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Significant Digits for Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015

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

Heads up: After today, Significant Digits will settle down for a long winter’s nap and emerge triumphant on Monday, Jan. 4. Apparently the editors want to enjoy time with their families or some made-up nonsense like that. Anyway, Happy Christmas, see you on the other side of the year.

3 whales

The third whale in six months has died at SeaWorld San Antonio. The park will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Given that the park is SeaWorld — an organization that may or may not profit from the agony of highly intelligent and social mammals — I can only assume that the autopsy will find that the whale died of just too much happiness. [San Antonio Express-News]

11.7 percent

Percentage of revenue Amazon spent on shipping costs in the third quarter this year. Given that chunk, it’s not a huge surprise that Amazon is looking to bring shipping costs in-house. The company spent about $8.7 billion on shipping last year, with its UPS account alone reportedly reaching upwards of $1 billion this year. [The Wall Street Journal]

37 percent

According to aa new Public Policy Polling poll, the percentage of Americans who believe in a War on Christmas. [Public Policy Polling]

67 percent

According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo model, that’s the probability that the 14-0 Carolina Panthers will go undefeated in the regular season. Assuming the team rests its starters, it has about a 49 percent chance. [FiveThirtyEight]

98 percent

If there’s anything we learned from the story of Han Solo, it’s that people often steal stuff while it’s en route to its destination, sometimes even in the last mile before delivery. According to a new report, pharmaceuticals, in particular painkillers, were the goods targeted in a whopping 98 percent last-mile thefts. [Stat News]


Estimated membership of the Knot a Problem community, a group of people who delight in untangling catastrophic yarn entanglements. They are, essentially, the Men in Black of “I ran my yarn through the dryer” and humanity thanks them. [The Wall Street Journal]

$5,000 to $10,000

Amount of money a convincing and enterprising Santa can make during the holiday season, according to a Santa booking agency. [Atlas Obscura]


For a while there, we thought we had a way to beat bacteria. From the discovery of Penicillin to the present day, humanity had a solid antibiotics strategy when it came to defeating the monocellular enemy. That era may have come to a close. Bacteria still kill about 700,000 people every year, even before antibiotic resistance kicks in. After that, dang, it’s kind of jungle rules. [Quartz]

$16 million

As we all know, the NFL takes chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a deleterious brain disease linked to repeated head injury in sports like football, very, very, very seriously. That’s presumably why the NFL contributed $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to research the effects of CTE. Unclear, however, is why the league pulled $16 million from a seven-year Boston University study of the disease, a project overseen by, golly, a critic of the NFL’s concussion policy. [ESPN]

$1.7 billion

Mikhail Prokhorov has acquired a 100 percent control of both the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, the stadium where the team plays. The Nets are worth $875 million and the arena is worth $825 million. Man, Steve Ballmer must feel like a chump right now. [ESPN]

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

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.