Numlock News: February 15, 2022 • Fake Plates, Transgenic Glowing Fish, Checkerboarding
By Walt Hickey
The value of online shopping returns in the United States has doubled each of the past three years, rising from $41 billion in 2019 to $102 billion in 2020 to $218 billion as of 2021. This is an issue in clothing: Last year returns of fast fashion clothing jumped by 22 percent compared to the prior year. While other goods can be resold, or bumped down to wholesalers, fast fashion’s economics are already rough on the margins. While the tax exemptions in bulk shipping help clothes get into the U.S., those disappear when it comes to getting returns out of the country. Factor in the cost of some shipping routes shooting upward, and you’re looking at lots more clothes getting piled up in the supply chain or trashed than you’d prefer.
Last year there were only 14 cases of Guinea worm in humans on the planet, a colossal public health victory against a scourge of the human race that has been decades in the making. That’s down from 27 cases reported in 2020, and the rapidly-approaching end of 40 years of international organizations ridding the developing world of the parasite. As recently as the 1980s, Guinea worm was in over 20 countries and infected 3.5 million people per year. There’s a reservoir for the parasite to survive in animals — it spreads through contaminated drinking water, and leaves a body painfully — so eradication may be a little further off than hoped, but just 14 cases on a planet of 7 billion is a tremendous score for the good guys.
Texas temporary buyer’s tags are paper license plates that are found on cars purchased in the state of Texas, but their ability to render a car functionally invisible to authorities has made them attractive credentials for vehicles looking to skirt regulations or that are up to no good. Drivers can purchase illegal tags over the internet for less than $800 because of lax security checks in the dealer application process, and law enforcement estimated that 1.2 million fraudulent Texas tags were sold in 2021. New York’s been cracking down, with the NYPD towing 5,538 cars with fraudulent plates, leading to 3,568 arrests, up from 1,134 arrests in 2020. In January, the Texas DMV itself announced it would suspend the license of dealers that are suspected of hawking fake tags, shutting out six dealerships from the system and the executive director of the state’s DMV stepping down.
The federal government owns a whole lot of public land in the state of Wyoming, as does the state itself. One issue is that lots of that public land is blocked in by privately-held land, which means that citizens can’t actually access it without crossing private land, which in turn means that lots of rich guys basically use public lands as their own extended backyards. This has caused some issues, specifically trespass citations against hunters who attempt to cross from one parcel of public land to another parcel by crossing at a corner. Geometrically this is possible, but geographically the map is never the territory, and since legally Wyoming doesn’t explicitly allow or prohibit corner-crossing, overzealous private landowners are causing issues. One report found 2.28 million acres of federal and state land in Wyoming are inaccessible because of such “checkerboarding.”
Pistol Shrimps LE Diode
Ideally, when a shrimp trawler catches a bunch of shrimp, it would be ideal for everyone involved if all of the shrimp it caught were mature adults who were never going to mate ever again. That unfortunately is not the reality, but shrimpers have been introducing more and more ways to cut back on bycatch, especially the juvenile shrimp that they don’t want to catch because they’re the ones that one day will make more shrimp. One way they’ve done this is to place a grid for escape near the rear of the net, or nets with different mesh sizes that allow smaller ones to escape. A new Norwegian study equipped nets with different colors of LED lights to see which ones reduced the number of juvenile shrimp caught. A red light caused a reduction of 31 percent, a white LED reduced bycatch by 42 percent, and a green light reduced juvenile shrimp bycatch by 54 percent.
A new DNA analysis of seized elephant tusks coupled with phone records, financial records and documents related to the smuggling of illegal ivory found that only around three major criminal organizations are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the ivory trade. The total number of elephants in Africa is estimated to be around 415,000, down from about 5 million a century ago. Every year an estimated 1.1 million pounds of poached elephant tusks are shipped out of Africa, predominantly to Asia. It was only in 2004 that the study’s author demonstrated that DNA from the tusks could be used to estimate their home location within a few hundred miles.
In the 1990s, zebrafish were genetically modified to glow blue, green or red under blacklight, a frontier of science predominantly pursued because it made the fish look really rad in the kind of aquarium you’d find in a drug dealer’s house. Unfortunately, the red and the green versions of the fish have escaped their fish farms in southeastern Brazil, posing a threat to local wildlife as the non-native fish become established and outcompete the endemic species while looking vaporwave as all hell. The glowing zebrafish were first spotted in the wild in 2015, near the 4,500 ponds in the largest ornamental aquaculture center in Latin America. The transgenic fish also achieve sexual maturity faster than their wild counterparts in southeast Asia, so they’re thriving.
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