"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
01/13/22
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.


Top 10 Design Flaws in the Human Body (Nautilus)

It’s pretty apparent that the human body could be designed a little better. Evolution is an amazing and elegant process when viewed in the aggregate, but it's left the human body with some rather surprising weak points. Consider the spine, which is adapted for vertical standing and walking, but degenerates in its lower vertebrae over time. Pelvises in humans are too small and lead to painful or dangerous childbirth -- and prevent our brains from evolving larger. In addition, the photoreceptors in our eyes are at the back of the structure -- which leads to all kinds of inefficiencies -- when they could be at the front, like the eyes of squid or octopus. In millions of years, perhaps, our bodies will evolve to be a little more streamlined. But until then, we have to make the best with what nature gave us. Read more…


The Forgotten Medieval Habit of ‘Two Sleeps' (BBC Future)

In the preindustrial world, sleeping twice per night (or “biphasically) was common, referenced in all kinds of texts, including The Canterbury Tales. Why did people sleep for a few hours, wake up, and then sleep again? It seems that sleep began earlier than it does now during the time before electric lighting, around 9:00 or so. At about midnight to one o’clock, people would wake naturally and begin a period known as “the watch,” when all kinds of work or chores were accomplished, such as tending to livestock or prayer. Returning to bed, people would sleep until dawn, or later. Some researchers, noticing other species with biphasic sleep patterns, have conducted experiments depriving subjects of artificial light at night to shorten the normal period of daylight hours. Results of the study show that, on the Medieval schedule, humans naturally wake for about two to three hours in the middle of the night, suggesting that artificial light has changed our sleep habits. Read more…


How The Ruins Of Europe Built A Major Road In America (Jalopnik)

As the residents of Manhattan race along the East River’s FDR Drive, they are likely unaware that they’re traveling atop the ruins of Europe, shipped to America after the Second World War. The British city of Bristol was a target of the Nazi war machine during the brutal air raids of 1940, which leveled nearly 85,000 structures, including numerous cathedrals in what was once known as the “city of churches.” All of that rubble was useful ballast for the many ships that made the journey across the sea to AmericaThe rubble was then offshore between 23rd and 34th streets in New York came to be known as the “Bristol Basin.” Like so many other areas of the city over its history, the landfill was smoothed over and paved, adding valuable real estate to the shoreline. Thus, the land that today supports the mighty (and chaotic) FDR Drive freeway is made from the ruins of another city on another continent. Read more…


Giant Dying Star Explodes as Scientists Watch in Real Time — a First for Astronomy (CNN)

Everything we know was created as a dying star exploded billion of years ago. Explosions of this sort are known as supernovae and are one of the ways in which stars “die”, often resulting in the creation of black holes. In the summer of 2020, astronomers observed for the first time a star "going supernova" as it occurred, an event that will fuel the scientific study of stars for years to come.  "This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die,” said one researcher. The star was located in galaxy NGC 5731, 120 million light years from Earth. While it was once thought that stars were relatively quiet before their supernovae, astronomers were surprised to watch the star contract dramatically in advance of its explosion, which scatters a great variety elements into the void of space. Read more…
 

As Kazakhstan Descends Into Chaos, Crypto Miners Are at a Loss (Wired)

While cryptocurrencies have some interesting potential benefits, one of the major downsides is the shocking amount of electricity required to generate new currency. Bitcoin “miners” require electricity to power vast banks of machines that generate new Bitcoin blocks, which can then be traded for real-world assets. The search for cheap electricity led miners to the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan in the late 2010's, now the number two nation for Bitcoin mining. Unfortunately for these companies, recent political unrest led to the Russian troops policing the region and cracking down on energy usage. Electricity is now rationed, which cuts power to the crypto-mining sector during peak hours. The crisis sheds light on the bizarre world of cryptocurrencies and raises questions about the necessity for such operations in a world that can ill-afford the additional pollution that they generate. Read more…


 

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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