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Significant Digits for Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015

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

2 years

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for public corruption. Still, this was considered a win by McDonnell’s attorneys; the sentence is substantially shorter than the 10-year, one-month minimum sought by prosecutors. [NPR]


Cost of a raffle ticket at the Vatican City Post Office, where you can win some of the Pope’s stuff. NBC News reported that Pope Francis is raffling off many of the gifts he has received from world leaders and the faithful. Proceeds will go toward the poor, and a $10 ticket could score you, reportedly, prizes ranging from a four-wheel drive Fiat, an espresso machine, a very nice hat or any one of dozens of other gifts people tried to give the Pope. [NBC News]

44 percent

Percentage of Americans who had only cellular phones in their homes in the first half of 2014, up 3 percent over the previous six months. Looking at kids alone (under 18 years old), 52 percent had no landline. [CDC]

122 movies

What Stephen Soderbergh watched in 2014. [FiveThirtyEight]

164 percent increase

The United States Coast Guard is worried that the defrosting of U.S.-Cuba relations has kicked off an unintended spike in migration from Cuba to the U.S., as Cubans worry the “wet-foot dry-foot” policy, which gives preferential treatments to Cuban immigrants who make it onto American soil, will end soon. Coast Guard interceptions of Cubans attempting to boat to the U.S. were up 164 percent in the second half of December compared to the first half of the month. [NBC News]

470 lightyears

Distance to Kepler 438b, a planet discovered by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Researchers say it may be the most Earth-like planet outside the solar system found so far. By “Earth-like,” scientists essentially mean “probably rocky,” and “at the ideal distance from a star such that it is neither frozen solid nor on fire.” So don’t bust out the lifeboats quite yet. [The Guardian]

756 people

Number of employees of U.S. Steel that have been laid off. The move follows the idling of two plants that produce piping for oil and gas exploration. The company is coping with demand issues stemming from the recent plunge in oil prices and reduced incentives to drill new wells. [Wall Street Journal]

1,371 luxury cars

The Hoegh Osaka, a container ship that ran aground off the coast of England, may be forced to scrap its cargo, among which is $53 million worth of luxury cars. The ship is carrying one very expensive-sounding Rolls Royce Wraith, which I choose to believe is carrying on a torrid yet doomed romance with one of the Jaguars from steerage as the disaster unfolds. [Business Insider]

“I’ll never let go, Jag.”

87 million euros

A study found soccer star Lionel Messi’s transfer value is 200 million euros, 87 million more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. In fairness, the Argentinian is known to be impossible. [ESPN FC]

$68 billion

Estimated cost of the California high-speed rail project that first broke ground Tuesday in Fresno, according to experts. The line would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. The project is due to be completed by 2028, a time at which I sort of assume we’ll already have that Hyperloop thing, or at least a SpaceX flight to Kepler 438b. [Los Angeles Times]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.