Start Up No.1424: life inside a black hole, LG plans a ‘rollable’ phone, $1bn bitcoin move mystery solved, how Oz zapped Covid, and more


A benchmark for Apple’s upcoming ARM-based Macs seems to have leaked – and it’s impressive. CC-licensed photo by Oliver Hammond on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Counting. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

A14X Bionic allegedly benchmarked days before Apple Silicon Mac event • AppleInsider

Wesley Hilliard:

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The chip expected to be at the core of the first Apple Silicon Mac — the “A14X” — may have been benchmarked just days before the next Apple event.

The alleged CPU benchmarks for the “A14X” show a 1.80GHz processor capable of turbo-boosting to 3.10GHz marking this the first custom Apple Silicon to ever clock above 3GHz. It is an 8-core processor with big-little arrangement. The GPU results show 8GB of RAM will be included with the processor.

The single-core benchmark for the “A14X” scored 1634 vs the A12Z at 1118. The A14 scored 1,583 points for single-core tests, which is expected as single-core results shouldn’t change much between the regular and “X” models.

The multi-core benchmark for the “A14X” scored 7220 vs the A12Z at 4657. The A14 scored 4198 for multi-core, which means the “A14X” delivers a marked increase in performance in the sorts of environments that the GeekBench test suite focuses on. The additional RAM and graphics capabilities boost this result much higher than the standard iPhone processor.

For comparison, a 16-inch MacBook Pro with the Intel Core-i9 processor scores 1096 for single and 6869 for multi-core tests. This means the alleged “A14X” outperforms the existing MacBook Pro lineup by a notable margin.

The benchmark testing was reportedly performed with Geekbench 5 on an unknown device.

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Just to make it clear: compared to the 16in MacBook Pro, it’s 50% faster on single-core and 5% faster on multi-core. And that’s on the first iteration of Apple’s architecture.

This is likely to be real: Apple often lets a little Geekbench test slip out, or someone who is testing the machine outside it (because you know it has seeded some with people in relevant industries) does.
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What would we experience if Earth spontaneously turned into a black hole? • Medium

Ethan Siegel:

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the first thing that would happen would be a transition from being at rest — where the force from the atoms on Earth’s surface pushed back on us with an equal and opposite force to gravitational acceleration — to being in free-fall: at 9.8 m/s² (32 feet/s²), towards the center of the Earth.

Unlike most free-fall scenarios we experience on Earth today, such as a skydiver experiences when jumping out of an airplane, you’d have an eerie, lasting experience.

• You wouldn’t feel the wind rushing past you, but rather the air would accelerate down towards the center of the Earth exactly at the same rate you did.
• There would be no drag forces on you, and you would never reach a maximum speed: a terminal velocity. You’d simply fall faster and faster as time progressed.
• That “rising stomach” sensation that you’d feel — like you get at the top of a drop on a roller coaster — would begin as soon as free-fall started, but would continue unabated.
• You’d experience total weightlessness, like an astronaut on the International Space Station, and would be unable to “feel” how fast you were falling.
• Which is a good thing, because not only would you fall faster and faster towards the Earth’s center as time went on, but your acceleration would actually increase as you got closer to that central singularity.

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The rising stomach thing that continues unabated? Yeah, you can get that watching US election count coverage.
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LG rollable phone: Everything we know so far • Android Authority

Hadlee Simons:

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LG made a big splash last month when it officially unveiled the Wing smartphone. The phone looks like a normal device upfront, but slide the main screen to the side and you’ve got a smaller screen underneath.

The LG Wing design is clearly unique in the modern smartphone space, but the company confirmed that it’s only the first device in its new Explorer Project line of standout phones. Fortunately, between leaks and official teases, we’ve got a good idea of what to expect next.

All signs are pointing to an LG smartphone with a rollable display, and we’ve rounded up all the major leaks, info drops, and rumors below to get a better idea of what to expect. Be sure to bookmark this page, as we’ll be updating it regularly!

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Apparently there’s a name filing for a product to go live in early 2021. The name: “Rollable”. It seems like the phone screen might slide out sidewise (a bit like an extendable dining table).

Grand plan by LG, given how much success foldables have had this year. Huh?
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US Feds seized nearly $1bn in bitcoin from wallet linked to Silk Road • Vice

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

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On Tuesday, someone emptied out one of the most mysterious and most valuable Bitcoin wallets in existence, which contained almost $1bn dollars linked to the notorious Silk Road dark web market. 

We now know who did it: the US government. 

On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that it had seized the wallet. 

“Silk Road was the most notorious online criminal marketplace of its day,” US Attorney David Anderson said in a press release. “The successful prosecution of Silk Road’s founder in 2015 left open a billion-dollar question. Where did the money go? Today’s forfeiture complaint answers this open question at least in part. $1bn of these criminal proceeds are now in the United States’ possession.”

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But that’s not all! The plot thickens.

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In the civil forfeiture complaint, Anderson explained that the government took control of the wallet on Monday, after an unnamed hacker agreed to forfeit the cryptocurrency. The hacker, who is only identified as “Individual X,” allegedly broke into Silk Road’s website and stole the bitcoin in 2012 or 2013. The hacker then transferred to the infamous wallet with the address “1HQ3Go3ggs8pFnXuHVHRytPCq5fGG8Hbhx,” according to the complaint.

It’s unclear who Individual X actually is, and the complaint does not explain how the feds found them.

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A massive “Stop the Count” Facebook Group has ties to Republican operatives • Mother Jones

Ali Breland:

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A rapidly growing Facebook group falsely accusing Democrats of “scheming” to steal the election with a plot to “nullify Republican votes” appears to be part of a coordinated campaign by Republican operatives, and has ties to the Tea Party.  

The domain is registered to a firm that works on Republican projects.

The “Stop the Steal” group on Facebook, which was only created on Wednesday but already has almost 300,000 members (and is growing quickly), prompts new users to its page to navigate to a website off of Facebook to sign up for email updates “in the event that social media censors this group.”

The domain that the group pushes its members to, StolenElection.us, is registered to the Liberty Lab, a firm that offers digital services to various conservative clients, according to its website, and Scott Graves, who lists himself as the firm’s president on LinkedIn. 

It’s unclear if Graves and the Liberty Lab are running the site alone or were hired by a client. According to its website, the Liberty Lab has been employed by a range of organizations, with a notable track record of working on Republican projects, including Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, a push to recall California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and several pro-Trump projects.

The Facebook group and the website also appear to be linked to Women for America First, a group organized in 2019 to protest against Donald Trump’s impeachment. In StolenElection.us’s html code, “Women for America First” shows up repeatedly. Facebook displays a header on the “Stop the Steal” Facebook page showing that it was created by the “Women for America First” Facebook page. 

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Facebook deleted the Group (when it was up to about 361,000 members), though perhaps not as quickly as it might have, on the basis that “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.” No problem – now they’re all corralled off somewhere else. Will probably need careful work to ensure that you don’t get people who want to stop the counting mixed up with those who want to continue the counting.

Everything’s a data grab nowadays: these people will also be targets for all sorts of get-out-the-vote efforts in future.
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Florida mosquitoes: 750 million genetically modified insects to be released • BBC News

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In May, the US Environmental Agency granted permission to the British-based, US-operated company Oxitec to produce the genetically engineered, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known as OX5034.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to spread deadly diseases to humans such dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Only female mosquitoes bite humans because they need blood to produce eggs. So the plan is to release the male, modified mosquitoes who will then hopefully breed with wild female mosquitoes.
However the males carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach mature biting age. Males, which only feed on nectar, will survive and pass on the genes.

Over time, the aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area and thereby reduce the spread of disease to humans.

On Tuesday, officials in the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) gave final approval to release 750 million of the modified mosquitoes over a two-year period.

The plan has many critics, including nearly 240,000 people who signed a petition on Change.org slamming Oxitec’s plan to use US states “as a testing ground for these mutant bugs”.

According to Oxitec’s website, the company has found positive results conducting field trials in Brazil. It also plans to deploy them in Texas beginning in 2021 and has gained federal approval, but not state or local approval, according to reports.

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I was going to wonder which animals depend on Aedes aegypti, but then thought that other mosquito species will fill any ecological gap that’s left by them not reproducing.
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Australia almost eliminated the coronavirus by putting faith in science • The Washington Post

A. Odysseus Patrick:

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As North America, Europe, India, Brazil and other regions and countries struggle to bring tens of thousands of daily infections under control, Australia provides a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic. Its experience, along with New Zealand’s, also shows that success in containing the virus isn’t limited to East Asian states (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) or those with authoritarian leaders (China, Vietnam).

Several practical measures contributed to Australia’s success, experts say. The country chose to quickly and tightly seal its borders, a step some others, notably in Europe, did not take. Health officials rapidly built up the manpower to track down and isolate outbreaks. And unlike the U.S. approach, every one of Australia’s states either shut their domestic borders or severely limited movement for interstate, and in some cases intrastate, travelers.

Perhaps most importantly, though, leaders from across the ideological spectrum persuaded Australians to take the pandemic seriously early on and prepared them to give up civil liberties they had never lost before, even during two world wars.

“We told the public: ‘This is serious; we want your cooperation,’ ” said Marylouise McLaws, a Sydney-based epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales and a World Health Organization adviser.

A lack of partisan rancour increased the effectiveness of the message, McLaws said in an interview.

The conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison, formed a national cabinet with state leaders, known as premiers, from all parties to coordinate decisions. Political conflict was largely suspended, at least initially, and many Australians saw their politicians working together to avert a health crisis.

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26 million people; no cases there on Thursday, only seven since Saturday, 18 people in hospital. Sydney Opera House open again, 40,000 people going to the rugby league grand final. It helps that they’re moving into summer, but they’ve just come through winter.
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The American system is broken • The Atlantic

David Frum:

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[US presidential] elections now systematically disfavor voting majorities. From 1892 through 1996, the person who won the most votes became president, every time. In 2000, the U.S. got its first minority-rule president since the aftermath of the Civil War. That outcome was seen as a freak at the time. Four elections later, it happened again. Today, Trump is looking to the courts to overrule the voting majority for a third time.

It should not take the largest voter turnout in U.S. history to guarantee that a president rejected by the majority of the American people actually stops being president.

Even given that turnout, assuming Trump steps down, the electoral system will produce a gridlocked government—not because “the voters” or “the American people” wanted it that way, but because strategically positioned voters in small states did. The unrepresentativeness of state governments is even more extreme because of gerrymandering. And Republicans seem to have done well enough at the state level in 2020 to thwart any systemwide move to fairer representation in 2021.

These unrepresentative state and federal governments seem less and less capable of coping with the problems of the modern world. In the span of 12 years, the U.S. has had the two worst economic collapses since the Great Depression. It has started and lost wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It cannot collect taxes it is owed—including from the current president. It cannot balance its books even in prosperity; in fact, it long ago ceased even to write annual budgets. It cannot police its borders against unauthorized immigration. It cannot act against existential environmental threats. It cannot protect its people from a disease that can be controlled by wearing a $5 mask.

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Frum, it should be remembered, is a former speechwriter for George W Bush (the 2000-2008 one) who inspired the phrase “axis of evil”. He’s hardly one of your wild leftwing socialists. In fact, his former employer got into office on that failure around voting majorities.

Everyone (outside the US, and perhaps increasingly inside it) can see this problem. The question is, who’s going to change it? Who’s going to bell the cat?
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Can we finally agree to ignore election forecasts? • The New York Times

The always excellent Zeynep Tufecki:

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In 2020, it was even harder to rely on polls or previous elections: On top of all the existing problems with surveys in an age of cellphones, push polls and mistrust, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. What would the unprecedented early voting numbers mean when polls don’t necessarily stop polling those who already voted? How would the early forecasts that run for many months before the election, and so are even more uncertain, affect those who vote early? Would the elderly, at great risk from the pandemic, avoid voting? How would voter suppression play out? Would Republicans end up flocking to the polls on Election Day? These were big unknowns that added great uncertainty to models, especially given the winner-takes-all setup in the Electoral College, where winning a state by as little as one-fourth of 1% can deliver all its electoral votes.

There’s an even more fundamental point to consider about election forecasts and how they differ from weather forecasting. If I read that there is a 20% chance of rain and do not take an umbrella, the odds of rain coming down don’t change. Electoral modeling, by contrast, actively affects the way people behave.

In 2016, for example, a letter from the F.B.I. director James Comey telling Congress he had reopened an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails shook up the dynamics of the race with just days left in the campaign. Mr. Comey later acknowledged that his assumption that Mrs. Clinton was going to win was a factor in his decision to send the letter.

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Even more useful: can we finally persuade people who make election forecasts to stop doing it?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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