Numlock News: November 23, 2021 • Propeller Star, Black Friday, John Deere

By Walt Hickey


The James Webb telescope suffered a setback following an incident where a clamp band unexpectedly released and caused a vibration on the observatory, which is bad, we don’t like it when observatories get vibrated. The telescope, which aims to be the heir to Hubble and cost $10 billion, has sustained significant delays over the cost of its development despite being one of the most high-stakes projects in astronomy. The end result of the vibration is the earliest launch date that Webb could go to space got pushed back four days from December 18 to December 22. The general expert consensus as to the source of the craft’s repeated delays and problems on its ten-year journey is, to get a little technical here, a curse from the the god Poseidon after NASA Administrator James Webb injured the eye of the cyclops Polyphemus in a 1963 spearfishing accident.

Eric Berger, Ars Technica


A new analysis from Nordpass of password usage found that the most commonly used password is “123456,” used 103,170,552 times. Other popular passwords include “123456789” and “password” and the enigmatic “qwerty.” Distressingly, Nordpass calculated that 73 percent of the most common 200 passwords of 2020 could be cracked in less than one second, a figure that in 2021 stands at 84.5 percent of the list. The data was drawn from a 4-terabyte database covering around 50 countries, which also helped them determine a bit of local flavor to the easily-guessed passwords, including “steelers” in the U.S., “liverpool” in the U.K., “marseille” in France and “guinness” in Ireland.

Dhvani Solani, Vice

Black Friday

This year’s Black Friday will be a muted one in terms of discounts, as difficulties that retailers have had getting items in stock have diminished the bargains available on the central religious holiday of American consumerism. According to data from Adobe Inc., discounts are at around 8.7 percent compared to last year’s 13.2 percent, and among sporting goods, prices are down 2.8 percent compared to 11.2 percent. According to data from the company, in the month of October U.S. consumers got 2 billion out-of-stock messages, and the percentage of webpages that had out-of-stock goods was up 300 percent compared to 2019. This could mean that fair-weather fans of the event — the kind who only show up bloodlusted to their local Target on the high holy days of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, President’s Day Weekend and the start of Toyotathon — give way to the people who truly believe in the magic of the season.

Jordyn Holman and Brendan Case, Bloomberg


A strike by John Deere’s workers has come to an end after the company’s labor force bargained for a 10 percent pay raise and an $8,500 bonus for their six-year contract. As the workers return to the factory floor, the company is entering a period of robust demand for their farm equipment. Farmers are flush: the Department of Agriculture projected net farm income would increase 20 percent this year to $113 billion, the highest since 2013, and that surplus of cash usually gets turned into equipment for tax deductions. As a result, retail sales of high-horsepower tractors are up 23 percent, and sales of combines are up 24 percent.

Bob Tita, The Wall Street Journal


Chess maverick Magnus Carlsen has, not unlike Tom Brady, George Forman and pretty much every golfer, has managed to parlay his success on the chessboard into a tidy business empire that includes teaching and training sites, a digital publishing wing and an online gaming site. Chess, which has the I.P. advantage of being hundreds of years old and therefore out of copyright, is a big business. Play Magnus, the company, has 250 employees, 4 million registered users, and is a publicly traded company with a $115 million market cap. The most recent tour run by the company logged 115 million live broadcast views and 29 million hours of video watched. Magnus Chess, the private shingle set up by Carlsen’s family to consolidate the holdings, owns nine percent of the company, and given Carlsen’s 85 percent stake in Magnus Chess puts his stake at $9 million.

Dylan Loeb McClain, The New York Times

Mean Tweets

A new study from NYU researchers wanted to find out the effect of asking people to cool it with the hate speech on social media. The researchers ran the experiment last summer, finding 27 users who had been suspended from Twitter for hate speech, and more importantly, 4,327 people who followed those suspended accounts. The researchers set up accounts to tweet at those 4,327 accounts, tell them that a person they followed was banned for hate speech, and tell them to consider knocking it off in one of six ways. They found one warning decreased the subsequent use of hateful language by the 4,327 accounts by 10 percent, and among the most persuasive and effective of the six messages logged a decline of 15 percent to 20 percent a week later.

Issie Lapowsky, Protocol

Propeller Star

A new report in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society describes a white dwarf star that is spinning at an incredibly fast rate. The object is LAMOST J024048.51+195226.9; it’s about the size of Earth but has 200,000 times the mass, and it spins at a rate of one rotation every 25 seconds, basically accomplishing in less than half a minute what it takes Earth 24 hours to do. It’s the second such star discovered, and it’s faster than the first confirmed white dwarf with such an accelerated spin, clocked at 29 seconds per rotation. The reason the star is rotating so quickly is it’s part of a binary system and had been pulling material from its companion, ramping up its speed.

University of Sheffield

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