Numlock News: February 10, 2020 • Voyager, Flash Games, Corp.com

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Corp Dot Com

The owner of the URL “corp.com” is selling the domain for an asking price of $1.7 million, which is pretty reasonable for a domain of that length, but more importantly, “corp.com” is an extremely dangerous domain in the wrong hands. Basically, Microsoft Windows on localized corporate networks sometimes gets confused and spams (often sensitive) data at the domain. It’s a “namespace collision”, an issue when an internal company network and a site on the open internet overlap. A security researcher found 375,000 Windows PCs that tried to send corp.com wayward information accidentally over an eight-month period. The website was once configured to receive email, just to see what went down; over the course of an hour, they received 12 million emails, some of which were sensitive and all of which were destroyed. The owner of the cursed URL hopes Microsoft buys it, so their problem becomes their problem.

Brian Krebs, KrebsOnSecurity

Short

Short sellers of Tesla stock have been bled dry by a superlative run for the automaker’s stock, with those shorting the stock out $8.4 billion since the beginning of the year, $2.4 billion of which happened in the first week of February alone. In the entirety of last year, those short sellers lost $2.9 billion. As of January 31, 18.63 percent of Tesla’s shares were being shorted, which while still remarkably high compared to the rest of the market, constituted the lowest level for Tesla since 2010. The valuation for Tesla is still a teensy tiny bit higher than one might expect, as the $134 billion market value of the niche automaker is somehow higher than the combined value of Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors ($107 billion combined).

Gunjan Banerji and Gregory Zuckerman, The Wall Street Journal

Gone in a Flash

At the end of 2020, Adobe will discontinue support for Flash, which will render decades worth of 1990s and 2000s internet-based games unplayable. These games are a vital part of the internet’s history, and thus the culture as a whole, which is why a dedicated group of archivists and preservationists have been working around the clock since 2017 to save Flash games. So far, the Flashpoint preservation project has saved over 38,000 such Flash games, some 241 gigabytes of internet history. The effects of some of those seminal games are still felt today, such as the similarities Angry Birds shares with Crush the Castle and the flash game antecedents of Bejeweled.

Cecilia D’Anastasio, Wired

Voyaging

Voyager 2 was knocked offline in late January, shutting down 11.8 billion miles away as the spacecraft continued its trajectory out of the solar system. Communicating with the craft is inherently difficult, given that it takes 17 hours for a communication to traverse the distance, hence a 34 hour wait to have a back-and-forth with the craft. Well, NASA engineers have done the incredible, bringing the craft back online and are now working to bring the mission back to normal operations. Power, and the dwindling supply of it, is the main issue with Voyager, as its power budget decreases by about 4 watts per year. One time, my printer got disconnected from my WiFi network, rendering it unusable for six months. I applaud the Voyager 2 team for their impressive feat, because I handled my networking error situation by just waiting until I got a new router.

Claire Cameron, Inverse and Calla Cofield, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Rare Earths

Rare earth metals are elements that appear in smaller quantities throughout Earth but are essential to specialized electronics and military applications. The U.S. is basically 100 percent dependent on imports; 80 percent come from China, 6 percent Estonia, 3 percent Japan and 3 percent Malaysia. With China’s supply chain tenuous, the U.S. is increasingly trying to figure out other reliable suppliers. In 2019, U.S. production of rare earths climbed 44 percent year over year, to 26,000 metric tons, all of which was shipped overseas for processing. At the same time, U.S. consumption rose by 13,000 tons, a 12 percent rise satisfied by imports.

Luzi-Ann Javier and Justina Vasquez, Bloomberg

Babies

A new NBER working paper tried to find out if Alaska’s policy of paying people to live there had a positive effect on fertility, and the answer appears to be yes. The Alaska Permanent Fund has, since 1982, given the proceeds of the state’s oil revenues back to the state’s citizens, a financial dividend worth $1,606 per person, or $6,424 for a family of four. In the years following the 1982 introduction, it certainly looks like it helped make it easier for people to have children, as the researchers estimate the dividend increased fertility by 13 percent. Alaskans were having 11.3 more babies per 1,000 women from 1983 to 1988 than would otherwise be expected.

Dylan Matthews, Vox

Degrees

Argentina’s Esperanza research station on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula found on Thursday that temperatures hit 18.3 degrees Celsius, or roughly 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That hasn’t yet been verified by the World Meteorological Organization, but if it holds (and there’s little reason to believe it won’t) it’s the hottest day on record in Antarctica. The previous record was set in 2015, and the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on earth.

Colin Dwyer, NPR

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