Numlock News: February 18, 2021 • Daytona, Dogecoin, Mysterious Holes

By Walt Hickey

Dogecoin Kingpin

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that have become highly speculative and often volatile markets. One of these cryptocurrencies — dogecoin — started in 2013 as a joke about cryptocurrencies, anchoring a digital currency to a viral image of a Shiba Inu breed doggie. At the beginning of the year, one dogecoin was worth around half a cent, but because the economy has been turned into a freemium mobile game by bored people, as of February 8 one dogecoin was worth around 8 cents, and today stands at 5 cents. This is good news for one person in particular, namely, the individual who owns 28 percent of all the dogecoins, which for now is a stake worth roughly $2.1 billion. The address in question has held approximately 36.8 billion dogecoins since February 2019, and is a financial testament to the idea that on rare occasions it is genuinely impossible to take a prank too far.

Caitlin Ostroff, The Wall Street Journal

Hackers

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against three alleged North Korean hackers who conspired to steal $1.3 billion from banks and businesses in “Vietnam, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, Malta, and Africa” from 2015 to 2019. One of the hackers made a previous appearance in a set of 2018 charges that related to the 2014 Sony hack. The ransomware virus WannaCry 2.0 that swept the world from 2017 to 2020 was also allegedly developed by them in May 2017. The $1.3 billion hauled in through hacking would be about half of North Korea’s overall civilian merchandise imports, so a pretty critical industry for the rogue state’s economy.

Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, Department of Justice

Rare Earths

It takes 417 kilograms of rare earth minerals — more difficult-to-obtain bits of the periodic table that have uses in elaborate semiconductors and instrumentation — to build one F-35 fighter jet, a critical set of components that are about to be much harder to find. China is considering an export ban on rare earth minerals, and given that they control about 80 percent of the global supply that would put Lockheed Martin, which makes the aircraft, in a bit of a pinch. As it stands now, even ore mined in the United States has to be sent to China for refining, as the U.S. has no refining capacity as it stands.

Sun Yu and Dimitri Sevastopulo, Financial Times

Sinkholes

Colossal 10-story deep craters have been randomly appearing across Siberia — at least 17 such holes on the Yamal and Gyda peninsulas as of last year — and finally we have a strong theory on what’s causing them. When a new one was spotted in mid-July of last year, researchers from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology flew a drone deep into it, somewhere 10 meters to 15 meters below ground, and took 80 images, enabling the researchers to make a 3D model of the 30-meter-deep hole. The observations confirmed the prevailing theory, that methane gas building up in cavities in the ice cause a mound to appear. Eventually the mound explodes due to the buildup, and what’s left is these weird cursed holes. The analyzed crater is believed to have exploded between May and June of last year when there was a lot of snow melt and ground heating.

Katie Hunt, CNN

Daytona 500

This year’s Daytona 500 came in to record-low ratings on Sunday, averaging 4.83 million viewers, down 35 percent from last year which itself was a record low. The race was a bit of a fiasco, entailing a 16-car pile up 14 laps in and a mid-race hailstorm that delayed the completion of the race until after midnight East Coast time. The first 45 minutes of the race did alright, with an average of 8.48 million viewers, below the 2019 level but ahead of the 2020 numbers. NASCAR viewership hit a peak in the 2000s, with the 2005 Daytona 500 on average beating out the same year’s World Series.

Anthony Crupi, Sportico

Wine

The Australian wine business has taken a shellacking with the onset of tariffs on Australian wine from China in November amid escalating diplomatic difficulties between the countries. Australian wine exports to China hit nearly zero in December and after a booming year in which, until that point, Australia exported $1 billion Australian dollars ($790 million USD) worth of wine to China alone. As a result of the flow of wine being cut off, the total value of Australian wine exported to China in 2020 ended up down 14 percent based pretty much on that year end tariff alone. China’s the largest export market by far: in 2019, more than a third of the wine Australia exported went to China, the result of decades of growth and market development that saw exports rise from $73 million (AUS) in 2008 to $1.2 billion (AUS) in 2019.

Ben Wescott, CNN Business

Ride The Waves

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave the green light to a project that will build a large wave energy testing facility 7 miles off the coast of Oregon. The $80 million project will be the first wave energy grid-connected test site in the country. Wave energy is pretty basic: waves are very powerful and unrelenting until someone gets around to blowing up the moon, so it should be possible to harness that by converting the waves, tides and currents into electricity. The marine energy market is projected to reach $700 billion by 2050, and the 1,696 acre test site will contain four berths that can hold up to 20 wave energy converter devices generating up to 20 megawatts. The facility is poised to come online by 2023.

Offshore Engineer, Michelle Klampe, Oregon State University

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