with about 1,000 seals and pups, said they had accounted for the vast majority of the seals.
"'It would appear that the majority of seals and pups were able to reach higher ground on the sand dunes and escape the worst of the surge,' a spokesman said."
It's called the infinite monkey theorem and it goes something like this: given enough time, a monkey randomly striking keys on a typewriter will end up banging out a copy of Hamlet.
Crazy at it seems, the infinite monkey theorem can be proven using basic probability (the trick is having either an infinite number of monkeys or an infinite amount of time, or both). What you could not do, of course, was experimentally verify the monkey theorem.
But that was before cheap supercomputers.
Just two years ago Jesse Anderson used Amazon's cloud computing resources to create a virtual monkey army that quickly and randomly assembled works of the Bard. (Anderson has a nice visualization on his website of the way the words emerged in Shakespeare's poem A Lovers Complaint.)
The emergence of such intricate complexity from randomness is counter-intuitive to brains that have evolved to see pattern and meaning everywhere. To digest the true significance of the infinite monkey theorem, it's best to turn from science to art (as is often the case).
Consider Signal to Noise an installation from LAb[au] built from modern computers and old split-flap boards. Signal to Noise lets viewers watch as the machines cycle through random collections of letters. Potentially meaningful sequences are tagged red. You can watch as some of the red letters become full blown words. (There is another, longer video of the installation over on Vimeo.).
Order emerging from chaos, meaning emerging from randomness, right before your eyes and not a banana in sight.
While milk consumption continues to fall in the U.S., sales of organic milk are on the rise. And now organic milk accounts for about 4 percent of total fluid milk consumption.
For years, organic producers have claimed their milk is nutritionally superior to regular milk. Specifically, they say that because their cows spend a lot more time out on pasture, munching on grasses and legumes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the animals' milk is higher in these healthy fats, which are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
But the evidence for this has been scant, except for some small studies from Europe.
Now, a new study evaluating organic milk produced in the U.S. finds that organic milk has about 62 percent more omega-3s, compared to milk produced by cows on conventional dairy farms. Cows raised on conventional farms typically spend a lot more time in a barn or confined, and instead of grazing, they're fed a diet of animal feed that contains a lot of corn.
"We were surprised by the magnitude of the differences," lead author Charles Benbrook of Washington State University tells The Salt.
Benbrook and his colleague analyzed about 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over a period of about a year and a half. The samples were taken at processing facilities around the country.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, come at a time when we're being told to consume more omega-3 fatty acids. Most people hear this advice and think of fatty fish — which is, of course, an excellent source of the omega-3s DHA and EPA.
What's less well known is that plant-based foods, such as leafy greens and nuts, are rich in another omega-3 called ALA. Now, it's becoming clearer that organic milk is a good source of that, too.
Benbrook says that consuming ALA-rich milk is also a good way to change the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. According to the National Institutes of Health, the consensus is that, for good health, we need to be eating more omega-3s and less omega-6s.
Omega-6s are found in corn and sunflower oil, and in foods fried in these oils. While some experts don't see a problem with omega-6s, many say that the typical American diet already contains too many. And averaged over 12 months, the study found, organic milk contained 25 percent less omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk.
So, here's the rub: if you want all of the omega-3s found in organic milk, are you better off drinking whole milk rather than skim?
Yes. That's because skimming off the fat also reduces the omega-3 content. For example, skim milk, which contains 1 percent milk fat, has about one-third the fat of whole milk. So you're left with a much lower level of omega-3s. Of course, you're also fewer calories, so it might be a hard choice for people who are watching their weight. If they choose whole milk, they may have to trim calories elsewhere.
And there seems to be a movement towards consuming whole milk. Sales of whole, organic milk are up 10 percent this year, making it the fastest-growing category of milk, according to a spokeswoman from Organic Valley. Skim sales, meanwhile, are down 7.0 percent, she says.
As I reported earlier this year, some studies have linked fattier milk to slimmer kids, despite the fact that pediatricians routinely recommend switching kids to low-fat dairy at the age of 2 to reduce their consumption of saturated fats. These fats, which are more abundant in whole milk than in reduced fat milk, are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
As falling sales figures show, lots of Americans have simply taken milk out of their diets — due to lactose intolerance or other reasons. Some have replaced dairy milk with alternatives such as almond milk, which many doctors say is fine, since there are plenty of other sources of calcium.
But for people who are still milk drinkers, this study suggests that yes, there is a benefit in choosing organic in terms of boosting omega-3 intake.
One thing to note: Dairy farmers of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, a group which markets through the Organic Valley brand, helped fund the study. But the groups had no role in its design or analysis. The analysis was funded by the Measure to Manage program at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.
Hey there, befuddled aunts, uncles and family friends. Not sure what to get for all those nieces, nephews and offspring of other people? This year (for the first time!) we've included kids' titles in our year-end best books roundup. Pay a visit to NPR's Book Concierge to see what our staff and critics recommend for kids and teens in 2013.
Librarian Mara Alpert keeps a running list of "top picks" in the children's literature department at the Los Angeles Public Library. When we asked her to share her 2013 favorites, she gave us the stories she could "see a parent reading to a child over and over (and over and over)"; these are the books children will unwrap and then "read under the table at Christmas dinner," she says. The titles on Alpert's list will introduce kids to Japanese baseball, frog noises from around the world, dinosaurs of all different sizes, and even an alternative approach to "This Little Piggy." (Think about it: What are the toes on the other foot up to? Now you can find out.)
For the slightly older set, we turned to children's book author and blogger Lisa Yee. She gave us books about Albert Einstein, a superhero squirrel, a tween music superstar, and a determined pioneer girl. "There's a certain indescribable feeling that washes over me when I read something I love, and I felt that for all the books I selected," Yee says. "What these books have in common is that each is a small gem, the kind readers take to heart."
For the ever-enigmatic teenage crowd, we asked YA writer Alaya Dawn Johnson to help us out. She recommends a masterful mashup of Little Red Riding Hood, a hilarious story about what it's like to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and of course, one book starring vampires.
NPR staffers contributed, too: Monkey See host Linda Holmes recommends Eleanor & Park, a smart, sensitive YA novel about feeling loved and feeling lost. NPR's Backseat Book Club producer Justine Kenin test-drove titles with her own kids and says you can't go wrong with Aces Wild or The Apprentices. Emily Ecton, a Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! producer and children's book author, recommends Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great (which, if you ask me, is tied for best title on this list with Mr. Wuffles! a recommendation from Weekend All Things Considered staffer Becky Hersher).
So consult the Book Concierge to find a title that fits the kid on your list. I promise: a carefully selected book will long outlast the AA batteries in whatever electronic toy they're begging Santa to bring them this year.