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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. It’s Guest Week here at this column, which means a cavalcade of FiveThirtyEight writers has agreed to keep you numerate. Today’s guest writer: @blytheterrell.

1 in 300

A new study out of the University of Texas Medical Branch shows that female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can pass the Zika virus to their offspring, which is not great news. The researchers found that it was no sure thing, however — the virus was passed down at a rate of 1 in 300 mosquitoes. But that could still be a problem because mosquito populations are pretty huge. [STAT]


Well, dear readers, we now know the price of a New York minute. It’s 56 bucks, which is about how much more New Yorkers will pay per month in rent, on average, to live one single minute closer by subway to Manhattan’s business districts. After you shelled out the cash, what would you do with your extra minute? Sleep in? Linger over your oatmeal with a loved one? Toss in another $56 a month to avoid a tongue lashing from Kevin Spacey? Choose wisely. [FiveThirtyEight]

83 years

Actor Gene Wilder died Monday at age 83. Rest in peace, Mr. Wilder. You’ll always be Willy Wonka to me. [The New York Times]

97.8 percent

Canada brought back its mandatory long-form census this year (in case you needed a data-related reason to love Justin Trudeau), and the response rate was an impressive 97.8 percent. The overall response rate for both the long and short versions was 98.4 percent. CBC News quoted chief statistician Wayne Smith as saying this year’s census was the “best census since 1666.” [CBC News, h/t @JordanElder]

300+ dead reindeer

A couple of you tweeted me the weird story of the more than 300 reindeer that were killed by lightning at a national park in Norway. You already made the angry Santa jokes, so instead I’ll say that I hope the hallucinogenic shrooms took the edge off. [National Geographic]


Back in May 2015, a radio telescope in Russia detected a signal from star HD164595, which is a cool 95 light-years away and is about the same size as our sun. It’s kind of unclear why no one said anything until now; the scientists who recorded it attracted attention when they gave a talk about the signal. And it’s way, way too early to say whether this is a sign of extraterrestrial life. That said, if it is the SETI Institute has protocols in place for what it believes should happen next. [The Guardian]

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Blythe Terrell is a former senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.