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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018

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

2 times the speed of sound

NASA broke a world record recently, deploying a 180-pound parachute in just 0.4 seconds, or at twice the speed of sound. The parachute will be used in a Mars mission in 2020. To paraphrase Coolio: Gotta gotta go fast to go slow. [WABC]

2 Obama-Trump districts

One week, people. And new polling has shown very close contests in two swingy districts that were won by Barack Obama in 2012 but by Donald Trump in 2016, my colleague Geoffrey Skelley writes. Those districts are the Iowa 3rd, where a Democratic challenger is slightly ahead of a Republican incumbent, and the New Jersey 3rd, where there is a deadlocked race between a Democratic challenger and a Republican incumbent. Overall, there are 21 Obama-Trump districts in the country, nine of which are currently held by Democrats. [FiveThirtyEight]

4 Scrabble world titles

All hail Nigel Richards, the greatest Scrabble player ever to live. Richards, from Malaysia by way of New Zealand, won his fourth world championship over the weekend, which he can add to his five U.S. national championships and his titles in French-language Scrabble — a language that he does not speak. OK, Nigel, seriously: time to try Romanian. [The Guardian]

9 hours of ‘Executive Time’

Last Tuesday, according to schedules obtained by Politico, President Trump had three times as much planned free time as he did planned work time, a ratio that is not unusual for the president. Much of that freedom is described in his schedules as “Executive Time” — “a euphemism for the unstructured time Trump spends tweeting, phoning friends and watching television.” Last week, for example, the earliest official commitment the president had began at 11 a.m. [Politico]

8,000 kids

In a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that gun injuries send more than 8,000 kids to the emergency room each year. Over a nine-year period of analysis, 75,000 children with an average age of 15 went to the emergency room, at a total cost of almost $3 billion. [The Associated Press]

Net loss of 9 million users

Last week, Twitter reported a net loss of 9 million users for the quarter, thanks largely to recent purges of fake or spam accounts. And Twitter — embattled by, among other things, the prevalence on its platform of Nazis — is reportedly “rethinking everything about the service.” That, according to reports Monday, includes the possible removal of the “like” button, formerly known as the “favorite” button. Perhaps that would be good news; perhaps I can seek my existentially validating food pellets in healthier, less online ways. [Variety]

Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s new book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.” It’s in stores now! I hope you dig it.

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.