"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.

Buckle Up, New York: Subway Flooding Is Here to Stay (Curbed)

As the remnants of a massive hurricane ravage New York’s subway system for the umpteenth time in recent years, it’s natural for city residents to wonder why the transportation network for such a large and important city is so fragile in the face of anticipated weather. Hurricane Sandy, infamous in the region for its storm surge “wakeup call”, has created a focus on storm mitigation efforts on the coastlines. “But if water that’s pushed up onto land by a major weather event is at least somewhat predictable…then heavy, concentrated rainfall is the chaotic evil.” In a future with accelerated rates of climate change, water can pour from the sky in unprecedented and unexpected amounts — which means city planners need to figure out how to increase the city’s ability to either absorb or reroute torrents of rainfall. Read more…


Tardigrades Return from the Dead  (BBC)

Tardigrades, also known as “water bears”, are some of the world’s weirdest — and hardiest — creatures. Just 1.5mm long at their largest, tardigrades have been on Earth since well before the time of the dinosaurs, and for good reason: they can survive almost any environment, with some even surviving after 8 years of being dried out. In 2007, a group of tardigrades incredibly survived a trip on the side of a satellite which returned to Earth, thriving and reproducing in an airless environment crackling with radiation. Scientists are obviously fascinated by the critters, especially because such hardiness might hold keys for research into how to increase human longevity. “Since water bears can survive drying, they must have tricks for preventing or fixing the damage that cells like ours would die from.” Read more…


The Story of the Chevy Corvair Rotting Away in the Darian Jungle (Top Speed)

One might take a look at the long peninsula of Central America stretching down to the South American continent and figure it’s possible to drive all the way from Alaska to Argentina, but the "Darian Gap"  - a break in the road network - makes such a dream road trip impossible. In 1961, automakers at Chevrolet, eager to show off their new Corvair, sent a 12-man team with three of the new cars, as well as two Suburbans and a fuel truck, on a long-distance trek to the jungles of Panama to cross 250 miles of inhospitable terrain. Over four months, the intrepid group struggled to drive, push, and float a fleet of rear-engined passenger cars across the jungle, creating great publicity photos but enduring unimaginable hardships. They left the two surviving cars somewhere in South America and headed for home, leaving one bright red ’61 Corvair to rot in the wilderness, where it remains today. Read more…


What an Englishwoman’s Letters Reveal About Life in Britain During the American Revolution (Smithsonian Magazine)

While we tend to remember the struggles of American soldiers and their families during the Revolutionary War, an archive of letters written by Jane Strachey to her husband, English Parliamentarian Henry Strachey, shed light on the hopes and fears of witnesses to the other side of the conflict. “She wrote perplexedly of the ‘ambitious and restless spirit of the Americans,’ which has destroyed ‘the Domestick Tranquillity of many happy families’ in the British Isles.’” From this perspective, Jane hoped that a quelling of the rebellion would bring her husband swiftly home. While the British quickly occupied New York City, peace terms were rejected, and Lady Jane’s husband wouldn’t return until 1778, when the war was already rumored on English shores to be “unwinnable.” Read more…

How the Airline Industry Got Wise to Seat Belts (Air and Space Magazine)

Decades before the standardization of car seatbelts, airlines had their own reckoning with the employment of one of the worlds most simple safety devices. Though some called for the use of seat belts on aircraft as far back as the 1920s, there was widespread concern among the public, with many believing that seatbelts were more dangerous than helpful in certain situations. This fear came to a peak with the crash of a Vickers VC-1 on October 31, 1950. Initially blamed on “…acute flexion of the body over the safety belt,” the loss of all but two of the plane’s 30 occupants was proven later to have had nothing to do with safety belts — the devices weren’t linked to any injuries on the doomed plane. While the investigation led to a tightening of security standards that decade, it would take until 1972 for seatbelts to become standard devices on commercial aircraft in the US. Read more…

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