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Significant Digits For Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019

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

24,600 per liter

New research out of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research has shed further light on the abundance of microplastic pollution and how it is carried around the globe by the wind. The particles then settle in snow and ice, which the researchers tested, finding 24,600 per liter on average in European locations. This adds to a growing body of such work — an earlier study found that we eat some 50,000 microplastic particles a year. [The Guardian]

$12,049 in traffic fines

A computer hacker in California secured for himself as a cheeky joke the vanity license plate “NULL,” a word often used in programing to indicate an empty or undefined value. As a result, he at one point faced $12,049 in traffic fines. Whenever a traffic cop in the state forgot to enter a license plate number along with a citation, it seems, the ticket got sent the hacker’s way. [Wired]

$690 million lost

WeWork, an, uh, office rental company, states its mission as “to elevate the world’s consciousness.” The company has lost $2.9 billion in the past three years and $690 million in the first half of this year. Undeterred, WeWork has been aiming for a $3.5 billion IPO, and to raise billions more in debt, the former of which would be the second-biggest IPO of the year behind Uber’s. [Bloomberg]

90,000 signatures

More than 90,000 people have signed an online petition to rename Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets in New York City. If successful, the address of Trump Tower would become 725 President Barack H. Obama Avenue, New York, NY 10022. The entreaty fails to meet a street-renaming requirement that the honoree be dead, but the petitioners, one of whom started the project as a joke, hope that an exception can be made. [USA Today]

170 pounds

It’s been a big month for big birds. First came Squawkzilla, and now, in New Zealand, scientists have discovered a “monster” penguin that lived some 60 million years ago. Not only is Crossvallia waiparensis the oldest known penguin species, but it stood more than 5 feet tall and weighed more than 170 pounds. [NBC News]

50 households

Mysterious men in Henrico County, Virginia, wearing old televisions on their heads, have visited more than 50 households recently under dark of night, depositing on each doorstep … another old television. The same thing happened in the same county this time last year, though there were reportedly fewer televisions. A local police lieutenant declined to discuss the department’s theories. [The Washington Post]

From ABC News:

SigDigs: Aug. 15, 2019

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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.