Numlock News: September 9, 2021 • Space Telescope, Printer Toner, Cold Hard Cash

By Walt Hickey

Analog Crypto, or Something?

As the wedding season to end all wedding season is now upon us, the hottest gift of the fall is "cash." The gift — which can come in both physical and digital iterations, per experts — is just like a gift card or a stand mixer, but with other advantages. "Cash" is evidently a fiat-backed currency that is acceptable for all debts public and private, a hot little commodity that is all the rage among newlyweds. Now, it doesn't have the three-in-one mix speeds, dough hook or optional pasta attachment of the stand mixer, but devotees of the currency — which is sort of like Bitcoin, but useful — say that in varying amounts it too can be converted into a dough hook or pasta attachment at the discretion of the newlyweds. According to The Knot, cash gifts were up 30 percent from January through July compared to the same period two years ago, and 80 percent of couples on Zola get cash.

Daniela Sirtori-Cortina, Bloomberg

I Like Stuff

The cool new concentration in business schools is supply chain management, which is finally getting the respect it deserves after a year in which logistical difficulties ranging from a pandemic to a big dumb boat in the Suez have besieged supply chains. Penn State saw the number of juniors in the supply chain management major jump from 270 last year to more than 400 this year, and reportedly, across the country students who had been veering into finance or marketing are now biting the bullet and taking that operations research course. It's been a time of innovation, as lots of companies are looking at decades spent getting lean, and now seeing the appeal of experimenting with new inventory strategies: Walmart's inventories are up 20 percent to avert difficulties this Christmas, wild for a company ruthlessly devoted to lean operation. A record 50 companies plan to attend a career fair for supply chain gigs at Georgia Tech, double the normal number.

Matthew Boyle, Bloomberg

Toner

A man who conned $126 million out of over 50,000 victims over the course of six years through an elaborate toner scheme was sentenced to four years in federal prison on Friday. Toner is the inexplicably expensive necessity for laser printers and photocopiers, and the man operated a telemarketing operation where scammers posed as genuine suppliers of toner. That $126 million, by the way, was just accrued over the six years the feds knew about; the scheme's believed to have gone on for decades.

Neil Vigdor, The New York Times

Can Almost See It

The James Webb Space Telescope, considered the single most expensive scientific instrument in the history of NASA, finally has a launch date of December 18, 2021. The project's been delayed over the course of the decade owing to the high stakes surrounding its launch. Unfurling the 20-meter telescope — it's the size of a tennis court but folds to 10.66 meters by 4.5 meters to fit inside the rocket — and getting it out to the LaGrange Point, a neat little bit of gravitational real estate 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth or four times the distance of the moon, is a complicated operation because there will be no way to service it when it's all the way out there. The 50 major deployments and 178 major release mechanisms need to work perfectly, otherwise the $10 billion telescope won't work.

Eric Berger, Ars Technica

Game On

At the start of the 2020 NFL season, 18 states had legal sports betting, a figure that this year stands at 26 states plus the District of Columbia, with a further five states having some kind of legalization in the works potentially before the conclusion of the season in February. According to a survey from the American Gaming Association — which clearly has some skin in the game for what it's worth — 45 million Americans planned to bet on the NFL season this year, up 36 percent over last year. Several teams such as the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets have inked deals with official betting partners, which makes sense, because if their fans are going to lose unfathomable money betting on the Jets, the franchise itself may as well get something for their troubles.

Wayne Parry, The Associated Press

Boxes

In August, U.S. ports were estimated to have handled 2.37 million imported containers, the single highest number for any month since records were first kept in 2002. For the year as a whole, the National Retail Federation is projecting 25.9 million 20-foot equivalent containers, which would absolutely smash the record of 22 million set in 2020. Ports are now entering the peak shipping season ahead of the holidays, and it's going to be grueling even by typical September standards: the Port of Los Angeles projects 35 percent more containers this week compared to the same week last year, and 80 percent more containers next week compared to last year.

Paul Berger, The Wall Street Journal

Solar

A new study out of the Department of Energy projects that, with the right investment, solar energy can account for 40 percent of the United States electricity as soon as 2035, a process that would employ 1.5 million people and require the installation of 30 gigawatts of solar annually from now through 2025, and 60 gigawatts a year from 2025 to 2030. The goal to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 will require an area the size of the Netherlands for the solar bit alone, which sounds bad until you recall America is roughly 240 times the size of the Netherlands.

Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

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