"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
Hi, this is Greg Powell. I hope you'll enjoy one or more of these interesting topics from the world of business and beyond. Dan Powell, my son and collaborator, has researched the articles and written the summaries, so this is not a boilerplate message. We'd like to give you a weekly break to learn about something cool or, better yet, 5 Cool Things


How Life Became an Endless, Terrible Competition (The Atlantic)

Is meritocracy making us all miserable? In the United States, where pressure to climb the ladder can be intense, some students are pushed to compete at ages as young as four. By now it’s pretty apparent that economic success for young people is skewed in favor of the wealthy — SAT scores are higher among children of high income families, college admissions scandals have rocked major universities, and economic mobility is continuing to decline, especially for members of the middle class. But even for the “winners” in this system, the pressure of meritocratic ideals means that competition is ruthless, promotions are hard-won, and the scales continue to slide ever higher. “We are accustomed to thinking that reducing inequality requires burdening the rich. But because meritocratic inequality does not in fact serve anyone well, escaping meritocracy’s trap would benefit virtually everyone.” Read more…


Human Activity in China and India Dominates the Greening of Earth, NASA Study Shows (NASA)

A few weeks ago, we featured a study that claimed that planting a trillion trees would offset climate change. It turns out that China and India are well on the way, with a new NASA study showing that intensive agricultural development in both countries, as well as forest conservation and expansion programs in China, have led to more than two million more square miles of green leaf area over the past 20 years, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests put together. However, “the researchers point out that the gain in greenness seen around the world and dominated by India and China does not offset the damage from loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems remain.” Read more…


Wipe Out: When the BBC Kept Erasing Its Own History (Mental Floss)

From in the early 1950s, television broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, were a primary lynchpin of culture across the nation and the world. But, astonishingly, many of those early broadcasts no longer exist. They were erased in order to save expensive videotape, leaving iconic shows like the original Doctor Who with zero original records. By some estimates, “…60 to 70 percent of all BBC programming produced between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s was deleted.” Even Monty Python was threatened with destruction, its popularity in the United States saving it from a similar fate. Since the early 1980s, archivists and fans have been scouring yard sales and satellite TV stations, looking for the lost episodes that linger only as distant memories. Read more…


‘Planet Nine’ May Actually Be a Black Hole (Science)

Planets Neptune and Pluto were discovered because astronomers noticed perturbations in the orbits of other planets, caused by the gravitational pull of objects beyond the known planets. In recent years, observation of similar effects on planets in the far reaches of the solar system has led to a race to discover “Planet Nine,” a hypothetical object “…that lies in the icy realm far beyond Neptune.” At somewhere between five and 15 times the mass of Earth, such an object would be hard to detect due to the sheer distance from our planet, with limited sunlight to reflect back to our telescopes. But what if the reason we haven’t found Planet Nine is because it isn’t a planet at all, but a black hole? Such a discovery would change our conception of the universe, and provide exciting opportunities to study the enormous amount of dark matter that scientists predict would surround such an object. Read more…


Vantablack BMW X6: The Blackest Car That's Ever Existed (New Atlas)

Speaking of black holes, this BMW X6 is the first car to be painted with Surrey Nanosystems’ Vantablack, a coating made of tiny carbon nanotubes that absorb 99% of light rays that hit its surface. Because Vantablack erases details like angles and panel lines, the car looks like it’s cut out of the fabric of space itself — and this is a lighter formula than the original Vantablack, which absorbed 99.965%. "It wouldn’t have worked if we’d put on the original material," said [Surrey CTO] Jensen. "The viewer would have lost all sense of three-dimensionality.” Sadly, Vantablack isn’t ready for wide-scale use on cars due to durability (and, likely, cost!) issues, but it’s fun to dream of what a car like this would look like on the road. Read more…

Check out my Blog: "Minding Your Business"
See you next week!
            - Greg
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