"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
12/09/21
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.


How DNA Solved One of the Final Mysteries of Pearl Harbor (Politico)

On its 80th anniversary, the Pearl Harbor attack, which took place on December 7th, 1941, is a distant memory even for the handful of witnesses still remaining. However, many mysteries remaining from that day are still being solved, perhaps the most important of which is the identification of human remains from the battle. Using new DNA technology, the joint laboratories responsible for The USS Oklahoma Project have aided in identifying 361 of the 394 crew members who went down with the ship, which was torpedoed and capsized during the attack’s frantic opening moments. “It was a milestone accomplishment for the laboratory. We’ve identified over 90 percent of these individuals,” said John Byrd, who directs one of the labs in Hawaii. With the project’s help, the family of Jesus Garcia, just 21 at the time, were present as his remains were laid to rest on October 6th of this year. Read more…

 

The Dark Side of 15-Minute Grocery Delivery (Bloomberg CityLab)

“‘Customers first try us out because they forgot an ingredient. Then they use us the next night for all their dinner ingredients. Soon enough, they never have to wear pants again.” 15-minute grocery delivery, like ride-share and restaurant delivery apps, has transformed our modern cities. But, like those apps, it runs  the risk of destroying those very cities if left unregulated. In the case of groceries, guaranteeing fast delivery requires huge stores of food staffed by a handful of employees, which are gobbling up real estate that used to house retail space. The result is row upon row of closed-up storefronts in New York City, where seven different apps compete for business, with plans for many more real estate acquisitions to come. New technology doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s incumbent on city officials around the world to make smart regulations such as more specialized and efficient zoning, as well as improved transportation to accommodate deliveries as well as regular traffic. (Anyone bounced off a sidewalk by a speedy delivery driver can relate.) Read more…


Making Aviation History: Madison Plants Fuel United Airlines Aircraft with Passengers Aboard (The Wisconsin State Journal via Aviation Pros)

For the first time in aviation history, a commercial flight completed a trip December 1st using an engine running on 100% renewable fuel. The new plant-based jet fuel is made out of biological waste like corn cobs and stalks by a company called Virent, and produces 50% fewer emissions than fossil fuels. Currently, the company is in the process of getting the proper certification for airline use, because the industry is only allowed to use fuels containing up to 50% renewables, even though Virent’s fuel requires no modifications. "The biggest benefit [of the test] is to show the [aerospace] industry, as well as legislative bodies around the world that [renewable] aviation fuel is a reality," said Virent president Dave Kettner. He and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, along with other prominent figures, were aboard the United flight earlier this month, making a big bet on this transitional step toward all-renewable air travel. Read more…


The McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Hacking Saga Has a New Twist (Wired)

The vast, social-media-fueled conspiracy involving Taylor, the vendor that makes McDonald’s ice cream machines, has taken a new turn. You may have noticed, if you’re an ice cream fan, that McDonalds ice cream machines are often broken. In fact, according to research — there is literally a website that shows which machines around the country are reported down at any given time — McDonalds ice cream machines are broken more often than seems practical. The conspiracy angle, in a nutshell, is that Taylor makes more money sending repair personnel than selling machines, and McDonalds allows the practice because the burden falls on franchise owners. The latest edition of the scandal comes with the court-ordered revelation of internal emails showing Taylor’s attempts to blatantly copy third-party devices meant to diagnose errors and get the machines running again. Stay tuned to see whether start-up Kytch maintains its ability to sell diagnostics to franchise owners, or whether big ice cream shuts them down. Read more…

Chinese Rover Spots Weird, Large ‘Cube’ on the Moon (Smithsonian Magazine)

China’s Yutu-2 rover is making progress as the first lunar rover on the far, or “dark” side of the Moon’s surface. Launched in 2018, the solar-powered probe has traveled over half a mile across an area near the Moon’s south pole. Now, scientists monitoring the rover’s cameras say that they’ve spotted a strange, cube-shaped object — and they can’t work out what it might be. They’ve already reoriented toward the object, but it will take two to three months for the craft to reach it, although we will know more as it approaches. The internet was full of crazy speculation, from the obvious alien hypothesis to jokes about the monolith from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but in actuality it's probably just a big, square boulder. Still, the more we know about objects on the Moon, the more we will learn about how the Moon formed and the effects acting on its land and atmosphere. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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