Skip to main content
ABC News
Significant Digits For Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

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

13 to 21 years longer

Large life insurance company John Hancock will begin underwriting only “interactive policies” — those tied to health data harvested from wearable devices and smartphones. Holders of such policies live 13 to 21 years longer than other insured people, according to the company. Other than data breaches, inaccuracies, malfunctions, gaming of the system and otherwise creepy and constant bio-capitalistic surveillance, I don’t really see what’s wrong with this at all. [Reuters]

2 new Earth-like planets

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, telescope recently discovered two new Earth-like planets, according to early analyses of its data. One is a “super-Earth” and the other a “hot Earth,” and they orbit a star called Pi Mensae, about 60 light years from the real, crazy, A.D. 2018 Earth. Lucky them. [CNET]

2 to 3 percent of green crabs

Some very angry crabs are coming down from Canada, destroying clams and native grass, and generally just bollixing up the whole marine ecosystem in Maine. They’re the same species as Maine’s normal and relatively friendly crabs, but these interloping Canadian crabs favor fighting stances and waved pincers, and they can jump out of the water to attack. They make up only 2 or 3 percent of the crabs off of Maine right now, but a professor who studies such things said those numbers are certain to grow. [The Associated Press]

118 people with diarrhea

Oh, and speaking of small and atypically dangerous animals, there has been an outbreak of diarrhea caused by puppies and puppy poop. Is nothing sacred? It has affected 118 people, hospitalizing 26. The culprit, the bacteria Campylobacter, is often associated with raw chicken, but investigators found nothing untoward in the puppies’ diets, nor could the outbreak be linked to a single breeder. It may have been caused by “overzealous antibiotic use” in the pet industry. [The Verge]

40 years ago

The opioid crisis can seem like a recent phenomenon, driven by drugmakers and doctors’ prescriptions. But it may also be part of a 40-year trend, according to recent research published in the journal Science — a trend that has more to do with societal and cultural drivers. “This is a reason that U.S. society needs to pay attention to the loss of the sense of purpose, the widening economic disparities, the loss of community,” one of the researchers told NBC News. [NBC News]

24 HUD employees

A third of the 70 highest-paid appointees working in the Department of Housing and Urban Development — a department meant to serve the poorest Americans — have no evident housing policy experience, according to a Washington Post analysis. Sixteen of them worked on the presidential campaigns of either HUD Secretary Ben Carson or President Trump, or they had connections to their families. [The Washington Post]

Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s new book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.” It’s out on Oct. 9 and available for pre-order now — I hope you dig it.

If you see a significant digit in the wild, please 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.