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Significant Digits for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016

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

1 dam per day

Humanity may have kicked off an entire geological age in which we littered the ground with plastic, nitrogen and concrete. Whoops! But one feature that is having a large effect on the geology of the world is dams. Fun stat: Apparently large dams have been built around the world at a rate of roughly one per day for the past 60 years. [The New York Times]

18 percent

The Cook County jail in Chicago went into lockdown Tuesday after 18 percent of the guard staff called in sick. In fairness, it was kind of snowy in Chicago. [The Washington Post]


Crude oil briefly dropped below $30 per barrel on Tuesday. It’s the first time oil was sub-$30 in 12 years. [Bloomberg]


The St. Louis Rams are once again the Los Angeles Rams, as owner Stan Kroenke’s bid to move his team to LA beat out similar quests from the owners of the Raiders and Chargers. The NFL owner vote was 30-2. The Chargers have a yearlong option to join the Rams in LA, and the Raiders will get the same option if San Diego declines. [ESPN]

49 percent

Probability that Ted Cruz wins the Iowa caucuses, according to FiveThirtyEight’s primary model, which launched Tuesday. Be warned: That number is bound to change as newer data comes out. [FiveThirtyEight]

70 percent

Percentage of ad money spent on the 2016 presidential primary that has come from groups that aren’t affiliated with a campaign. On the GOP side, that figure is 83 percent, and on the Democratic side, it’s 2 percent. [NBC News]

78 percent

New York City’s high school graduation rate was higher than 70 percent for the first time. Statewide, 78 percent of high school students graduate on time. [The New York Times]

85 percent to 98 percent chance

Tonight there will be a massive drawing for the Powerball lottery, with an advertised jackpot of $1.5 billion. And while we were able to take a sincere stab at forecasting the probability of no winner for Saturday’s $948 million drawing, we are flying blind for tonight’s. This is by far the largest lottery in North American history, and we have zero precedent for eventual turnout levels. As best we could extrapolate, there’s somewhere between an 85 percent and 98 percent probability that at least one person will win the jackpot. [FiveThirtyEight]

115 poachers

A dog named Killer was awarded a medal for his work catching poachers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. In the past four years, Killer — who law enforcement sources claim is “a good dog, who’s a good dog, yes, you are, you’re a good dog” — has aided in the capture of 115 poachers who were likely hunting endangered rhinos in the park. [BBC]


Number of Tibetans who have self-immolated since Feb. 27, 2009, as an act of political protest against Chinese rule. [New York Review of Books]

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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.