Numlock News: February 16, 2022 • Honeypot, Biomass, Fake Faces
By Walt Hickey
Honorlock is a test proctoring service used by a number of universities that last year raised $25 million in venture capital funding. One interesting part of the business? “Seed sites” that are fake websites with the precise wording of exam questions that will rat out a person googling specific questions in a classic honeypot counterintelligence scheme. One computer science student found roughly a dozen such sites, five of which continue to operate with names like Grade Pack and Quiz Lookup. Perhaps this escalation will do for today’s high schoolers what the programmable TI-84 did for a generation of students who picked up rudimentary knowledge of BASIC in the mid-2000s.
A study wanted to determine how good people were at differentiating between real and algorithmically-generated faces, and how trustworthy they perceived those faces to be. In the first bit of the study, 315 people were asked to choose whether a face was real or fake among a set of 128 images. They were no better than a coin flip, with an average accuracy of 48.2 percent. The second bit asked 219 to distinguish faces after getting a little training on the best practices on how to spot them; even these informed consumers got it right only 59 percent of the time. The last group of 223 had to rate a selection of the 128 faces for trustworthiness, and gave the average synthetic face a score of 4.82 out of 7 and the average actual human face 4.48 out of 7. Given that people seem to trust the synthetics more than the humans, I’d like to introduce my new co-writer of Numlock, A Roomba With Very Strong Opinions About The New Crypto MoviePass. I hope the trust you inherently place in her will make up for my fleshy human features.
WSC Sports is a company that automatically generates game recap videos and clips using software that identifies exciting action in a given game. They just raised a $100 million funding round, and last year they produced 3.4 million highlights. Originally, WSC was a product for scouts: WSC itself stands for “World Scouting Center.” That said, it turns out that a program designed to create condensed tape for scouts is incidentally the same kind of program you’d design if you want to make a sizzle reel generation engine, and as it stands today they operate in 20 sports, with new additions of skiing and horse racing.
Approximately 7 percent of Americans get news from podcasts often, compared to 56 percent who say they never get news from the audio format. About 23 percent of adults get news from podcasts at least sometimes, a minority that skews younger (33 percent of those 18 to 29), more college educated (26 percent of college grads versus 17 percent of high school grads), wealthier, and more male. And here I thought the main appeal of podcasts was completely avoiding the news so you could listen to several appealing voices play Dungeons and Dragons, or hear about the latest and greatest of brand eating, or directors who have massive success and are given a blank check to make whatever crazy passion projects they want — not like news, that’s what newsletters are for.
The University of California, Berkeley may have to drastically cut the number of admissions for 2022–23 following an Alameda County Superior Court ruling related to a lawsuit a number of locals launched against the university seeking to stop its growth. Should the ruling stand, 5,100 fewer seniors will be offered a place at Cal, a 24 percent drop in offer letters, which would result in about 32 percent fewer new students at the university that year. In 2019 a neighborhood group sued the school arguing against expanding enrollment. The city of Berkeley withdrew from the suit after signing a $82.6 million deal with the university in July, but several of the neighbors persisted, arguing Cal had not built sufficient housing. Most of UC Berkeley’s students have lived off campus, and the university plans to add 11,730 beds over the next 16 years. Sorry to the thousands of kids who won’t get to go to Berkeley but hey, huge win for the rich local homeowners; wow, nobody’s thinking of those people these days.
A new facility in the Central Valley of California will take in agricultural waste from the region, heat the tree trimmings and fruit pits to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and convert it into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. It’ll then pump the CO2 underground into retired oil wells and saline aquifers, and sell the hydrogen to the state’s emissions-free buses and trucks. This approach — called bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration, or BECCS — is seen as a promising component of decarbonization. The UN’s climate panel estimated it’d take removing 8 billion tons of CO2 per year through BECCS by 2050, and the estimated range of carbon removal by 2050 is anywhere from 1 billion to 15 billion annual tons of CO2 globally. The cost to use biomass to capture and store 200 million tons of CO2 is estimated to run $62 to $137 per ton, which is well below the $600 per ton it currently costs to remove carbon from the air through direct air capture.
The Super Bowl averaged 99.2 million viewers on NBC over the course of the game, up 4 percent from last year’s game. The halftime show averaged 103.4 million viewers, beating out last year’s show by 7 percent. The game was also streamed by 11.2 million on average. The largest audience came in the halftime two-minute NFL ad, which topped out at 119 million viewers across NBC, Telemundo and Peacock. Cincinnati, home of the Bengals, led the local markets, but was followed by Detroit, which got to watch former quarterback Matthew Stafford win it for the Rams.
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