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Significant Digits For Friday, May 18, 2018

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. Personal news first: I’m leaving FiveThirtyEight soon to start a forthcoming daily newsletter, Numlock News. SigDig will absolutely continue with a new writer, but if you’ve been a fan of my run please subscribe!


11 mega-rains

Minnesota, and much of the rest of the midwest, have been getting wetter. Since 1973, Minnesota has had 11 rainstorms where the center of the storm dropped over eight inches of precipitation and where more than six inches of rain fell over 1,000 square miles. These mega-rains are getting more common; eight of them occurred since 2000, and there were two in 2016 alone. [FiveThirtyEight]


90 percent

That’s the percentage of prescriptions that are filled with generic drugs. To make those generic drugs, developers need 1,500 to 5,000 units of brand-name drugs, but oftentimes the manufacturer of the brand name drug doesn’t want to provide drug samples to people who will make that drug for far cheaper. Recent government proposals to compel drug companies to make samples available to generic competitors are projected to save the federal government $3.8 billion over a decade. [The New York Times]


2,700 °C

Ships tend to run on diesel or bunker fuel, and burning those fuels leads to soot, emitting more than a million tonnes of exhaust particles per year. New research from the Korea Maritime and Ocean University has found a method, though, that converts that soot into usable graphite by heating it to 2,700 °C. [Hakai Magazine]


1.2 million residents

The port city of Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has approximately 1.2 million residents and lies about 300 miles upstream from the capital. So far 44 people showed symptoms of a viral hemorrhagic fever — three have had it confirmed as Ebola and the rest are believed to be likely Ebola cases — and one case in Mbandaka has health officials worried about the possibility of an outbreak spreading to population centers. [The Hill]


2.2 million

In 1999, the market for prescription testosterone in the U.S. was worth $100 million, with 648,000 prescriptions written annually. By 2002 that count of prescriptions rose to 1.75 million, and recently the number of men with prescriptions for testosterone has grown considerably, to 2.2 million in 2013, with the market worth more than $2 billion. [Reason]


3.85 million

There were only 3.85 million U.S. babies born in 2017, a 2 percent drop from the previous year and a 30-year low. This isn’t a problem now, but it will be; aging societies that have declining birthrates and low immigration rates have more difficulties sustaining social services with decreased economic output and increased numbers of retired people. [The Associated Press]


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Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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