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Significant Digits For Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018

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

13.8 billion years

Per a new paper in the journal Nature, physicists have developed some really good clocks. So good, in fact, that they’d need to run for longer than the age of the universe — 13.8 billion years — in order to lose a single second. Fine, but why? Well, they can use these clocks “to precisely measure how gravity affects time.” That’s funny, that’s also how I use mine: The gravity, in my case, keeps me in bed, while the time passes by in a dusky, anxious haze. [Gizmodo]

20 states

Gasoline that costs less than $2 a gallon can now be purchased at at least one gas station in 20 U.S. states. You can thank “the bear market in crude oil” for that fact. This is, as it happens, far less than what it takes to fuel my own human body, which, at the bodega cost of $1.50 for a 16-ounce cup of coffee, works out to $12 a gallon. This, frankly, does not feel just. [Bloomberg]

80 women

Eighty women say they were molested or “otherwise sexually abused” by Jeffrey Epstein, a Palm Beach multimillionaire hedge fund manager accused of assembling a “cult-like network of underage girls,” whose friends included former President Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Epstein could have spent the rest of his life in prison, but instead a plea deal was struck whereby he’d serve 13 months in jail and an FBI probe into his victims and other powerful figures potentially involved in his crimes was shut down. [Miami Herald]

1,700 floating steel pontoons

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, will take place in India and stretch from mid-January to early March. Some 100 million people are expected. In preparation, more than 1,700 floating steel pontoons are being “repaired, built, placed, and capped.” [The Atlantic]

203 votes

Despite some earlier Democratic opposition, Nancy Pelosi has been nominated as the next speaker of the House. The vote was 203 for and 32 against, with three blank ballots and one member absent. [NPR]

3 rapid games

After the 12 regulation games of the World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. finished with 12 draws in a row, Carlsen quickly rolled over Caruana in the match’s faster tiebreaker games, winning three in a row and securing his fourth consecutive world title. Caruana was angling to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972, but that’s an achievement that will have to wait at least two more years. [FiveThirtyEight]

CORRECTION (Nov. 29, 2018, 12:54 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described a Democratic caucus vote for speaker. Nancy Pelosi was nominated by Democrats to be speaker, not elected speaker. The House will formally vote on its next speaker at the start of the next Congress, in January.

Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s new book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.” It’s in stores now! I hope you dig it.

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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.