Numlock News: January 14, 2021 • Dire Wolves, Fighter Jets, Hydrogen

By Walt Hickey

F-35

The Pentagon’s testing office reports that the F-35 fighter jet currently has 871 software and hardware deficiencies, which is down from the 873 flaws inventoried last year. Granted, it’s down a bunch from the 941 flaws observed at the end of its development and demonstration phase in April 2018, and only 10 of the unresolved problems are considered critical to the point that they could put pilots or aircraft in danger, but that’s a lot of problems. That said, even though it’s able to continue functioning despite an enormous number of problems under the hood — including some pretty significant ones, and with barely any improvement on the overwhelming majority of the outstanding issues over the past year — I personally refuse to accept that a fighter jet can be “relatable.”

Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg

Hydrogen

Siemens Gamesa and Siemens Energy announced a massive investment in technology that would directly tie the offshore wind turbines produced by Gamesa to hydrogen production. The goal is to directly integrate an electrolyser — which turns water into usable hydrogen — into an offshore turbine to produce green energy with the objective to create a whole lot of hydrogen fuel for industrial purposes to combat the climate crisis. The pair of companies will invest €120 million in the project, with the goal of having a full-scale offshore demo in place by 2025 or 2026.

Molly Burgess, H2 View

Dire

Researchers who sequenced five genomes from dire wolf fossils between 50,000 and 13,000 years old found that the giant extinct wolves were not actually wolves, and are related to living canines through a more distant ancestor than suspected. The genetic analysis suggests that they’re the last of a lineage of dogs that evolved in North America, and they lack a recent genetic relationship with the gray wolves of Eurasia. The most recent common ancestor, per the research, was 5.7 million years ago. Anyway, I am so sorry, but this really does mean that George R.R. Martin will have to scrap all the Game of Thrones books and start over. If Stark dire wolves aren’t actually wolves the whole thing falls apart, so even though The Winds of Winter may very well be on the way, he’s got to scrap the whole thing and start over — I don’t make the rules here.

Riley Black, Scientific American

Period

Flo Health, which developed a period and fertility-tracking app used by over 100 million consumers, has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission following allegations from the agency that they shared the incredibly personal health information they collected with data brokers and third party ad companies. Per the government, that list included “Facebook’s analytics division, Google’s analytics division, Google’s Fabric service, AppsFlyer, and Flurry,” with no limits on how third party services could use the data. Flo didn’t admit any wrongdoing, but after the settlement, Flo had to notify affected users, tell third parties to destroy the data, and roll out a suite of user data protections.

Juliana Gruenwald Henderson, FTC

Decline

The American population hasn’t grown slower in over a hundred years, and the people who are here are moving around less than anytime on record. According to an analysis of new census data, last year 9.3 percent of Americans changed residence, down from the 11 to 12 percent range seen after the Great Recession, itself down from the 15 to 16 percent who moved annually in the ‘90s and less than half of the fifth of Americans who moved annually in the ‘60s. From 2019 to 2020, U.S. population growth was a mere 0.35 percent, the lowest annual growth rate since at least 1900.

William H. Frey, Brookings

Anywhere

A Gallup survey taken in December found that 31 percent of Americans said they would prefer to reside in a rural area, which is up several points from the 27 percent who said as much when the same survey was taken in 2018. Over the same period, the percentage who said they would prefer to live in a town rose from 12 percent to 17 percent. Rising interest in town and country may be one of the mysterious symptoms of the coronavirus. Being cooped up in city apartments with none of the social perks of a city has many people weighing the relative merits of just moving to the woods and never having to live above a smoker ever again. The preference to get out of town tends to rise and fall following significant events, and a similar effect was registered following the September 11 attacks.

Andrea Noble, Route Fifty

Batteries

Batteries account for 30 percent to 40 percent of the cost of an electric vehicle, and cobalt — which is used in the cathode of the lithium-ion batteries — is one of the most expensive parts of the battery. Therefore, if you can find a way to cut down on the amount of cobalt in a battery, you can really make a dent in the cost of a car. Panasonic is one of the biggest suppliers of batteries for electric vehicles, making them for Tesla since 2014, and they’ve got the cobalt content of a cathode down from “all of it” to 5 percent. Panasonic announced Wednesday at CES that they’re trying to make a cobalt-free battery with a target of two to three years.

Mitsuru Obe, Nikkei Asia

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