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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018

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


25 out of 43 proteins

DeepMind, the Google artificial intelligence outfit that built superhuman programs for playing chess and Go, is now folding proteins. Better understanding of the structure of proteins — building blocks of life — could have dramatic effects on the future of health care. AlphaFold, as the Google system is called, was entered into a “protein-folding olympics that attracts research groups from around the world.” It predicted the most accurate structure for 25 out of 43 proteins. The second-place team predicted three. [The Guardian]


80 times as massive as the Sun

Scientists recently announced the largest and most distant collision of black holes ever observed. It happened 5 billion light years from Earth, and the crash created a single black hole 80 times as massive as the Sun. We can identify these crashes thanks to the so-called gravitational waves they create, which were captured in this case by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the U.S. and Virgo in Europe. [The Verge]


125 herpetologists

As we all know, there’s but one question on the mind of the nation: Who would win in a fight, an anaconda or a Komodo dragon? My colleague Maggie Koerth-Baker turned to 125 herpetologists — that is, amphibian and reptile scientists — for an answer. Spoiler alert: nearly two-thirds picked the anaconda. [FiveThirtyEight]


$2 million in debt

According to documents collected by his former tour promoters, Milo Yiannopoulos, the far-right activist, was more than $2 million in debt in 2018. He reportedly owed money at times to employees, a former collaborator, other right-wing writers, former lawyers, a wedding venue, a billionaire family and the jewelry company Cartier. “I’m doing fine and bringing in $40,000 a month,” Yiannopoulos told The Guardian. [The Guardian]


46 seconds into its favorite song

There’s an AI robot aboard the International Space Station, and it’s not happy. CIMON, as it’s called, was meant to be a friend to the space-bound astronauts. But 46 seconds after CIMON played astronaut Alexander Gerst a song — “The Man-Machine” by Kraftwerk, natch — Gerst asked the robot to “please stop playing music.” “Be nice please,” the robot continued. “Don’t you like it here with me?” Umm, well, about that … [Quartz]


$10 billion government contract

Members of President Trump’s inner circle at Mar-a-Lago, including a lawyer, a doctor and the chairman of Marvel Entertainment, reviewed a confidential draft of a $10 billion government contract for the overhaul of electronic health records of veterans — “even though they lack any relevant expertise” — not to mention their involvement in other Veterans Affairs matters. [ProPublica]


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

Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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