Numlock News: June 10, 2020 • France, Romans, Country Bands
By Walt Hickey
What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us
Archaeologists have used ground-penetrating radar to map a vanished Roman city, according to a new paper published in Antiquity. Falerii Novi was one of the 2,000 cities in the Roman Empire, appearing about 31 miles north of Rome in 241 BCE and becoming abandoned around 700 CE. A rig equipped with downward-pointing radar driven around a 75-acre site by an ATV, scanning every 12.5 centimeters and collecting some 28 billion data points. It’s the first time an entire city that’s still underground has been mapped using radar alone. If Jurassic Park is any guide, I assume moments after this discovery the two principal researchers were whisked away by helicopter to an island off the coast of Costa Rica, where a megalomaniac billionaire industrialist used mosquitos locked in honey to make Parcum Romanorum, a cloning-fueled theme park attraction 2,000 annorum in the making.
For 65,000 years, as long as people sailed the seas, people got seasick. It’s awful, and it’s annoying, and there’s very little to be done in the way of a cure, though people are trying hard to find ways to address it. Motion sickness is a common affliction; on large commercial flights, less than 0.5 percent of people get motion sickness, compared to 25 percent of people on smaller planes. A British military study in 1982 found moderate seas led to seasickness in 25 percent of those studies, and 70 percent were seasick in rough seas. For many, it clears up after a few days, but about one in three people are highly susceptible to motion sickness. Interestingly, children under six don’t get seasick, and children only become susceptible to motion sickness when their brain is mature enough to process motion. It can be an occupational hazard. A 2019 survey of Icelandic fishermen found 88 percent said they’d been seasick before, and 28 percent get seasick at the beginning of every trip.
In the race between the United States and China when it comes to developing artificial intelligence, the U.S. has a key advantage: more of China’s top talent in the field ends up working in the States than they do in China. Of 128 researchers who went to undergrad in China who presented at NeurIPS 2019, a top A.I. conference, 54 percent currently work in the U.S. and just 34 percent currently work in China.
It’s been a rough year for nearly all kinds of music, with the emphasis on “nearly.” While music listening has overall fallen about 3.4 percent over the past 10 weeks according to Billboard/MRC, there are two genres that are doing pretty good: children’s music and country. Country music in the U.S. is up 11.1 percent since mid-March, an increase of 127 million streams per week, with country climbing 22.4 percent in the last week of May alone. Music executives are confused and have no idea why this is happening. The best explanation is that the timing is somewhat coincidental, as streaming becomes established in the mainstream. Country music listeners are transitioning to it as a primary listening mechanism. Country fans have skewed towards preferring older music delivery systems — one reason country is the second-most popular CD genre, but not in the top three online.
In 2019, 9,800 U.S. stores closed their doors for good, a dismal record that will be surpassed this year in all likelihood. Coresight Research projects 20,000 to 25,000 brick-and-mortar stores to close in 2020, with department and clothing stores being the hardest hit. That’s up from their estimate of 15,000 store closures in March. It’s poised to come in the form of a cascade, with large department stores and apparel chains folding in malls, and the malls seeing decreased foot traffic as a result of those shuttered anchor tenants, and then finally the other stores in those spaces succumbing themselves. This may be a moment where the U.S. reverts to the global mean, as the country has the most retail selling space per capita and the lowest sales per square foot.
The first peer-reviewed analysis of the global response to coronavirus found that travel restrictions, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders averted 530 million COVID-19 infections across France, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and the United States. Of those, 62 million were estimated to have been logged as “confirmed cases,” compared to a cumulative global count today of 7 million. The study looked at 1,717 policies implemented at the local, state and national level from January to April. In the scientists’ estimation, despite the tremendous personal costs and sacrifices needed to shut it all down, the collective nerve exhibited by the people was responsible for arguably the single most successful health intervention in history, with the director of the Global Policy Laboratory arguing saying, “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time.”
The FCC proposed a $225 million fine against two telemarketers accused of being behind 1 billion robocalls. That would be the largest ever fine allocated, against two people who the regulator says made robocalls touting insurance plans from major private insurers that actually routed to a call center selling plans to other companies that hired them. Over four months, according to the FCC, the telemarketers faked their numbers, called people on the Do Not Call list, and dialed mobile phones without permission, all serious offenses. The fine is not final — the accused will have a chance to respond — but it’s intended to send a message to other robodialers.
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