Numlock News: April 14, 2023 • Dimes, Counterfeits, Vikings
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
A truck full of roughly $750,000 worth of dimes in a Walmart parking lot was broken into Thursday in northeast Philadelphia, and investigators say something like $100,000 worth of dimes was stolen. The criminals, who now possess approximately a million 10-cent pieces, hit the truck while it was going to Florida from the U.S. Mint in Philly, so the dimes are especially fresh. The driver went home to get rest before the long dime haul south, which is evidently not uncommon. Authorities are looking for tips, so be on the lookout for anyone attempting to pay their rent in the the form of 20,000 mint-condition shiny dimes.
Archaeologists have cracked a fascinating new way to determine the precise age of some wooden structures, in one specific instance a Viking longhouse. There’s pretty good records of cosmic rays throughout history thanks to a number of exceptionally long-lived trees, specifically one in Japan that existed as far back as 774 CE. The rings of these trees all have traces of carbon-14, which is used in radiocarbon dating, and during years with spikes in cosmic radiation, scientists can detect elevated amounts of it in the corresponding ring of the wood. They can then further use that information to infer the age of a tree when it was felled. In the case of the longhouse, they found a ring with a spike in carbon-14 levels 28 rings in from the bark, which corresponded to a known cosmic event in 993-994 CE, which would mean this tree was cut down to build the longhouse in 1021 CE.
At least eight cities including Cleveland, Seattle and St. Louis are suing Kia and Hyundai for making their cars extremely stealable and running up a serious tab on the city when it comes to investigating and prosecuting carjackings and joyriding. The cities allege that the vehicle manufacturers didn’t install immobilizers on their vehicles as a cost-cutting measure, an issue that affects 4.5 million Kias and 3.8 million Hyundais on the road. The vehicles are uninsurable at certain insurance companies such as State Farm, and Kia and Hyundai have scrambled to provide steering wheel locks and software fixes to address the issue.
Last year the FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art and seized 25 paintings that were said to be painted by Jean-Michel Basquiat amid evidence that the paintings were frauds. Earlier this week an auctioneer based in LA pleaded guilty to making false statements and helping to produce between 20 and 30 fakes that he touted as Basquiats, and then marketing them for sale as the bona fide article. There was a conspirator, according to the plea, who did most of the work, cranking out the works in five to 30 minutes apiece, and then placing them outside so it would appear sufficiently weathered that they could be passed off as being made decades ago. One issue here is that the Basquiat estate did in fact have an authentication committee to arbitrate genuine works, but like many it disbanded in 2012 around the time that lots of artist estates stopped offering verification because they kept on getting sued when someone wanted to challenge a decision.
The Supreme Court decision that revoked the right to abortion access at the federal level has sent many to wildcat online resources that can deliver pills — a mifepristone pill and four misoprostol pills — discreetly through the mail and outside the formal health care system of the United States, typically sourced overseas. Though in some places legally dubious, overseas suppliers are on track to provide abortion pills to 100,000 people in the U.S., enough to cover approximately 10 percent of the abortions in the U.S. annually. It’s also local prosecutor-proof, as the federal government oversees the mail and customs, and the idea of searching for needles in the massive haystack that is millions of packages a day at international customs is functionally impossible. Aid Access, a company operated by a Dutch physician and activist, mailed 23,000 packages of medication from July to December of last year; Las Libras, a Mexican group with U.S. volunteers, provided 17,500 medications over the period; and other online sellers provided an estimated 9,500.
In 2016, there were just 10 electric school buses awarded, ordered, or delivered in the United States, a number that is up to 5,612 buses as of December 2022. It’s the next big target for electrification, as there’s an ocean of money available to electrify fleets, and school buses make an idea target for electrification given that they tend to make trips well within the range of the battery, there is a period of several hours in the middle of the day they can sneak in a recharge if needed, and a whole fleet of them can be easily charged overnight. The three largest manufacturers — Blue Bird, Thomas Built Buses, and Navistar International — all started producing electric models, and are all bullish on the sector in their own way: Blue Bird thinks electrics will be 40 percent of the business in the long term, while Navistar has electrics being the primary choice of buyers by 2029.
Gojo Industries, which manufactures name brand hand sanitizer Purell, is putting itself up for sale. The pandemic was an explosive time for its business: It made $370 million in revenue in 2018, in the 12 months ending April 1, 2021, sales shot up 330 percent year over year for hand sanitizer. The company’s expectation was that interest in hand sanitizer would remain elevated regardless, which is iffy; the year ending April 1, 2022, saw hand sanitizer sales drop 67 percent, and then the most recent year saw them drop another 32 percent. Most of the business is now business-to-business, and a problem for Gojo is that many businesses are already extremely stocked up, meaning that they’re waiting it out for the expiration date — two years out — to hit.
This week in the now-unlocked Sunday edition, I spoke to Derek Thompson, a writer at The Atlantic whose work has been compiled into a new compendium called On Working as part of the magazine’s ongoing series of essay collections. We spoke about why he’s been obsessed with talking about work, how with recent technological advancements he thinks we may be on the cusp of something transformative, and why time-saving technology often doesn’t save any time. The book can be found wherever books are sold, and Thompson can be found at The Atlantic, at his podcast Plain English, and on Twitter. Check the interview out.
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