"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.


How Long Does COVID-19 Immunity Last? (The Atlantic)

We’ve all read the headlines by now — the ones that say immunity to COVID-19 fades quickly, and that patients can potentially become re-infected. If that’s true, it could mean that the pandemic is here to stay. With herd immunity unreachable, there would be little point of developing a vaccine at great cost that is only effective for a few months. How accurate is that assessment? “‘I was definitely very worried when I saw the headlines,’ said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. ‘But then I looked at the data. And actually, looking at the data, I feel okay about it.’” Studies that warn about decreasing levels of antibodies aren’t accounting for other factors, including the role of T-cells, which seek and destroy infected cells in the body. And low levels of antibodies might just be an efficiency measure, with the body able to produce them again in large numbers if the need arises. In the end, unsurprisingly, more research will provide us with better answers. But so far, monkey trials have shown strong and lasting immune response to the virus. Read more…


The Air Conditioning Trap: How Cold Air is Heating the World (The Guardian)

In the US, air conditioners use as much electricity per year as the entire UK uses in total. As the world continues to warm, air conditioning will be required equipment in many communities — even though emissions from air conditioners will cause the Earth to heat even further. The challenge for engineers and policymakers in the 21st century is clear: we need to figure out a way to break the cycle. Given the pervasive spread of the air conditioner over the last century, even more efficient technology may not be enough to save us. Real change will require an overhaul of the ways that we build and design our homes and offices, from planting trees to renovating old architecture to designing new buildings that are better ventilated and resistant to heat waves. Of most concern, measures to remedy the air conditioning trap might also ignite a culture war pitting long-time AC users against those who stress moderation. But the future under a do-nothing scenario is clear: over-taxed electricity grids leading to rolling brown- and black-outs as the air-conditioning trap spirals out of control. Read more…


Where Do You Go When You Die? The Increasing Signs That Human Consciousness Remains After Death (Newsweek)

Where is the line between life and death? Modern medical science has demonstrated that it’s possible for consciousness to be “suspended” — as long as physical functions can be restored, people can “die” and later be revived. Research further shows that, particularly in the brain, cells can function for up to several days after other life functions have ceased. For example, experiments on mice and zebrafish noted gene activity in the brain spiking 24 hours after the subjects had died, meaning that they were still creating new transcripts of genetic information. Why this happens is, of course, still a mystery. One theory holds that in the process of shutting down, brain cells revert to a simpler form of existence, replicating developmental genes in a sort of recreation of embryonic states of operation. “…Certain animals' cells, post-mortem, remained viable for weeks. The research suggests a "step-wise shutdown," by which parts of us die gradually, at different rates, rather than all at once.” Read more…


Competitive Hotdog Eaters Nearing Limit of Human Performance (The Guardian)

Many people might feel full after, say, two or three hot dogs, especially if they have to eat them in less than 10 minutes. But for the competitive eaters of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, held annually in Coney Island, NY, 39 years of competition have led to truly insane records for hot dog eating. In 1984, the contest was won by a 17-year-old who downed nine and a half dogs. Records like this steadily improved until the famous Japanese extreme eaters of the early 2000s, the first of whom, Takeru Kobayashi, doubled the record with 50 hot dogs in ten minutes. The current record stands at a mind-blowing 75 hot dogs, and according to medical science, we’re not yet at the body’s theoretical limit. That limit? According to statistical analysis, it should be possible to consume 84 hot dogs — including buns —  in the time allotted by the contest. While it may not ever be clear who needs to perform such a feat, it seems that fans of this warped version of the American dream may still have some work ahead of them. Read more…


MIT Creates Disturbing ‘Deepfake’ Video of Nixon Announcing Apollo 11 Disaster (New York Post)

In recent years, a chilling speech intended to address the nation in case the Apollo 11 moon landings ended in failure has made the rounds on the internet. Then-President Richard Nixon would have read the speech to a shocked nation, declaring “…that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.” It’s a grim alternate reality that we can only imagine…until now. That’s because computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have spent more than six months doctoring presidential speeches into a “deepfake” video, in which President Nixon reads the moon disaster speech with uncanny realism. The project, according to the team at MIT, was meant to further highlight the dangers of unchecked deepfake technology. We’ve highlighted before how convincing these videos can be. Given continued development, such “altered history” tapes might one day be nearly indistinguishable from source material. Read more…

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