Numlock News: April 20, 2023 • Hyraxes, Iceberg, Khartoum
By Walt Hickey
An audit found that a former fiscal officer for Vinton Township, Ohio, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in municipal funds, including spending $4,116.30 on a wildebeest and $4,963.77 for a pair of snow owls for his private zoo. After pleading guilty to theft in office, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records and a host of other charges, he was sentenced to 59 months in prison and ordered to pay back $340,000.
Laura A. Bischoff, The Columbus Dispatch
An iceberg named B-22A was the last remaining chunk of the ice mass called B-22, which was the size of Rhode Island and broke off the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica in March of 2002. B-22A covers 1,160 square miles, and in 2012 it got caught on a raised part of the seafloor and was subsequently stuck for a decade 32 miles away from where it originally broke off. Well, the berg is loose now, and has been moving since October, drifting about 110 miles. This is outstanding news for the forthcoming launch of the HMS Numlock, a luxury cruiser — why, the largest in the world — set to depart on its maiden voyage in the vicinity, and I'll be damned if we don't set a speed record that has the papers in New York gasping at our achievement.
Gogoro is a company based out of Taipei that operates 12,000 battery-swapping stations for electric moped drivers across Taiwan. It's hugely popular, with over 500,000 monthly users and some 260 swaps taking place every minute, extending the range and utility of mopeds. Even better, the company said it has converted 2,500 of the stations into "virtual power plants," which gives them the capability of collectively storing 150 megawatt hours of electricity that can be sent back to the grid at times of high demand, helping to reduce the need to resort to fossil fuels when demand peaks. The global market for virtual power plants was $1.9 billion last year, and is projected to grow 20 percent this year.
The Inexorable March Of Progress Moves Ever Forward
Fossilized urine harvested in chunks weighing 70 pounds from sandstone cliffs in South Africa is of considerable interest to researchers. The foot-thick slabs of urine are from generations of rock hyraxes, and they nevertheless serve as remarkable records of the climate across millennia heretofore unknown. One way of discerning information about eons past is by drilling ice cores deep in the poles, and another not entirely dissimilar way is harvesting these eons of fossilized hyrax urine to gaze into time itself. Essentially, there was a large human technological leap that occurred from 66,000 to 25,000 years ago in the middle and late Stone Age, and climate may have been a factor. The preserved excretions of hyraxes are a high-resolution climate history of South Africa to help track that, especially given the 50,000-year cap on the viability of radiocarbon dating.
Elise Cutts, Scientific American
OpenAI, which developed the GPT-3 model that fuels things like ChatGPT and more, has a little more than a week to comply with European data protection laws after a ban in Italy and several investigations across the continent. It could face massive fines, an order to delete data, or bans if it fails to comply. The issue is the colossal appetite for training data that the GPT models command. GPT-2 was based on 40 gigabytes of text, GPT-3 trained on 570 gigabytes of data, and GPT-4 is being shared on an as-yet unknown but presumably large amount of data that is now under scrutiny in the European Union, which has laws protecting the data of its citizens. Italy gave OpenAI until April 30 to comply with asking people to consent to having their data scraped or prove a legitimate interest in collecting it.
Melissa Heikkilä, MIT Technology Review
Sudan has erupted into violence between the government forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a large military junta, and the city of Khartoum is in serious danger. Sudanese army airstrikes have hit Khartoum Airport, destroying at least 14 planes in the ensuing combat. It's a precarious situation for foreign diplomats and representatives of NGOs: Japan is sending its military to extricate 60 Japanese nationals and diplomats in the country, and Germany was forced to cancel a plan to pull 150 citizens out of the country on transport planes as a result of the fighting. The RSF has up to 100,000 fighters, most poorly trained and heavily armed, and the situation is presenting issues for the 1.6 million who are displaced in Darfur who rely on humanitarian aid.
Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy
According to a new report from the United Nations, India has formally surpassed China as the most populous nation, with 1,428,600,000 people compared to China's 1,425,700,000 people. In third place is the United States, with 340 million. Of note in the report is the fact that China's population growth has slowed much faster than India's, hitting 0.53 percent average annual growth over the past 10 years, down from 0.57 percent from 2000 to 2010, with the population even decreasing in 2021.
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