"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
12/31/20
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 the Chaos Of 2020 Will Shape the Next
Decade, According To 8 Design Experts
(Fast Company)

2020, the year that nobody saw coming, is finally coming to an end this week. While we can never know what might have become of our lives had they gone on uninterrupted by pandemic, protest, and social unrest, it’s easy to see how the changes ushered in this year might alter the course of our species in the coming decade. In this article, design experts were asked to predict, in as much specificity as possible, how what we learned this year will impact the world of the future. Some changes, like the increased use of remote communication technology and design with respect to diverse cultures and communities, seem like obvious developments. Others, like new ways to manage hospital traffic and increased investment in green spaces within cities, may surprise us as the 2020s unfold. Read more…


The US Has Suffered a Massive Cyberbreach. It's Hard To Overstate How Bad It Is (The Guardian)

If you want to spy on a government’s systems, don’t hack them directly — hack the systems of its security providers. The Russian cyber attack on security provider SolarWinds that took place this year “was massive…and dangerous”, says Bruce Schneier, a well-known expert in the field of cybersecurity. While we are still discovering what agencies might have experienced breaches, SolarWinds’ client list (recovered from recent deletion) shows “…all five branches of the US military, the state department, the White House, the NSA, 425 of the Fortune 500 companies, all five of the top five accounting firms, and hundreds of universities and colleges.” Interestingly, espionage of this sort by one government against another is something that’s internationally allowed during peacetime — and the United States is the biggest player in the espionage field. Thus, the US really does not have much standing to retaliate against Russia, other than making a renewed investment in cyber defense. Read more…


Why Mazda is Purging Touchscreens From Its Vehicles (Motor Authority)

For a society where we’re constantly encouraged to stay off our phones while driving, it’s shocking how many newer cars are being sold with tablet-sized touchscreens, which control increasing numbers of functions in our vehicles. Automakers are cagey when asked why these touchscreens are being employed in increasing numbers, but the reasons likely involve lower costs compared to traditional knob and button engineering and the appearance of modernity. At Mazda, however, experts concerned with driver safety have noticed some major driver-safety issues stemming from touchscreen technology in cars. “Doing our research, when a driver would reach towards a touch-screen interface in any vehicle, they would unintentionally apply torque to the steering wheel, and the vehicle would drift out of its lane position.” Mazda is redesigning their vehicle interface to increase driver safety — and the move may be prescient in light of a German lawsuit against Tesla after a crash while trying to adjust windshield wiper speeds. Read more…


The Veteran Spy Plane Too Valuable To Replace (BBC)

We may not drive around in Chevy Bel Airs anymore, or make phone calls on rotary dials, but the world’s skies are still stalked by a spy plane designed in the mid-1950s: the legendary U2. Sixty-five years after the first flight of the aircraft, and some 50 years after the first flight of the drones that hoped to replace them, there is no more effective aircraft, the military says, for the type of Earth-based photography that’s needed where satellites fall short. In fact, a new update to the fleet, which according to estimates can serve for another 30 years or more, will require the scrapping of 24 Global Hawk UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). A large part of the U2’s ongoing success, say experts, is its simple, long-winged, efficient design and its simplicity. The U2 may not be stealthy, or fast, or new, but it’s a cheap and reliable workhorse, even in the 21st century. Read more…


The Family With No Fingerprints (BBC)

Fingerprints are “the world's most collected biometric data”, even to the point of serving as authentication for unlocking smart phones. But there are a very small number of people in the world who are simply born without fingerprints, and Apu Sarker, who lives in Rajshahi, India, is one of four generations in his family who have been born without any fingerprints at all. Unfortunately, Apu lives in a country where fingerprinting is required for government documents like passports and driver’s licenses. As a result, he’s never been able to obtain a license — and he’s been fined twice, even after explaining the situation. According to Professor Peter Itin, who studies such cases, scientists have identified a specific mutation of the SMARCAD1 gene as being responsible for the condition, which is officially known as Adermatoglyphia. Itin, however, coined an alternate term after working with a patient having trouble with the US immigration system: “immigration delay disease” Read more…

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            - Greg
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