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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015

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


The Mississippi state primaries were Tuesday. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant won the Republican field handily, but the state Democratic Party did not exactly recruit a competitive slate: They’re going to get shellacked in the general no matter what. But! The victor in the Mississippi Democratic gubernatorial primary was trucker Robert Gray — who has never held elected office, was too busy to vote, and also reported raising zero dollars for his campaign. [The Clarion-Ledger, The Associated Press]

7 percent

Pennsylvania spends more than 7 percent of its annual state budget on its corrections system, about $2 billion. The state is considering basing punishments on the likelihood that an individual will commit more crimes in the future. Raises a lot of questions, right? [FiveThirtyEight]

8 percent

It’s been a year since CVS announced that it would stop selling cigarettes — a move that would involve short-term business lost with the hope of longer-term business gained — but details on those losses have finally appeared, and they’re not pretty. General merchandise sales — where cigarettes used to be — were down 8 percent at the drug store last quarter, and the company claimed that sales would have been flat if not for the change. [KMBC]


The Australian speaker of the lower house resigned amid what’s being described as “Choppergate,” an incident where Bronwyn Bishop used government funds to pay for helicopter trips despite a fiscally conservative policy portfolio. As an American, I find this surprising for two reasons, the first being that a helicopter trip for a few grand could never tank a member of Congress, and the second being since when did other countries start adding “gate” to the end of their scandals? That’s our thing! [The Economist]


That’s the number of lampposts in San Francisco. The city’s issue is that the lampposts are decaying: On Monday, a urine-degraded lamppost fell on a car, according to city officials. Lot to digest in that sentence, I know, but apparently urine degrades lampposts (but not fire hydrants, oddly enough, according to the city) and also this is such a problem in San Francisco that the sheer volume of urine is enough to topple a metal light pole. The budget for replacing light poles increased from $500,000 to $5 million last year alone, I presume because of an ocean of pee coursing through city streets. [SFGate]

$1 million

Gaming companies are looking at the growing e-sports phenomenon and seeing a way to extend the playable life of multiplayer games. Microsoft announced that for the forthcoming “Halo 5: Guardians,” it will launch the Halo World Championship with prizes worth $1 million. The gamble is that the interest built up by watching competitive Halo will drive players to the fifth game. [CNET]

$27.4 million

A Picasso that was considered a national treasure in Spain, “Head of a Young Woman,” was intercepted by French customs while being smuggled out of the country. Hey, what’s Nic Cage been up to lately? [The Associated Press]

$3 billion or more

Major League Baseball is actually an integral part of streaming video online — MLB Advanced Media streams video for, in addition to baseball, the WWE, HBO and ESPN* — and the company indicated that after a board vote it would spin off the tech operations of Advanced Media into its own company. BAM Tech would be worth upwards of $3 billion. The company also announced that it inked a deal with the NHL to stream hockey games, too. [Recode]

*Standard disclosure, ESPN owns FiveThirtyEight, which is where I work.

9 billion gallons

That’s how much water lawns consume every day nationwide. About 1.9 percent of the lower 48’s land area is consumed by lawns. Seems pointless. [The Washington Post]

$1.3 trillion

The S&P 500 may be up since June of last year, but oil has taken a substantial hit in that time. Energy companies saw $1.3 trillion of their value wiped out in the crash of crude oil’s price to below $50 a barrel. [Bloomberg]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, be sure to tweet it to me @WaltHickey.

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.