Numlock News: June 25, 2018


There are 330 certified Parmigiano cheese makers in Italy, and they have been the target of a disturbing string of 94 thefts of aging parm in the past six years. In many ways, it's the perfect crime: the 16-inch diameter wheels of cheese can be worth $500 apiece after being aged a year, and there are warehouses full of the cheese quietly aging throughout Italy. What next happens to the looted cheese is hilariously similar to what happens to the proceeds of gem heists, as the wheels are chopped up into smaller untraceable pieces and fenced abroad.
Eric Sylvers, The Wall Street Journal


Twitter, a social networking site for the spiritually broken, has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround of fortune recently. Between the third and fourth quarter of 2015, the cacophonous hellscape saw 2 million people leave the platform to finish at 305 million monthly active users. But thanks to either a rise in emotional masochism or some specific reason to follow breaking news events that currently eludes my memory, the service is the first major social network to lose network but then later rebound, with 336 million monthly active users today. 
Alex Kantrowitz, BuzzFeed

Mercenary Raptors

Hawks are being rented out as talons-for-hire to museums, farms, malls and skyscrapers to humanely eliminate pest birds like pigeons. Rather than murdering the infesting pigeons and seagulls with poison, the locations are contracting out falcons and hawks to fly around for a bit and scare the crap out of the pest birds. Weaponized raptors aren't just a plot point from the worst Jurassic Park movie, they work: Broadway Plaza, a California Mall, was lousy with dozens of pigeons before bringing in Remmy, a professional pigeon scarer who is also a hawk. Remmy now goes to the mall 3 hours a day, 8 days a month, and now the infestation is down from dozens to just a few. 
Linda Childers, The Washington Post


An analysis of the denim available in stores across the Mall of America found that only 13 percent of women's jeans in brick and mortar stores are available for women of average size or larger. The median waist size for an American woman over 20 years old is 37.3 inches, but the median waist size of jeans available at the Mall of America was 30 inches. ​
Amanda Shendruk, Quartz

Boys On The Bus 

Male political reporters almost exclusively reply to men on Twitter, according to a new study of credentialed English-language congressional reporters. Of the 2,292 reporters studied, 57 percent were men. When those men replied to another beltway journalist's tweet, 91.5 percent of the time that reporter was male and only 8.5 percent of the time did male reporters reply to beltway journalist women. 
Laura McGann, Vox

Plastic, Which Is Essentially Immortal By The Way

China is sick of all of your crap, according to a new policy. Since 1992, China has imported 106 million tons of plastic waste worth $57.6 billion. By 2030, per the new policy of "you deal with it we don't want it," a forecasted 111 million metric tons of used plastic will have to be buried or recycled elsewhere, according to a new University of Georgia analysis. As of 2017, Earth's factories had made a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastic. To some notoriety plastic does not biodegrade, and about 80 percent of that plastic was dumped into the environment or landfills. ​
Eric Roston, Bloomberg


Natural gas, when burned for electricity, produces half as much carbon dioxide as coal. This is good! Natural gas, when it leaks into the atmosphere before it's burned, can produce 80 times as much more warming than the same amount of carbon dioxide. That is bad! A new study in Science estimates that, domestically, the rate of methane emissions from oil and gas operations is 2.3 percent of total production. That's lower than the 4 percent threshold where the net impact on climate would be worse than coal, which is good! But that's 13 million metric tons lost, and 60 percent higher than the EPA estimate, which is bad!
Eric Levitz, NY Mag

Military Seed Funding For Artificial Intelligence

For all the talk about artificial intelligence, there's a rising argument that the current trendy way of approaching the topic — deep learning, where computers learn by processing large amounts of data — may not actually be the best way to create an AI. And moreover, having too many people working on deep learning at the expense of other approaches may end up delaying AI. The Pentagon, whose D.A.R.P.A. arm has invested in AI research before and presumably didi not watch "Westworld" last night, proposed a $60 million seed program called Machine Common Sense to probe another way of obtaining an AI. ​
Steve Lohr, The New York Times