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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. Today also marks the first edition of the Significant Digits newsletter! If you’d rather not click on a website to read this, sign up here.

3 states

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in every state, but was also “Robert E. Lee Day” in three states. Two you’ll be able to guess right away, but the third is trickier. All three answers at the end of this post. [Slate]

4.22 out of 10

A study published last month tried to find if people could determine the difference between wines from California’s overrated Napa Valley and the gleaming metropolis that is the great state of New Jersey. In a blind taste test, Duke University oenophiles and four experts rated six wines — two from the Garden State, four from Napa — equally. In a followup experiment, wine club members were asked to guess where the wines were from and then rate them. Whether they were correct or not, “New Jersey” wines scored 4.22 out of 10 on average, while “California” wines earned a 5.75. [The Atlantic]

15 substances

The American Chemical Society released a study that analyzed water contamination levels before, during and after a large, 600,000-person music festival. The waters saw increased spikes of illegal drugs in locations and dates that were popular with tourists. They observed significant spikes of 15 substances — from acetaminophen to MDMA — that could potentially pose low-to-high risks for aquatic life. [Ars Technica]

80 percent of Americans

A survey by Oklahoma State University suggested 80 percent of Americans favored “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” which is most of them (anything derived from plants — grains, fruits or vegetables — or animal — meat and dairy — or other organisms). Unless your diet is pure refined sugar and salt — which, since we’re talking about Americans here, isn’t exactly out of the question — there is DNA in your food and you probably like it. [Washington Post]


TLC, the 1990s girl group that touched the hearts of millions, has turned to Kickstarter to fund its latest and allegedly final album. It’s asking for $150,000 and has 30 days of fundraising to go, with almost a third already accounted for. No scrubs need donate. [Kickstarter, via Billboard]

$90 million

“American Sniper” smashed records for the largest January opening weekend, hauling in more than $90 million. In addition to its early release in some markets on Dec. 25, the Oscar-nominated film starring Bradley Cooper has grossed about $115 million. [ABC News]

¥120 million

Cost of a 12.5-foot, 5-ton ridable mech robot on Amazon Japan, about $1,020,000. [The Verge]

3.6 billion people

The richest 80 people on Earth have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people. Of the 80, 11 were born into their wealth, while 19 others inherited wealth and later grew it. Capitalism! [FiveThirtyEight]

$10 billion

Elon Musk — the entrepreneur behind SpaceX, Tesla, and the bar-napkin-idea-taken-too-far that is the Hyperloop — has gone into additional detail about a $10 billion plan for satellite-based internet, with Google reportedly an investor. The network could improve rural coverage, help increase the speed with which messages reach proposed Mars travelers, and presumably help Mr. Musk and friends defeat Ultron. [The Verge]

$350 billion over 10 years

State of the Union spoiler alert: President Obama will propose several tax hikes that would generate $350 billion in reported revenue over the next 10 years. The hikes would have to pass through a GOP-controlled Congress so honestly I don’t even feel like it’s worth bullet-pointing them out here. [New York Magazine]

Answers to the first item: Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas all celebrate Robert E. Lee Day the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

One more plea for the newsletter: Sign up for it now, and be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news. Sign up here. And, as always, if you see a significant digit in the wild, tweet it to me @WaltHickey.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.