Numlock News: November 27, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Lander Earns Name

NASA stuck the landing, successfully delivering the $814 million InSight probe to Mars. The mission is to study the planet’s interior and is NASA’s first attempt to explore Mars with a new lander since 2012’s landing of the Curiosity rover. InSight will detect marsquakes and other neat things. Worth highlighting is that getting a functioning device onto the surface of Mars is still way dicier than the recent NASA track record would have casual followers believe: earthlings were running at a 40 percent success rate in successfully invading Martian personal space. Two recent man-made craters on Mars include the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli craft in 2016 and NASA’s Mars Polar Lander in 2009.

Justin Bachman, Bloomberg

Fries With That

The total value of the cryptocurrency market is down to $139.7 billion, down from an $819 billion market cap in January. That means that every cryptocurrency is worth less than the market cap of McDonald’s. At least when McDonalds is the target of loud and extremely online nerds, all racing to win an obscure windfall and speaking in enigmatic jargon about their obsession of choice, we get Mulan’s Sezchuan Sauce again.

The Next Web

Who Ever Is The Owner Of The White Sedan?

Americans have switched their preferences to SUVs and pickup trucks compared to the sedans, station wagons and hatchbacks that once defined the market. Based on October figures, Americans buy 5.5 million of that smaller breed of automobile annually, compared to 12 million light trucks and sport utility vehicles. That’s some of the context behind a controversial GM move to lay off 10,000 workers and close five plants, as the domestic manufacturers essentially throw in the towel on sedans and cede the market to international car imports.

Justin Fox, Bloomberg

Seven Year Itch

American consumers replace their televisions on average every 6.9 years, according to market researchers. That’s fine for televisions that don’t require sophisticated software or the ability to communicate with any number of apps that are no longer being maintained. By which I mean, it’s basically not fine anymore; the software on smart TVs is becoming faster than the screens themselves, and reliance on third-party apps means that televisions may become obsolete even faster.

David Pierce, The Wall Street Journal


A new survey reported that Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith and Jennifer Aniston are the biggest draws to new television and film projects. For instance, 54 percent of the public said the presence of Julia Roberts — an actress I enjoy so much I am third chair on a podcast doing an entire miniseries about her — made them more likely to watch it, compared to 42 percent for whom it wouldn’t make a difference or would make them less likely. That 12 percentage point spread is behind only Aniston (14 points), Smith (22 points) and Johnson (28 points).

Joanna Piacenza, Morning Consult


In 2017, 85 percent of four year olds believed in Santa. There’s a considerable amount of division and ethical questions among experts about how persuasive parents should be when selling the Kringle story. Personally, I think that a fundamental mistrust of authority fostered through crushing existential disappointment perpetuated by everyone I trusted at a young age was formative in making me pursue journalism. So if you want your kid to have zero trust in institutions, but have a blue check mark on Twitter, by all means toss that elf on that shelf.

Eleanor Cummins, Popular Science


The golden age of the charity walkathon is coming to a close, a trend for which I am enormously grateful. Revenue for the 30 largest walkathons is down 6.7 percent since 2016, while participation is down 14 percent. Walkathons peaked in about 2007, but that “suffer for the money” stratagem has suffered in the age of social media. They were never particularly enormous money makers — costs were 25 cents to 50 cents on every dollar raised to begin with — and as far as awareness goes we have better means today. Why walk 100 laps when you can just dump ice water on your head and tag Jake from darts league, Chris Pratt, and the Pope?

Olga Khazan, The Atlantic


Diabetes today affects 9 percent of adults worldwide, up from 5 percent in 1980. The amount of insulin needed to treat type 2 diabetes will rise by at least 20 percent in the next 12 years, from 526 million 1,000-unit vials today to 634 million in 2030. Insulin shortfalls and financial inaccessibility already exists today, but in 12 years half of the projected 79 million diabetics will not be able to access it. Today, global insulin supply comes from Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly.


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Correction: The original version of the “Who Ever Is The Owner Of The White Sedan?” section of this newsletter used the wording, “throw in the town,” when it should have stated “throw in the towel.”

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