Numlock News: July 27, 2021 • Lemonade, Weather Control, Gamma Ray Burst

By Walt Hickey

Bonus

When an American athlete wins a medal at the Olympics, they also get a tax-free bonus from Team USA provided they’re not already pulling in millions, thanks to an act passed in 2016. Gold medals come with a $37,500 bump, silver’s worth $22,500 and a bronze is worth $15,000. The bill making that bonus tax-free passed nearly unanimously with all but one vote, and provided their overall adjusted gross income is below $1 million they’re free and clear, at least federally. So the NBA players, a couple of the more famous swimmers and gymnasts, and presumably all of the sailors and equestrians will probably have to pay up. You can rest easy knowing some weekend warrior discus dude isn’t about to get wrecked by the IRS for a solid showing.

Michael McCann and Robert Raiola, Sportico

Lemonade

Two weeks ago the governor of Illinois signed a law that will allow children to operate lemonade stands without risking a visit from the health department. This was deemed necessary after a 2017 incident in which a 9 year old had her 50-cents-a-cup roadside operation shut down by the city. According to the new law, health departments can’t regulate the sale of lemonade or nonalcoholic drinks by a person under the age of 16 in the state of Illinois. Similar legislation is awaiting the signature of the governor of New Hampshire.

Ella Lubell, Reason

Weather

In January, China first tested a weather modification drone, the Ganlin-1, which used decades-old cloud-seeding chemicals in conjunction with unmanned drones to some success. Though controversial, weather modification is on the rise worldwide, with over 50 countries working on such tech as of 2017 according to the World Meteorological Organization. Thailand has upped its weather modification budget 30 percent in the past 5 years, and wants to eliminate water shortages in 98 percent of drought-affected areas by 2037. China aims to cover 5.5 million square kilometers, or 60 percent of the country, with an artificial precipitation program by 2025.

Marimi Kishimoto and Jun Suzuki, Nikkei Asia

Ransoms

According to data published by Coveware, a ransomware response company, the average payment sent to a ransomware hacker by a company fell 38 percent in the second quarter of this year, down to $136,576 compared to the first quarter levels of $220,298. While hackers aren’t going anywhere, that decline would swing things back towards normal. The first quarter of 2021 saw a 43 percent increase in the value of a ransomware payments compared to the last quarter of 2020. The most popular ransomware of the quarter — Sodinokibi, created by REvil — held a 16.5 percent marketshare, but REvil went offline on July 13 without explanation.

Tonya Riley, CyberScoop

Gamma Ray Burst

On August 26, 2020 the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope noticed a pulse of radiation eventually named GRB 200826A. GRB’s, or gamma ray bursts, are among the most powerful events in the universe. According to two papers published in Astronomy, the burst emitted 14 million times the energy released by the entire Milky Way galaxy over the 0.65 seconds it was observed. Other gamma ray bursts can last for minutes on end, thought to be caused by the creation of black holes. Short gamma ray bursts like this one are interesting, because they’re thought to be caused by colliding neutron stars or other similar compact objects. The papers also target an origin of this gamma ray burst, which took 6.6 billion years — about half the 13.8 billion years of the age of the universe — to make it to Earth. It occurs to me that between the weather controlling, the gamma ray bursting, and the hackers ransom stuff this is a very “90s Action Disaster Movie” edition of the newsletter. Roland Emmerich if you wanna talk options you know how to reach me, man.

Francis Reddy, NASA’s Goddard Space Center

Hydrogen

Japan is working to launch their largest hydrogen plant powered by offshore wind energy on the coast of Hokkaido in March of 2024. Every year after it’s projected to produce about 550 tons of hydrogen per year, which would be enough to fuel about 10,000 hydrogen vehicles annually. Another plant poised to go online in Ishikari is expected to increase the production of hydrogen to 2,500 tons annually. Japan’s strategy to get to net zero emissions is significantly reliant on a successful hydrogen rollout, targeting 3 million tons of production to be introduced by 2030, and 20 million by 2050. To do that, they’ve got to get the price of renewably-produced hydrogen down from the $6 to $9 per kilogram today towards the $2 to $4 in the U.S. and $3 to $6 in Germany.

Ryo Mukano, Nikkei Asia

The Whales

Researchers who left remote recording devices in the vicinity of Elephant Island between Chile and Antarctica have found a remarkable groups of fin whales. After the invention of the steam ship about 95 percent of the global fin whale population was wiped out, with an estimated 750,000 killed over the period. The population has recovered, and now stands at an estimated 100,000. Whales around Elephant Island sing at around 80 to 90 hertz, different from the 100 hertz songs of the Antarctic fin whales or the 130 hertz of the Northern Hemisphere fin whales. This would imply that these are subpopulations, which is important information, as it means they need to be conserved individually.

Connor Lynch, Hakai Magazine

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