Numlock News: October 9, 2023 • BeiDou, Autopay, Noise Cancellation
By Walt Hickey
Two weeks away from my book release! Tomorrow afternoon I’m sending out a cool sneak preview of You Are What You Watch exclusively for Numlock readers. Preorders are absolutely critical to getting books into stores and on shelves, and your support by buying a preorder right now would be so, so helpful.
The art of Native Americans is a massive industry, with annual sales of indigenous works estimated to be worth $1.5 billion. It can be a big financial boost for Native American communities — in some places, a majority of people find work producing traditional arts and crafts — particularly in states like New Mexico, where owing to the 19 pueblos, three Apache tribes, and large section of Navajo Nation, the art market is a big deal. The problem, though, is the fraudsters and counterfeiters who try to pass off art as produced by Native Americans when it is not. As much as 80 percent of work marketed as Native American is estimated to be counterfeit.
Noise-cancelling headphones are projected to claim an even larger share of the audio market in coming years, with the global market for noise-cancelling headphones projected to triple to $45.4 billion by 2031. While the perks of noise cancellation are myriad, if experiencing a world with cancelled noise becomes increasingly the norm, that might become a problem when it comes to safety and social connections. While many who oppose noise cancellation are trying to start a conversation about when and when not it’s socially ideal to use the technology, unfortunately, those in favor of noise cancellation are having a conversation at the same amplitude but with the exact inverted phase as that original conversation, so they just cancel each other out.
A new study analyzed 5,315 square kilometers of lidar data — a laser ranging technique that can penetrate into the ground and reveal evidence of structures that have long been buried or obscured by overgrowth — from the Amazon rainforest, and found over 900 known earthworks but also 24 previously unknown human-made constructions. The neat thing, though, is what that implies, because 5,315 square kilometers is only 0.1 percent of the Amazon rainforest. After taking into account things like precipitation, soil type and elevation, they estimate that there might be 16,187 as yet undiscovered earthwork sites within the rainforest, which would mean that 90 percent of ancient earthworks are out there somewhere.
A new study found that people who have credit cards set on autopay actually rack up more fees and interest compared to people who pay off their credit card bill manually. The study found that people who used autopay to pay off their card tended to pay 8 percent to 17 percent less off their balances compared to the people who made manual payments. It explains a bit of a peculiar finding that despite the number of people enrolling in autopay doubling from 2015 to 2020, the overall reduction in credit card fees that we’d expect to see never actually materialized, and the total fees and interest paid jumped 19 percent from $203 billion in 2015 to $243 billion in 2020. I guess this makes sense, as autopay is a decision that “Past Walter” made, and “Past Walter” is the cause of a lot of my credit card debt so I don’t know why I would trust a decision “Past Walter” made.
Rich people in China are hearing phrases like “common prosperity” getting thrown around a lot these days, and many are trying to get large sums of cash out of the country through intermediaries who can help smuggle it out. Singapore has been a hot destination, but in general individuals are capped at $50,000 per year wired out of the country, so they turn to agencies that oversee large networks of people willing to carry thousands of dollars out of the country. One investigation found a network of five organizations using 8,000 bank accounts across 20 provinces with 75.6 billion yuan in assets. British law enforcement found the accounts of students were sometimes used as well, finding 100 people who deposited an aggregate £100 million ($121 million) cash into 14,000 personal bank accounts linked to students.
As part of the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year, Medicare gets to negotiate prices over 10 prescription drugs for the first time. Last week the administration announced the 10 drugs, which include Eliquis, a blood thinner which is used by 3.7 million Medicare enrollees and has an average out-of-pocket cost of $608 per enrollee, as well as Jardiance, a diabetes treatment used by 1.6 million on Medicare and which costs $490 per enrollee. The 10 drugs selected for negotiation are big ones, with 9 million Medicare beneficiaries paying $3.4 billion on them.
In July 2020, the final satellite in the BeiDou satellite constellation BDS-3 was launched, completing a network of high-orbit satellites 36,000 kilometers away that is China’s version of the American Global Positioning System, Russia’s Glonass and Europe’s Galileo systems. The neat thing about the BeiDou satellites is that devices can send low-capacity data to those satellites and receive messages back, a key difference with the other systems that don’t send messages back. BeiDou’s no longer just providing service to military operations and is also rolling out commercial use, and as of January there were 1.5 billion smart devices linked to BeiDou, with 98 percent of the smartphones sold in China last year having BeiDou navigation.
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