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Significant Digits For Wednesday, May 9, 2018

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. Some personal news, though, before we get to the digits: I’m leaving FiveThirtyEight to start a forthcoming daily morning newsletter, Numlock News, and work on other exciting projects. SigDig will absolutely continue, but if you’ve been a fan of my run, please subscribe to my new newsletter!

1.6 percent

The U.S. beverage industry grew by 1.6 percent from 2016 to 2017, buoyed by 1.3 percent growth in the carbonated soft drink sector (which makes up the majority of non-alcoholic beverage sales). Bottled water added roughly $900 million worth of sales last year alone, accounting for $24.1 billion in total. [Bloomberg]

5.3 million fake reviews

ReviewMeta, a company that analyzes Amazon listings, looked at 58.5 million Amazon reviews and turned up 5.3 million, or 9.1 percent, that seemed “unnatural” or plausibly fake. [Buzzfeed]

29 percent

Puerto Rico still has areas contending with terrible living conditions following Hurricane Maria and the lackluster response to the storm from the mainland United States. Even the deadly effects of the storm are far from over: With many still living without power or their lives otherwise disrupted, particularly elderly populations, the overall suicide rate in Puerto Rico increased 27 percent in 2017 compared to 2016 levels. [NPR]

63 percent

A new CNN poll found that 63 percent of Americans think the U.S. should not withdraw from the multilateral accord with Iran aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons; 29 percent believe the U.S. should withdraw. President Trump is in the latter group; he announced on Tuesday that the U.S. is pulling out of the agreement. [CNN]


In 2016, the National Institutes of Health announced that it intended to lift its ban on funding blastocyst complementation research, “a powerful new genetic engineering trick that researchers hope to use for growing human organs inside pigs or sheep.” Needless to say, the popular response to this was robust, with more than 21,000 comments from the public arriving, most of which were opposed. The question has stalled under the Trump Administration. On the one hand, growing human tissue from alternative sources is one possible solution to an ongoing shortage of donated organs. On the other hand, it’s definitely on the list of scientific questions that “Jurassic Park” made some pretty compelling arguments against. [Undark]

$4.6 billion

That’s how much the 23 largest airlines reported making in profit from baggage fees in 2017, an enormous chunk of the $15.5 billion the nation’s airlines made in profit overall. This is the fifth consecutive year that the airlines have made a profit, a welcome respite from the decade of post-Sept. 11 annual losses. But before you feel too happy for them, it’s worth considering that most people hate baggage fees with a rage otherwise reserved for passengers who lean back their seat to the fullest extent possible. [The Los Angeles Times]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.