#### Discover more from Alex’s Newsletter

# Significant Digit's significant digits

### Analytics on 538's long-running Significant Digits segment

My favorite news source is 538, a nerdy, stats-forward organization. Now defunct, they had a segment called Significant Digits in which they’d highlight a number related to a piece of news, and write a short blurb about it. It ran for 1,247 days with a total of 8,596 numbers (6.8 numbers per day). This newsletter is dedicated to the numbers behind 538’s Significant Digits.

### 812 Days

By far the most prolific Significant Digits writer was Walt Hickey, writing 812 (65%!) of the total entries. He has since created Numlock News, a newsletter with a very similar feel to Significant Digits. A visual of each author’s contributions:

### 429 times

Each citation had a source, and the most common reference was the New York Times (cited 429 times), followed by the Washington Post (344), Bloomberg (315), and in distant fourth was the Wall Street Journal (153).

### 21,000%

21,000% was the largest percentage discussed (ref). It was in reference to the change in stock price of Starbucks under Howard Schultz. There was at least one percentage on most days (1,751 percentages across 1,247 days), 50 percentages were over 100, with the last percentage over 100 occurring on February 14, 2019 (991%). Of the remaining 1,701 percentages, they represented a remarkably orderly distribution:

### 10 Denominations

More frequently discussed than percentages was money. There were 1.6 references to money per day (1,990 references across 1,247 days). Despite the diversity of types discussed, Dollars represented 95% of the entries (1,898 of 1,990). There was only one reference to Francs, Shillings, Rubles, and Kroner, respectively:

### $31,000,000

The average amount of money discussed on any given weekday was $31 million dollars, with no statistically significant different weekday (red bars represent medians):

### 2

The most common number was 2 (used 202 times) followed by 1 (199), 3 (163), 4 (144), and 5 (141). 53% of the numbers were below 100, 62% below 1,000, and 78% below 1,000,000. The largest number discussed was 200 quadrillion, in reference to the world’s most powerful supercomputer in 2018 (ref).