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.
Brexit Reveals a Whole New Set of Political Wounds (The Atlantic)
On January 31st, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union after three and a half years of political turmoil. Unfortunately, the pain is just beginning for the world’s sixth largest economy, as its departure from the EU will mean inevitable hard questions about its future. For Britons, Brexit has meant something of a bloodless civil war, testing friendships, families, and political alliances. Some see a new organization of government, and new alignments of trade. Already, states like Scotland and northern Ireland are weighing staying within the EU or forming their own independent states. “The Brexit campaign was transformed from a fringe eccentricity into a mass movement by a handful of people who decided to make it into an argument about identity. Now Brexit itself has created a whole new set of questions about identity.” Read more…
How Private Equity Buried Payless (The New York Times)
For decades, Payless ShoeSource was a staple of suburban malls, leveraging a model that emphasized efficiency over personal attention. Then a series of hedge funds and private equity firms arrived, promising big returns and fresh ideas. Today Payless is a shell of its former self, without a single US location remaining, and many of its former management blame out-of-touch financiers for the company’s downfall. Do finance-driven takeovers make the US economy leaner and more efficient? Or can they actually be detrimental to the economy, sucking once-successful firms dry for the benefit of investors and leaving consumers and employees worse off? Read more…
No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay In the Air (Scientific American)
From the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903 to the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, aviation came a very long way in a very few years. But, incredibly, there’s a huge mystery remaining at the heart of aeronautic science: nobody can actually agree on how an airplane stays in the air. You may have learned about Bernoulli’s Theorem, which notes that air moves faster above a curved wing. But it’s unknown why that should be the case. Similarly, Newton’s third law seems to make sense (equal and opposite reactions to air pushed downwards), but can’t account for the low pressure area above the wing. Ultimately, the real answer may prove to be some combination of various factors, as-yet too complex for scientists to explain. Read more…
Nearly 400 Years Later, the Fork Remains at the Center of American Dining Controversy (Quartz)
Why do British people eat with their forks “upside down?” It’s amazing to think that these utensils didn’t become popular in the United States until the early 18th century, before which time most people simply used their hands or the pointed end of their knives. This, claim scholars, explains the difference between US and British usage, as the British employed their forks years earlier, when knives tended to be pointed and not round: “Since we did not learn to use forks until some time after the ends of knives were rounded, the change in the manner of food conveyance was not directly from knife tip to fork tine as it was in England.” Read more..
Viral Twitter Thread Suggests People Aged Faster In The Past (LadBible)
Finally this week, a fresh mystery from the depths of Twitter: users are sharing photographs of family members and celebrities that look much older than their years, when compared to similarly-aged people in the modern era. For example, Wilford Brimley, better known as the “diabetes guy,” was aged 50 in his classic Cocoon, while Tom Cruise was 56 in the latest Mission Impossible, yet looks decades younger. What’s behind this discrepancy? Besides Hollywood anti-aging magic, possible explanations could include better diets, less UV exposure, and less tobacco use. Or maybe Tom Cruise is just an alien. Read more…