Numlock News: April 1, 2021 • Ghost Cattle, Among Us, Mayor

By Walt Hickey

Public service announcement: because of the date, the internet might be extremely stupid today, so do exercise some extra caution. All of these have been vetted for credibility, but be careful out there!

Grid

South Korea is planning a $42.8 billion wind farm off the southwest coast of the country designed to provide 8.2 gigawatts of power. The country is a prime candidate for a transition to greener energy sources: renewables provided just 6.5 percent of South Korea’s generation in 2019, and fossil fuels specifically were responsible for two-thirds of its electricity consumption. This is a pinch point for Korea because it’s not exactly lousy with fossil fuels: almost all are imported, to the tune of $73 billion per year. With a climate and topography that make solar and onshore wind less than appealing, offshore is the place to go, and the government is looking to get 12 GW of offshore wind by 2030, up from 0.2 GW today.

Heesu Lee and Will Mathis, Bloomberg

Boo Moo

A Washington man has pleaded guilty to bilking $244 million out of Tyson Foods and another company over a herd of cattle that does not actually exist. Easterday Ranches agreed to purchase and feed cattle on behalf of the two food producers, but submitted fraudulent invoices to them, saying they were raising hundreds of thousands of cattle they had not actually purchased and, as a matter of course, were entirely fictional in nature. This also prompted fraudulent paperwork sent to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to back up the ghost cattle fraud. Easterday pleaded guilty to a count of wire fraud and has agreed to pay $244,031,132 in restitution.

U.S. Department of Justice

Otters

Sea otters are making a comeback on the Pacific Coast, but that’s led to fretting among the workers who harvest Dungeness crabs, with the fear that the recovery of the species will very literally eat into their production. A new study out of the Monterey Bay Aquarium allays these fears; while sea otters eat 25 to 30 percent of their body weight each day, an observation of 117 otters over the course of 57,186 feeding dives found that a Dungeness crab was on the menu just 1.6 percent of the time. Furthermore, another study goes so far as to suggest that otters are actually good for Dungeness crabs, becoming predators for the wildlife that eats juveniles.

Nick Rahaim, Hakai Magazine

Suss

Yesterday saw a free update roll out to the smash hit game Among Us, one of the massive gaming hits of 2020. Monthly active users were 198.1 million in January, a new high but definitely levelling off compared to the explosive user growth the social game logged between August and November. The update — which adds in a new map, includes customization clothing options, and lays the technical groundwork for improved moderation — is in part motivated by a slip in monthly downloads, which amounted to 29 million in January, down from 85.7 million at its peak in October. One goal is to get the game hot on the streaming service Twitch again: in March 2021, just 13.8 million hours of Among Us were watched on the platform, which was down from 31.2 million in January, 77 million in November and 147 million in September.

Kaare Eriksen, Variety

Pulp

In 2020, U.S. producers of cardboard boxes produced 407 billion square feet of corrugated cardboard, up 3.4 percent year-over-year, and adding the equivalent of 477 square miles of cardboard to the supply chain. In the initial months of the year demand absolutely collapsed for cardboard, but in June it came back like never before, bolstered by large e-commerce spending after the delivery of a stimulus check. Demand is also pushing companies that make paper to transition idled paper plants to cardboard production facilities. Packaging Corp of America will spend $440 million to convert a paper machine at a mill in Alabama to make the outer layer of corrugated cardboard, Cascades Inc is converting an idled Virginia newsprint mill to make cardboard, and Domtar Corp will make its paper mill in Tennessee into the second-largest containerboard plant, a move that caused its shares to pop 27 percent the day it was announced.

Ryan Dezember, The Wall Street Journal

Hizzonner

Across the country, municipalities have countered death during a respiratory pandemic by cutting loose on restrictions when it comes to outdoor dining and recreation, taking parking spaces and streets intended for vehicular use and giving them over to restaurants and repurposing them as areas to walk through programs designed to open up spaces for city dwellers. While many of these initial attempts were designed to be temporary, many have high approval and will likely stick around. A survey of 130 mayors of cities found that 92 percent had created new spaces for outdoor dining over the course of the pandemic, and 34 percent planned to make these changes permanent. About 40 percent of mayors said they pursued widening sidewalks and adding new bike lanes. Further, 76 percent said they think residents will visit parks and green spaces more frequently than they did before the pandemic, with 70 percent expecting residents to walk more than before and 62 percent to bike more.

Katharine Lusk, The Conversation

Landmines

There are an estimated 80,000 landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina and another 30,000 in Croatia, and clearing them is an exhausting, long-term effort that will take decades. In the past, researchers have been able to train bees to detect landmines, accomplishing this by getting the bees to associate the smell of TNT with sugary food. The bees are trained to cluster near places where mines are buried, and the efforts have been active for years. A new process brings drones and video equipment into the mix, allowing computer analysis of digital test footage to track the locations of bees with something like 80 percent accuracy, according to a recently published paper describing the algorithm.

Chris Baraniuk, BBC News


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