What in the World—Week of April 25

Red Bull plane swap publicity stunt crashes
You win some, you lose some. On the same weekend Red Bull’s team came first and second at the F1 race in Italy, it also (literally) crashed and burned on a dramatic made-for-TV publicity stunt on Sunday. The plan for “Plane Swap”—which was livestreamed on Hulu—was for two pilots to fly separate airplanes to 14,000 feet, put them into a nosedive before jumping out of their own plane, then skydive into the other aircraft and land it safely. But things did not go as planned. While both pilots are fine, only one made it from one aircraft to the other, as the second plane spun out of control and crashed into the Arizona desert. But Red Bull is facing more turbulence for the failed stunt because, according to NBC, it did not have permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to perform the stunt. The letter of denial from the FAA said the stunt “would not be in the public interest,” and that it “cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety.”

Coming next to Netflix: Advertising
Netflix is contemplating an about face on its pledge to never feature advertising amid an exodus of subscribers. “[T]hink of us as quite open to us offering even lower prices with advertising as a consumer choice,” co-CEO Reed Hastings told analysts last week, according to Variety. Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, and expects to drop 2 million more in the second. “Adding ad-supported options could give it a new pathway to growth,” says VarietyNetflix shares dropped 35.1% in the wake of the terrible earnings announcement, wiping out a reported $54 billion in market value. Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman recently sold about 3.1 million Netflix shares he acquired in January at a $400 million loss. “[W]e have lost confidence in our ability to predict the company’s future prospects with a sufficient degree of certainty,” said Ackman.

Corvette joins the EV race
Is the world ready for a quieter, non-gas-guzzling Corvette? Chevrolet president Mark Reuss told CNBC that an electric version of its iconic muscle car is coming “very quick.” Chevy itself also tweeted out the news. According to Reuss, Chevrolet will introduce an electrified (likely hybrid) Corvette next year, which coincides with the car’s 70th anniversary. A fully electrified version is expected to follow soon after. The Corvette would join an increasingly electrified Chevy line-up that includes planned EV versions of its Equinox and Blazer SUVs. Parent company GM has pledged to make its entire vehicle line-up electric by 2040. The Corvette is synonymous with power and a loud exhaust, noted The Verge. “A completely silent, instantly torque-y version of the Corvette may upset some long-time fans, but GM seems confident it can still win over new customers.”

Chicago zoo wants to limit screen time for one of its gorillas
We’ve all seen videos of people distractedly stumbling into fountains or falling down flights of stairs while staring at their phone, but screen addiction—and its associated dangers—is apparently not limited to humans. According to Metro UK, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is trying to limit screen time for its gorilla, Amare, who reportedly delights in watching videos on visitors’ phones. According to the report, Amare was so immersed in watching videos that he failed to notice that he was being charged by another gorilla. Zoo staff have put up a rope designed to keep people away from Amare’s habitat, and are gently stepping in whenever they see someone attempting to show the gorilla their phone. “We are growing increasingly concerned that too much of his time is taken looking through people’s photos [and] we really prefer that he spend much more time with his troop mates learning to be a gorilla,” a zoo official told the Chicago-Sun Times.

The emerging science of Oreo cookies
Oreo is enjoying some good-natured free media coverage after a recent study was released by an Oreo cookie lover at MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious technical universities. Crystal Owens, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, wanted to know how, or if, it was possible to twist apart an Oreo’s two biscuits to have creme on both sides. The study was published in the journal Physics of Fluids under the headline “On Oreology, the fracture and flow of ‘milk’s favorite cookie.’” While the experiment may seem a little childish, Owens—who told the CBC she studies the “fluid mechanics of fluids that people don’t consider fluids”—approached it with significant rigour, using a scientific device called a rheometer, and applying complex equations using this thing 𝛺 and this thing 𝛾̇ and referring to the cookies as having “two coaxial parallel disks.” Her conclusion: “[W]hat we found out is essentially that Oreo cream is stronger than it is sticky. So when we twist it perfectly, instead of splitting in the middle, it just delaminates from one of the wafers,” said Owens.

David Brown