Numlock News: January 27, 2021 • Bears, Grindr, Curt Schilling
By Walt Hickey
Hey, I edited another comic! It’s about the events of January 6, and you can find it at Insider.
Norway’s Data Protection Authority will fine the application Grindr 100 million Norwegian kroner ($11.7 million) following the agency’s conclusion that the app, which is for gay dating, disclosed private details about its users to advertising companies illegally. The app shared user data with five ad companies including MoPub, which can subsequently share the data with 100 partners. Last year, the Android version of Grindr was discovered to have been sharing incredibly precise location data, not to mention that tagging its users as LGBTQ without their consent to the highest bidder is not exactly cool.
Natasha Singer and Aaron Krolik, The New York Times
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation studied nine years of data around 22 new roundabouts that replaced more conventional intersections, and found that installing traffic circles reduced fatalities by 100 percent, injuries by 77 percent and minor injuries by 57 percent. The total number of crashes dropped 21 percent, and improved flow of traffic meant the circles were able to carry 30 percent more traffic than stoplights. There were some hiccups in their early phases — due to the sideswipes that tend to accompany changing traffic patterns, property damage was up 21 percent in the study period, but that seems like an insurance company problem to me. Obviously, despite the overwhelming balance of evidence in favor of the idea that traffic circles meaningfully improve the flow of traffic and safety, repeatedly locals oppose them because routine change bad.
The 60,000 brown bears in North America are mostly in Alaska, home to 54 percent of them, and British Columbia, home to 25 percent. In the contiguous United States, there are between 1,200 and 1,400 grizzlies, with Montana and Wyoming clocking annual increases in population of 3 percent. A number of western states are considering welcoming bears back into the fold after pushing them to extinction, though obviously reintroducing predators is nearly as politically contentious as, say, installing a roundabout at a popular intersection. Left to their own devices, the bears are moving north, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature redrawing their range map recently to reflect the preference of bears to live at higher latitudes.
The Six Body Problem
Researchers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite have found an incredibly odd system called TIC 168789840, one that contains six stars according to a new discovery revealed this past month and accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. The arrangement — which I imagine involves a lot of communication and a fairly open mindset, as far as stellar orbits go — is composed of three pairs of binary stars, and while other such systems have been identified before, this one is the first one found where the pairings pass in front of and behind one another. The unique choreography was determined after a neural network studied 80 million light intensity records and surfaced TIC 168789840 last March. Only one of the pairs could possibly have planets given the geometry at play.
Robin George Andrews, The New York Times
Four companies — General Mills, Post, Quaker Oats, and Kellogg’s — own about 85 percent of the cereal business in the United States. Interestingly, three companies — Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors — each own about 5 percent of each of those companies. The reason is that they run colossal index funds and hold $16 trillion in assets under management. Given the American people’s increasing choice to sock money away in cheap index funds, they’ve amassed a considerable amount of skin in the game, and their combined average stake in a company in the S&P 500 has increased from 5.2 percent in 1998 to 20.5 percent in 2017. A group of economists were eager to find out if this oligopoly-owned oligopoly was causing any untoward price increases across the cereal industry, but failed to turn up direct evidence. Cereal is simply more expensive because they advertise it well and choose to charge more for it, not because your retirement depends on it, which I guess is nice?
Hall of Fame
No players up for the National Baseball Hall of Fame reached the 75 percent threshold of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote necessary to enter Cooperstown, the first time in decades that the number of baseball players considered very good will remain stagnant for a whole year. The main reason is, like a bulky, ill-tempered deer moving through a python, the steroid era players are moving through their period of eligibility, and anyone who was good enough to get into the hall among those not already in it is viewed as too controversial or too toxic. Curt Schilling was named on 71.1 percent of ballots, and was 16 votes short of being enshrined in a mediocre tourist attraction. Personally, I oppose Shilling entering the Hall of Fame, but believe it should be left to the states. Barry Bonds obtained just 61.8 percent of the vote in spite of his record of all-time home runs, and Roger Clemens got 61.6 percent. For disappointed baseball fans who just want to see an insular collection of eccentric industry reporters squabble over inexplicable award choices to often-modest performers, fear not, the Golden Globes nominations are next week.
Following college, 40.6 percent of recent grads face underemployment, a term for when a college grad takes a job that does not require a college degree. With the incredibly competitive market facing people who are fresh out of school, many people in the technology and computing space go into training programs and are then placed into jobs from there. This can be a good way into the workforce, but there are complications: during training at Revature, for instance, associates are paid $8 per hour, but participants are locked into their positions for two years, and copies of the contracts show they’re on the hook for a $36,500 quitting fee should they try to leave before then. This naturally undermines their negotiating power and ability to move into a different position.
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The comic was both brilliant and sad. I still can't come to grips with what happened that day, or the lack of consequences for those who incited it.