Skip to main content
ABC News
Significant Digits For Friday, March 31, 2017

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

0 amputations

For the first time since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, deployed American soldiers went a full calendar year without needing a single combat amputation. That’s far down from what was happening during some of the most intense fighting; in 2011, troops received an average of 22 amputations per month. [Denver 7]

One-third of plays

Spring is slowly springing, and that means baseball season is upon us. Our venerable national pastime is still evolving, and my colleagues explored some of its recent developments. Looming among them: the dramatic rise of the defensive shift. The strategy was used on nearly a third of all balls in play last season. The batters who face the shift the most have suffered, and my colleagues predict we haven’t seen the last of its rise. [FiveThirtyEight]

1.5 meter debris shield

Two veteran astronauts — Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough — were on a planned spacewalk outside of the International Space Station when the debris shield they were installing floated away into the cold distance of space. The shield, meant to protect against micrometeorites, is now one of “21,000 other pieces of orbiting trash and debris” that can be tracked from Earth. NASA claims it poses no threat to the astronauts or the $100 billion craft. [The Guardian]


On Wednesday, during a dinner outside D.C., FBI director James Comey revealed that he had a secret Instagram account with “nine followers.” On Thursday, Gizmodo writer Ashley Feinberg, after a cool bit of internet investigation, claimed to have found it. The account in question was named after Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian about whom Comey had written a senior thesis. If it was Comey, he in fact had 10 followers, but had made a staggering 3,226 posts. [Gizmodo]

6,620 manatees

The manatee — that noble sea cow, magnificent creature of the shallows — is no longer an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded the animals from “endangered” to “threatened” thanks to an annual count that found 6,620 of them luxuriating in Florida waters. But not everyone is happy about the news. The executive director of Save the Manatee Club lamented the reduced protections that would follow and said that the reclassification would “seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long-term survival.” [Miami Herald]

250,000 vehicles

Roughly 250,000 vehicles drive through a stretch of I-85 in traffic-laden Atlanta every day. On Thursday, a 100-foot-long elevated section of that interstate collapsed, and ten of its lanes will be “closed for the foreseeable future.” The cause of the collapse was a massive fire, but no injuries were reported. [CNN]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @ollie.

Oliver Roeder was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied game theory and political competition.