"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.

The Great Boat Lift of 9/11 (NJ.com)
Twenty years ago, the terrorist attacks of September 11th opened a gaping hole in America’s psyche. It’s easy to reflect on the negative aspects of human nature on display that day, but there were many acts of heroism and selflessness as well, including the actions of police and firefighters and even everyday citizens who heeded a higher calling. As thousands of shocked New Yorkers scrambled to escape the collapsing Twin Towers, more than 150 boats of all kinds pulled ashore, eventually transporting an estimated 400,000 people to safety in what has been called “the largest maritime evacuation in modern history.” With subways shut down, the captains of these vessels knew that they would be needed, and selflessly headed for lower Manhattan, fearing that they might be the next victims of a terrorist strike. “Everybody knows that if anything ever happens at either the World Trade Center or at the PATH system, the way out is always the ferry...” Read more…

How the Pandemic Turned Humble Shipping Containers into the Hottest Items on the Planet (CNN)

One aspect of our interconnected, just-in-time global economy to be seriously affected by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic is the shipping industry. A massive surge of online shopping has stretched the global system to the breaking point, leading to a cascade of other failures. One of these failures involves a shortage of shipping containers, which have increased in price by hundreds of percentage points, putting the squeeze on smaller manufacturers. Containers sit on ships delayed in transit by port backlogs, and lay empty in European ports where increased costs make their return to Asia less profitable than before. Eventually the bottlenecks will clear up and prices will ease, but not anytime soon — experts see supply chain issues lasting until at least 2023. Read more…

Why Do We Yawn and Why Is It Contagious? (Smithsonian Magazine)

Why do we yawn? This common behavior is usually explained as a sort of infusion of oxygen to the brain, allowing us to stay alert even though we feel like crawling into bed. That explanation isn’t backed up by evidence, says Steven Platek of Georgia Gwinnett College: there’s no proof that oxygen levels in the bloodstream change post-yawn. Instead, we could have more in common with dogs than we think — new experiments suggest that yawning serves a thermoregulatory function, keeping our brains cool by stretching jaw muscles, which increases blood flow to the skull. “Before we fall asleep, our brain and body temperatures are at their highest point during the course of our circadian rhythm,” says Andrew Gallup, who authored a 2007 study. “Once we wake up, our brain and body temperatures are rising more rapidly than at any other point during the day.” Read more…

The James Webb Telescope Has a Bona Fide Launch Date (ARS Technica)

After a development cycle dating back to 1996, the James Webb Space Telescope is finally ready for its big moment: the nearly million-mile journey to its new orbital home. Conceived as the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb boasts a number of improvements, from a much larger primary mirror to an infrared imaging system that will allow the new telescope to see farther objects than the visual-light sensors on the Hubble. The James Webb telescope is expected to launch December 18, 2021 aboard a European rocket, the Ariane 5. This collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, or ESA, is part of a deal that will allow European astronomers access to telescope time. Success is by no means assured, “…as unfurling the 20-meter-long telescope in deep space requires 50 major deployments and 178 major release mechanisms.” Read more…

The Mystery of the Amber Room: The World’s Greatest Lost Treasure (History)

80 years after World War Two, historians are still searching for the remains of Russia’s Amber Room, an astronomically valuable collection of golden wall panels adorned with amber resin, a rare form of fossilized tree sap. The pieces were first visualized and constructed by German sculptor Andreas Schlüter in 1701, and found their way into the Berlin City Palace where the famous Russian czar Peter the Great, on a visit to the city, fell in love with the baroque style of the room and was presented it as a gift. When the Nazi army stormed Saint Petersburg in 1941, a thin disguise of wallpaper failed to protect the room, which Adolf Hitler felt rightly belonged to Germany. The Nazis stripped the panels of the room, containing some 6 tons of amber, and packed them into crates, transporting the room to the Königsberg castle on the Baltic coast. After allied bombing of the castle in 1945, the room was never seen again. Was it destroyed? Do theories of its relocation and preservation have any merit? We may never know, but discovery of the room would net a healthy finders’ fee. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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