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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016

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

3 minutes

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock — “the symbolic countdown to humanity’s end,” as The Guardian put it — to three minutes to midnight, informing me that what I thought was just a made-up thing from “Watchmen” is actually a real organization that somehow stuck around after the Cold War. [The Guardian]

5 arrests

Five people who had occupied a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon were arrested in a traffic stop Tuesday, including alleged ringleader Ammon Bundy. Two people were shot by police during a gunfight, and one, LaVoy Finicum, the group’s spokesperson, was killed. They’ll all face a federal charge of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.” [CNN]

10 percent

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tossed two water samples from Flint that would have put the average test above the “actionable level” of 15 parts of lead per billion. Had those samples not been excluded, the state would have had to tell Flint residents their water was poisoned back in the summer of 2015, rather than just recently. [FiveThirtyEight]

34 years

Character actor Abe Vigoda died at 94 on Tuesday, 34 years after a mistaken report of his death in People in 1982. [The New York Times]

90 ads

Iowans are dealing with wall-to-wall campaign advertisements, and it completely overhauls most resident’s media consumption. One family my colleague Clare Malone followed for a day saw 90 political advertisements in about 17 hours. [FiveThirtyEight]


A dog ran a half-marathon in Alabama and got a way better time than you probably ever could. [The Guardian]

H.R. 4009

A bill to regulate flamethrowers the same way the government regulates machine guns, from Rep. Eliot Engel of New York. More importantly, the bill’s name is the “Flamethrowers? Really? Act” and it is named after a Seth Meyers line from Saturday Night Live. I mean, the guy had some valid points about the surprising legality of flamethrowers. [Bloomberg]


Brazil will deploy 220,000 soldiers to fight the Zika virus, which is spreading very quickly across country. I just realized, aren’t we having an Olympics there in like a few months? [BBC]

$2.9 million

A scooter accident in Brooklyn cost the City of New York $2.9 million to settle, after a surveillance video disputed a cop’s story and showed that a 72-year-old man had looked both ways before being hit by an NYPD officer on a scooter. The man was locked up for three days for jaywalking and an open container warrant from 10 years earlier. Following his release, the victim was hospitalized for four months. [The New York Post]

74.8 million iPhones

Number of iPhones Apple sold in the fourth quarter, a slight miss from expectations. [CNBC]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.