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This should be the absolute peak of hurricane season—but it’s dead quiet out there | Ars Technica

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To state the obvious: This has been an unorthodox Atlantic hurricane season.

Everyone from the US agency devoted to studying weather, oceans, and the atmosphere—the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration—to the most highly regarded hurricane professionals predicted a season with above-normal to well above-normal activity.

For example, NOAA’s outlook for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, predicted a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. The primary factor behind these predictions was an expectation that La Niña would persist in the Pacific Ocean, leading to atmospheric conditions in the tropical Atlantic more favorable to storm formation and intensification. La Niña has persisted, but the storms still have not come in bunches.

All quiet

To date the Atlantic has had five named storms, which is not all that far off "normal" activity, as measured by climatological averages from 1991 to 2020. Normally, by now, the Atlantic would have recorded eight tropical storms and hurricanes that were given names by the National Hurricane Center.

The disparity is more significant when we look at a metric for the duration and intensity of storms, known as Accumulated Cyclone Energy. By this more telling measurement, the 2022 season has a value of 29.6, which is less than half of the normal value through Saturday, 60.3.

Perhaps what is most striking about this season is that we are now at the absolute peak of hurricane season, and there is simply nothing happening. Although the Atlantic season begins on June 1, it starts slowly, with maybe a storm here or there in June, and often a quiet July before the deep tropics get rolling in August. Typically about half of all activity occurs in the 14 weeks prior to September 10, and then in a mad, headlong rush the vast majority of the remaining storms spin up before the end of October.

While it is still entirely possible that the Atlantic basin—which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea—produces a madcap finish, we're just not seeing any signs of it right now. There are no active systems at the moment, and the National Hurricane Center is tracking just one tropical wave that will move off the African coast into the Atlantic Ocean in the coming days. It has a relatively low chance of development, and none of the global models anticipate much from the system. Our best global models show about a 20 to 30 percent chance of a tropical depression developing anywhere in the Atlantic during the next 10 days.

This is the exact opposite of what we normally see this time of year, when the tropics are typically lit up like a Christmas tree. The reason for this is because September offers a window where the Atlantic is still warm from the summertime months, and we typically see some of the lowest wind shear values in storm-forming regions.

What went wrong

So what has happened this year to cause a quiet season, at least so far? A detailed analysis will have to wait until after the season, but to date we've seen a lot of dust in the atmosphere, which has choked off the formation of storms. Additionally, upper-level winds in the atmosphere have generally been hostile to storm formation—basically shearing off the top of any developing tropical systems.

While it looks like seasonal forecasts for 2022 will probably go bust, it's important to understand the difference between that activity and the forecasting of actual storms. Seasonal forecasting is still a developing science. While it is typically more right than wrong, predicting specific weather patterns such as hurricanes months in advance is far from an established science.

By contrast, forecasters have made huge gains in predicting the tracks of tropical storms and hurricanes that have already formed. And while not as significantly, our ability to predict intensification or weakening has also been improving. Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the most destructive storm to ever hit Florida, the National Hurricane Center's track forecast accuracy has improved by 75 percent, and its intensity forecasting by 50 percent.

This is due to several factors, including more powerful supercomputers capable of crunching through higher resolution forecast models, a better understanding of the physics of tropical systems, and better tools for gathering real-time data about atmospheric conditions and feeding that data into forecast models more quickly.

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j8048188
81 days ago
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acdha
83 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Transatlantic Car Rental

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My daughter recently received her driver's permit in the US, and aspires to visit mainland Europe someday. She has learned enough about the rules of the road to know never to drive into the ocean; however, she jokingly suggested that given a sufficient quantity of rental cars, she could eventually get to Europe by driving east repeatedly. The question is, how many vehicles would it take to build a car-bridge across the Atlantic?

Eric Munson

After extensive research, I can conclusively state that this would be a violation of your rental car agreement.

Also, you would disrupt ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, potentially seriously altering the climate in the northern hemisphere. That's very bad, although not necessarily a violation of your rental car agreement.

If you try to drive from the US to Europe, your car will stop working pretty quickly, since according to Google Maps there's a large hole between them and it's full of water. Once your car gets stuck, you'll have to leave it there and go get another one.

Driving your second car onto the roof of the sunken first one could get you a little closer to Europe. If we assume you're starting in Boston and heading toward Lisbon, using a car as a bridge would get you about a millionth of the way there, since Boston and Lisbon are about a million car-lengths apart. If the Atlantic Ocean were two feet deep, you could make a bridge out of a million cars placed end to end. Unfortunately, a quick rewatch of Titanic (1997) suggests that the Atlantic Ocean is more than two feet deep. You'll quickly have to start piling up cars in multiple layers.

At first, when the bridge would be just one or two cars high, you could stack them in a single vertical column. But as the water gets deeper, you'll need to create a wider base to keep the wall of cars from tipping over.[1] The North Atlantic current would push against the car causeway, but the tipping force from the water motion would be relatively minor compared to the pile's tendency to topple under its own weight.[2]

As you built your bridge out into the deep ocean, the cars on the bottom of the stack would be crushed. The pressure crushing them wouldn't be the water pressure. Once the windows broke and the interior of the car flooded, the pressure would equalize and the cars would hold their shape, relatively unaffected by the weight of the ocean above them. Instead, what would crush the cars would be the weight of the other cars sitting on top of them.

Even when they're underwater, cars weigh a lot. About 50% of the weight of modern cars is steel and iron, which is much denser than water,[3] so submerged cars are still quite heavy—about 60% to 70% of their surface weight, depending on their exact composition. The cars on the bottom of a mile-high stack would be subjected to extreme pressures, even greater than what they experience in hydraulic car crushers. Those crushers[4] are capable of flattening a car into a pancake a foot or two thick, and the same thing would happen to the cars on the bottom of our stack.

The first part of your bridge to Europe would be over the continental shelf, where the water is relatively shallow—just a few hundred crushed cars deep.

You'd still need a lot of cars to form this shallow-water portion of the bridge; getting out to the edge of the continental shelf would take about a billion of them, which is probably close to the total number of cars in the world. Parking lots hold about 1 car per 30 square meters, so a billion cars would cover a large portion of eastern Massachusetts.[5]

After the continental shelf, the water gets a lot deeper. The deep-ocean portion of your bridge would require a lot more cars—likely about a trillion of them. This is far more cars than exist in the world; a parking lot big enough to hold them would take up most of the Earth's land area.

So you can't rent anywhere close to a billion or a trillion cars—Enterprise, for example, only has about half a million cars in its fleet. But if you tried, you'd run into other problems, too. I got a copy of a recent Enterprise rental car agreement, and I have some bad news:

4. Prohibited Use and Termination of Right to Use.

a. Renter agrees to the following limits on use:

[...]

(4) Vehicle shall not be used for: any illegal purposes; in any illegal or reckless manner; in a race or speed contest; or to tow or push anything.

[...]

(8) Vehicle shall not be loaded in excess of Vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating [...]

(9) Vehicle shall not be driven on an unpaved road or off-road.

You'd clearly be in violation of 4(a)(9) by driving it off-road. I think you'd also be violating 4(a)(4) and probably 4(a)(8) as well. This would result in you being—at minimum—on the hook for the total cost of the rental car.[6]

Some credit cards offer coverage for rental car damage, so you might think that—if you're a high-status cardholder—you could try to get the company to foot the bill. Unfortunately, I took a look at the agreement for the American Express Centurion card, and the "What is Not covered" section clearly addresses this scenario:

What is Not Covered?

ANY COVERED EVENT BASED UPON OR ARISING OUT OF:

[...]

3. Use of the Rental Vehicle in violation of the terms and conditions of the Rental Agreement

[...]

8. off-road operation [...] of the Rental Vehicle

[...]

11. intentional damage [...] to the Rental Vehicle

Interestingly, American Express will also not cover damages incurred by using the rental car in a war:

[...] 1. War or acts of war (whether declared or undeclared), service in the armed forces or units auxiliary to it [...]

This rule could actually end up being relevant here. Your car bridge across the Atlantic, in addition to potentially disrupting ocean circulation, would cut off shipping access to northern Europe and much of Atlantic Canada...

...which may qualify as a naval blockade.

[1] A glance at piles of cars in a junkyard suggests that they often end up in stacks with an angle of repose of 30 or 45 degrees, but a stack with a 10°-15° angle of repose at the bottom should be stable once the cars are sufficiently crushed.

[2] Mike Ashby's Useful Solutions to Standard Problems is a fantastic resource for these kinds of calculations. In this case, you could use it to figure out how a column of cars will topple, which would require an estimate of the compressibility of a stack of cars at different stages of flattening. I used specs from hydraulic car crushers to come up with my rough estimates here, but these estimates could probably be refined with experiment if you know someone with a lot of cars.

[3] Citation: You don't see a lot of anchors floating around.

[4] Most famous, of course, for imperiling George Frankly in an episode of MathNet, the detective show on PBS's Square One TV.

[5] Apparently all the world's cars would take up slightly more space than all the world's people.

[6] If you continue to operate the vehicle in such a manner, 4(d) says the company has the right to notify police that it has been stolen.

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j8048188
86 days ago
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Facebook Has No Idea What Data It Has

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This is from a court deposition:

Facebook’s stonewalling has been revealing on its own, providing variations on the same theme: It has amassed so much data on so many billions of people and organized it so confusingly that full transparency is impossible on a technical level. In the March 2022 hearing, Zarashaw and Steven Elia, a software engineering manager, described Facebook as a data-processing apparatus so complex that it defies understanding from within. The hearing amounted to two high-ranking engineers at one of the most powerful and resource-flush engineering outfits in history describing their product as an unknowable machine.

The special master at times seemed in disbelief, as when he questioned the engineers over whether any documentation existed for a particular Facebook subsystem. “Someone must have a diagram that says this is where this data is stored,” he said, according to the transcript. Zarashaw responded: “We have a somewhat strange engineering culture compared to most where we don’t generate a lot of artifacts during the engineering process. Effectively the code is its own design document often.” He quickly added, “For what it’s worth, this is terrifying to me when I first joined as well.”

[…]

Facebook’s inability to comprehend its own functioning took the hearing up to the edge of the metaphysical. At one point, the court-appointed special master noted that the “Download Your Information” file provided to the suit’s plaintiffs must not have included everything the company had stored on those individuals because it appears to have no idea what it truly stores on anyone. Can it be that Facebook’s designated tool for comprehensively downloading your information might not actually download all your information? This, again, is outside the boundaries of knowledge.

“The solution to this is unfortunately exactly the work that was done to create the DYI file itself,” noted Zarashaw. “And the thing I struggle with here is in order to find gaps in what may not be in DYI file, you would by definition need to do even more work than was done to generate the DYI files in the first place.”

The systemic fogginess of Facebook’s data storage made answering even the most basic question futile. At another point, the special master asked how one could find out which systems actually contain user data that was created through machine inference.

“I don’t know,” answered Zarashaw. “It’s a rather difficult conundrum.”

I’m not surprised. These systems are so complex that no humans understand them anymore. That allows us to do things we couldn’t do otherwise, but it’s also a problem.

EDITED TO ADD: Another article.

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j8048188
86 days ago
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This is why any code that claims to be "self-documenting" isn't.
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Truth Check

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wizard of oz ass

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j8048188
86 days ago
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Ok, now I need to rent a hot air balloon for next week.
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Clever Phishing Scam Uses Legitimate PayPal Messages

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Brian Krebs is reporting on a clever PayPal phishing scam that uses legitimate PayPal messaging.

Basically, the scammers use the PayPal invoicing system to send the email. The email lists a phone number to dispute the charge, which is not PayPal and quickly turns into a request to download and install a remote-access tool.

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j8048188
93 days ago
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I've gotten the same thing in the past using legitimate Quickbooks invoices.
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Day 524: "Bedrock constitutional principles."

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1/ A Louisiana judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a statewide “trigger law” ban on abortion, allowing the state’s three remaining abortion clinics to continue operating. Louisiana is one of 13 states that had trigger laws on the books in anticipation of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. In several states, including Louisiana, those laws took effect immediately, halting abortion care across the state. The order followed a lawsuit by abortion providers alleging that the state’s “trigger” bans are “vague” because they don’t have a “clear and unambiguous effective date” and “lack adequate standing for enforceability.” A hearing is pending next week. (Axios / CBS News / New York Times / Washington Post / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 521: In a historic reversal, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion after 49 years. The 6-to-3 decision to uphold a Mississippi abortion ban follows the leak of a draft opinion in May indicating that the court was poised to overturn Roe, which first declared a constitutional right to abortion, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which re-affirmed that right in 1992. The ruling leaves states free to restrict or ban abortions. At least 26 states – where roughly 33 million women of child-bearing age live – are expected to ban or restrict abortions, including battleground states like Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which have pre-Roe bans on abortion on the books. Georgia has a six-week ban in place. More than a quarter of the country’s 790 abortion clinics are estimated to close, and women in those states will have to travel an average of 552 miles to access the medical procedure.

2/ Attorney General Merrick Garland indicated that the Justice Department will protect the right to seek abortions across state lines, calling the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade “a devastating blow to reproductive freedom.” Garland said “bedrock constitutional principles” protect a women’s rights to seek reproductive care, and that the “Constitution continues to restrict states’ authority to ban reproductive services provided outside their borders.” Both Texas and Oklahoma recently passed abortion bans that allow private citizens to sue people who perform abortions or who otherwise help someone get one. In Texas, lawmakers have signaled that they want to make it illegal for people to travel out of state to get the procedure. In his concurring opinion, however, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that women who travel to another state to receive an abortion would be protected by the constitutional right to interstate travel. Garland also said the department is “ready to work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care,” noting that the FDA has approved the use of Mifepristone and that states cannot ban the medication based on disagreement with the FDA’s judgment. (Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ A coalition of 22 state attorneys general reaffirmed their commitment to defending abortion rights and expanding access to reproductive care in their states. “If you seek access to abortion and reproductive health care, we’re committed to using the full force of the law to support you,” the attorneys general wrote. “We will continue to use all legal tools at our disposal to fight for your rights and stand up for our laws,” they wrote. The coalition is comprised of the attorneys general of New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. “When it comes to abortion care,” they wrote, “it’s your body and your right to choose.” (CNN / New York Times)

4/ Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that he believes the Supreme Court should reconsider defamation laws as the court declined to revisit the First Amendment decision in New York Times v. Sullivan – a landmark 1964 ruling that set a high bar for public figures to sue news organizations for libel. The Coral Ridge Ministries Media unsuccessfully sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling it as a “hate group” for broadcasting a television program that describes homosexuality as “lawless,” “an abomination,” “vile,” “against nature,” “profane,” and “shameful.” Thomas was the only justice to say he would have heard the case, saying the “actual malice” standard established by Sullivan has “allowed media organizations and interest groups to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.” (Axios / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Jan. 6 committee unexpectedly scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to present “recently obtained evidence” and take witness testimony. The committee did not reveal the witness list or topic but said it would “present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony.” The committee previously said the next set of hearings would take place when Congress returns from its two-week July Fourth recess, sometime in mid-July. Tuesday’s hearing starts at 1 p.m. Eastern and will be the panel’s sixth hearing this month. (NBC News / New York Times / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post)

6/ More than 1 million voters from 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year compared to about 630,000 who became Democrats. While Trump was in office, Democrats enjoyed a slight edge in the number of party switchers nationwide. (Associated Press)

poll/ 59% of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, including 67% of women. 78% of Republicans were in favor of the decision, 83% of Democrats disapproved. (Bloomberg / NPR)

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j8048188
159 days ago
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I know several people that more identify as liberal/democrat that have registered as republicans so they can vote in the R primaries, to choose more moderate candidates.
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