Numlock News: January 18, 2024 • Stellar Streams, Tetrapods, Richard Feynman
By Walt Hickey
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is dealing with a bit of a cash crunch, with net assets declining from $67 million to $63 million in 2022 after a year in which the Hall made just $2.36 million in revenue. That is down from $9.43 million in 2021 — buoyed not by attendance but public grants owing to the pandemic — and steeply down from $14.2 million in revenue in 2019. That’s rough, and the result of a number of factors that are difficult to fix or reverse, and so significant that it’s potentially an issue for the town of Cooperstown that hosts it. Last year the Hall enjoyed 236,406 visitors, up from 167,178 in 2021 but still down considerably from the 275,000 visitors in 2019.
Walmart has attempted to offer a wide range of financial services to its customers, but the ease of accessing the financial services have reportedly made them used by lots of scammers and fraudsters. From 2013 to 2022, Americans were ripped off to the tune of $27 billion to scammers, and Walmart’s financial services were used in about $1 billion worth of those frauds, according to the FTC. That’s attracted the attention of regulators — New York and Pennsylvania have each investigated Walmart regarding how it’s the preferred merchant for gift card fraud for many scammers — and the FTC sued the company in 2022 alleging that it didn’t do enough to stymie fraud on its money transfer service. In some stores, the FTC alleged, a majority of the money transfer activity was fraudulent.
Hast Thou Considered
Biologists who study the natural world must maintain a grim ledger of the new species discovered against the known species that are believed to have died out. After a decade without a sighting, a species is called temporarily lost, and then after a great deal longer the field will concede that a creature is likely extinct. As it stands, there are 856 species of tetrapod — the four-limbed beasts among mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles — that are currently missing. A new study looked at 1,280 lost and, in some cases, rediscovered tetrapod species, finding that around a quarter of the currently missing species are probably extinct.
A new analysis of the last three years of shared Facebook data from 709 volunteers found that 186,892 different companies at some point sent data to Facebook about them. The average participant had 2,230 different companies share data with Facebook about them. For 96 percent of respondents, the data broker LiveRamp at one point or another shared data with Facebook, the most common dealer among the set.
No One Ever Said It Would Be So Hard
A YouGov poll published this week and conducted over the summer sought to find out the perception of scientists in America, and it turns out in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer people now have some complicated feelings about the guy. In a poll asking about favorable or unfavorable perceptions of different famous scientists, a few come out distinctly on top: Albert Einstein had a net favorability of 81 percentage points, Isaac Newton a net favorability of 73 percentage points, Thomas Edison 64 percentage points and Nikola Tesla 58 percentage points. Turning to the question of did they improve the world, things got complicated: 31 percent of respondents said J. Robert Oppenheimer had a positive impact on the world while 18 percent said he had a negative impact on the world, a mere 13 percent positivity rating and the lowest net positivity in the set. Strangely, Niels Bohr (23 percent net positivity) who inspired him and Richard Feynman (17 percent net positive) who worked for him came off a bit cleaner.
All The Light
There are approximately 9,000 satellites orbiting the world, 60 percent of which are communications satellites that have been launched since 2020. These comms satellites — 5,600 of which are from SpaceX alone — fly rather low, and are reportedly causing issues with seeing space from Earth. This is an issue, as SpaceX plans to launch 42,000 satellites, a Chinese rival plans to launch 13,000, and kit and caboodle the major comms satellite players intend to toss 65,000 satellites into orbit, which could come to dominate the sky in some places with latitudes that demand a lot of orbital real estate. Though many will absolutely never happen, there are currently 1.7 million launch plans filed with the U.S. International Telecommunication Union from 2023 to 2029.
We Cannot See
As of 1993, the European Space Agency’s Hipparcos observatory had mapped 2.5 million stars. Their new observatory, Gaia, has utterly smashed that record, and since its first data release in 2016 has mapped 1.8 billion stars as of 2023. All that data has allowed astronomers to better understand the galaxy to which we belong, as well as things previously not understood about the local vibe. Among them include stellar streams, which is a trail of stars left over whenever a dwarf galaxy flew past the Milky Way and got caught up in the gravity of our galaxy. As of 2021, 60 such streams had been found in the halo of the Milky Way, 23 of which were thought to come from either dwarf galaxies or globular clusters, and some project that something like 100 will eventually be found.
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