Numlock News: August 25, 2023 • Macadamia, Poison Ivy, Coyotes
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
My Job Is Beach
A researcher out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, set up 40 motion-sensing cameras along the Gaviota Coast of California, which is composed of some 5,820 hectares of undeveloped coastline. While in much of the rest of California the beaches are primarily used by people, this study presented an alternative, tracking how wildlife intersects with a coastal area that isn’t domesticated and manicured like the rest of beaches. Coyotes are there daily, and frequent appearances include feral pigs, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, black bears, raccoons, opossums and skunks. Coyotes appear to be a fascinating creature in terms of this ecosystem, hunting crustaceans but also serving as the kind of, shall we say, nutrient vector back into the ocean that would get otherwise civilized company asked to leave a pool immediately.
New records from the British Museum found that hundreds of historical artifacts have gone missing from the museum since 2013, including coins, jewelry and 540 pieces of pottery. Some have been tracked to eBay, and a 2022 audit found a much larger problem than originally understood. The missing artifacts date from between the 15th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. This is utterly shocking, and if you want to find out more about this awful problem you should definitely just Google “British Museum looted artifacts” to learn more.
Pickaxe Salesmen In A Gold Rush
Hugging Face, the ecosystem that supports large language models and which has repeatedly been compared to GitHub but for the machine learning space, announced that it has raised a $235 million funding round, which would put it at a $4.5 billion valuation. Among the investors are a who’s who of enterprise software and hardware companies trying to buy into the boom, including hardware companies like Nvidia, Intel, AMD and Qualcomm, as well as longtime tech industry titans like Google, Amazon, IBM and Salesforce. Hugging Face currently hosts 1 million repositories and 500,000 models. This more than doubles their $2 billion valuation from last year, which many at the time thought was rather rich.
Since 2012, Hong Kong has slashed the price of transit for the elderly to promote more participation from seniors in public life. Today, a transit pass for a qualifying individual costs just HK$2, or US$0.26. There’s a bit of an issue with the plan, though, as Hong Kong becomes an older city. In 2003, 15 percent of the city was over the age of 60, a level that today has reached 30 percent. Spending on the plan has increased from HK$296 million upon introduction in 2012 all the way up to HK$3.1 billion as of 2021, and is projected to hit HK$8.6 billion by 2031. Lawmakers are weighing options to ensure the program remains viable.
Country music is rarely from people born in the country, a new analysis found. The percentage of notable country artists originally from a small town is considerably lower than the overall percentage of Americans who actually live in a small town, and has been so since the 1930s. All told, 24 percent of country artists were from towns with fewer than 2,500 residents, and 32 percent were from a town with fewer than 5,000 residents. Of the 1,209 acts scraped, the ones born from the 1920s through the 1930s were the likeliest to actually claim a small town as their hometown, with a range of 40 percent to 60 percent of artists claiming as much.
The business of macadamia nuts is booming right now, with demand expected to rise from $1.45 billion in 2023 to $2.43 billion by 2028. The seed, native to Australia, is increasingly found all over the place, from baking to sauces to cosmetics and of course to milk and protein-replacement foods. One thing driving the growth has been new fields turned over to macadamia growth, expanding supply, which in turn is dialing down the historically higher cost for the nut compared to its peers. Many areas that grew tobacco, sugarcane or coffee are turning over to macadamia nuts because the economics are looking better.
In the 1990s, researchers attempted to design a way to gaze into the future of forests. Essentially they built towers around six large circular plots in a forest that pumped out CO2 into the environment, computerized in a manner that depending on how the wind was blowing the towers would pump out sufficient amounts of the gas to essentially throw the forest into the climatological future, simulating the atmosphere in 2050 by cranking up the CO2. Plants do grow faster — trees grew about 18 percent faster in the highest concentrations of CO2 — but the bad news is that some plants really do thrive, and one of the plants that delights in this kind of environment is poison ivy, which grows 70 percent faster, the single best performing plant in the experiment, also becoming more potently poisonous in the process.
This week in the Sunday Edition, I spoke to Tara García Mathewson, who wrote “AI Detection Tools Falsely Accuse International Students of Cheating” for The Markup. We spoke about this fascinating research, the effects that new technology has on the higher ed space, and the complicated role that AI and AI detection software will have. Tara can be found at The Markup and on Twitter.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.