Numlock News: August 29, 2023 • Satellites, Fake Gold, Pandas
By Walt Hickey
The sticker packs for readers who referred some friends are going out today, as are a few more goodies. It’s super easy to get one of these; all you’ve got to do is recommend Numlock to some friends. If you dig the newsletter, it’s an excellent way to support it:
Satellite operator Viasat has the space insurance industry on the edge of their seats after indicating that the ViaSat-3 Americas satellite has suffered an unexpected issue and may not be able to operate. In the event that Viasat declares the billion-dollar satellite a total loss, the claim is estimated to hit $420 million across several policies across a number of different insurers. The issue gets worse, as its Inmarsat-6 F2 satellite has suffered a power problem, and that too could result in a $350 million insurance claim. Last month, the ViaSat-2 satellite suffered an antenna problem that triggered a $188 million claim. This confluence of claims could be a fiasco for the companies that insure the space business: In 2019, the total losses from satellite claims were $788 million, considerably more than the $500 million in total premiums collected that year, which triggered AIG, Swiss Re and Allianz to leave the satellite insurance industry entirely. If there’s a similar reaction to this incident, it could be much harder to insure the business.
Authorities in Lusaka, Zambia, are grappling with a puzzling and troubling mystery related to a seized private aircraft that contained, in addition to five Egyptians, millions of dollars in cash, pistols, 126 rounds of ammunition, and over 100 kilograms of gold bars. The Egyptians have been charged with smuggling and corrupt practices, while six Zambians have been charged with espionage. The original amount of cash reported by police was $11 million, which was later downgraded to $7 million and now stands at $5.7 million, which is obviously totally on the level and no corruption here! Also, in an even more exciting wrinkle, the gold is counterfeit, made out of copper, nickel and zinc, and it certainly looks like someone was going to leave an airplane having been bamboozled in a fake gold buy.
All 143 WSR-88D weather radar stations in the contiguous United States are also part of a network tracking aerial phenomena that is not meteorological in nature but nevertheless shows up constantly in weather radar data: migrating birds. The equipment, which bounces signal off of raindrops to figure out where clouds are, is also excellent at doing the same thing for the considerably larger birds. They’re following some 500 million birds flying across the U.S., and the hope is to use that data to ensure those birds have a safe flight by mitigating light pollution in the areas where they’re traveling.
As geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing worsen, China is taking back some pandas it’s loaned out to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. In early December, three pandas — Xiao Qi Ji, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian — will leave the zoo and go to China. The country is the sole place that pandas are found, and has leveraged that by loaning them out as a diplomatic endeavor since Nixon went to China in 1972 and Zhou Enlai pitched the idea. They also charge about $1 million a year per panda. As a result, pandas can be found in around 70 zoos around the world.
A scandal that has consumed the world of chess over allegations of cheating lodged by Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com against Hans Moke Niemann and that provoked a $100 million defamation lawsuit has come to a conclusion, as the parties have reached a testy agreement. Chess.com has agreed to reinstate the account of Niemann, who was alleged to have cheated in over 100 games. Over the past year, Niemann’s rating has fallen from over 2700 to 2660, and he’s ranked the 77th best in the world.
Nielsen reported that the number of available titles on streaming services jumped 39 percent over the past two years, hitting 2.35 million titles. That compares to 2.7 million available on traditional broadcast and cable channels. All told, per Nielsen, there are now 167 streaming providers, up from 118 streamers two years ago. While there are lots of ramifications of this — subscribing to 167 streaming providers sure feels a lot less efficient than one cable subscription — one key one is that it takes longer to find stuff to watch given the sheer abundance of available material. In 2019, the average amount of time it took someone to find something to watch was seven minutes, which has since risen to 10 minutes today.
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Most communities in North America spend $30 to $60 per capita per year on sidewalks, but there’s a solid argument to building them out. Most cities need to spend two to three times that amount in order to build out a full network. A full network has a lot of positive impacts on a community, and could reduce vehicle costs and miles travelled by 3 percent. All told, sidewalks do a disproportionate amount of work in communities. Despite cities spending about 1 percent of their infrastructure budget on sidewalks, walking on them is responsible for 11 percent of trips every day.
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