"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
04/29/21
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.


Why Bitcoin Is Bad for the Environment (The New Yorker)

Since January of this year, a cryptocurrency called Dogecoin has exploded in value by over 8000 percent, making some investors thousands or millions of dollars, and setting off a frenzy of “mining”, a process by which cryptocurrencies can be generated using computer processors, which solve cryptographic puzzles to be awarded currency in the decentralized “blockchain” network. In theory, anybody can mine a cryptocurrency, supposedly ensuring the accessibility of the currency to anybody with a computer. But in practice, specialized computer rigs are able to solve these problems — and mint cryptocurrency — much more easily. Mining “farms”, where hundreds of computers do nothing but mine cryptocurrency, are beginning to consume a worrying amount of energy — by some estimates, mining for the famous Bitcoin currency uses about as much power as the entire nation of Sweden. To source cheap electricity, miners are beginning to disrupt markets around the world, and even, in one case, buying an entire power plant for the purpose. As the world begins to clean up its emissions, it’s going to become harder to balance the energy needs of the future with such a power-hungry industry. Read more…


NASA’s Bold Bet on Starship for the Moon May Change Spaceflight Forever (ARS Technica)

Last week, NASA made a big bet on Elon Musk’s SpaceX, awarding the company a $2.89 billion contract to put astronauts back on the Moon, possibly by as early as 2024. It’s a statement by the agency that says a lot about its support of what SpaceX is has done so far, as well as what the company is claiming it will be able to do in the near future — namely, to develop a truly modern system for transporting people to and from the lunar surface. SpaceX’s huge Starship lander dwarfs other, Apollo-styled proposals in size, carrying capacity, and complexity, which means there remain some significant technical hurdles between where we are now and a future where dozens of people could be carried to the Moon in a single shot. If it works, however, NASA and SpaceX will be a lot closer to a sustained human presence on the Moon, as well as a platform for the exploration of Mars. Read more…


Upcoming Pentagon Report Will Detail ‘Difficult to Explain’ UFO Sightings (NY Post)

In the wake of well-publicized videos depicting contact made by US Navy personnel in 2004 and 2015 with unidentified aerial craft, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that the Pentagon expects to release a report by June 1st of this year detailing observations of objects “that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.” In an interview with Fox News, the Trump appointee explained that some of the objects were able to perform maneuvers such as sudden turns or acceleration past the sound barrier without creating a sonic boom. “Sometimes we wonder whether or not our adversaries have technologies that are a bit further down the road than we thought or than we realized,” he said. “But these are instances where we don’t have good explanations for some of the things that we have seen.” Ratcliffe added that there have been “a lot more sightings than have been made public.” Read more…


The Road from Rome (Aeon)

The fall of Rome: it’s been endlessly analyzed, compared, and lamented for centuries. And, for the Romans, it was obviously the end of a great reign. But was the fall of Rome really a bad thing for the world at large? Though at first something of a “dark age” crept across Europe — diminished trade, increased illiteracy, and the decay of great monuments, the eventual effect of Rome’s exit from the scene was a decentralization of the vast power it had once held. Free to choose their own destinies, the eventual nation-states of Europe grew rapidly, crafting a new world where it was impossible for a single force to exert universal control. In contrast, other societies around the world, especially China, remained locked into a system where, “whenever dynasties failed and the state splintered, new dynasties emerged and rebuilt the empire.” In fact, for more than 1500 years after the fall of Rome, Europe, in its fractured state, was unique among human civilizations. Could this have been the impetus for phenomena like the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the regrettable subjugation of other cultures? The point is debated by historians and scholars, but it’s worth noting that at any rate, the fall of Rome wasn’t the end of the world — far from it. Read more…


The World’s Oldest Bottle of Whiskey Is Heading to Auction (Robb Report)

If you’re a whiskey fan, you might have had a glass of 18 or even 20-year-old scotch or bourbon. But nothing can compare to a bottle of The Old Ingledew American whiskey coming to auction this June. That’s because scientists, with the help of Carbon-14 dating, have determined that this whiskey is the world’s oldest, with an estimated bottling date between 1763 and 1803, landing it sometime during the Revolutionary War period, as well as an event called the Whiskey Rebellion, wherein an early US government tax on whiskey to fund war costs ignited waves of violent protest across the bourgeoning nation. The Old Ingledew bottle, produced by a general store in Georgia, was one of several gifted to US government officials including Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman in the 1940s, although its the only example known to survive. Pre-auction estimates place its value at somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000. Read more…

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            - Greg
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