Numlock News: May 17, 2021 • Feral Hogs, AI Attacks, My Hero Academia

By Walt Hickey

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Horror

Spiral, an attempted spinoff of the Saw franchise starring Chris Rock, made $8.7 million at 2,811 venues domestically, a decent start for a film that cost $20 million to make but enough to put it at number one for the weekend, beating out Angelina Jolie’s Those Who Wish Me Dead, which made just $2.8 million across 3,188 cinemas. Spiral tells the story of a copycat killer imitating Jigsaw, the primary antagonist of the Saw franchise, and the efforts of the police to stop him, and given the entire appeal of the Saw franchise is slash-em-up psychological deathtraps that maim or kill lots of people, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess they do a really bad job of stopping him for a considerable portion of the film.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Juggernaut

AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, is in talks with Discovery to merge their media businesses under a new company. The combined company would have all of AT&T’s media properties — HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, TNT, TBS — and all of Discovery’s — HGTV, The Food Network, Animal Planet and OWN — under one shingle. The hypothetical company would be larger than Netflix or NBC Universal, as Discovery and WarnerMedia together had $41 billion in sales last year and profits north of $10 billion. It would be a bit of a retreat for AT&T, which had tried to scoop up the things flowing along its wires in addition to owning the wires, and would probably call down anti-trust lawyers from the Department of Justice like Valkyries descending from above.

Edmund Lee and John Koblin, The New York Times

Sharing

In the criminal justice system, password sharing offenses are considered especially heinous. In Oregon, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the U.S. Attorney’s office. This is their story: authorities say an Oregon man and an Australian man stole 217,000 customer account credentials to Netflix, HBO Max and Spotify as part of AccountBot, an online service that charged anywhere from $1.79 to $24.99 as a subscription fee to get other people’s credentials. As of March 2019, they had 52,000 customers, so it kind of sounds to me that they were like one seed funding round and a couple of lawyers away from just being an above-board startup?

Kim Lyons, The Verge

Feral Hogs

Feral hogs are a scourge, and given that they voraciously consume pretty much anything, it should at least theoretically be pretty easy to poison them. There are as many as 6 million feral hogs in the United States alone, they cause at least $1.5 billion in damage and control costs annually, and there are no poisons that can legally be used to kill them, mainly because we don’t want to poison everything else. Sodium fluoroacetate kills scavengers too and has been banned in the U.S. since 1972, yellow phosphorous could work in theory, but realistically the amounts needed are considered “untenable,” and cyanide bombs were briefly considered in 2019 but were met with 20,000 comments opposed, and understandably so. The two poisons being studied by USDA are warfarin, a blood thinner and popular rodenticide, and sodium nitrate, which was used in a Texas trial. Opposing both is the Wild Boar Meat Company, which pays hunters for every feral hog carcass — 800,000 since they opened their doors — for use in pet food.

Stephen Ornes, Undark Magazine

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Man vs. Wild

A new survey has identified the delusional hubris besieging mankind in relation to our place in the natural world, with YouGov asking respondents which animal from a list of choices they believe they could defeat in one-on-one unarmed combat. For instance, just 6 percent said they believed they could take on a grizzly bear, but as an abiding fan of the work of Werner Herzog, 6 percent of people are actively delusional. Grizzlies were one of the least common, with 17 percent believing they had the stuff to go toe-to-toe with a chimpanzee, 12 percent with a wolf, 30 percent with an eagle and 61 percent with the primary heir to the therapod, a goose. This is madness and belies a fundamental disconnection with the natural world and bravado of the highest order; men rated their chances against a chimp 10 percentage points higher than women surveyed did, 20 percentage points with the goose.

Matthew Smith, YouGov

Manga

Manga sales exploded in 2020, with the category seeing sales rise 43 percent in 2020. In early April, My Hero Academia Vol. 27 was the sixth best-selling book in the country, totaling 70,985 copies moved over the course of five weeks. Especially for series with anime tie-ins, paperback mangas were all the rage in a year in which people had the time to follow long-running serialized stories, and turned many on to the format.

Ana Diaz, Polygon

AI DDoS

A new type of attack against AI systems targets their power consumption needs the same way a DDoS attack can clog up a network. Researchers from the Maryland Cybersecurity Center have described in a new paper a way to add small amounts of noise to the input data of a neural network, which make the software perceive them to be more difficult computationally and provoke a commensurate increase in power consumption. They were able to slow down the processing and increase energy usage 20 to 80 percent. The architecture it exploits isn’t yet common in real-world applications, so it’s a theoretical attack, but it does bring attention to the idea that these kinds of attacks against AI neural networks are definitely possible.

Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review

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