"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
04/23/20
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.

 

Why Oil Prices Fell Below Zero (Slate)

Hopefully, readers have been able to stay at home more and travel less in recent weeks. Less travel impacts the economy in manifold ways, not least of which is the decreased usage of fuel. And all that fuel has to be stored somewhere — at this point, in land- and sea-based facilities that are almost full. That immense surplus is stoking a unique form of havoc on the oil markets, where futures contracts closed this week at an incredible price of almost -$40. That means, for the first time in history, oil producers are actually paying for others to take their product off of their hands. Not only does this development shed new light on the recent movements of OPEC and Russia, but it raises concerns that cheap oil will stall alternative energy developments and endanger thousands of energy industry jobs. Read more…

 

'It's Positively Alpine!': Disbelief in Big Cities as Air Pollution Falls (The Guardian)

We highlighted previously how sound levels are falling across the world due to the Coronavirus quarantine measures, and with this week comes the striking visual evidence of cleaner air in urban centers worldwide. From New Delhi to Bogota, residents are being struck by how much more of their cities are visible. “As pollution dropped to its lowest level in three decades this week, residents of Jalandhar in Punjab woke up to an incredible sight in the distance: the Dhauladhar mountain range in Himachal Pradesh. The peaks, which are over 120 miles away, had not been sighted on the Punjab horizon for almost 30 years.” It’s an incredible demonstration of the deleterious effects of industry and fossil fuels, one that with any luck will influence the development of cleaner industry post-crisis. Read more…

 

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete (The Atlantic)

Scientific progress happens through papers. Drafted by researchers to share experimental methods and results, papers have been standard practice for hundreds of years, and represent one of the pillars of the scientific method, enabling healthy debate and dissertation. As science gets more complex, and computer modeling more powerful, the platform of the scientific paper is under question — could we be sharing results more effectively? As you might expect from the world of science, there are already a number of teams working on different solutions. Many of their ideas employ the use of interactive infographics that generate real-time experiments using computer models, enabling understanding of esoteric ideas by putting readers in the minds of the researchers themselves. The general idea is a streamlining of the traditional paper, replacing mathematical austerity with an interactive model that enhances understanding and engagement. Read more…

 

Comet Atlas is Crumbling, but Another is Already Brightening Skywatchers' Nights (Cnet)

Comets, really just “dirty snowballs” made of ice and rock from the outer Solar System, are one of the most spectacular shows that in the night sky, and an occasional reminder that there’s a bigger world outside our little planet. The last major comet most will remember is 1997’s Hale-Bopp, and since then every passerby has fizzled out. This year, comet watchers had high hopes for Atlas, which looked like it might reach a spectacular peak in May but has since begun to decline in brightness. There’s still hope, however, for Comet Swan, which is now approaching the level of brightness at which it will be visible from Earth. While Atlas’ discoverer is pessimistic, there’s still a chance that one of these comets might end up rewarding us with an otherworldly distraction from the dark times on our planet. Read more…

 

Olympic Basketball and The Grateful Dead (Sports History Weekly)

The 1992 Olympic basketball tournament is most likely remembered for the absolute dominance of America’s Dream Team, a ridiculously overpowered squad featuring NBA legends including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. But there was another team on the podium that very few would have expected: Lithuania took the bronze medal that year, wearing outlandish tie-dye uniforms featuring a skeleton dunking a basketball. Such livery could only have been provided by hippie folk heroes The Grateful Dead, who improbably provided the funding for Lithuania to field its Olympic team that year, following a highlight piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. For the men of Lithuania “…the real fight for national pride and historic dignity came when they squared off for 3rd place against their former Russian overlords. Old comrades went up against old comrades and in the end, the Baltic nation prevailed 82-78.” And today, those tie-dye uniforms command high prices on the Dead-head aftermarket. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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