"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

Five 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.


SpaceX's Launch Heralds a New Era of Human Spaceflight (NBC News)

With the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 (hopefully) this weekend, American astronauts will have returned to space from American soil for the first time since the final flight of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. But the coming flight marks another milestone: it’s the first time that a private company, in this case SpaceX, will carry astronauts to orbit. While early space exploration was something that required the vast resources and networks that only government investment could provide, NASA hopes that future space travel might be possible through private firms. That would mean enhanced access and investment in spaceflight, which could yield great benefits to future technologies. In the words of Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, “We were founded in 2002 to fly people to low-Earth orbit, the moon and Mars, and NASA has certainly made that possible.” Read more…


A Dandy’s Guide to Decadent Self-Isolation (Paris Review)

Feeling a little uninspired as social distancing continues to drag on? Consider taking a page out of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s Against Nature, a novel about the life of a fictional French dandy, Barbey d’Aurevilly, published in 1884. Parisian dandies of the time enjoyed the rare luxury of being able to indulge their narcissism and sloth to the point of art. How would they react to life during the coronavirus crisis? In the current climate, the “quarantini” hour is probably your best opportunity to earn a reputation as an eccentric. Try wearing “suits of white velvet with gold-laced waistcoats…” And don’t stress too much about your yoga regimen: “As a dandy, you are encouraged to maintain a slender, rakish silhouette while young, but it is perfectly acceptable to become bloated and syphilitic as you grow older.” Read more…


America’s Meat Shortage is More Serious than Your Missing Hamburgers (Vox)

Arguably, part of the American dream over the past century has included access to cheap meat. After all, there aren’t many more iconic symbols of the country and its people than the ever-present cheeseburger. Affordable beef, pork, and poultry is enabled by an enormous industrial supply chain which, as we have experienced in recent weeks, is particularly vulnerable to shocks like the coronavirus outbreak. Not only has recent disruption to the industry resulted in higher prices and inferior products, it also has led to the mass extermination of hundreds of thousands of animals that can’t be optimally slaughtered for meat processing. 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair warned of the risks of the consolidation and industrialization of the meat industry. Now, we may be acutely exposed to the downsides of that reality as supply shocks play out for years to come. Read more…

The Secret Lab Hidden Inside a Famous Monument (BBC)

In the center (centre?) of London, near the northern end of London Bridge, an enormous Doric column, built in commemoration of the Great Fire of London which took place in 1666, dominates the cityscape. The column, which was completed in 1677, lends its name to a tube station and even sports a modest observation deck. But few who regard the structure are aware of its secondary purpose as an astronomical observation tool. The structure’s architect, Robert Hooke, was keenly aware of the need at the time for a telescope powerful enough to resolve the tiny variations in the position of planets and stars as seen from Earth as it revolves around the Sun. The 202 foot monument, which dominated the London skyline upon its completion, was intended for this purpose. Unfortunately for Hooke, vibrations from local traffic meant that the telescope was essentially useless. At the very least, London gained another beautiful piece of architecture. Read more…

They're Back: Millions Of Cicadas Expected To Emerge This Year (NPR)

Remember the red-eyed cicada invasion of 2003/2004? Well, they’re back! Once every 17 years, the cicadas emerge for their mating season, and the summer of 2020 will see them covering driveways and broadcasting their loud chirping song once again. This year’s return is being dubbed Brood IX, and will be centered in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. While this insect takeover might be annoying, the good news is that the short lifespans of cicadas limit their activity to just a few weeks, after which their larva will go back into the ground for another 17 years. "Hopefully, any annoyance at the disturbance is tempered by just how infrequent — and amazing — this event is." Read more…


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