"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.


Samsung's Creepy New AI Can Generate Talking Deepfakes From a Single Image (ScienceAlert)

Over the past week, we learned that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was the target of manipulated videos shared on Facebook, convincing some users that the speaker was intoxicated or otherwise impaired because she was slurring her words. These “deepfakes” appear to be increasing in number, and new technology from Samsung shows the potential of artificial intelligence to create altered content, including the ability to animate still images using just one reference photo. It’s easy to see how such technology could seriously disrupt the future, leading to a strange new reality in which video footage can no longer be trusted to depict events that actually took place. Read more…


Is the Modern Mass Extinction Overrated? (Nautilus)

With so much news about ongoing extinctions of animal and plant species, it’s easy to become disheartened about the future of the Earth’s ecosystem. But perhaps we’re looking at the problem in the wrong way, argues Chris Thomas of the University of York. Instead of trying to “conserve” habitats and food chains as if they were totally unaltered, Thomas suggests that biologists look for ways in which humans and the natural environment can co-exist into the future. After all, some animal and plant species have thrived in human-altered environments. “It is entirely possible that the long-term consequence of the evolution of Homo sapiens will be to increase the number of species on the Earth’s land surface.” Read more…


US Cosmetics are Full of Chemicals Banned by Europe – Why? (The Guardian)

“In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11.” Why would the US government allow manufacturers to use compounds that are toxic and known to be cancerous in food, household cleaners, or cosmetics? Experts say that an industry-friendly regulatory system that requires a high level of proof of harm is responsible for the approval of US products that include substances like formaldehyde and PCBs, which are linked to cancer. Action will likely require “a general awakening by the public.” In the meantime? “In the US it’s really a buyer beware situation.” Read more…


The Radical Plan to Change How Harvard Teaches Economics (Vox)

Many college students are required to take an Economics 101 course, where the machinations of the economy are taught using simple charts and concepts. Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Harvard, is trying to change that paradigm with a new course entitled “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems.” The thrust of this new course is more “Freakonomics” than traditional Econ, as Chetty uses empirical studies to show how inefficiencies and wealth disparities affect the functioning of economies as a whole. It’s part of a rethinking of Economics as a lofty, Platonic science in favor of demonstrating how it functions on the ground. Read more…


A 19th-Century Genetics Puzzle: How’d the Giraffe Get its Long Neck? (Helix)

How does evolution take place? From Charles Darwin’s perspective, creatures that are better adapted are the ones that breed, while weaker specimens die off. According to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, it’s “use it or lose it” — adaptations derive from necessity, and less-useful biological features wither and shrink over generations. The classic case study is the giraffe: either long-necked ancestors were more successful, or they just stretched so much that they ended up that way. Either way, there’s evidence for both views, though Darwin’s theory has an edge due to the later discovery of DNA. Read more…


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See you next week!
            - Greg
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