"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.

Inside Pfizer’s Labs, ‘Variant Hunters’ Race to Stay Ahead of the Pandemic’s Next Twist (STAT)

For pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the development of a successful vaccine for covid-19 was just the beginning. Now, a team of “variant hunters” is tasked with identifying, tracking, and cultivating new strains of the virus like the infamous “Delta variant” to determine whether the Pfizer vaccine remains effective against the best attempts of nature to outwit it. For now, the vaccine has been effective against the Delta strain, but results could change as the disease continues to sweep the global population. Researchers say they would rather see full adoption of the original covid vaccines before booster shots are widely necessary, as anything that would prolong the pandemic increases the risk of a problematic new strain emerging. Read more…

40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast. (ProPublica)

The mighty Colorado River, stretching from the central Rocky Mountains to Baja California, has provided water for some 40 million Americans for decades and supported the huge growth of Western states and cities. That crucial resource is dwindling as the planet heats up, already down 20% from its 20th century average and poised to lose half of its volume by the end of this century. The shrinking Colorado River may result in one of the first hard decisions for the U.S. in staving off a climate crisis since the drop in water flow is not just a western problem — 70% of the river's water is diverted to agriculture spread across the entire continent. As scientists float technical solutions for reducing agricultural waste, there’s an easy step that we can all take right now: “Water usage data suggests that if Americans avoid meat one day each week they could save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado each year, more than enough water to alleviate the region’s shortages.” Read more…

How Glass Skyscrapers Conquered Our Cities (Cheddar)

Has sentiment finally turned against the glass-and-steel skyscraper? Across the planet, glass cladding has been favored by architects for decades because of its sleek, modern look and cost-effectiveness when compared to the masonry curtain walls of the past. Cost efficiency in construction comes at an environmental cost, however, as glass buildings have been shown to absorb more heat, and therefore require more air conditioning, than a traditional building. While glass-clad towers reached dominance because of advanced cooling technologies during the 1950s, the same sort of technologies today are increasingly recognized as being harmful for the planet, locking us into a sort of feedback loop where humans require more and more AC to combat rising temperatures. What could we use instead of glass? Wood might be the look of the future, according to Frances Halsband of Kliment Halsband Architects. “It’s sexy, it’s new, it’s sustainable…” See more…

We Finally Know Why Stress Turns Your Hair White (Popular Science)

While the idea of white hair resulting from stress is widely accepted among the general public, scientists have long been hesitant to embrace the notion that hair color can simply change as a result of emotional disturbance. Now, a paper published in the scientific journal Nature claims to show a mechanism by which this phenomenon might take place. After experimenting with laboratory rats, the team of scientists from the US and Brazil report that certain stem cells, called melanocytes, in the hair follicles become overwhelmed by noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that surges during stressful events. While there are perhaps even more mechanisms at play when hair changes color, there is hope that such research will allow scientists to someday create a stem cell-based cure for affected humans. Read more…


A Hermit Crab and Her Sea Anemones (Sea Tales)

There are many kinds of partnerships (symbiosis) in the natural world — the birds that pick food from the teeth of crocodiles, for example, or the cooperation between bees and the flowers that they pollenate. Dardanus pendunculatus, a type of hermit crab found across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, has a special relationship with sea anemones, which hitch a ride on the shell of the hermit crab, feeding on the leftovers that float their way. The hermit crab, in turn, gains an extra layer of protection from predators, who receive a nasty shock if they attempt to munch on this unlikely duo. Such is the importance of the crab’s anemone partnership that the creature will actually transfer one or more anemones when changing shells, as was captured in the rare footage accompanying this article. Read more…

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