Numlock News: April 9, 2021 • Poison, Rivers, Anime

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend!


Last month, 8.2 terabytes of data from 100 million people using Indian mobile payments app MobiKwik hit the dark web, a collection of phone numbers, partial card numbers, transactions and signatures. The asking price for the data was 1.5 bitcoin ($88,000) in what was likely the largest data breach in India yet. It’s the latest in a string of leaks, with the country’s Computer Emergency and Response Team estimating 1.45 million breaches and hacks in India from 2015 to 2020, with the first eight months of 2020 seeing 696,938 reported incidents. Since the demonetization in India in 2016 — when the government made Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes invalid — the surge in digital payments has also opened up a world of incentives for hackers to strike at the apps powering the digital economy.

Payal Dhar, Rest of World


A recently published study analyzed 234,727 satellite images of 67,000 miles of rivers in the United States over the course of 35 years to determine how the color of the rivers has evolved over time. About 56 percent of the rivers were yellow, full of sediment, and 38 percent were an algae green. Rivers in the western U.S. gradually became more and more blue over time, an indication they had less sand and silt, while rivers in the east were appearing more yellow, indicating lower water levels or sediment. Rivers change color season to season — the Colorado gets redder in the summer and fall as thirsty states draw on its waters, for instance — but also change over time due to human impacts, just as researchers described in the documentary Spirited Away.

Nikk Ogasa, Scientific American


Currently, the fleetwide average miles per gallon limit as set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 40.4 miles per gallon by 2026, considerably less than the Obama-era target of 54.5 miles per gallon. These are regulatory limits, meaning that automakers who exceed them can buy credits from companies well below the limit, specifically places like Tesla that make an enormous amount of their revenue trading the credits. The EPA will soon be issuing revisions to those fuel economy standards, and the question is how high they’ll go. A gas powered car can hit 40 miles per gallon, while a hybrid caps out at around 60 miles per gallon. Even the least-efficient electric on the market gets the equivalent of 69 miles per gallon.

Tim De Chant, Ars Technica


A study published Wednesday of 303 dead bald and golden eagles collected from 2014 to 2018 found that 82 percent of them had detectable levels of rat poison in their system. While eagle populations have rebounded significantly from their perilous lows, rodenticide is still a big threat to birds of prey like owls, hawks and, according to this new study, eagles. The positive news is that while 82 percent had measurable amounts in their system, it was the determined cause of death for just 4 percent of them. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard — stay at the top of the food chain long enough and all the chemicals coursing through the prey tend to begin to accumulate.

Molly Taft, Earther


A Gallup survey found that just 47 percent of Americans belonged to a house of worship, down from 50 percent when last logged in 2018. When Gallup first measured religiosity in 1937, 73 percent of respondents said they belonged to a church, and the percentage stayed that high for decades, remaining 70 percent in 1999. In 1998, 8 percent of respondents said they did not belong to a religion, a figure that today stands at 21 percent.

Bryan Walsh, Axios


A new study published in Nature found that when subjects were set to the task of trying to fix something, they favored adding stuff rather removing things in order to try to get it to work the right way. When asked to fix a travel itinerary, just 28 percent removed something, when asked to improve an essay word counts shrank in only 17 percent of edits, when asked to make a pattern out of squares just 20 percent removed squares to create a pattern, and when asked how to improve a university just 11 percent wanted to drop something. Anyway, random question, what did y’all think of that four hour Justice League recut?

John Timmer, Ars Technica

My Hero, Academia

The global anime market hit $24 billion in 2019, and 2020 only saw demand rise. Netflix has a voracious appetite for anime and will double its release plan this year to 40 titles, but has run into an issue: anime needs more animators. Domestically, Japan produces 300 titles per year, each requiring about 200 animators, and the number of working animators in Japan is just between 5,000 and 6,000. That’s one reason Netflix is starting a new school operated by the original producers of Attack on Titan, paying for 10 scholarships of 600,000 yen ($5,424) and providing monthly living expenses. Incidentally, “anime school” is most of my friends’ favorite television genre anyway, so they’re on to something here.

Roland Kelts, Nikkei Asia

Last week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Katharine Lusk, who wrote “City Dwellers Gained More Access to Public Spaces During the Pandemic – Can They Keep It?” for The Conversation. The pandemic has transformed cities in really significant ways, and as vaccinations ramp up we’ll soon be at a point where city leaders will need to decide whether some of the decisions implemented on a temporary basis have enough merit to stick around. Lusk’s work at the Menino Survey of Mayors can be found at

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