"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
09/23/21
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.


10 Facts About the Internet's Undersea Cables (Mental Floss)

In an age where so much seems wireless and virtual, it’s amazing to consider that 99% of the world’s internet traffic is run through hundreds of thousands of miles of physical cable beneath the ocean. The cables, painstakingly laid by ship at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per cable, range from soda can-thick shallow water versions to Magic Marker-thick deep water varieties. Due to their physical nature and the sensitivity of the information passing through them, concerns about spying have surfaced in recent years. Consequently, some nations are proposing proprietary lines that route traffic away from the prying eyes of foreign intelligence services. Meanwhile, terrorists are plotting to cut cables between entire regions, as was done in 2013, when the severing of a cable in the Mediterranean slowed traffic in Egypt by 60 percent. And then, there are sharks, which for some reason enjoy gnawing on the internet’s lifeline in their spare time. Read more…


Never Waste Bread Again (Popular Science)

Why does bread get stale and develop mold as it ages? If you’ve ever wondered about the science behind your bread, and how you can counteract the effects of time, this article is your new resource. It turns out that the starch in bread re-crystallizes as it airs out, resulting in moisture sticking to the surface and evaporating, which makes the bread stale. All that moisture creates the perfect environment for mold, which ruins the loaf. Therefore, it’s best to freeze the bread, which locks the bread’s condition so that it stays fresh. Then it can be revived at 350 degrees in an oven. If the window is missed, there are many applications for stale bread, including crostini, croutons, and the many varieties of bread pudding. With so many options, there’s no reason to ever let a good loaf go to waste. Read more…


The Myth of Average (Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty)

In the early 1950s, analysts with the US Air Force sought to understand how to design a better-fitting cockpit for their fighter planes. During their studies, however, the researchers discovered a problem: designing for the “average” body size simply was not possible, because no pilot was average in all body dimensions. When we design for the best fit of the data, those who have specific shortcomings can be disadvantaged. Applying these lessons to our education systems, Todd Rose discusses how we can rethink our methods to adjust to the needs of a population where average does not exist, in the same way that the Air Force improved pilot performance by crafting customizable features for their aircraft. See more…


The Most Famous Paradox in Physics Nears Its End (Wired)
A black hole is an object so dense that nothing — even light — can escape. At least, that’s what we used to think. New math, however, shows that Einstein’s theories of gravity can allow for strange behavior as black holes age, including the release of information and the rejection of new material. It’s an exciting concept, though the study’s authors were unable to determine exactly how this phenomenon occurs. The roadblock is escape from a black hole requires "quantum gravity", one of the most vexing problems for modern physics. If quantum gravity exists, its presence would disprove the thinking of famous physicist Steven Hawking -  and that would be controversial. “But almost everyone appears to agree on one thing. In some way or other, space-time itself seems to fall apart at a black hole, implying that space-time is not the root level of reality but an emergent structure from something deeper.” Read more…


Everything You Didn’t Know About the Trusty Tape Measure (The Art of Manliness)

Tape measures are a pretty standard tool that most of us take for granted, but there are  more features on a tape measure than we may have noticed.  For one, most professionals don’t trust the end of the tape to provide an even surface. The “hook at the end of the tape measure, though it’s designed to latch onto a nail or wall edge, isn’t often “true zero”. That’s why many workers start at the 1-inch line and go from there, ensuring a correct distance. Another useful feature is the length of the tape measure itself, usually embossed on the side of the housing. With this measurement (sometimes “+3 inches” or so), the actual housing can be used as part of the equation. From measuring wall studs to using the tape as an impromptu slide rule, this article contains some additional tips to get the most out of your tape measure. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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