Numlock News: June 1, 2022 • Monarchs, Asteroids, Espionage
By Walt Hickey
According to the Centre for Retail Research, Queen Elizabeth’s forthcoming Platinum Jubilee from June 2 to June 5 will see the U.K.’s consumers spend $510 million, a huge week for the Windsor fandom community. For those out of the loop, in addition to ravenous fans of Sherlock and Doctor Who, the U.K. is home to many avowed fans of a long-running series of aristocratic landlord characters; the whole franchise can be a bit hard to follow, but started with the sensational first installment called William the Conquerer, followed by a rather detested sequel William 2 and a much loved reboot Henry I. The franchise has had successive revivals under new directions: Fans always get heated over which is best, and the Plantagenet period for the franchise saw major schisms in the fandom, with the whole shebang actually briefly getting cancelled for about 11 years there before the controversial Stuart reboot. The latest installment, a sequel to the much loved Elizabeth, continues to appeal to fans, who will spend $150 million on festivities and $350 million on souvenirs just for this particular event. While Elizabeth II has managed to spark popularity for the long-running franchise the world over, with a few notable exceptions, the Windsor fandom remains distinctly split over the next possible series of showrunners, so that’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
The B612 Foundation announced the discovery of over 100 new and previously not catalogued asteroids in the solar system, with the key innovation being that they did not actually even have to look in a telescope to pull it off. Instead, they analyzed 412,000 images in the digital archives of NOIRLab and, using complex computing, were able to pluck the previously unseen asteroids out of the pictures they were inadvertently photobombing. Out of 25,000 near-Earth asteroids over 460 feet in diameter, only an estimated 40 percent have been found.
The average company in the S&P 500 spends $10.44 million on auditing fees, up from $7.99 million in 2012. Those fees — as well as the cost of ancillary consulting and business services that major companies toss to their auditors — have become a subject of consternation to investors, many of whom are uncertain about the logic of remunerating ostensibly independent auditors with lucrative business in other areas. This year so far, 3.8 percent of investors voted against ratifying their company’s auditors, which may seem small but is triple the proportion seen a decade ago. In some cases it’s actually threatening the business: 24 percent of Moderna’s shareholders opposed keeping Ernst & Young on as its auditor, up from 1.6 percent last year and the highest rejection rate for an auditor since 2018.
Crime Doesn’t Pay
A program in Liberia running for the past 15 years offered men at high risk of doing violent crimes eight weeks of therapy, which combined with evidence that offering money lowers the risk of crime and violence set the stage for a study on the impact of offering mental health services and cash to combat crime. The study took 999 Liberian men and gave one cohort $200, one cohort eight weeks of CBT therapy, one cohort both interventions and a last cohort given none as a control. Indeed, a month on they observed encouraging results, but the real impact was seen over the course of 10 years, when the researchers tracked down the men from the study and found that crime and violence were down 50 percent in the therapy and cash cohort. After calculating for crimes averted, it’s estimated the cost per averted crime was just $1.50.
Niue, a Pacific island state, has announced it will protect all of the ocean within its exclusive economic zone from exploitation, saving 317,500 square kilometers of ocean that contains one of the largest coral atolls in the world. It’s setting aside an ecologically amazing area: It’s the only place where katuali, a type of sea snake, can be found, it’s got the highest density of grey reef sharks, and humpback whales migrate to Niue’s waters to give birth. The state, which is self-governing in free association with New Zealand, originally announced it would protect 40 percent of its oceans. Anyone breaking the marine park laws by fishing illegally faces a NZ$500,000 fine and seizure of their vessel.
Puerto Rico has the ninth-highest rate of home solar installations in the United States, with a rate of one home solar installation per 63.7 people. In large part that’s because of a need for resilience following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of the island in 2017. At that point, there were only about 9,000 solar rooftops in the territory, a figure that today stands at 37,100 rooftop solar installations. Those produce 255 megawatts of electricity on a given bright day, which would in the aggregate make them the single largest green power plant in Puerto Rico, ahead of the 101-megawatt Santa Isabel wind farm.
Somebody’s Watching You
A poll of tech workers found strong aversion to their employers watching them discreetly through software. Among those workers, 56 percent said that they would resign if their company recorded audio or video of employees through their computers, 51 percent said they would quit if they were subjected to facial recognition to monitor productivity, 47 percent would split if they learned their boss had a keylogger on their machine, and 46 percent would quit if their employer took screenshots of their screen. That said, I guarantee some Silicon Valley type is reading this poll and thinking “damn there are some pretty great ideas in here” and getting to work on the Keyloggr™ Record-Nition™ family of products, just $10.99 per employee per month after your first 10 employees.
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