Numlock News: July 29, 2019 • Area 51, Exercise, Wine

By Walt Hickey

Area 51

An online joke that is rapidly getting out of hand is leading to legitimate infrastructural and crowd control measures in the area around the Area 51 site. Basically, a genius made a page suggesting that in late September a mass of people should all run across the desert to the clandestine government site, and then a million people indicated they were game, and now the army is involved and it’s a whole…thing. Hotels around the proposed gathering site in rural Nevada have phones ringing off the hook, and we know this because the Las Vegas Sun called most of those hotels since there really aren’t all that many. The entirety of Lincoln County has merely 184 hotel rooms, 5,200 permanent residents and 26 sheriff’s deputies, so they are fairly ill-equipped should even a fraction of the million dinguses who RSVPed show up.

Kelcie Grega, The Las Vegas Sun

Sturgeon

Once a staple of the rivers of Germany, the enormous Baltic sturgeon has basically been wiped out through fishing, habitat destruction and pollution. More to the point, I may not be Charles Darwin, but my hunch is having delicious eggs isn’t exactly winning the natural selection lottery. Regardless, the sturgeon no longer prowl the Rhine, and some scientists are working hard to fix that. The problem: 97 to 99 percent of the 3 million lab-raised sturgeon released into the Elbe and Oder Rivers died. Most of them die basically immediately. It’s not great, and it’s at least partially because hatchery-raised sturgeon don’t know how to hunt. In tests, hatchery raised juveniles took six hours to track down food, which is a poor showing. Thus, a group of researchers trained farmed sturgeon how to hunt, and that reduced their average feeding time to only 58 minutes. The researchers are now worrying about whether the sturgeon also need to be taught to mate.

Ute Eberle, Hakai Magazine

Water into Wine

The average vineyard in California uses 318 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of wine through irrigation. That average depends, in part, on where in California the grapes are grown, with 243 gallons of water per wine gallon in the Delta region to 471 gallons per on the Central Coast. Wine requires a massive agricultural push to make — 700 wine grape growers in Napa County account for 44,000 jobs and have an economic impact of $9.4 billion — though climate change is jeopardizing vintners’ abilities to prepare for the future. While warmer nights help, brutal daytime sun can seriously wound grapes. 85 percent of California wine cased originated in wineries designated as sustainable, but this is California we’re talking about so water’s always going to be an issue.

Marc Heller, E&E News

Just Exercise Please

In 2008, the Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, a statistic subsequently pushed and repeated and nearly begged for by the medical establishment. After decades of campaigning and informing Americans that any physical activity, any at all please, will have solid health effects in the long term, the evidence is conclusive: Nope! Researchers compared the percentage of respondents to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys who exercised 150 minutes per week in 2007 and in 2016, finding that the percentage barely budged from 63 percent to 65 percent. We’re getting more sedentary too: the average number of hours spent sitting rose from 5.7 to 6.4 hours over that time period.

Alice Park, Time

Residents

The U.S. is projected to have a physician shortage by 2032 of somewhere between 46,900 to 121,900 doctors. This is fundamentally a pipeline issue, as from 1997 to 2002 the number of residents in the U.S. increased only 0.1 percent, thanks in part to a 1996 law capping the federal reimbursement for medical school graduates accepted as residents. While this had the desired effect sought by physician lobbying groups of cementing a high salary for the high-demand profession, it’s also basically guaranteed that becoming a doctor means hurling yourself headfirst into a complicated machine that generates medical services by taking smart people and overworking them until they become burned out husks.

Kunal Sindhu, Undark

Fake Text

Researchers developed a tool that uses AI to suss out text written by AI. Automated text generation has positive impacts (now it’s easier to tell a robot to write up box scores of small or obscure sporting events) and a couple of negative impacts (cheating on homework, spam, the inexorable decline in trust resulting from malicious AI generated text on unmoderated social platforms that is undermining our social capacity for empathy and dissolving the tentative bonds we have come to call “society”). Weighing these equally important things is hard, but the new tool can figure out if text looks like it was generated by AI by seeing if the words used are low hanging fruit, so to speak. Harvard students were (distressingly) able to spot fakes about half the time, but when aided by the new bot that jumped to 72 percent.

Will Knight, MIT Technology Review

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Tarantino

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opened to $40 million in its first weekend, the most of any Quentin Tarantino movie and well above the $30 million expected by analysts. His earlier Inglorious Basterds launched to $38 million and wrapped up with $321 million worldwide. The Lion King remake also is trucking along just fine, and with Hobbes and Shaw about to come out next weekend, the ailing box office is mounting a mild recovery: the domestic box office was down 7 percent compared to the same time last year as of last weekend, but now sales are only down 6.5 percent.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety


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