Numlock News: September 16, 2022 • Stamps, Scouts, Saturn
By Walt Hickey
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Janet Yellen has, for several years, disclosed possessing a stamp collection worth $15,001 to $50,000 on financial disclosure forms. At first glance, this would seem to betray a pretty compelling interest in stamp collecting, and many countries seeking to give the United States Treasury secretary a little memento have taken to giving her stamps. This includes at least six foreign leaders who have given her stamps at diplomatic meetings, including some Royal Mail stamps from the British chancellor of the exchequer and some fun Snake Island commemorative stamps from Ukraine. This is incredibly charming, but Janet Yellen doesn’t actually care about stamps. She just inherited her mother’s collection; it’s just an heirloom she was particularly assiduous to disclose. Her brother reportedly finds this hilarious. The Canadians did a little extra research and heard of her interest in minerals, which is also why Janet Yellen also apparently has 10 pounds of Canadian limestone.
A new study sought to test out a new theory regarding the origins of Saturn’s rings, which are thought to be rather young all things considered and which could have formed as recently as 100 million years ago. That’s damn near recent for the timelines a solar system tends to operate on. The new research wanted to simulate what would happen if an object the size of Saturn’s third-largest moon were to get knocked out of orbit by some kind of collision. They ran 390 simulations. In some of them it crashed into Titan or Iapetus, other times it was just yeeted out of orbit, but in 17 simulations the moon hit Saturn just right that it was shredded by gravity and could have become the rings. That means that mechanism of ring formation is certainly in the cards.
NFL teams have begun doing their research on the 17 officiating crews that oversee their games, figuring out the little idiosyncrasies that could give them an advantage on the field. For instance, the Shawn Hochuli crew has ranked first in penalties per game twice in the past four years, with the four-year average of 16.83 penalties a game implying a more hands-on game call that players can prep for. On the other end, Bill Vinovich’s crew called just 12.42 penalties per game over the same period, the lowest in the league, so that can be a little bit of a looser game. Different penalties are found more frequently on different crews, like offensive holding.
Ethereum is a blockchain upon which all sorts of crypto is based, and yesterday the system successfully executed what’s called The Merge. The issue was that the system was predicated on a system that required an enormous amount of energy to maintain, previously 23 million megawatt-hours per year, which would produce 11 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. That sucks, and the people who oversee the system recognized that and rolled out a fix that would fundamentally change the way the system operated to require drastically less energy. The electricity use will drop 99.988 percent following The Merge, and the system will require 2,600 megawatt-hours a year. Carbon impact will also crash 99.992 percent, with the system now emitting 870 tons of carbon, or approximately 100 American homes’ worth, annually.
Weak Equivalence Principle
All objects regardless of mass should fall the same way in the absence of air pressure, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. A French satellite called MICROSCOPE wanted to test that using test masses made out of platinum and titanium alloys, and they found that the acceleration in the pairs of objects differed by at most 1 part in 10^15. That would be 0.000000000000001, which means that yeah listen, Einstein had a lot of really good points that really sure seem to be bearing out. The experiment itself was carried out in 2017, but it’s been in data analysis ever since.
Totoaba is a fish that can be found in the Gulf of California, and their bladders are worth a bunch of money because in China and other Asian countries they are said to have medicinal properties. A kilogram of the bladders can go for up to $100,000, meaning that the fish — which can weigh up to 300 pounds and grow to six feet long — are now being poached toward extinction for pretty much one organ. In February, the U.S. government filed the first formal environmental complaint under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, alleging that Mexico has not protected the totoaba and vaquita. Researchers are trying to introduce captive totoaba to the wild to bolster the population, but it’s not clear if it’s working.
India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asked Indian citizens to take a photo of the flag waving at their home as part of this year’s Independence Day celebrations and then upload that photo to a website. By the date itself, 60 million citizens had uploaded the photo of the flag, and wouldn’t you know it, 50 million had geotagged the location of the photo of their house, and also they gave a phone number to register for it, and all of a sudden this is looking like a massive data dragnet that is weirdly not actually hosted on an official server but rather an AWS server with unclear credentials.
We’ve had two excellent Sunday editions lately. This week I spoke to Mandy Zou, who wrote The Big [CENSORED] Theory for The Pudding. It is such a cool story, it involved a ton of assiduous legwork, and as a result we’re able to get a one-of-a-kind look into what’s actually on the minds of censors. It’s a super innovative story and it’s really visually striking as well. You can follow her on Twitter.
Last week I talked to Ashley Carman, who covers the audio industry at Bloomberg and who just launched a new newsletter called Soundbite. We spoke about the massive behind-the-scene shifts going on in the podcasting business, why this is such a unique time for podcasts, and why all these large technology companies are trying to do in audio what Google did on the web. Carman can be found at Bloomberg, where she writes the newsletter Soundbite.
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