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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018

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


5.3 million square feet in Manhattan

WeWork, the ubiquitous co-working outfit, now occupies more office space in Manhattan than any other company — 5.3 million square feet, or about 0.2 square miles. (Manhattan is about 23 square miles.) A recent lease for a quarter-million-square-foot space shot WeWork past JPMorgan Chase for this special spatial distinction. Time was, they say, that so dense was the North American forest that a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic to the Mississippi without touching the ground. Soon, it seems, time will be that you can travel from the East River to the Hudson without leaving a bank building or the presence of bros. [The Wall Street Journal]


$6 billion settlement

Speaking of banks and stuff, Visa and Mastercard will pay some $6 billion to put an end to one branch of a two-pronged price-fixing case. The case began over a decade ago, with merchants accusing Visa and Mastercard of conspiring to inflate the “swipe fees” that the merchants paid when they swiped a customer’s card. It is, according to Bloomberg, the largest class-action settlement of an antitrust case. [Bloomberg]


24 people

Only 24 people have ever flown to the moon, and they were all NASA astronauts. Now Yusaku Maezawa wants to join that list. The Japanese clothing-company billionaire has put down “a very significant deposit” for a ride on SpaceX’s BFR (“B” for big, “R” for rocket), which is slated to head moonward in 2023, at the earliest. Maezawa is also known for spending $110.5 million on a painting and then Instagramming about it a lot. Can’t wait for the #SpaceSelfies. [The New York Times]


100 plates of sushi

A triathlete named Jaroslav Bobrowski was banned from a sushi restaurant in Germany after taking, shall we say, advantage of its all-you-can-eat deal. He reportedly ate 100 plates of sushi. “At €15.90 for unlimited sushi, we only earn money on the drinks, and he only consumed one tea the whole evening,” the restaurant’s owner said. [Newsweek]


20,918 refugees

President Trump reduced the maximum number of refugees that the U.S. will admit each year from 45,000 to 30,000, a record low. (The number was 110,000 in President Barack Obama’s final year in office.) In practice, the number of refugees actually admitted is even lower — just 20,918 so far this year. [The New Republic]


40-fold expansion in dimension

Machine-learning systems, historically, have been based more or less on the brain’s system of vision and its “hierarchical extraction of information.” But to move beyond certain limitations and introduce more freedom into their systems, some researchers are now turning to the brain’s system of smell. Consider, as always, the fruit fly. It projects smell info from 50 neurons to 2,000 “Kenyon cells” — increasing the brain dimension that’s processing the scent by 40 times, “which makes it easier to distinguish odors by the patterns of neural responses.” Looking forward to asking Alexa what that smell is. [Quanta Magazine]


Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s new book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.” It’s out on Oct. 9 and available for pre-order now — I hope you dig it.

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

Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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