"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
03/25/21
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.


All Your Memories are Stored by One Weird, Ancient Molecule (Inverse)

Almost everyone can recall a memory from early life. How do we square that with the notion that our bodies are constantly renewing and replacing physical cells? The critical component seems to be something known as the Arc protein. This component of the brain, which scientists have studied since the mid-1990s, seems to be responsible for a certain kind of brain plasticity — a resistance to the hardening that might erase early memories. And now there’s evidence that the Arc protein might be viral in origin. “No other non-viral protein that we know of acts in this way.” Amazingly, the makeup of modern humankind seems more and more to derive from the collision of various cells and viruses that ended up creating something more powerful than the sum of their individual parts. “Not only did many mutations happen by random chance to make us what we are today, but we actually borrowed biology from other cells and organisms to get here. A little bit of their history lives on in us today.” Read more…


Sperm Whales in 19th Century Shared Ship Attack Information (The Guardian)

Years into their campaign to harvest whales from the seas of the Earth, sailors noticed a modification in the creatures’ behavior — whales were beginning to learn. And learn not only how to respond to attacks from humans, but to communicate among themselves in order to evade such attacks by swimming upwind, outpacing wind-powered sailing ships and escaping danger. Such communication seems to stem from the matriarchs of the whale community, their traditional messengers — and, possibly, the same members that might today be passing on information about changing temperatures and the waxing and waning of food sources. “The same sort of urgent social learning the animals experienced in the whale wars of two centuries ago is reflected in the way they negotiate today’s uncertain world and what we’ve done to it.” Read more…

 

Where Are Those Shoes You Ordered? Check the Ocean Floor (Wired)

The changes wrought by the covid-19 pandemic continue with a sharp uptick in container ship accidents, a phenomenon brought on in part by increased demand for household staples in the western world. The ripple effects of such changes to consumer behavior have led to increased burden on the world’s shipping industry — and a corresponding increase in accidents due to heavier loads and older ships pressed into service. In all, 2980 containers were lost since November 2020, which amounts to more than twice the annual amount of containers lost between 2008 and 2019. Shipping companies are also blaming poor weather conditions, but loads stacked high can increase the risk of so-called parametic rolling, a physical motion that leads to overturned ships and lost loads. Read more…


The Appalachian Mountains May Have Once Been as Tall as the Himalayas (CN Traveler)

In a human lifetime, a mountain might seem an indomitable, unchangeable thing. But, of course, mountains rise and fall. The Appalachian mountains of the eastern US and Canada bear witness to such changes as eons of erosion have transformed them from the highest mountain range on Earth to the smooth, rounded forms we see today. In fact, if you were to seek the highest peak ever to rise on Earth, you would have to search no farther than North Carolina, or perhaps New Hampshire. How long did it take the Appalachians to blow, bit by bit, into the sea? About 330 million years, which is longer than the time of mammals, the first birds, and even the dinosaurs. Read more…


These Five “Witness Trees” Were Present At Key Moments In America’s History (Smithsonian Magazine)

In the United States, the Witness Tree Protection Program, established in 2006 by the National Park Service, seeks to protect and preserve historically and biologically significant trees that have borne silent witness to the great changes and upheavals in human history. This article highlights five such trees, including the War of 1812 Willow Oak, which stood during the crucial Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 which preceded the sacking of Washington, D.C., as well as the Oklahoma City Survivor Tree, with shrapnel from the 1995 bombing still embedded in its trunk. Because of the National Park Service, these and other silent witnesses stand a chance to survive a great deal longer. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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