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The Hustle

Police outside of San Antonio arrested a man in June for the most heinous crime imaginable: drawing with chalk on a public sidewalk. Now the city of Leon Valley owes the artist a $16.5k wrongful-arrest settlement. City officials issued a public apology and sweetened the “So sorry about all this” pot with a donated box of chalk.

In today’s email:

  • It is certain: The history of the Magic 8 Ball’s a weird one.
  • Big gulp: Uh-oh, data centers are requiring more and more water.
  • Weekend Reads: Our very best links for the week’s very best days.
  • Around the Web: “Wordle” with numbers, focus tips, a memorable celebrity breakup, and more.

👇 Listen: More about Big Tech’s quest for AI dominance and how much water it’ll cost along the way.

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The big idea
Magic 8 Ball

The history of the Magic 8 Ball

Following the success of Barbie, Mattel is planning other toy-inspired films, apparently including a horror-comedy written by Cocaine Bear’s Jimmy Warden and starring… the Magic 8 Ball.

But how did a fortune-telling billiards ball come about anyhow?

A good old-fashioned seance

Cincinnati clairvoyant Laura C. Cooper Pruden was one of several mediums cashing in on the spiritualism craze of the early 20th century.

She specialized in slate writing. Under a table, she and her clients each held a corner of an enclosed blackboard with a piece of chalk inside. Her free hand remained on the table, yet the chalk wrote on its own.

“It was the strangest feeling to hold the slate and to feel the thrill and vibration of the pencil as it worked away inside,” Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — a noted fan of Pruden’s — once wrote.

Family guise

Pruden’s device was called the Psycho-Slate. Her son, inventor Albert Carter, built on the idea, creating the Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune Teller.

  • A die with “answers” written on each side was suspended inside a liquid-filled, windowed tube. Ask a question, flip it, see your fate.

Carter enlisted his Ohio Mechanics Institute grad Abe Bookman, to help mass produce it. Carter filed for a patent for a “liquid filled die agitator” in 1944, and he and Bookman formed Alabe Crafts to sell it.

Unfortunately, Carter never saw his invention become a success. He died of a hemorrhage in 1948.

Bookman carried on

He iterated, producing a smaller version, then changing its shape from a cylinder to a sphere, akin to a crystal ball.

It didn’t sell well, but it did catch the attention of Brunswick Billiards, which wanted it as a promotional product… shaped like an eight ball.

The eight ball version sold well enough that Bookman kept selling it, even after the contract expired.

In 1971…

… Bookman sold Alabe to Ideal Toys, founded by teddy bear inventors Morris and Rose Michtom. View-Master International acquired Ideal in 1984, Tyco Toys acquired View-Master in 1989, and Mattel acquired Tyco in 1997 for $755m ($1.4B today).

The Magic 8 Ball has remained popular over the years, selling 1m+ units per year as of 2012. And now, it’s gonna be a movie star.

BTW: The Ouija board follows a similar trajectory, including a huge toy company — Hasbro — turning it into a movie. Read all about it here, or listen here.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Congratulations to Post Malone, the proud owner of The One Ring, a very rare Lord of the Rings “Magic: The Gathering” card valued at $2m+. It’s unclear how much the musician actually paid for it, but he previously purchased a rare Black Lotus card for $800k.


Meta will block news in Canada due to a new law that requires tech companies to pay media outlets for using their work. Meta previously made a deal with Australia following similar legislation.

Taylor Swift stunned her Eras Tour truckers by giving them $100k bonuses — the typical end-of-tour bonus is $5k-$10k. The nearly 50-member crew had spent 24 weeks on the road with the singer.

NASA, IBM, and Hugging Face are building an “open-source geospatial foundation model” that can support AI-powered climate tools (e.g., tracking deforestation, predicting crop yields, etc.).

Weekend getaway? US round-trip airfares are down 11% compared to 2022 and 2019 as carriers try to lure Americans into domestic trips. International travel demand continues to surge.

Nokia announced two new throwback mobile phones that do very little aside from taking and making calls. They have physical buttons and, of course, “Snake.”

Super smash profits: Nintendo’s $1.3B fiscal Q1 profit is the company’s highest ever, driven by the success of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Update: Behavioral scientist Francesca Gino has denied fabricating data in her papers and filed a $25m defamation claim against her accusers and her employer, Harvard Business School.

Water we doing?
data center water usage over time
Olivia Heller

Big Tech’s thirst for AI dominance may bring literal thirst for everyone else

There’s this scene in “Silicon Valley” where Erlich pleads with Richard to focus on improving their startup’s cloud architecture.

“[It’s] just a giant turd that’s clogging up our pipes, we have to call in a plumber to fix it,” he says, describing the cloud as “this tiny, little, shitty area, which… in many ways is the future of computing.”

He wasn’t wrong about that future stuff…

… and not far off on the plumber either

Globally, data centers are forecast to consume 450m gallons of water daily by 2030, up from ~205m in 2016, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg.

This is particularly worrisome for drought-stricken farming regions like Spain’s Talavera de la Reina, where a $1.1B Meta-planned data facility could gulp 176m gallons annually.

  • The project is expected to create 250 permanent jobs, and Meta says it will restore water, though it’s unclear where or how.

It’s a global issue, accelerated by AI

Data center operators need lots of energy to make the web run. As drought worsens worldwide, this issue has become a point of contention everywhere from Chile, to the US, to the Netherlands.

  • Part of the concern centers around transparency, with only 39% of data centers measuring their water usage last year, according to one group.

Another challenge: Demand for computing power is accelerating faster than sustainability efforts. (Yes, AI, we’re talking about you.)

Want to imagine the impact in terrifying, everyday terms? We’ve got you covered — researchers have estimated that a 20-question convo with ChatGPT equates to ~500 milliliters of water use, about the size of a water bottle.

*Slowly closes ChatGPT browser tab, 600 questions later…*

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Read Now

How AI is changing the media landscape

At times, we worry that our AI future bleeds into a “Black Mirror” episode. Or that the best case scenario is basically the ending to WALL-E.

But Riverside’s head of marketing Abel Grunfeld is focused on the now, because he sees firsthand how AI is enabling today’s creators — by rapidly improving the research, editing, clipping, and storyboarding that happens in the background.

He answers questions like, “How does AI simplify preproduction?” And, “What about postproduction?” And, “Will avatars replace real hosts?”

AI is our friend… →
Weekend Reads

On the off chance you’re the Boston cop who flummoxed the internet this week by achieving warp speed down a playground slide, take a much-needed breather and enjoy our top picks for this weekend.

  • Story: A legendary Texas convenience store chain with a cult following didn’t have an online shop for its popular treats. Here’s how one man decided to change that, creating a multimillion-dollar resale market in the process.
  • Video: In the dark and mysterious labyrinth of pipes and steel lurking beneath your car, there’s something called a catalytic converter. Here’s why thieves love them so much.
  • Tweet: There’s probably no better feeling than working your tuchus off at work only to be rewarded with a $5 Starbucks gift card from your boss, right? Right???
  • Blog: Sustainability in business means finding better ways to do things. Here’s how to help the planet and your business at the same time.

💔 On this day: In 2015, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy announced the end of their very long, very tumultuous relationship.

💬 That’s interesting: In a reading slump? Book Riot’s Laura Sackton suggests getting back into the groove with a graphic novel.

🎯 Blog: How mentoring goals can transform your team.

#️⃣ Cure boredom: It’s like “Wordle,” except you’re guessing a five-digit prime number.

🐶 Aww: And now, big stretch.

  1. Boring news is a great indicator of a healthy society. SOURCE

  2. We turned the descendants of dinosaurs into nuggets that look like their ancestors. SOURCE

  3. Cold coffee and warm beer are the same temperature. SOURCE

  4. The bigger someone’s favorite number gets, the weirder it is. SOURCE

  5. You can lie about a dream and everyone will believe you. SOURCE

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Is it almost the weekend? Signs point to yes” Berkley.

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