Numlock News: September 16, 2020 • Lighthouse, Hurricane, Underwater Server Farm
By Walt Hickey
A tech researcher is suing YouTube in the United Kingdom’s High Court seeking damages of £2.5 billion in a procedure similar to what the United States considers a class-action suit. The researcher and Foxglove, an advocacy group backing him, allege that YouTube violated children’s rights to privacy by processing data of users under the age of 13. YouTube counters that their service is not for children under 13, those kids are supposed to use YouTube Kids, but according to the U.K. government, 75 percent of kids aged five to 15 watch YouTube. The suit seeks £100 and £500 for every child who watched a video on YouTube since the General Data Protection Regulation took effect.
For the second time ever, the National Hurricane Center will likely run out of names for Atlantic cyclones and have to move on to the Greek alphabet. In 2005, the NHC had to use six Greek letters having exhausted the prepared list of 21 storm names. Names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are skipped, presumably because kids at the end of the alphabet have enough adversity to deal with in life, but more likely because there’s fewer of them. There are an average of 12 named storms per season, and in August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected 19 to 25 named storms, the highest estimate.
An experiment begun by Microsoft in 2018 has concluded, and a data center that was sunk to the bottom of the Scottish sea has been retrieved, examined, and determined to be in tip-top condition. Project Natick sunk a pressurized container containing 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage down 117 feet. While we’ve all felt a primal urge to chuck a misbehaving piece of hardware directly into a large body of water before, Microsoft found that the data center was more reliable and energy efficient, as landlubber data centers incur corrosion from oxygen, humidity shifts, and temperature swings.
Silver diamine flouride is a liquid painted on teeth to stop decay. While used around the world for decades, it was approved by the FDA for reducing tooth sensitivity in 2014 and has been adopted off-label as a cavity treatment for kids who didn’t do well with drills or anesthesia. It’s also being considered by dentists for older Americans, as 27 percent of Americans age 65 and older have untreated cavities. For people in long-term care facilities or with cognitive problems, a noninvasive cavity treatment — the main downside is it permanently discolors the treated region — is a potential godsend, especially given the vastly cheaper cost: an application can go for $10 to $75, compared to $150 to $200 for a filling, and hygienists and community clinics can offer it cheaper.
Florida wildlife officials are working to crack down on a massive wildlife poaching operation targeting flying squirrels, which can make leaps up to 160 feet in pursuit of nuts. According to seized financial documents, as many as 10,000 squirrel traps have been set across the state. The poachers want to capture the animals and smuggle them domestically and abroad as exotic pets. While doubtless adorable, the nocturnal, wild animals do not do well in captivity. Wildlife officials investigating several alleged smugglers believe thousands of the animals have been sold to a company in South Korea through one specific operation that routed them through Georgia to Illinois and then on to the buyer, who paid at least $500,000 for thousands of the animals from 2015 to 2017.
A new study published this summer draws on an unexpected historical biological record — pressings of seaweeds collected from 1878 to 2018 — to find out new things about the ecosystems they originated from after a chemical analysis. First, the seaweeds: starting in the 19th century in England, scientists and amateur botanists — especially women excluded from other scientific pursuits — artfully pressed seaweeds and algae exactly like one would press a flower to preserve them. What’s exciting for researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium, Stanford and the University of Hawai‘i is that those seaweeds can be analyzed to determine the nutrients available in an ecosystem at the time they were preserved. They were able to find evidence that climatic oscillations was responsible for the sardine fishery collapse in the 1950s, just based on nitrogen content of the dried seaweeds.
Across the British Isles, lighthouses are upgrading their lamps to powerful, efficient industrial LEDs over the traditional filaments, which is causing some consternation for fans of the older lamps, while also underscoring the genuine navigational needs the lighthouses still satisfy. Most of the 65 lighthouses around Ireland managed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights upgraded to LEDs, and the two other lighthouse authorities in the islands — Trinity House upgraded 20 of their 66 lighthouses and the Northern Lighthouse Board has added LEDs to about 125 of their 350 — are transitioning to LED lamps too. An LED lighthouse unit costs £18,000 (or $24,000), and there’s just two companies who make them. The advantage is clear: an incandescent light gets 1,000 hours of operational use in a lighthouse, and an LED gets 50,000 to 100,000 hours, which presumably gives you more time to focus on the main utility of lighthouses, which is allowing lighthouse keepers to develop personal, if isolating, storylines that will fuel compelling indie films like The Lighthouse or The Light Between Oceans or Aquaman.
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