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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018

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

$100 million gift

Foxconn, known for manufacturing Apple’s iPhones in China, is opening a factory in Wisconsin. Yesterday, it announced that it was investing $100 million in research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s one of the largest gifts in the history of the school, and is seen as establishing a path between the university’s students and future employment at the factory, which could eventually employee 13,000 people. [AP]

$16 billion valuation

Juul, the e-cigarette company and now a verb, is valued at $16 billion. But the Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether Juul illegally marketed its products to young people. This investigation is symptomatic of a newly pressing public health dilemma, writes the Times: “Will it be possible to get people who are addicted to cigarettes to switch to e-cigarettes, which are less harmful, without enticing a new generation or non-smokers to try them?” [The New York Times]

0.9 to 2.4 percent of brown bears’ DNA

The DNA of extinct cave bears has been found in the DNA of very-much-alive brown bears. Between 0.9 and 2.4 percent of the brown bears’ DNA can be traced to the extinct forebears (as it were). There is only one other animal for which scientists have discovered a similar result: humans. Between 1 and 4 percent of our DNA traces back to extinct Neanderthals. [National Geographic]

13 of 21 studies

Central to the proper functioning of the scientific method is reproducibility — the idea that if you found some scientific results, I should be able to find them, too, if I follow your methods. In practice, however, this is often not the case. A new Nature study tried to replicate other Nature studies, as well as some published in Science. Of the 21 studies chosen, the researchers were only able to replicate experiments from 13 of them, and the effects they could reproduce were not as strong as their original authors had found. [NPR]


Stocks surged yesterday on the news that the U.S. and Mexico had struck a new trade deal, called The United States-Mexico Trade agreement, dropping the NAFTA name. The Dow and Nasdaq each rose about 1 percent, with the latter cracking 8,000 for the first time ever. (But please remember: the stock market is not the economy.) [CNBC]

$1.5 trillion in debt

Seth Frotman, the student loan ombudsman and the top government official overseeing those loans, resigned in protest yesterday. In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, Frotman wrote that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he worked, was serving powerful financial companies at the expense of millions of Americans. The current value of the student loan market is $1.5 trillion. [AP]

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