Numlock News: August 10, 2021 • Carnivorous Plants, Cave Lions, Typhoon Pumpkin
By Walt Hickey
An enormous pumpkin art installation in Naoshima, Japan was washed out to sea by a typhoon and tossed around in rough seas. Yayoi Kusama’s sculpture, Pumpkin, was installed at the tip of a pier in 1994 and, like most of the artist’s work, is incredibly popular. Eventually recovered, the six-foot tall, eight-foot wide decorative gourd is recuperating at the Benesse Art Site after evidently being split in half, per social media reports. Kusama’s pumpkin sculptures regularly sell in the millions when they hit the auction block, with a similar sculpture selling for $3.7 million in 2009, and another selling for $2 million back in May. It’s the worst weather-related art incident since a stiff breeze blew Steve Wynn’s elbow through a Picasso.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes a newly-discovered carnivorous plant. So far, there are 13 known families of carnivorous plant. These species tend to live in bogs and jungles where nutrients are scarcer and the flora must incorporate fauna into their diet rather than the more conventional light and water. The species in question, the Western false asphodel of the Pacific Northwest, was not originally believed to be carnivorous, but in summer the 31 in leafless flowering stems covered in sticky hairs were nevertheless interesting. The newest paper describing its predation of bugs found that when fruit flies laced with nitrogen-15 isotopes were placed on the stem, the nitrogen and other nutrients made its way into the asphodel.
Lee Jae-yong, the billionaire heir to the Samsung family of companies, will be released from prison Friday after serving six months of a 30 month prison sentence for offering bribes to the former president of South Korea. Lee’s first stint behind bars came in 2017, when he served a year of a five-year sentence. A retrial was ordered, which eventually led to his conviction and sentence back to prison in January. Interestingly, most people favored Lee’s release from prison. Lots of South Koreans have skin in the game when it comes to Samsung and the family that control it: about 5 million own shares in the company.
Yamaha Motor, a company that makes engines but shares a historical relationship with the Yamaha that makes musical instruments, is trying to make the next generation of electric cars have a distinct sound. Electric cars naturally make far less sound than their gas-powered ancestors, and Yamaha hopes to appeal to drivers who, based on their prior experience with the revving of an internal combustion engine, are accustomed to a little vroom when they tap on the accelerator. The soundscape they get to work with is shrinking at home, though, as last year Japan tightened rules about passenger car noise, capping it from 70 to 74 decibels, which is about the extent of a vacuum cleaner.
It’s still hard to find an electrical vehicle charger in many American cities, with just 9.7 percent of people in the 50 largest cities having a public charger within a five-minute walk. Take out New York, where 18 percent of the population has five-minute access, and Los Angeles, where 24 percent of people do, and the national average goes down to 6.2 percent. This is important because only around 47 percent of vehicles in the United States have a dedicated garage or driveway. In a bill currently being negotiated, $7.5 billion in funding would go towards building another 500,000 charging stations by 2030, with 40 percent of the funds going towards disadvantaged communities.
The well-preserved remains of two baby cave lions were found by mammoth tusk hunters in 2017 and 2018 near the Semyuelyakh River in Siberia. They had initially been believed to be siblings given how close in proximity they kitties were found — just 15 meters apart — but a new study reveals they are likely a little more genetically distant than siblings, given that they differ in age by 15,000 years. One is about 28,000 years old, while the other was dated to 43,448 years through carbon dating.
A blockbuster new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the global surface temperature of Earth is 1.1 degrees celsius higher than it was from 1850 to 1900, which is a level of heating that has not been seen in the past 125,000 years. The last such report estimated that there would be 1.5 to 4.5 degrees celsius of heating if atmospheric carbon doubled compared to pre-industrial levels, but this new report managed to narrow the range to 2.5 to 4 degrees celsius, which is not great news. At 1.5 °C, things get very, very bad for people, and even that low bar is only in reach if swift, decisive action is taken.
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