Skip to main content
ABC News
Significant Digits For Thursday, May 21, 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. To receive this as an email newsletter, please subscribe.

17 women

The number of girlfriends who showed up at a man’s hospital bed in China after being contacted by doctors after he’d had an accident. The beaucoup belles had been theretofore unaware of each other’s existence. The man, identified only as “Mr. Yuan,” has been arrested for fraud related to money he took from the women. Some of the women were upset by the accident at first, “But when I started seeing more and more beautiful girls show up, I couldn’t cry any more,” said Xiao Li. [BBC]

27 tornadoes

The number spotted Tuesday through early Wednesday morning in Texas and Oklahoma. Two injuries and no deaths were reported. [The Weather Channel]

103 papers and videos

The number of documents released by the U.S. on Wednesday, obtained during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. The broader message of the documents is familiar: Kill Americans. But some show off the humdrum side of terrorist life, including “a fill-in-the-blanks job application for al-Qaida candidates that not only asks typical human resources questions about education and hobbies but also, ‘Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?'” Another document asks for martyrs’ emergency contact information. [AP]


Ebola workers, Time magazine’s persons of the year, are not exactly well compensated. One hospital burial team in Sierra Leone was promised just $115 a week in “hazard pay.” For months, they did not receive it. For Sierra Leone, “It was a monumental challenge in a country with a cash economy, no digital human resources database, a dearth of accountants, and a history of corruption.” [Newsweek]

180 episodes

The number of shows about nothing you can binge on in a matter of weeks. Hulu has announced that all of “Seinfeld” will be available for streaming, for the first time, starting June 24. Festivus comes early this year. [Entertainment Weekly]

0.77 on a 5-point scale

The large shift toward support of same-sex marriage by voters visited by gay canvassers a month prior, according to a widely cited study by Ph.D. candidate Michael LaCour and political scientist Donald Green. The study was covered by many major media outlets and featured on “This American Life.” It was seen as a major finding — “an affirmation of the power of human contact to overcome disagreement.” The only trouble is … it’s all made up. Green has submitted a retraction to Science, the journal where the article was originally published, after learning that the underlying data was fallacious. LaCour had been offered a prestigious assistant professorship at Princeton, but has since removed any evidence of that fact from his website. [FiveThirtyEight]

1,500 miles

President Barack Obama, insect lover in chief, has revealed a plan to expand “pollinator habitat on rights-of-way.” In other words, the federal government will improve butterfly habitats along Interstate-35, which runs 1,500 miles from the Mexican border to Minnesota. That’s an important path in the Monarch butterfly’s migration. Obama has also proposed restoring 7 million acres of habitat friendly to the ever-struggling bee. [Quartz]

6,500 words

The number of newly playable words just added to the Scrabble dictionary. They include vape, onesie, pwn, lolz, shizzle, grr, yeesh and obvs. And emoji, obvs. These words are valid in the Scrabble lexicon called Collins, which is used in English-language play outside North America, and at World Championships. (The state of the North American dictionary, on the other hand, is a nightmare, lolz.) [Herald Scotland]

$187 million

The amount a Tennessee family bilked from ostensible cancer charities. In fact, the money was spent on “cars, gym memberships, cruise vacations, and college tuition.” For that money, I’m guessing they were the fittest, tannest, most educated family in Tennessee. The Federal Trade Commission has brought suit against James T. Reynolds Sr., his ex-wife and son. The money was solicited, $20 at a time, by telemarketers. [Fox News]

$5.6 billion

In yet more uplifting financial news, five banks will plead guilty and have agreed to pay nearly $6 billion for multiple crimes. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland will plead guilty to antitrust activities in foreign exchange markets. And UBS will plead guilty to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, “a benchmark rate that underpins the cost of trillions of dollars in credit cards and other loans.” Seriously, enough already, people. [DealBook]

If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.

Walter Hickey’s magical mystery tour continues apace. So, assuming you’re not too sick of me, if you see a significant digit in the wild tweet it to @WaltHickey @Ollie.

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.