"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.


Could Air-Conditioning Fix Climate Change? (Scientific American)

Last week we discussed the idea of the “air conditioning trap” — as the world warms, increased demand for air conditioning creates heat and energy usage that further increases the rate of warming. A group of scientists in Germany published a paper last week that might provide a way out of this dilemma. Their solution harnesses the HVAC systems in large buildings as scrubbers to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. After all, if we’re already moving large volumes of air around, we could potentially kill two birds with one stone. This proposal would turn large buildings into factories, stripping carbon from the air and transforming it into hydrocarbon fuels. In the words of the authors, “The envisioned model of ‘crowd oil’ from solar refineries, akin to ‘crowd electricity’ from solar panels,” would enable people “to take control and collectively manage global warming and climate change, rather than depending on the fossil power industrial behemoths.” Read more…


German Scientists Enlist Concertgoers For Coronavirus Experiment (Pollstar)

Elsewhere in Germany, researchers are trying to envision the future for large-scale public events in the age of COVID-19. An August 22nd concert featuring German pop singer Tim Bendzko will serve as a 4,000-subject experiment as concertgoers are screened for the virus throughout three different scenarios — normal entrance, entrance in “currents”, and distancing of 1.5 meters. The researchers’ goal is to determine how people in a crowd contact each other during such instances, in the hopes of developing crowd control measures that can be enacted safely. We’ve discussed in previous weeks and months the unique disadvantage experienced by performing artists during the pandemic, some of which make the majority of their income from sales of tickets and other merchandise related to live performance. Read more…

The Most Feared Song in Jazz, Explained (Vox)

Check out this short, but fascinating video! In 1960, John Coltrane’s seminal record Giant Steps was released, an album that today serves as something of a litmus test for jazz musicians. That’s because Coltrane’s unique sense of musicality led him to develop serpentine, recursive harmony changes that are incredibly difficult for musicians to improvise on top of. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the title track, where pianist Tommy Flanagan clearly struggles to keep up with Coltrane’s lightning-quick saxophone. This video delves into the mechanics of the song, which center on a crucial bit of music theory known as the Circle of Fifths. But don’t worry if it’s over your head --- the beauty of Giant Steps is apparent even if you don’t understand how to solo over a II-V-I progression. Read more…

Anthropology: The Sad Truth About Uncontacted Tribes (BBC Future)

One place in the world that probably does not need to worry about COVID-19 is the North Sentinel Island of India, home to a tribe of people called the Sentinelese. These indigenous people, who survive and hunt using collected scrap metal that washes on their shores, are thought to be the most isolated tribe left on Earth. You might remember them from a tragic incident several years ago in which an American missionary who attempted to contact the tribe was killed. Many inhabitants of such tribes who join broader human society report that fear of outside influence is a major factor in the decision to remain isolated. After all, mankind has a long and bloody history when it comes to encounters between cultures that were previously unaware of each other. Ironically, one of the major risks to these isolated cultures is that of disease — although they might potentially be safe from a pandemic, they also stand little chance of developing the antibodies that are common in the outside world. Thus, a well-meaning missionary’s Bible might carry viruses or bacteria that wipe out most of a tribe. Read more…


If We Weren’t the First Industrial Civilization on Earth, Would We Ever Know? (MIT Technology Review)

One of the strangest realities of paleontology is the fact that the fossil record is vastly incomplete. Fossil creation requires such specific conditions that they’re shockingly uncommon — for example, the 180-million-year reign of dinosaurs is responsible for only a few thousand near-complete fossils. The fossil problem combined with the continuous subduction and renewal of the Earth’s surface poses an intriguing question: have we been here before? Is it possible that an advanced, intelligent civilization existed on our own planet millions of years ago? The best way to analyze this problem is to look for the changes produced by our own society that might have some kind of lasting impact. The biggest alterations to the biosphere are likely chemical in nature — the surface levels of rare minerals like gold and platinum, chlorinated compounds, and huge volumes of plastics will likely mark our civilization. And carbon emissions have certainly spiked, although for quite a brief period in geologic terms. When you look at the issue from this perspective, there are a lot of questions we could raise about various spikes in carbon deposits, temperature, and ocean salinity over the eons. “There are undoubted similarities between previous abrupt events in the geological record and the likely Anthropocene signature in the geological record to come.” Read more…

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