Numlock News: June 3, 2021 • Venus, BTS, Delta-8

By Walt Hickey

Stacks On Stacks

Stack Overflow, a critical online programming forum that is pretty much the foundation of most code in one way or another, has sold to Prosus, a European tech company best known as the largest shareholder in Tencent, for $1.8 billion. Stack Overflow has over 100 million monthly visitors, all of whom arrive at the site desperate and exhausted with code that simply will not function, and many of whom leave it less so. Prosus’ parent company acquired a $34 million stake in Tencent in 2001; they recently sold a small fraction of that equity for $14.6 billion, so a pretty savvy investment.

Ben Dummett, The Wall Street Journal

K Pop

In the fourth quarter of last year, Big Hit Entertainment made 52.5 billion won ($47 million), which was up 122 percent year-over-year. This is remarkable because Big Hit Entertainment is mostly K-pop sensation BTS and a few other acts, and they managed to make vastly more money during a stay-at-home pandemic quarter than they did during a 2019 quarter in which they could actually tour. This is largely thanks to BTS, which was responsible for 87.7 percent of Big Hit revenue in the first half of 2020. They’re significantly outperforming more established labels: in 2020, Universal Music Group saw revenue grow a much more modest 3.8 percent, Sony Music saw a respectable 9 percent rise, but each is a fraction of the 36 percent increase in sales Big Hit saw between 2019 and 2020.

Steven Borowiec, Nikkei Asia

Venus

NASA announced it’s given a green light to two new robotic planetary missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, which will go to Venus. They were the two missions out of four finalists selected through the space agency’s Discovery program, beating two other finalists, Trident, which would have gone to Neptune and its moon Triton, and the Io Volcanic Observer, which would have checked out the moon of Jupiter. VERITAS is an orbiter that will generate a detailed map of Venus using significantly better imaging tech than the last time it was mapped by 1989’s Magellan probe. DAVINCI+ will drop a U.S. probe on to Venus for the first time since 1978, where it will invariably be destroyed by the environment shortly after landing, but nevertheless send data back to an orbiter about what it learns during its descent.

Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, and Elizabeth Howell, Space.com

Ships

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California have been jammed up for months, with ship congestion offshore leading to waylaid cargo and longer wait times for imports. Over the course of the long weekend, stevedores made incredible progress, bringing the number of ships lined up offshore for unloading down to the lowest level since November. On Friday, there were 21 container ships anchored and awaiting entry, but by Tuesday, that was down to just 11 container ships. The traffic jam peaked in February when around 40 vessels were awaiting docking. The average wait time for berth space is down to 4.6 days, down from a high of eight days in April.

Brendan Murray, Bloomberg

Passing the Sentence

The Pew Research Center, which likes to keep a finger on the pulse of how Americans feel about issues, looked into an interesting effect they observed when they polled about the death penalty. In a survey they conducted online in August 2020, 65 percent of adults said they favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 34 percent oppose the death penalty. In a separate survey over a similar period that was conducted over the phone, those numbers shifted and support declined: in the phone surveys, 52 percent favor the death penalty and 44 oppose. This is not the first time they noticed this shift, with the same 9 to 10 percentage point shift between phone and online being seen both in 2019 and early 2020.

Andrew Daniller and Jocelyn Kiley, Pew Research Center

Delta-8

Delta-8, short for Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical component of marijuana found in low levels. It’s similar — but not identical — to Delta-9 THC, which is the chemical in cannabis that gets you high. Products containing Delta-8 are billed as offering a more relaxing, light high, and exist in a legal gray area. Cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent of Delta-9 THC can be sold anywhere in the country, which is why you’re seeing CBD sold everywhere, but Delta-8 is one of the dozens of other chemicals that can be extracted from pot. The legal gray area isn’t slowing sales as products listing Delta-8 as a component were up 144 percent in April 2021 compared to 2020.

Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg

Security

By 2025, the market for home security systems will generate an estimated $458.6 billion worldwide, as established companies expand into new and developing markets, and as newcomers with flashy internet-of-things tech emerge and expand in established ones. The U.S. home security system market is staring down an impasse: an estimated 6 million homes, businesses and government offices will — without an upgrade — see their current systems lose their connection to telecoms when the 3G technology they’re based on is phased out over the next few years. This is a big, even existential problem for the home security companies, which must convince lucrative customers to convert or upgrade their systems lest they lose the recurring revenue that keeps them afloat. The monthly monitoring fee over the first three years of a contract barely covers the cost of a free installation, and it’s only thanks to the nine-year average contract length that the industry remains in the black.

Andrew Egan, Tedium

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