"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
06/20/19
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.

 

A Chernobyl 'Suicide Squad' of Volunteers Helped Save Europe — Here's Their Amazing True Story (Business Insider)

The HBO series Chernobyl has quickly become a hit for the storied network, not only introducing a new generation of viewers to the history of the event but highlighting the perils of a culture built on corruption and reality distortion. But beyond the gruesome imagery and courtroom drama lie powerful stories of true heroism, perhaps none as consequential as the story of the so-called “suicide divers”, three men tasked with draining a huge reservoir of water beneath the plant, which would have reacted with molten material seeping downward from the ruptured core to produce an even bigger explosion that could have threatened the lives of millions. The intervention wasn’t quite as dramatic as the version of events depicted in the show, but “…they still went into a pitch black, badly damaged basement beneath a molten reactor core that was slowly burning its way down to them.” Read more…

 

How to Build Something That Lasts 10,000 Years (BBC)

These days, it feels like most new construction is built with a shorter lifespan in mind — why spend the money for stone when you can just replace the structure on the cheap in a few decades? But when you really need something to last, you need a different way of thinking. The Long Now Foundation, which has set its sights on building a clock in the Texas desert that will last 10,000 years, is drawing lessons from nuclear waste sites, ancient shipwrecks, and other structures. Their research has uncovered as much about how to keep things preserved as it has about the impermanence of our man-made environment: “One of the first material scientists I spoke to about making things that last for thousands of years offered a compelling insight: ‘Everything is burning, just at different rates.’” Read more…

 

The Chicago Harp that Rules the World (Chicago Magazine)

Harps are incredible instruments. Made of over 2000 parts and costing many thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to produce, the beautiful music they make has enchanted the world for thousands of years. Harp-makers Lyon & Healy have produced harps for 130 years at their Chicago factory, which opened just before the famous Columbian Exposition of 1893, where their instruments were showcased in a two-floor exhibition hall. In this article, we take a tour of the construction process, from assembly of the complex frame where the strings are attached, to the woodworking process, and finally to the lathing and gilding process that produces each harp’s intricate, gold-colored columns. Read more…

 

Quantum Leaps, Long Assumed to Be Instantaneous, Take Time (Quanta Magazine)

The term “quantum leap” is pretty standard in the popular lexicon, but few understand the scientific meaning behind the term. The prevailing view since the 1920s has held the states of sub-atomic matter as being strictly discrete — they cannot change other than in one instantaneous “leap”, unable to occupy any sort of middle, transitional ground. This view isn’t without controversy, especially since the quantum jumps in that theory seem to be randomly triggered. Now, new experiments reveal that quantum leaps might not be random after all — might not even be leaps, in fact. Using a clever sort of work-around, researchers discovered that not only could they observe that a jump was about to happen, they could actually reverse the process. It’s a result that has the potential to upend the way we’ve viewed the quantum world for almost a century, and even give us control over the seeming randomness of the physical environment. Read more…

 

How Almonds Went From Deadly to Delicious (NPR)

The next time you pop a handful of almonds into your mouth, know that you’re enjoying a treat that would have killed your ancestors. Wild almonds contain a compound called amygdalin, which is a toxin designed to ward off predators. Just 50 wild almonds are enough to kill an average adult, with the amygdalin breaking down into cyanide. Luckily for our taste buds, a mutation thousands of years back resulted in plants with a dominant gene for bearing “sweet almonds”, with greatly reduced amygdalin levels. These sweet almond plants were identified and distributed across the world by eager farmers, yielding a crunchy snack that we take for granted today. Read more…

 

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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