Numlock News: May 2, 2023 • Hippos, Chegg, Germany
By Walt Hickey
One of the most immediate uses for large language models has been for students who want to just crank out workable answers for homework assignments they don’t want to do. There are already lots of companies that specialize in workable answers to homework assignments for students who don’t want to do homework, and one of them is Chegg, which describes itself as a “connected learning platform” — hey, we all gotta find a way to look the guy we see in the mirror in the eye, you do you Chegg. In a bombshell earnings report, Chegg revealed yesterday that ChatGPT and the like have been absolutely hammering its business, with revenue down 7 percent year over year, subscribers to its subscription service down 5 percent. Its stock dropped as much as 38 percent in after hours trading.
A statewide study of the rideshare industry in California has put a hard number on the precise impact that Uber and Lyft have on the communities they operate in. From September 2019 to August 2020, Ubers in California emitted an estimated 494,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Most significantly was that 30 percent of those emissions were generated when there wasn’t a passenger actually in the car. Just three counties — San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego — were responsible for 64 percent of all Uber and Lyft rides in California over the period.
Germany launched a cheap nationwide rail pass on Monday, and it’s already a massive hit. Over 3 million have bought the Germany Ticket, which for the cool price of €49 ($53.90) gets the holder all local and regional trains, buses, and local transit for a month. The only thing it doesn’t get the user is long-distance intercity rail, but the goal is to get lots of people onto a vibrant rail system rather than reliant on vehicles.
British archaeologists have found 36 engraved semiprecious stones in a bathhouse at a former Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall. The stones were a bit of a mystery — smaller than dimes, they bore the images of gods — but are at their core fashion jewelry, likely removed before bathing and, in some cases like these, stolen or lost down the drain. The cache was also full of other items that could conceivably be found in the bowels of a bathhouse, like about 100 hairpins, 105 glass beads, and hundreds of other knick-knacks that may have slipped down the drain.
Hippos owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in a private zoo have long since established themselves in the jungle terrain surrounding his former compound in a 120-mile stretch of the Magdalena River. The Colombian government has spent years trying to figure out what on earth to do with the displaced megafauna, including sending hunters out to kill them (extremely unpopular, large protests ensued) as well as a current campaign to castrate as many of them as possible. So far, several extremely brave biologists have successfully fixed 11 male hippos and two female hippos out of over 140 that now live in the wild.
Given that the only kinds of chickens that lay eggs are female, and males grow slower than females so there’s no use for them in the poultry industry, there is no demand for the 6.5 billion male chicks that hatcheries grow every year. As a result, they’re swiftly killed after hatching. This is a practice that many consider inhumane, and want to end. There have been some recent developments from several companies that would make the identification of the sex of a chick in-ovo a real possibility as early as day nine after being hatched, techniques that have already been used to avoid the needless slaughter of tens of millions of chicks moments after birth, with 10 percent to 20 percent of Europe’s hen flock coming from cull-free hatcheries.
Medium-duty commercial delivery trucks are emerging as ideal vehicles for electrification due to frequent stops and predictable routes, and thanks to incentives many buyers are now buying the more-expensive electrics over diesels. Current projections have it that by 2030, 15 percent of medium-duty trucks sold around the world will be electric, some 250,000 trucks a year. The market share of diesel and gasoline medium-duty trucks is also going to get eaten away by new natural gas and fuel cell vehicles poised to hit the market shortly.
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