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Significant Digits For Monday, May 13, 2019

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


47 opposition parties

There were 47 opposition parties in last week’s South African elections. Only two of these, however — the centrist Democratic Alliance and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters — were “major players.” And neither defeated the African National Congress, led by Cyril Ramaphosa, which retained a narrow majority in the South African parliament, 25 years after it “led South Africa out of apartheid.” [The Washington Post]


$58 million

“Detective Pikachu” — “In a world where people collect Pokémon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective,” per IMDb — earned $58 million at the box office over the weekend, a record for a movie adaption of a video game. It beat out the $48 million earned by “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in 2001. [Box Office Mojo]

From ABC News:


136,000 years ago

About 136,000 years ago, the Aldabra Atoll sunk into the Indian Ocean. Tough news, then, for a bird called the white-throated rail, which had colonized the island and become flightless. However, scientists have discovered fossils from before and after the disappearance of Aldabra, demonstrating that the chicken-sized rail reappeared on the island when sea levels later dropped and again lost the ability to fly. It’s a process called iterative evolution — “the repeated evolution of a species from the same ancestor at different times in history.” [CNN]


0.41 batters

So far this season in Major League Baseball, 0.41 batters per team game have been hit by a pitch. That’s the highest figure since 1900 — the days of the Brooklyn Superbas and Wee Willie Keeler. One explanation is that there are simply more opportunities to plunk a batter: They’re extending counts, and pitchers are throwing more pitches. Another is an increased emphasis on hard throwing over control. And another is that it’s pitchers’ retribution for all the home runs batters are hitting. Indeed, more pitches than ever are being thrown inside. [FiveThirtyEight]


29 years old

For about an hour on Friday, as part of a routine rotation of Democratic representatives, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grasped the gavel and sat in for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In so doing, she became the youngest woman ever to preside over the House of Representatives. [Reuters]


17,000-ton ship

Last week, the U.S. government seized the 17,000-ton Wise Honest, the second-largest cargo vessel in the North Korean fleet, after it had violated sanctions. The ship was then sent to American Samoa. But what exactly is a government to do with such a ship? It could be auctioned, including to a member of the public; it could be used for Navy training; or it could be sunk. I hereby propose that we Significant Digits readers pool our money and christen the USS SigDig. [ABC News]


Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.”

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


Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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