October 5, 2022

Today's Topics

Hello! We resisted the strong urge to do another chart on the latest chapter of the Musk-Twitter-will-they-won't-they saga. Instead, we're exploring:

  • Crypto crackdown. Celebrities promoting crypto are in the SEC's crosshairs.
  • Nobel efforts. Sequencing human genomes is getting cheaper.
  • Hiring slowdown. Companies are cutting back on hiring plans.

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Kim’s crypto

Kim Kardashian is handing over $1.26m to settle a lawsuit surrounding a crypto advert she posted for EthereumMax on Instagram back in June 2021.

The social media star asked fans ‘ARE YOU GUYS INTO CRYPTO????’ before touting the EMAX asset to her 200m+ Instagram audience, never stopping to disclose the fact that she was paid some $250k to do so.

Heavily influenced

Kardashian wasn't the first celebrity to hype EMAX. NBA star Paul Pierce promoted the coin soon after its launch in mid-May as did boxer Floyd Mayweather ahead of his fight with influencer Logan Paul, in which the token was the crypto of choice for the pay-per-view event. All 3 have been involved in lawsuits to do with the coin, although Kim is the only one to have paid up to settle the matter so far.

Unsurprisingly, having A-list celebrities endorse something works. EMAX trading volumes spiked after each, with a staggering $837m worth changing hands in the first 6 weeks of the coin's existence. Since last summer, however, the coin has lost some 95% of its value, and recent trading is mostly negligible, suggesting some large losses for individual investors.

Celebrities endorsing crypto is nothing new, but this case seems to be something of a landmark in the space. The SEC has deemed Kim Kardashian's post to be a promotion of a specific investment security, EMAX, rather than a broader endorsement of crypto as an asset class or idea. Matt Damon can, of course, tell you that fortune favours the brave in this over-the-top advert for a crypto platform, but talking about specific securities is where the SEC draws the line (unless you disclose the particulars of the #ad).

Nobel efforts

Svante Pääbo, a Swedish scientist, has won the Nobel Prize for his reconstruction of a full genome for Neanderthals and other extinct hominins. Pääbo's prize, officially the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, carried a 10m Swedish Kronor prize (~$920k USD) and was the first of six awards that are being announced this week. The impressive work, which saw Pääbo pioneer methods to extract and analyze DNA from Neanderthal bones, is experimentation that will hopefully get easier over time, as the cost of genome sequencing continues to fall.

Indeed, Illumina a company which has some 80% share of the global gene sequencing market — unveiled two new sequencing instruments this week. The company claims these tools will bring the cost of sequencing a full genome to less than $240 and give the company capacity to sequence ~20,000 genomes a year, up from 7,500. Tell those numbers to a scientist from the year 2000, when one human genome sequence would cost close to $100m, and they'd likely laugh you out of the lab.

The whole gene

What about that at-home DNA test kit you bought online? That only takes a snippet, usually around 0.02% of your DNA, using clues to predict your disease risks and ancestry.

Whole-genome sequencing, on the other hand, provides 4,000 times more data on your DNA than at-home tests, and is likely to lend a hand in major medical breakthroughs. The process helped the speedy creation of vaccines for Covid-19, can help the early detection of disease outbreaks, identify inherited disorders and even characterize genetic cell mutations in cancer patients.

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New data out yesterday showed that job openings in the US fell by more than 1.1 million in August. That's the second largest monthly decline in two decades, only eclipsed by the 1.2 million drop in April 2020.

Cooling off

After almost 18 months in which companies have been struggling to fill positions, with more job openings than people unemployed, US employers seem to be freezing up. Indeed, you don't have to look far to see the real-world evidence of this data. Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, announced yesterday that they were freezing hiring for corporate roles in their retail division for the rest of the year. Other companies to have declared some kind of hiring freeze recently include; Tesla, Netflix, Robinhood, Lyft, Ford and Meta.

The good news is that although job openings fell, the job vacancy to unemployed ratio is still high at 1.7, which on any historical comparison would still make 2022 a job-seekers market.

More Data

• Polarization: great chart from The Economist on what Democrats and Republicans actually do agree on.

Liquid Death, a startup selling water in 16 oz cans, has raised $70m of investment at a valuation of $700m.

• We think visual learning is better. That's why we put charts in our stories — and it's why we know you'll love Brilliant. Stunning interactive lessons on everything from foundational math to data science, machine learning and beyond, Brilliant helps you learn to think.**

• The data you didn't know you needed on the best decision-making method known to mankind — rock, paper, scissors.

• Not a businessman, a business, man: Jay-Z just invested $16.5m in a robot-powered pizza delivery service.

• The US teen chess grandmaster currently embroiled in a cheating scandal against Magnus Carlsen ‘likely cheated’ in over 100 online games, according to a new investigation.

• How you draw a circle reveals more about you than you’d ever imagine.

**This is sponsored content.

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