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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019

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


5-gallon buckets

For some 18 years, visitors to the Grand Canyon museum building may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation emanating from five-gallon containers filled with uranium ore near a taxidermy exhibit. Federation officials removed the material last year, but the safety manager alleged a coverup, saying nothing was done to alert employees or visitors. The radiation was reportedly discovered a year ago by a teenager “who happened to be a Geiger counter enthusiast.” [Arizona Republic]


50 to 70 individuals

According to a report from the North Korea Strategy Center, a think tank founded by a North Korean defector, Kim Jong Un has engaged in a “purge” of some 50 to 70 people, including executions, imprisonments, exiles and the seizure of assets. Kim is said to be targeting opponents of his diplomacy with the U.S. and South Korea. Inside North Korea, the efforts are billed as a “war on corruption.” [The Wall Street Journal]


10 politicians

Joe Biden had led in most of the Democratic presidential primary polls he’s appeared in — so would it be odd if he didn’t actually run? Not necessarily. My colleague Geoffrey Skelley found 10 politicians since 1972 who had been frontrunners and never entered the race. They include Joe Biden himself (in 2016), Mitt Romney (in 2016), Sarah Palin (in 2012), Hillary Clinton (in 2004) and Al Gore (in 2004). [FiveThirtyEight]


15 years in prison

The so-called Ivory Queen, Yang Feng Glan, was sentenced by a Tanzanian court to 15 years in prison for smuggling 350 elephants’ tusks, worth some $5.6 million, to Asia. The sentence represents “a major victory in the effort to stamp out poaching in Africa,” writes Reuters. [Reuters]


94 years

For the first time in nearly a century, Beijing’s Forbidden City was open to the public at night. The Forbidden City, home to dynastic emperors for nearly 500 years and now said to be haunted, was lit up with lanterns to celebrate the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. [The Washington Post]


$300 million, 10-year deal

The San Diego Padres signed infielder Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million deal. It’s the largest contract in the history of the franchise and the second-largest in the history of baseball, after Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal with the Miami Marlins. The Padres have appeared in two World Series — in 1984 and 1998 — and won neither. [Associated Press]


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

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




From ABC News:


Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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