Numlock News: February 24, 2020 • Pistachios, Sea Monsters, Cordcutters

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Victory

In what was absolutely the most watched race of the weekend in America, a staunchly blue contender with momentum and a massive war chest behind him who detests powerful special interests triumphed over an well-known and beloved — if slightly irascible — rival who bases their campaign on nostalgia for a bygone era. That’s right, Sonic the Hedgehog beat Harrison Ford’s Call of the Wild at the box office, earning $26.3 million to the newcomer’s $25 million. The hedgehog movie has over-performed expectations, becoming a genuine hit despite rock-bottom expectations following an earlier CGI kerfuffle. Meanwhile, the Call of the Wild box office may have beat projections, however, owing to a colossal special effects budget, it did cost $125 million to make. This puppy could be in trouble.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Dot Org Bust

The nonprofit Internet Society announced it will sell the Public Interest Registry, which administers the .org domain name, to a private equity firm last year. Things went basically exactly as predicted, as Ethos Capital has announced the price of a domain name would rise by at most 10 percent a year for the next eight years, which would in effect double the price for organizations over the period. The maximum fee charged by the Public Interest Registry rose from $6 in 2006 to $9.93 today, which pegged growth below 5 percent. Right now, domains can be renewed for up to 10 years at current prices.

Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica

ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

A new report from the CAPSTONE Project — which is a campaign to survey the seafloor from NOAA and absolutely not a concealed group of cultists attempting to rouse cosmic Eldrich abominations from the deep, not at all — has initial findings from its survey of 597,230 square kilometers explored from 2015 to 2017, an area both larger than California but also less than 0.5 percent of the Pacific Ocean. The robotic divers captured photographs of over 347,000 deep sea creatures, but here’s the thing: fewer than 20 percent of them could be identified at the species level. We have no idea what most of them are. And while sometimes that’s because the images were too grainy or the species too hard to identify, that actually makes me feel much, much more uneasy. All told, 86 percent of the Pacific is unmapped, and 99 percent is yet to be photographed.

Nicola Jones, Hakai Magazine

Carbon Tax

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted an economic analysis that found a $25 tax on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in the United States not only would cut emissions substantially, but by pushing consumers away from fossil fuels and toward more efficient technology would add an extra 72 million job-years (that is, one job for one year) across the country. While energy supply jobs in traditional spaces would decline, energy efficiency jobs would cause a net gain of 4.2 million job-years by 2050. A $60 carbon tax would have broader efficiency gains, but would defer economic benefits and necessitate net-losses in the near-term before realizing net-gains in the longer term.

Mark Fischetti and Amanda Montañez, Scientific American

Pistachios

In addition to, er, other disagreements, the United States and Iran have been ferociously competing over the global pistachio market for years. Iran has dominated global pistachio production for centuries, while the U.S. only began production in 1976 (again, other disagreements) but due to recent awful seasons in Iran the U.S is now the top producer. From 2004 to 2009, Iran accounted for 40 percent of global production to the States’ 33 percent. By 2014 to 2019, 47 percent came from the U.S. while 27 percent came from Iran. The bad harvests have been rough for Iran, especially as other states get into production of their billion-dollar export. Per-hectare yields are better in the U.S, where yields of 2.69 tons per hectare in 2017 beat out the 1.34 tons per hectare in Iran.

Amanda Little, Bloomberg

Cords

The pace of cord cutting in the United States got even worse in 2019. Collectively, in 2018, Comcast, AT&T, Dish, Charter and Verizon lost 2.3 million subscribers, a figure that more than doubled to 5.8 million subscribers lost in 2019. While many of the cablers attempted to woo people back with skinny bundles, they weren’t anywhere near close to making up the difference, and some lost subscribers, like AT&T TV Now, which lost 674,000 subscribers in 2019. And while Dish’s Sling TV added 175,000 subscribers, Dish lost 334,000.

Janko Roettgers, Protocol

Legacy

Colleges and universities are taking a serious look at their legacy admission practices, analyzing whether it’s worth it to continue programs that benefit heirs of alumni that disproportionately advantage richer people. The practice — which has only been around since the 1920s — objectively goes against most university goals of expanding the pool from which they draw students, and after last year’s Varsity Blues scandal has been once again called into question. The percentage of universities that consider legacy during admissions has been declining for quite some time: In 2004, 58 percent of schools considered it, a figure that was down to 48 percent in 2019. Looking at the top 250 schools, it’s a bit more prevalent, but still in decline: 63 percent of top schools considered legacy admissions in 2004, compared to 56 percent today. A Harvard legacy has a 33.9 percent chance of being admitted to Harvard, compared to 5.9 percent of the general proletariat. Shockingly, they are not considering ending that preference for legacy admissions.

Douglas Belkin, The Wall Street Journal

Risks

The coronavirus outbreak in China is having a serious effect on the economy, and in a short time it’s going to get incredibly hard to keep businesses running and keeping creditors paid amid absent sales. According to a recently conducted survey of 6,422 Chinese firms, the clock is ticking: 33.7 percent said they will run out of cash within a month, another 32.8 percent said they’ll run out of cash within two months, and 19.7 percent will run out within three months. Private businesses account for 60 percent of the Chinese economy and 80 percent of jobs. While banks have been ordered to boost lending, the money hasn’t really shown up according to data.

Bloomberg News

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