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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. To receive this newsletter in your inbox, subscribe.

11.3 percent

The share of student loans at least 90 days overdue hit 11.3 percent at the end of last year, with $1.16 trillion in student borrowing overall. [Associated Press]

39 times per week

In the U.S., a foreign object is left inside a patient after surgery 39 times per week. My research found no evidence any of these objects are adamantium skeletons — they are sponges, towels, etc. — so this seems like an unconditionally bad thing. [Wall Street Journal]

70 episodes

John Oliver, the former-Daily Show correspondent turned late-night host, has signed a two-season deal with HBO. The popular program has been green-lit for two more 35-episode seasons, presumably ending speculation about Oliver taking “The Daily Show” chair. [Los Angeles Times]


The S&P 500 reached a new all-time high, exceeding 2,100 points for the first time following good news out of Greece and a rise in technology shares. Congratulations, America, for passing an arbitrary number that is divisible by some power of 10 — the bread-and-butter of all financial news. [Bloomberg Business]

5,788 votes

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has the best attendance record in the Senate, with 5,788 votes cast and zero missed. The same cannot be said of several of her colleagues. Sen. Marco Rubio leads the no-show pack with 8.3 percent of votes missed. [Vocativ]

180,000 bed bug bites

Biologist Regine Gries has endured more than 180,000 bed bug bites in an attempt to win money on Fear Factor find the pheromones that attract the horrible insects. The research may help destroy the pest once and for all, but I still think my plan is better. [CBS New York]


The number of people worldwide worth more than $30 million in 2014. [Vice]

$1.97 million

The U.S. paid the government of the Philippines $1.97 million after a particularly botched parking job, when a Navy mineswpeeper destroyed 25,240 square feet of coral reef in 2013. [Associated Press]

3.2 billion years

Life may have appeared on earth a billion years earlier than previously believed. Evidence of widespread nitrogen-processing organisms appears to have been found in new rock samples from that time period. [Washington Post]

$19 billion

That’s how much Snapchat thinks it’s worth. This valuation may self-destruct in 10 seconds. [Bloomberg Business]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.