You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.
The theoretical maximum efficiency of solar panel cells is 29 percent. The record for efficiency was 25.6 percent, but Kaneka Corp. has raised the bar and made a solar cell that was measured with 26.3 percent and later 26.6 percent efficiency. As the cost of solar panels decreases overall, energy from the sun is becoming an increasingly economical alternative to fossil fuels. [Ars Technica]
Cover crops are plants that farmers grow in the cold parts of the year that can help trap nutrients in the soil to keep them out of streams. They’re great for the environment but more work for farmers. Maryland built incentives for farmers — to the tune of dollars per acre — that led to more than 50 percent of corn fields on the Eastern Shore getting winter cover crops. [NPR]
Share of the time that the home team has won this NBA season, an all-time low home-field advantage. Players speculate that this is down from 67.9 percent in 1987-88 because the partying culture has changed. [ESPN]
Airline frequent-flier-mile fanatics — who are a truly absurd bunch, but damn do they get nice perks — forced the swift shutdown of a promotion that gave 150 British Airways points for every dollar spent on a new Match.com subscription. That’s a really good deal, and married people were making Match.com accounts just to get the points. [The Wall Street Journal]
Chicago is extending the grace period for its red-light cameras from 0.1 seconds after the light turns red to 0.3 seconds. This means that the city will not collect an estimated $17 million a year in tickets from those bold red runners who slide through lights 0.1 to 0.3 seconds after they turn. [Ars Technica]
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