"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
12/18/20
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.
 

Order Force: The Old Grammar Rule We All Obey Without Realizing (The Guardian)

If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you’ve surely run into one of those language rules that doesn’t make sense, even for native speakers. For example, the way that word gender changes with tense in German, or the multiple words for “to be” in Spanish. English notoriously has its own quirks that make it difficult for non-speakers to learn. In recent years, a viral meme highlighted how adjective order is intuitively known by many of us, but never expressly laid out. “The rule is that multiple adjectives are always ranked accordingly: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose.” So 5 Cool Things is fine, but Cool 5 Things is not. Or New 5 Big Cool Things — which seems fine on the surface, but reads so wrong! Read more…
 

The Zodiac Killer's Cipher Is Finally Cracked After 51 Years (Wired)

In the summer of 1969, the San Francisco area was gripped with terror in the wake of a series of murders claimed by the mysterious “Zodiac Killer.” Taunting the police and FBI assigned to catch him, the killer sent three letters to three Bay Area newspapers, each containing coded messages that gave clues about his twisted motives and rationale. After striking two more times, the Zodiac sent a fourth ciphered letter that fall to The San Francisco Chronicle before disappearing, never to be seen again. That fourth coded message, known as Z-340, proved uncrackable for even the top amateur and professional cryptographers for over half a century — until this year, when an international team finally solved the riddle with the help of computer algorithms. While there’s not a whole lot to glean from the original message, it’s a victory for codebreakers everywhere. With luck, continued interest in the case will someday yield justice, or at least some more information, for the victims’ families. Read more…

 

Water Futures Set to Join Likes of Gold and Oil and Trade on Wall Street for First Time Ever (Business Insider)

At the end of the 2015 financial crisis biographical drama The Big Short, hedge funder Michael Burry, who placed an enormous trade against the housing market, is said to be investing his money in water, betting that future shortages might lead to big returns later this century. Now you can too, as water futures hit the Chicago Mercantile Exchange this week, tied to the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index, which tracks prices in California’s five largest water markets. In contrast to other commodities, which can be fulfilled with physical delivery of the goods purchased, CME Group made clear that all water contracts, representing about 3.26 million gallons, will be settled financially. It’s an idea that’s gaining ground especially among farmers, who are looking to hedge their costs in a world increasingly affected by climate change and population growth. Read more…

 

Deepfake Music Is So Good It Might Be Illegal (OneZero)

Deepfake domination continues with the warping of long-gone voices in the service of new songs. With AI processing, it’s not only possible now to change faces, but to change voices to other ones — leading to this bizarre Frank Sinatra number about Christmas and hot tubs, one that Old Blue Eyes never actually sang. “Is A.I.-generated music that impersonates a human singer legal in the United States? The answer is a satisfying and emphatic maybe.” For now, the effect is jarring, even ugly, but of course we’re poised for improvements as processing grows more sophisticated, raising all sorts of questions and concerns for a world where it seems less and less of the content we enjoy is connected to reality. Read more...

 

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Neutrinos in the Sun (NASA)

When you click on this link, you’ll see a blurry, heavily pixelated yellow and orange blob. It’s a picture of the Sun, but this one wasn’t made using light waves. This is a “neutrino image,” made by recording the neutrinos streaming out of our nearby star and through our planet on a constant basis. Neutrinos are famously elusive sub-atomic particles, so small that they can only be detected as they shoot through special water-filled tanks. The facility used to create this image over a 500-day period was located deep in an unused mine in Japan, meaning that you’re looking at a picture of the Sun — taken from deep inside the Earth. Read more…

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            - Greg
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