Numlock News: August 11, 2021 • Arenas, Glowworm, Contrafreeloading
By Walt Hickey
For Sale, Velodrome, Briefly Used
Now that the Olympics are over, Tokyo is covered in a bunch of useless one-trick sports venues that now exist mostly as elaborate birdhouses, and on that note do you want to buy one? The $1.4 billion National Stadium that hosted the opening and closing ceremonies can hold 68,000 spectators — not that it ever got to attempt that — and costs $22 million in maintenance costs, and following the Paralympics it will have operating rights sold. The only venue expected to turn a profit is Ariake Arena, which cost 37 billion yen to build and given it can host concerts is projected to make 360 million yen a year. But some of it’s pretty grim, like the 56.7 billion yen aquatics center projected to lose 640 million yen per year, or a canoe center — a canoe center! — poised to bleed out 190 million yen a year. Literally the only thing that could make a defunct, deteriorating 2020 Olympics canoe center profitable is like if a live-action Akira remake wants a set.
Motion of the Ocean
Waves annually produce about 32,000 terawatt-hours of natural energy, which to be clear is a colossal amount of energy given that humans in aggregate uses something like 23,000 terawatt-hours per year. It’s obviously rather hard to tap into all that, or the currents and tides and thermal energy options the seas have to offer. Still, a new batch of proofs-of-concept are attempting to illustrate reliable ways that technologies can be used to get some juice out of, through the transitive property, the existence of the moon. One, a triboelectric nanogenerator, converts motion into an electrical current by using static electricity; it’s been tried out in buoys, which can then get a charge just by being bopped around in the waves.
Most animals like to work for their food, an observed behavior called contrafreeloading, which has been demonstrated in birds, rodents, wolves, primates, and based on the rise of TikTok hustle culture I can somewhat confidently say humans. However, a new study out of the University of California Davis’ veterinary school has clocked a notable exception: the domestic house cat, which gave 17 cats a food puzzle and a tray of food and found the felines were born freeloaders, more often eating from the tray and spending more time at the tray.
A new paper from security researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev describes a clever new type of eavesdropping attack called Glowworm, which allows a snooper to convert small fluctuations in LEDs on speakers and USB hubs and convert them back into signals. The cameras have to be really good, but the researchers got intelligible audio at a distance of 35 meters. The good news is that this sophisticated electronic surveillance breakthrough can be disrupted with one of the oldest-known counterintelligence measures, curtains.
Heavy- and light-duty vehicles waste an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel in the U.S. annually by idling, or just running the engine while not actually propelling a vehicle. According to the Department of Energy, if idling stopped tomorrow it’d be the carbon reduction equivalent of pulling 5 million vehicles off the road, and a paper in 2009 found idling was responsible for 1.6 percent of American greenhouse gas emissions. Some cities have begun to crack down: in New York, citizens who rat out an idling truck or bus to the DEP get a quarter of the eventual fine, and it’s driven a surge in enforcement. In 2017, there were just 24 idling summonses, but after the law was enacted that jumped to 1,038. Since then, about 20,000 complaints have been filed, 90 percent resulting in summonses, leading some to make it a part-time side hustle.
While plant-based imitations of beef and chicken have seen a surge in popular appeal in the last year or so, plant-based seafood is a comparatively minuscule component of the faux meat market, with just $12 million in sales in 2020. Still, that was 23 percent higher than the level seen in 2020, but let’s be clear it’s a phytoplankton next to the multi-billion dollar whale that is the seafood biz. Investment’s up, and a lot, to $70 million in the first half of the year, the same as all of 2020 and 2019 combined.
Ticket To Ride
In the first quarter of 2020, the average price of a domestic airline ticket was $260. In the first quarter of 1996, the average price of a domestic airline ticket was $284, or an adjusted-for-inflation $482. This is, needless to say, a bit odd: prices have gone down even as the industry consolidated into an oligopoly of four, but technology and efficiency have really helped the airlines cut costs. In general, the average price of a domestic airline ticket for the past 26 years has been somewhere between $300 and $400.
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