Numlock News: April 19, 2022 • Beanstalk, Nukes, Frogs
By Walt Hickey
Beanstalk Farms is a decentralized finance project that lets its users self-govern, where participants in the market could vote on changes to the code that defined the operation of that market, and got proportional votes based on how many of Beanstalk’s tokens they had. Well, at least that was the deal. There’s this other thing in crypto called a flash loan where you can borrow a bunch of money for a very brief period of time, which is mostly used by people arbitraging the markets. An attacker took out a flash loan for $1 billion in cryptocurrency, immediately used that to purchase a 67 percent supermajority voting stake in Beanstalk, used their supermajority to approve an asset transfer worth $182 million out of the central coffers of the project to their own wallet, and then cashed out their voting stake and paid back the loan. The entire process took approximately 13 seconds. They cleared about $80 million net profit, which by my calculations translates to an hourly wage of about $22 billion an hour. It’s a living!
The 2019–20 Australian bushfires killed almost all of the critically endangered spotted tree frogs, but a program has brought them back from the brink of extinction. Before the fires, there were about 250 to 300 of the frogs left, but after the fire that destroyed much of their habitat in New South Wales there were only about 10 frogs remaining. After a successful breeding program, the numbers are now up to 80 frogs, which have been released back into the wild in Kosciuszko national park.
During the Cold War, the Air Force bought acres of land from ranchers and tribes across the Mountain West and installed nuclear missiles on that land. The strategy was, first, to get some nuclear weapons closer to Russia, and second, in the event of nuclear war, force the adversary to nuke a bunch of mostly empty ranchland instead of populated cities. Today, those missiles are still there, approximately 400 nuclear weapon silos across Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. For the ranchers that sold the land to the government — there are 52 active nuclear missile sites on homestead farms in Fergus County, Montana, alone — since the end of the Cold War this was perhaps some fun party gossip or a fascinating idiosyncrasy about the property, but then Russia invaded Ukraine and now everyone is pretty antsy once again.
The pandemic was rough on all transportation services, but was especially crushing for motorcoach operators, many of which are smaller independently-owned regional operations that lacked the easy access to capital that the airlines and other transit services have. That’s had a massive toll on operators: In 2019, there were 3,878 motorcoach carriers in the United States, but as of this February that was down to just 1,940. Much of their day-to-day revenue is gone, with commuter bus ridership down 20 to 25 percent compared to pre-pandemic, and even charter buses are averaging 60 percent capacity.
The James Webb Space Telescope is currently cooling its heels at its LaGrange point, in a very literal sense: The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is now minus 276 C, which is six degrees above absolute zero, the desired temperature for the instrument as it attempts to glimpse the far past of the universe. The MIRI is the instrument that needs the coldest temperatures to operate out of the four instruments on the telescope — the other three need to get down to minus 233 C, or 40 Kelvin, to operate properly — and it’s been cooling down since the launch of Webb’s sunshield shortly after launch.
So far, streaming services have been adept at replicating most of the genres that had succeeded on traditional network and cable — prestige drama, reality, sitcom, and so on — but success in one format, late night television, has remained elusive. Right now, The Problem with Jon Stewart is the top unscripted series on Apple TV+. However, according to Samba TV, while its first episode last fall debuted to 180,000 homes within the first week, the fifth episode got only 40,000 households to watch within a week when it came out in March, a drop of 78 percent from launch. By comparison, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was seen in 844,000 homes. The number of attempts at a streaming talk show are long — Chelsea Handler, Michelle Wolf, Norm McDonald, Joel McHale, Sarah Silverman among them — but topical comedy doesn’t travel as well internationally, where many streamers have their largest footprints, and it gets stale within days, not months.
Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay the state of West Virginia $99 million to settle claims that the company fueled an opioid crisis in the state. In February, J&J agreed to a $5 billion settlement with state and local governments, but West Virginia was one of five states that didn’t join the settlement, under which they would have gotten in the ballpark of $50 million. West Virginia is continuing to pursue suits against Teva Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie over their roles in the opioid crisis. The state was particularly hard-hit by the flood of opioids: The state’s overdose death rate in 2020 was three times the national average.
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