Numlock News: July 12, 2023 • Boats, SETI, Milk
By Walt Hickey
New Jersey has spent $2.6 billion replenishing the Jersey Shore with sand since 1922, and given the inexorable march of climate change fueling beach erosion, the fear is that not even that will be enough to keep the beach alive. Per foot of shoreline, Jersey has been one of the most aggressive when it comes to shoring up the beach. There are other ways to stabilize the shoreline, like facilitating vegetation and building out hard structures like jetties and t-groins, but those haven't seen anywhere near the investment that "just throw some more sand on it" has.
The discovery of a huge bird nest in Antwerp in a hospital courtyard that was made by magpies out of, literally, 1,500 metal anti-bird spikes prompted new research into the ability of birds to actually rip off and use these anti-bird architecture to build the most pro-bird possible architecture, nests. The nest researchers found plenty of examples of innovations by urban birds in a new study published in Deinsea. That magpie nest was especially cool because, after appropriating 50 meters’ worth of anti-bird pins, they actually built the nest in such a manner to keep rival birds out. Similar behavior was seen in other magpie nests in the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland.
Distributed computing is the clever idea that lots of people's personal and work computers spend a great deal of time idle, and if you're the kind of scrappy project that needs to beg, borrow and steal processing power, it can be a godsend to completing a project. The classic example is SETI@home, which used volunteers' inactive computers to search the skies for possible extraterrestrial signals, and the Folding@home project, which sought to use distributed computing to find how proteins folded. That said, it's a mixed bag for such products these days amid rising power costs and iffy results: SETI@home found nothing and folded after 21 years, all those PC cycles spent for nothing, and while Folding@home rose from 10,000 users to 1 million users in the initial weeks of the pandemic and broke the exaFLOP barrier, that quickly fell back down to 45,000 users.
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is handling increased volumes of milk, as farmers pump thousands of unsellable gallons away. In May, farmers in the United States produced a record 19.9 billion pounds of milk, the highest on record, and farmers are continuing to grow milk production — particularly in Wisconsin, where output rose at twice the national rate — even though processors can’t keep up, with plants operating at capacity. This has sent the price of wholesale milk to low levels, down to $15.10 per 100 pounds, down from $21.70 the same time last year.
Starting in the 1950s, fiberglass became the primary material for the construction of boats, going for a fraction of the cost of wood with a number of other advantages over other materials like aluminum. Something like 95 percent of the leisure boat fleet of the European Union are fiberglass, to give a taste of just how popular the material is. Taste is an apt word, though, as what we're finding now is that these boats shed over the course of their lifetimes, and that can accumulate in the marine life in the areas where they deteriorate. In one case, over the past decade the Chichester Harbour Conservancy in England observed a significant die-off of oysters to the extent that they had to close the fishery in 2018. Researchers called in found up to 7,000 shards of fiberglass per kilogram of oyster flesh.
The United States is dealing with a disastrous citrus crop in Florida, and has been compensating by buying up a ton of Brazilian orange juice. Shipments of juice from Brazil are up 55 percent over the past year owing to the smallest Florida crop in eight decades. The 328,100 metric tons of juice equivalent imported from Brazil is the highest ever on record, and is expected to hold for some time. The rising orange futures trading are, according to financial analysts, setting up the perfect conditions for an odd couple of finance to finally take down Winston and Mortimer Duke.
A new economics study argues that it's time for a significant investment in weather forecasting, as more accurate predictions of weather can save a great deal of lives in the aggregate over decades to come. We've come pretty far: A five-day forecast today is about as accurate as a one-day forecast in the 1980s. We can go further still, as the study estimated that making forecasts 50 percent more accurate would save 2,200 lives a year, and the estimated value of that superior forecasting would be worth an aggregate $112 billion through the end of the century. The annual budget of the National Weather Service is roughly $1 billion.
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