"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
12/16/21
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.


The Log4j Security Flaw Could Impact the Entire Internet. Here's what You Should Know (CNN)

A basic coding language used across the internet, Java powers thousands of popular applications. Unfortunately, a vulnerability in a specific type of Java-based software called Log4j has been identified as of last week, and is already being exploited by opportunistic hackers who could potentially gain access to entire networks in nearly undetectable ways. With the holidays on the way, it’s important for companies and governments to be on high alert, as state actors in Russia, China, and North Korea are potential threats to internet security. For consumers, the most crucial task will be to monitor software for security updates, and install them right away. Read more…


This Giraffe-Sized Reptile Was the Largest Flying Creature to Ever Live (Smithsonian Magazine)

Of all the mysteries relating to how dinosaurs lived and were able to move, eat, and reproduce, one of the most puzzling surely has to be the mechanism by which the flying dinosaurs like Quetzalcoatlus were able to get off the ground. The creatures, which stood as tall as giraffes and sported wings 40 feet long, seem to have been too large to take flight from the ground, and couldn’t have always been conveniently located on sheer rock faces as depicted in children's books. By analyzing bone structures, paleontologists now believe that Quetzalcoatlus likely didn’t need to run forward or aggressively flap its wings to take off. Rather, the pterosaurs launched themselves eight feet off the ground with their powerful hind legs — which must have been quite a sight for any land-borne animals that witnessed it. Read more…


Mosul Dam of Iraq: Most Dangerous Dam in the World (The Constructor)

For thousands of years, humans have inhabited the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now located within modern-day Iraq. In this desert climate, water flowing through the country is essential and its use has long been a point of concern and contention. With all of the conflict in the region, it’s a surprise that the Mosul Dam (formerly known as the Saddam Dam after dictator Saddam Hussein constructed it in 1986) is still intact. And it’s a very good thing that it is — not only does the dam provide hydroelectric power for the city of Mosul, but it’s also holding back a torrent of water from residents downstream, including the capital city of Baghdad. Unfortunately, the dam is built upon a material called gypsum, which erodes when exposed to water. If the surface isn’t maintained carefully, such as when the site was occupied by ISIS in 2014, the land could give way, kicking off a tragic dam-burst that would lead to an estimated 500,000 casualties. Read more…


"Troposphere" - the Congolese Space Program (Space Legal Issues)

Over the decades, NASA and the Soviet Union have garnered much of the limelight when it comes to space exploration. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, a robust space program has been underway since the 1970s and regular unmanned trips are made into the upper atmosphere. Efforts to launch spacecraft from the region began with a German company called OTRAG, which purchased land in 1978 in order to skirt Cold War-era treaty regulations preventing the launch of rockets on German soil. After the company closed operations, Jean-Patrice Keka, a local who had caught a passion for rocketry, launched his own space program called Troposphere in 2005. There’s a charming lack of sophistication to the enterprise, with the control tower consisting of a corrugated iron structure and rats as “astronauts”, but the project’s ambitions are clear: to be the first Africans to field a satellite in low-Earth orbit. Read more…


Suicide Capsule Previews in Switzerland (Swiss Information Channel)

In Switzerland, death by assisted suicide is legal, with 1,300 people taking their lives last year, mostly by ingesting powerful drugs that induce a lethal coma. It has long been suggested, however, that breathing an environment of pure nitrogen is the most effective means of ending a life. “The person will feel a little disoriented and may feel slightly euphoric before they lose consciousness….there is no panic, no choking feeling.” For this purpose, a 3D-printed capsule called Sarco is seeking government approval for use as the first “suicide machine” of sorts in modern times. While the procedure has potential for helping reduce the suffering of patients, and also includes a button that will stop the process, the legal status of assisted suicide is, naturally, subject to ongoing moral and political debate. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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