Numlock News: May 4, 2022 • Chess, Charged, Charizard
By Walt Hickey
One of the most popular ways of playing chess on the planet and with tens of millions of players, the mobile app Chess.com is also home to about 3.5 million Russian players. However, starting on April 23, Russia’s media supervision agency Roskomnadzor has blocked access to the site following the platform’s stated support for Ukraine following the invasion. Needless to say, Russia’s got a pretty rich history of world-class chess players, and they’re not exactly thrilled with the ban. Many want to remove the politics from the game, you know, a game in which a ridiculously powered elite bloodlessly trades the lives of a resource-deprived front line of pawns in order to settle a conflict with unclear goals beyond the monomaniacal protection of a single strongman overseeing an predominantly male elite in a heteronormative and ultimately hierarchical society where upward social progression is both rare and difficult and available to only a laughably small fraction of the lucky lower class. Anyway, yeah, come on people, let’s keep the politics out of it obviously, it’s just a game.
eBay has long offered buyers an authentication service for collectible goods valued above a certain threshold, like any watch that sells for over $2,000, a handbag that sells for over $500 or sneakers that sell for over $100. Now, they announced they had contracted with Professional Sports Authenticator to offer authentication for trading cards sold on the platform for over $750, a service which will ensure that what was auctioned off is actually what’s being sent. As trading cards became extremely valuable over the course of a pandemic that trapped collectors at home in a nostalgic mood, fakes have become a significant issue. PSA is actually already overwhelmed with cards — as of April 28 their backlog is under 4 million cards in the queue — but the team eBay hired is separate from those working through the colossal backlog of Charizards, Gretzkys, Black Lotuses and Exodias.
With a vote of 11-3, the Washington State Building Code Council has made it the first state to mandate electric heat pumps in new buildings, an effort to phase out natural gas heating starting in 2023 and replace it with heat pumps for new commercial buildings and multifamily apartments. Washington gets a ton of its electricity from hydropower, so in effect it would move heating in the state from carbon-fueled to clean green electric-powered.
Ford has formally begun shipping the eagerly-awaited F-150 Lightning as of April 26, with the electric-powered pickup poised to be one of the most consequential machines in persuading motorists to switch to an electric-powered vehicle. Now that they’ve got actual vehicles and an increased volume of data, they’ve incidentally got some good news: The truck’s better than they originally said it was going to be. When they announced the pickup in May of 2021, its standard battery pack was billed as 426 horsepower, with an extended range offering 563 horsepower. The standard range will actually offer 452 horsepower and the extended will in fact get you 580 horsepower. Finally, something that is slightly more energy-efficient than being towed around by 450 horses.
New data released by Twitter tracks the trend of users posting their scores in Wordle, a daily word puzzle game that launched last October but really exploded onto the scene in January of this year, and which offers players the chance to easily share their score on the platform. The growth was exponential: There were an average of 400 tweets per day about Wordle in December, which leapt to 500,000 tweets per day at its peak at the beginning of February. They were also able to glean some scoring trends, given the 23.5 million tweets sharing scores from 2.1 million people: It turns out the easiest words to get were “PLANT,” “STAIR” and “TRASH,” which took an average of 3.32, 3.35 and 3.43 guesses, while the hardest were “SWILL,” “FERRY” and “FORGO,” which took an average of 4.88, 4.74 and 4.73 guesses.
In March 2020, the Education Department offered people who owed student loans the chance to pause payments, and lots and lots of people took them up on that. However, in the past two years of optional deferment, there’s still a bunch of people chipping away at them: According to repayment data released by the Education Department, in December of 2021 just 1.2 percent of borrowers were continuing to pay down their loans, which given 43 million borrowers means that there are only about a half million people continuing to make payments.
Once large ships reach the end of their useful lives on the seas, upward of 70 percent of them end up in shipbreaking yards in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Those ships tend to be the larger ones, making up 90 percent of the gross tonnage of discarded vessels, and in 2021 the share of ships that met their end in those three countries was 76 percent. The European Union wants ships to be dismantled safely, but the yards are not approved, which is an issue because your typical ship is a floating bit of toxic waste in its own right, full of cadmium, lead, asbestos, the gnarly detritus of burning bunker fuel for decades, and more, and it kills a lot of workers. The reason the ships — which often served European ports — can evade EU oversight is through flags of convenience, a practice which has become incredibly common in the past several decades, with 82 percent of ship tonnage flying under the flag of a country that is not their own but has lax regulatory oversight, up from 20 percent in 1980.
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