"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.


The Narrative Experiment That Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The New Yorker)

Last week’s highly-anticipated premiere of Avengers: Endgame capped a remarkable experiment in storytelling as 22 movies with 59 hours of interconnected plot lines came to their conclusion. The expanding narrative of the Marvel film universe mirrors what happened to the original era comic book series since its inception in the 1960s: “‘There was a finite start and finish to a self-contained story’…by the eighties, however, individual comic books were being republished, five or six at a time, in a trade-paperback format. Formerly independent stories were now merged; each multi-volume collection, in turn, pointed toward a larger, forever-expanding narrative.” This formula seems to have paid off, with multiple spots on the all time highest-grossing films list. Read more…

The Shockingly Simple Way to Make Packaging More Sustainable (Fast Company)

The reasons to cut down on packaging are obvious: less waste, less money and time involved in transport, and less environmental impact. As it turns out, eliminating the main ingredient in many of our products can help decrease packaging size significantly. “We’re basically shipping water around the country.” Cleaning company Blueland has debuted a starter pack containing three spray bottles, allowing refills in tablet form that can be mixed with water from a home tap. In the future, this innovation might spread to other products containing water like shampoo and toothpaste. Read more…

The Science Behind Nike’s New, Even Faster Marathon Shoe (Wired)

In the world of athletics, having the right equipment is key. Researchers at Nike are introducing the next big thing in marathon shoes, the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. This oddly named. oddly shaped shoe claims to improve on the current, wildly-successful Vaporfly 4%, which is claimed to give runners a 3-4% speed increase. Is this all marketing hype? Or is there something to the design that actually makes you run faster? Wouter Hoogkamer of the University of Colorado at Boulder has done the research, authoring a peer-reviewed study that credits a special kind of foam used in the shoe, as well as the somewhat-mysterious effects of a carbon-fiber plate sandwiched inside. Read more…

The Case for Capping All Prison Sentences at 20 Years (Vox)

Mass incarceration is epidemic in America, with a per-capita prison population that is not only the largest anywhere in the world, but far beyond any developed nation. What if we decided to cap all prison sentences at 20 years? While this may sound like an extreme measure, there’s some good research to back it up, especially involving the crime rate relating to age. “Studies have found that people almost always age out of crime, particularly by their late 30s and 40s. If a person is locked up for a robbery or murder at 21, there’s a very good chance that he won’t commit that same crime when he gets out at 41.” In a nation that’s responsible for 40 percent of life sentences, an idea like this could save untold millions of dollars, and give criminals a chance to rejoin society. Read more…

The History Behind Baseball’s Weirdest Pitch (Literary Hub)

The curveball is the pitch that puts drama into the art of pitching. “If the ball went straight every time, pitchers would essentially be functionaries, existing merely to serve the hitters.” That was true in the early days, until the curveball’s development in the second half of the 1800s. While many claim to be the inventor, Candy Cummings of the Brooklyn Stars has a compelling story that starts with throwing clam shells on the beach as a 14 year old boy. “We became interested in the mechanics of it and experimented for an hour or more. All of a sudden it came to me that it would be a good joke on the boys if I could make a baseball curve the same way.” Read more…


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