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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018

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


In 2016, the United Nations International Maritime Organization announced that international shipping vessels will have to switch to fuels that are less than 0.5 percent sulfur content by 2020. This is a bit of a double-edged sword as far as climate change is concerned: Those ships are sending out lots of carbon dioxide each year, but temperatures may actually be down, by as much as 0.25 degrees celsius, thanks to the sulfur they’re also belching out over the oceans. Sulfur scatters sunlight and forms or thickens clouds. [MIT Technology Review]

3 officials

Three top officials in USA Gymnastics — Paul Parilla, Jay Binder and Bitsy Kelley — have resigned their positions. Those resignations came after pointed criticism of their leadership was leveled during USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing. More than 140 girls and women have said Nassar sexually abused them. [USA Today]

12 minutes

Estimated time of use for a single-use plastic bag, compared with the 500 to 1,000 years it takes for that bag to break down. A New York City attempt to discourage single-use plastic bags through a 5¢ fee was struck down at the state level. Meanwhile, nearly 100 municipalities had straight-up banned such bags as of last March; 30 others had added fees. [The Outline]

13 seats

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday struck down the state’s congressional map, which is gerrymandered such that Republicans control 13 of 18 seats despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans in the Keystone State. The state leadership has weeks to make a new map. [NBC Philadelphia]

3,422 delays

Number of MTA Subway delays that Con Edison was responsible for, according to newly released emails. Those emails show NYC Transit executives trying to crank up the number of delays attributable to power failures — realistically around 8,000, but later claimed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be four times that — so that Con Ed could be identified as, according to the Daily News, a scapegoat for the subway’s problems. [The New York Daily News]

Nearly 4 million people

Number of people who use the iQOS tobacco heating device, which heats but does not burn tobacco, in 30 markets outside the U.S. Philip Morris is trying to win FDA clearance to sell the iQOS as a “modified-risk product.” [Reuters]

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

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.