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Significant Digits For Monday, Dec. 7, 2015

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

0 cancer

Yeah, I’m kind of stretching the concept of a digit here, but former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is cancer free. Carter, who announced in August that he had four melanoma lesions on his brain, said Sunday that those were gone and that there were no signs of new ones. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

1.5 extra years

Having a bunch of books in your home can be huge for kids: A study of 15-year-olds in 42 countries found that — outside of gross national product — the number of books in a home was the best predictor of reading proficiency. “The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance.” [The New York Times]


The Carolina Panthers beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, making the Panthers 12-0 and the first team in the league to clinch a playoff bid. In other good news, the Pats lost. In bad news, it was Philadelphia who beat them. [ESPN]

13 months

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will reportedly investigate the Chicago Police Department and the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. It took 13 months, and a judge’s order, before video of the killing was released. [The Chicago Sun-Times]

52.3 percent

The Kepler telescope has been trawling the skies for planets that exist outside our own solar system, but a new survey of the data found that about 52 percent of the identified planets may have been false positives. [Science World Report]

78 percent

Probability that a straight woman’s first marriage will last at least 20 years, provided she has a bachelor’s degree. Compare that with a 40 percent probability for women who have finished only high school, or less. [Pew Research Center]

99 percent

The Cavendish banana constitutes about 99 percent of the global banana market, but it wasn’t always so. The Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel, which was wiped out by a disease about 50 years. Now, it’s happening again, with planters powerless to stem Tropical Race 4, a powerful and deadly disease killing Cavendish populations worldwide. Too carby anyway if you ask me. [The Washington Post]

1,367 men

Number of men who suffered a genital injury from 2001 through 2013 as part of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Within a year, surgeons at Johns Hopkins University will attempt the first penis transplant in the U.S. on one such wounded soldier. [The New York Times]


A Freedom of Information Act request from student journalist Chris Robbins in Michigan — asking which websites were blocked on his school’s computers — resulted in a fee of $7,917.15. After Robbins appealed the price, the school district responded with a bill of $8,806. The student later submitted a simpler request. [The Detroit News]


MIT researchers have hacked the Microsoft Kinect to do fluorescence lifetime imaging, a medical technique “that could be useful for cancer diagnosis and DNA sequencing.” Your basic Kinect sells for about $100. The standard imaging device usually goes for $100,000. [Fast Company]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.