Numlock News: August 7, 2020 • Nintendo, Hurricane, Hell Ant

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


A new fossil reveals an ant — specifically a “hell ant” — locked in fatal combat with an extinct relative of the cockroach. The chunk of amber shows the ant (Ceratomyrmex ellenbergeri) with its mandibles around the proto-roach’s neck, a position it’s been stuck in for 99 million years. For its ruthless devotion to killing roaches to the point of death, I call on the Mayor to grant this ant the key to New York City, and at an appropriate time to convene a ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes to commemorate its devotion to the cause.

Lucy Hicks, Science


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has upgraded its forecast of the number of named Atlantic storms to 19 to 25, and has increased its estimate of an above-average hurricane season from 60 percent to 85 percent. NOAA anticipates that seven to 11 of those storms will become hurricanes and that between three and six will become major hurricanes. The agency expects to run out of traditional hurricane names, at which point it will start naming them “Alpha,” “Beta,” and so on, or — in the event that my petition is successful — non-traditional but trendy names that ride incredibly brief pop culture trends, like “Arya,” “Bella,” “Cedric", “Daenerys” and more. Call your member of congress today, and together we can make Hurricane Baby Yoda the reality we deserve.

Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press


This week, the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee published new names for human genes, a step taken because lots of the unique identifiers given to sequences of genetic material were poorly thought up and don’t play well with common software like Microsoft Excel. Specifically, consider genes such as MARCH1 and SEPT1, which the spreadsheet software interprets as dates. This is a significant issue: a 2016 study found a fifth of 3,597 scientific papers in genetics had Excel errors. The new guidelines will ensure problematic names are made to be excel-friendly, with MARCH1 and SEPT1 becoming MARCHF1 and SEPTIN1. So far, 27 genes have been renamed in the past year in this manner. It is unclear how this will affect the critical =IF(TRUE,“BUTTSBUTTSBUTTS”) gene.

James Vincent, The Verge


Live Nation, the company behind many of the concerts and festivals that snapped out of existence this year, saw revenue down 98 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2020. All told, Q2 of 2019 brought in $3.2 billion for Live Nation, while Q2 of 2020 necessitated a mild amount of belt-tightening given revenues of $74 million. Live Nation has all but written performances off until summer 2021, when they anticipate a robust rebound. According to the promoter, 86 percent of fans held on to their tickets for rescheduled shows rather than cashing them out, so they’re holding hope that next year will see a serious rebound, especially given the 19 million tickets sold for festivals in Europe in 2021.

Chris Willman, Variety

Super Mario

Meanwhile, Nintendo made a billion dollars in three months. More specifically, they made ¥106 billion ($1 billion) from April through June, six times the amount made last year and the best Q2 haul since 2008 when the Wii was flying off shelves. Nintendo moved 5.7 million Switch consoles and sold 10.6 million copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in those three months. The company’s expectations for the rest of the year are more conservative given rivals Microsoft and Sony are launching their new consoles come this fall.

River Davis, The Wall Street Journal


The 2020 campaign is unlike any other, with the presidential bids spending significantly less money on travel and events in 2020 compared to 2016. Last time around in Q2, the two presidential campaigns spent 19.1 percent of their total spending on travel and events. In 2020, they’re saving a ton — spending an aggregate 5.4 percent on such things. That’s not all great: it seems a lot of the balance has shifted into media buys, as Q2 of 2016 saw 40.8 percent of expenses go into media, whereas this cycle 54.1 percent of the spending was on advertisements.

Karl Evers-Hillstrom, The Center for Responsive Politics

Drive Into The Sunset

The market share for new budget vehicles is evaporating as automakers increasingly rely on large, more expensive trucks and SUVs to bank profits. In 2015, vehicles that cost $30,000 or less accounted for 48 percent of new cars sold. In 2018, that market share has more than halved to just 23 percent. For car shoppers on a budget, that means used is basically the only point of entry. Subcompacts are a dying breed in the States, with Honda discontinuing the Fit in the U.S, GM dropping the Sonic, and Toyota ceasing sales of the Yaris. Now, the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Accent and Jeep Compass are some of the last cheap cars available. Cars that cost less than $20,000 are just 1.3 percent of new U.S. car sales so far this year.

Sophia Cai, Bloomberg

This past Sunday edition was a fascinating interview with my friend and former FiveThirtyEight colleague Ben Casselman, who wrote the front page story about last week’s GDP numbers for The New York Times.

It was a great conversation about why economic data is so interesting right now, and what’s in store for us to come. You should absolutely be following Ben on Twitter and over at the Times. He’s doing really cool work.

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