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Significant Digits For Friday, Sept. 11, 2015

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

11 percent

Despite antibiotic treatments, that’s the fatality rate of people infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague. Yes, plague, that thing that apparently still exists. Also, military labs may have mislabeled, improperly stored or shipped infectious plague samples, which has led to a moratorium on research since Sept. 2. Have a nice weekend! [USA Today]

15 percent

Probability of winning the Super Bowl for Seattle and New England, according to the newly unleashed FiveThirtyEight Elo NFL predictions model. New England’s win over Pittsburgh last night bumped the Patriots’ chances up from 14 percent to 15 percent. If your team is in the low probabilities in the model, be sure to tweet “So you’re saying there’s a chance” to my colleagues on the viz team. I know from last year that they love that. [FiveThirtyEight]

56 people

The number of people since Sept. 4 who have been hospitalized because of Salmonella infections, the most recent victims in an outbreak linked to cucumbers that is believed to have affected hundreds. That’s right, we have more horrifying bacteria news today in Significant Digits. Tell your friends, it’s a great newsletter. The NIH recommends cleaning utensils and surfaces, cooking food and refrigerating perishables to prevent the disease. I recommend consuming cucumbers only in the form of picklebacks and tzatziki sauce. Not for health reasons or anything, just because they kind of suck otherwise. [TIME]

63 percent

Percentage of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center study on scientific literacy, who can correctly interpret a scatterplot graph. This has led me to drastically re-evaluate my job security. [Pew Research Center]

90 days

Airbus is working on a drone that can fly for 90 consecutive days without refueling, hoping to sell it to the U.K. Ministry of Defense. The reconnaissance aircraft would, I presume, form some kind of autonomous Skynet with no negative consequences whatsoever. [The Telegraph]


Lots of companies are adopting models to closely track employee performance. Do people love being ruthlessly tracked by corporate overlords who monitor their every move to extract every modicum of shareholder value from them? Nah. But the thing is, it works: In some restaurant chains that adopted a close employee monitoring system, weekly revenue rose by $2,975. [FiveThirtyEight]


Reported circulation of The Riverdale Record, a fake newspaper produced on behalf of New York state Sen. Jeff Klein. Journalists said Klein was displeased with recent coverage in The Riverdale Press, an actual newspaper, which reported on Klein’s donations from a real estate mogul who funded colleagues now under investigation for corruption. [Gotham Gazette]


Daniel Craig, who plays James Bond, gave nearly $50,000 to an organization he believed was supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately for Craig, the Super PAC has failed to file campaign finance disclosures, is disavowed by Sanders himself and is run by a man wanted on two warrants in the state of Arizona. Well, [sips martini] M always said Bond was reckless with Moneypenny [speeds off in Aston Martin, sends spec script to MGM]. [The Center for Public Integrity]

$1.9 million

A side effect of your state defending its same-sex marriage ban is that it may now be on the hook for the legal fees of the people who were suing it. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota have already settled with victorious litigants, and Michigan is considering how to respond to a $1.9 million demand from plaintiffs’ lawyers. [Al Jazeera]

$79 million

Total grants to a project to process 70,000 untested rape kits in 27 states, thanks to a $38 million contribution from the New York County district attorney’s office and $41 million announced by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. [The Huffington Post]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.