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Significant Digits For Thursday, March 9, 2017

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


5 years old

Edith Fuller goes to Washington. The 5-year-old from Tulsa will be heading to D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She’s the youngest ever to qualify for the nation’s premier phonemic orthographic competition, which will be held in late May and early June. Edith spelled 37 words in her regional qualifying bee, including philately, Baedeker, jnana and Weimaraner. [KJRH]


38 Trump trademarks

The Chinese government has preliminarily approved 38 Trump trademarks, which cover hotels, golf clubs and concierge services. While a director at a Hong Kong intellectual property outfit told the Associated Press that he’d never seen so many trademark applications approved so quickly, any special treatment in trademark rights received by President Trump would violate the U.S. Constitution, experts said. [AP]


303 counties

A$AP Rocky, one of the great musical geniuses of our time, told us in his 2011 track “Purple Swag” that “everything is purple.” David Wasserman, writing for this website, disagrees. Purple America — those counties that don’t vote super red or super blue — is disappearing. In fact, of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), only 303 were decided by single-digit percentage points in the most recent presidential election. In contrast, 1,096 counties were purple by that standard in the 1992 election. [FiveThirtyEight]


1,000-to-1 odds

Last month, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, besting the Atlanta Falcons. This was quite a surprise, at least when the fourth quarter started given Atlanta’s 28-9 lead. But just how big a surprise depends on the model you looked at. Some projections put New England’s chances at their nadir at 25-1, while others had them as 1,000-1 dogs. As the statistician George Box is often credited with saying: “All models are wrong but some are useful.” [StatsbyLopez]


20,669 words

On their face, the iTunes terms and conditions don’t really make for engrossing reading. But the 20,669-word document has, overcoming somewhere between 25-1 and 1,000-1 odds, been transformed into the “year’s hottest graphic novel,” in an adaptation by the author Robert Sikoryak. The late Steve Jobs appears on each page of the book, as a famous comic book character, rattling off the dense legalese. [The Guardian]


30 billion light years

From a galaxy called A2744_YD4, some 30 billion light years from where you’re reading this, astronomers have identified the “characteristic heat emanations” of dust. This very, very old dust — which you or I might sweep aside like so much … old dust — is important evidence of the early births and violent deaths of stars after the Big Bang. [The New York Times]


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

Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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