Turns Out, The US Uses A Lot Of Petroleum
Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US releases their analysis of energy flow in the US - not just electricity, but all energy sources and destinations, including petroleum and biomass.
The result is this rather beautiful flow chart, which shows very directly the US' rather lacklustre use of renewable energy sources - and some very interesting statistics, like the fact that biomass transportation has a significantly larger share than electric transportation.
Where Are You? Wait, Not There!
Alternative addressing systems that depend on coordinates rather than road or area names are nothing new - but What Three Words has been having a particularly bad time recently, as while it gives every small area on Earth a supposedly distinct triple of words, they appear not to have considered several things - like the fact that some words sound alike, or that not everyone can spell perfectly.
As a result, their push for emergency services (especially search and rescue) in the UK to use them has run into rather a bit of trouble as people keep giving slightly wrong word triples to rescuers - and even worse, there are many cases where the mis-pronounced or mis-spelled coordinate is close enough that it's a believable alternate location.
Personally, I'm not quite sure what the point of What Three Words is in emergency situations, given that we already have auto-geolocating web links and GPS coordinates. I'd also say that Plus Codes are probably superior for actual addressing, being designed more hierarchically, but W3W seem determined to push their solution - to the unfortunate point of threatening several people who have been trying to dig into these problems.
Excuse Me, Noah? Is This Yours?
In a rather stupid state of affairs, there has been a very large replica Noah's Ark stuck in Ipswich's harbour for the last year or so, since it turns out the creators may have skipped a few key safety features - including working out the craft's tonnage, load lines, and expired life rafts and life vests.
The owners of the vessel are adamant it is a "non-certified floating object" - whatever that means - while the UK coastguard have taken one look at it and applied the "looks like a duck, quacks like a duck" rule and determined that, indeed, the giant replica of a ship is in fact a ship.
Still, it seems like the Dutch authorities - who certified the thing originally - are talking to the UK ones to try and work out how to legally get the very-ship-like-floating-object back across the Channel to the Netherlands. Hopefully without a load of animals onboard.
We're Now A Partially Floating Restaurant
A "floating restaurant" - the Allen Gardiner - got stuck on a mud bank this week after someone nabbed quite a lot of diesel out of the fuel tanks - meaning the ship started drifting and then immediately got blown off course.
Fortunately, everyone was fine, and coastguard and fire department turned up with some fun floating walkways to get everyone off the vessel. The ship owners now get to work out who exactly made off with hundreds of litres of diesel, while the diners seem content that they got a good story out of the whole thing.
A Bit Too Hot To Handle
Relatively cheap drones have driven a fantastic resurgence of aerial photography, and let us capture a whole load of scenarios where it just wasn't sensible to send a helicopter with a camera operator - you can thank them for a lot of the sweeping vistas in many TV shows and small productions, as well as some incredible video of a bowling alley.
Fortunately, this includes sending them into places that are incredibly dangerous - as various people have been doing with Icelandic volcanoes. There have been some incredible shots retrieved from drones that weathered the intense environment around the volcano, but this drone... well, let's just say it was a one-way trip. But what a trip.
Snakes Under A Plane
Aircraft are designed to keep flying - leaving them parked for a long time leads to a lot of problems with oils settling, wheels denting, insects nesting inside various tubes, and a whole bunch of other things that aviation maintenance techs really, really aren't a fan of.
Nothing is quite as bad, though, as rolling up to the plane to do some of its routine storage maintenance and having a rattlesnake jump out from the wheels and bite you. As a result, Qantas maintenance techs looking after their A380s while they ride out the pandemic in the Mojave desert have found a highly technical solution - a broom handle to hit the wheels with.
I'm sure this is a minor part of what they do to keep these planes from degrading, but it's funny nonetheless. Air travel is starting to pick back up, but it's likely going to be a while until the A380s get brought out of storage, especially the Qantas ones - Australia does not seem to be on a great track to re-open its borders this year.
Cyber Meat Is Not Quite As Fun As It Sounds
Add another victim to the spate of ransomware attacks - this time, JBS, one of the largest meat suppliers in the world. All of their facilities seem to be impacted, and they don't seem to be coming back up super quickly.
While we could all certainly do with eating less meat, I don't think that was the point of this attack, and it's just about money again. I will once again say, though, that cryptocurrency bears some of the blame for making this kind of ransom way more feasible.
What is interesting, however, is that some of these groups have admitted to only going after companies with ransomware insurance - as apparently, they always pay up - going so far as to hack the insurance companies first to get their customer list.
I don't know how long all this can go on for before "cyber insurance" stops being offered so easily and instead comes with actual insurance requirements for good security practices, but something has to break eventually. In the meantime, the FBI are apparently going to start taking it all a lot more seriously, so good luck to them - it's not exactly a small problem to tackle.
Long Live The Monarch
Insects are dying off at an alarming rate across the globe, and while some people may superficially be happy to see them go, it's not a good sign - but in this case, the Western Monarch butterfly is also pretty as well as being endangered, and so California is undertaking a drastic planting and protection program to try and stop it going extinct. The butterflies are very picky, and will only eat a single kind of plant (Milkweed), which is getting rarer and rarer.
The Western Monarch is maybe the iconic butterfly of California, but their population decline is so severe that the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary didn't see a single one this year. Hopefully they can get them to come back from the brink, before we focus on insect death in general - there's been rather a lot in the last decade, and they're the bottom of some very important food chains.
The Flu Is Really Not Feeling It
In one of the good pieces of news to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the preventative measures put in place to help slow COVID look like they've also weakened another set of viruses - the flu.
What we call "the flu" is actually made up of a set of many different influenza viruses, falling into four main families - called A, B, C and D. Flu C and D rarely cause symptoms , but flu A and B are the nasty ones, and both have a whole lot of subtypes and variants. Vaccine creators have to try and guess what variants will feature in that year's flu season and hope their vaccines get that year's popular ones.
Thankfully, it seems their job may have gotten lot easier - nobody's seen three of the variants in over a year, and it's quite possible they've gone extinct, since they're much less transmissible than COVID and took a huge dent from all the prevention measures. If true, it means the flu vaccines get simpler to make (less options to guess between), and is honestly good news for everyone.
Ah Yes, The Eisenplower Interstate Highway System
Following in the footsteps of Scotland's absolutely incredible snow plough names - along with a few other places that have taken up the mantle - the state of Colorado has also decided that their vast snow plow fleet would be far better if they had fun names, and so threw open a naming competition for their 20 new plows to schoolchildren around the state.
There are some good entries that got chosen - including Plowzilla and my personal favourite, Eisenplower - but they sadly passed on some other good ones, including The Fast and the Flurriest and, of course, Plowy McPlowface. I think the kid who submitted Abolish ICE, though, was especially inspired.