Numlock News: September 21, 2021 • Fake Trees, Poison Ivy, New Fish

By Walt Hickey


The Justice Department charged 14 people with operating a scam that created fake rideshare driver accounts for unqualified drivers using a complicated scheme involving GPS spoofing, bots, and stolen driver’s license data. The goal was to reap a harvest of referral bonuses, which can reach up to $1,000 apiece. According to one message, a delivery company paid out $194,800 for 487 of the fake accounts.

Adi Robertson, The Verge


History was made at Sunday’s Emmy Awards when The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu did not win any of its 21 nominations, which beat the record for most losses in a single year previously set by Mad Men with 17 nominations in 2012. The show won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2017, which made Hulu the first streaming service to haul in a top Emmy, and this year only three shows — The Crown, The Mandalorian and WandaVision — had more nominations. If it’s any consolation I have also lost every single one of the Emmys I was ever up for.

Clayton Davis, Variety

New Species

Fish markets are actually a promising place for researchers to find new species and obtain new samples of fish. The most iconic story in the genre is the rediscovery of the coelacanth at a fish market in 1938, but it still happens, such as when a second species of coelacanth was spotted in 1997 at an Indonesian fish market, or the 2018 discovery of a new deep-sea shark at a market in India. It’s also useful for parasitologists trying to up a sample size, where it takes something like 35 fish to detect all the parasites that might affect a species and conveniently fish markets tend to be able to provide.

Riley Black, Hakai Magazine


Sunday’s Emmy Awards scored a viewership of 7.4 million, up 16 percent from the 6.37 million viewers logged in 2020. Across both digital and linear platforms, all told people watched 1.4 billion minutes of the Emmy Awards, which is really good news for awards show fans accustomed to bad news. The last time this many people watched the Emmys was in 2018, when 10.2 million tuned in and the penultimate season of Game of Thrones was dominating the television conversation and there was still, you know, hope.

Mónica Marie Zorrilla, Variety

Ho Ho Ho

The artificial Christmas tree industry is in a dire position due to supply chain disruptions, and the prices for a fake tree this year are poised to rise 20 percent to 25 percent at some retailers. Inbound shipping costs for Balsam Hill, a company specializing in importing medium- to high-end fake trees, will see its shipping costs quadruple compared to 2020, with costs expected to land somewhere between $45 million and $50 million. All told, the artificial Christmas tree market is a $1 billion to $2 billion industry annually, and business is good: in 2020 85 percent of American homes had a fake tree, up from 46 percent in 1992.

Paul Berger, The Wall Street Journal


Every year, 10 million to 50 million Americans get a rash from poison ivy and its cousins, plants that cause about 10 percent of all lost-time injuries among the U.S. Forest Service. Climate change is both expanding the range of poison ivy and also making it more toxic. It’s something of an underappreciated affliction, but hope is on the horizon: there’s a vaccine in development that would prevent or mitigate the reaction to urushiol, the active agitator in ivy. This would be a huge advance over the current preferred solution to Poison Ivy, which historically entails calling Batman.

Claudia Wells, Scientific American


From 2000 to 2016, the number of children around the world who have to work on farms, factories and mines fell by 94 million, down to 152 million. Over the past four years, those numbers are back on the rise again, with an additional 8 million children having to work. UNICEF warns that the pandemic forced more children back into the global labor force. A review by the World Bank has found evidence that paying parents to keep kids in school can have a significant positive effect on reducing child labor, and existing evidence from Brazil’s poverty program Bolsa Família found it can be done comparatively inexpensively.

The Economist

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