"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
05/21/20
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.

 

The Economy is in Free Fall. So Why Isn’t the Stock Market? (Vox)

If you’ve been checking your portfolio in the past year, you’ve probably noticed that despite some dramatic see-sawing, the stock market is really not faring too badly — prices are roughly in correction territory, despite Great Depression-level unemployment and a murky economic outlook for the near future. What are the factors underlying such a disconnect? One is an unwillingness to let big business fail, born of the extensive bailouts and accommodative monetary policy provided during the 2008 crisis. “This rally in equities is clearly not driven by fundamentals — it’s driven by the liquidity support from the Federal Reserve,” says Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. But beware: if this is, in fact, a bubble, in the words of a Goldman Sachs associate, “There’s a very real possibility that people could get washed out, not just retail investors, but everybody.” Read more…
 

The Real Lord of the Flies: What Happened When Six Boys Were Shipwrecked for 15 Months (The Guardian)

In 1954, William Golding used the metaphor of a group of young boys marooned on an island devolving to primitive behavior for his book Lord of the Flies. The general theme of the book embodied the psychological thinking of the mid-century era: could the worst impulses of humanity lie within each of us, waiting to be uncorked by some catastrophic scenario? Incredibly, this actual scenario took place just over ten years later, with very different results. A group of disillusioned boys 13-16 years of age ditched their school on the Polynesian island of Tonga, setting sail for New Zealand, or perhaps Fiji, where they could live in peace. Landing instead on an uninhabited outcropping of Pacific rock, the boys survived for about 15 months by growing closer and looking out for each other despite massive challenges, before being rescued by a passing ship. Read more…
 

The Race to Invent the Artificial Leaf (Technology Review)

Leaves are one of nature’s most incredible and fundamental innovations. With CO2, water, and sunlight, leaves generate the energy that powers an enormous portion of life on planet earth. Can science create something similar? The key challenge today involves combining twin processes: “…developing catalysts that use solar energy to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, and creating others that can convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide into an energy-dense fuel.” Here’s the story of how two scientists, Nate Lewis of Caltech and Dan Nocera of Harvard, are racing to unite the two poles. “Whereas Lewis is laser-focused on producing hydrogen, Nocera wants to leapfrog hydrogen and build a device that harnesses sunlight to directly produce convenient, carbon-­containing fuels that can immediately replace today’s petroleum products.” Read more…


After the Coronavirus, the Climate Crisis Will Remain. What Have We Learned? (KQED)

In some ways, the coronavirus pandemic is like a fast-motion dress rehearsal for the ongoing climate crisis, which threatens to slowly make the world uninhabitable for humans over the next hundred years or so. What lessons can we take from the pandemic to inform our response to climate change? This article highlights opinions from policy experts across the country. “COVID-19 has also shown us how clearly we're all in this together. Unfortunately, the rich and the affluent have ways to insulate themselves. But overall, it's very clear that if you don't treat this as a global issue, you're not going to get anywhere.” Read more…

 

This Tower Sucks Up Smog and Turns it Into Diamonds (Ted)

Elsewhere in the world, humans are busy creating new devices that promise to undo some of the damage wrought by heavy industry. In Beijing, where smoggy days can totally obscure views of the city and are now resulting in serious health consequences, the problem is more acute. Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde and his team created a tower that scrubs particles of soot from the air, resulting in an incredible 55-75% cleaning of the atmosphere measured around the tower. The waste filtered from the air was originally slated for disposal, but the team noted that 42% of the material was made of carbon — carbon that could be compressed into diamonds. So with a little creative engineering, the ugliness of pollution is transformed into beautiful gemstones. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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