This post has been migrated from our original Medium page and was first published on 08/11/19.
Welcome back to this week’s installment of What Just Happened?!, a semi-comical weekly digest of some of the week’s most important news from the UK, US and the World from Will Marshall, and Alistair Simmonds-Yoo. Look out for us every Friday, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
In a refreshing break from the norm, almost nothing discernible at all has happened in politics this week, largely due to parliament having now been closed for the upcoming election. The Tories and Labour have got off to a strong start by both announcing colossal spending plans they have absolutely no way of affording, whilst think tanks and monetary policy units urged restraint. For the first time in recent years, the Bank of England was split on whether to lower the base interest rate (although voting to stay at 0.75% for now) demonstrating a dangerous wavering in economic stability. The good news is: it’s a fantastic time to be in the fact-checking industry.
Blink and you’ll miss it
After a few painful years of financial difficulty, the British (and piloted) Bloodhound LSR has broken the 500mph milestone. The car is currently ‘only’ using its Typhoon fighter jet engine, while they test whether it can stop effectively, to quote “If the car does not stop it will hit sand dunes — and then Namibia”. Next year, the additional rocket engine will be engaged, taking it past the land speed record of 763mph and hopefully on to its design speed of 1000mph.
Rule Brittania, Brittania rules the (air)waves
National excitement was palpable this week as the heralded ‘BritBox’ streaming service launched to the deafening sound of absolutely nobody giving a flying shit. The project is a joint venture by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, giving you the golden opportunity to watch exclusively British content that is largely available for free on the providers own websites and pay £5.99 a month for the privilege. This is perhaps slightly cynical, as it does apparently have a treasure-trove of great television from the pre-catch-up age, but one has to wonder if this was simply a ploy to profit from the current wave of nationalism-cum-xenophobia-cum-nostalgia sweeping 52% of the nation.
A Big-Old Quantum Exaggeration
Last week, Google declared something huge, or absolutely nothing — it depends on whether or not you look at it… (If you didn’t get that then congratulations you’ve successfully failed to intellectually assimilate 100 years of scientific development concerning the very small).
As the above search results indicate, the superposition of accepted wisdom on this topic shines a light on the importance of forming one’s own opinion on the basis of research and, where possible, understanding. Sidebar — journalists are full of shit and usually don’t understand the first thing about their subject matter, with the rare exception of experts who’ve got tired of actually doing something. That’s why Will and I have proper jobs. Anyway, shitting on certain ‘professions’ aside, the consensus at The Internet Archive’s Future Vision conference in San Francisco last weekend seemed to be that a claim on ‘Quantum Supremacy’ doesn’t mean a whole lot until any of the Quantum Computers are actually able to do something useful. As we all say until Skynet suddenly happens… see you when we see you, Arnie.
Unbalanced Training Data
Remember that creepy robot dog dancing to a famous pop song, that shall remain deliberately unnamed since we needn’t relive it… Well, it’s on the market for a similar price as a luxury car and similarly useless to the typical consumer, while admittedly probably less dangerous (for now…). I digress, the funny thing here is that a project lead acknowledged once tipping his toddler over to see how they regained balance, for science. Some folks reported empathy for the machine’s being tipped over with a hockey stick, to test and prove it’s resilience. I’m not going to try and shed any obvious jokes on this, I’ll just say that sometimes instructors will give beginner surfers/borders a gentle push from behind to see which foot leads in re-balancing as a means of determining the more natural board stance (i.e. regular or goofy).
We shed a golden tear
Spare a moment to think of the 57 fewer billionaires lost over the course of last year as stock market drops took their toll. The collective wealth of 2101 billionaires dropped to a paltry $8.9 trillion. Sarcasm aside, this is perhaps a red-ruby-encrusted-flag that the global economy is in for a serious downturn, and whilst this sorry lot might be able to afford one less yacht, for others it will hurt more.
Burn baby burn, this time forest inferno
Surprisingly, the greatest cause of deforestation in the Western Amazon is not industrial logging or cattle farmers, but actually subsistence farming, known as “slash and burn” agriculture. Cool Earth (whom Ali recently supported with his walk around Mt Hood) are helping to combat this by using satellite images to show locals the scale of deforestation.