"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
05/12/22
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 Ripple Effects of Russia's War in Ukraine Are Changing the World (NPR)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th of this year, and the length of the conflict, with its disruptions to human movement, world trade, and the global supply chain, are being felt by citizens of nearly every nation. The Ukrainian flag, for example, with its bands of blue and yellow, is meant, in part, to represent a wheat field. Exports of wheat have been curtailed this season, especially to key markets in Africa and the Middle East, leading to food shortages in these areas. More obviously, embargoes on Russian oil have pushed energy prices higher, with resulting inflationary effects on everyday goods. Harder to see are the ripples passing through fields like geopolitics, where relations among NATO countries are being strengthened, and cybersecurity, where countries are battling over global networks. Read more…


How Modern Food Can Regain its Nutrients (BBC)

Since the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century, more people than ever before have access to basic foodstuffs, an accomplishment made possible by optimizing the way food is grown, processed, and stored. With all this success, however, comes a growing concern: the nutritional content of our new, larger, and prettier fruits and vegetables is lower. Why the discrepancy? It seems that growing larger, more homogenous foods actually spurs the plants to increase their carbohydrate content, which decreases the aggregate of nutrients like iron, calcium, and phosphorus - all of which are necessary to support human life. While more research is needed, it seems that an effective solution for growing healthier foods will involve more diverse crops and healthier bacterial and fungal cultures in the soil. Read more...

 

Hitting a Baseball is the Hardest Skill to Pull Off in Sports. Here’s Why. (Popular Science)

Hitting a baseball is called the hardest skill in professional sports — and if you can hit a baseball in the majors just 30 percent of the time, you might be on your way to the Hall of Fame. It’s clear that the sheer speed at which a fastball approaches home plate might be an obstacle to making contact, but other factors at play make the chances of hitting a home run much more difficult. For example, the rounded nature of both baseball and bat mean that the contact area for a successful hit is just a fifth of an inch — about the size of a popcorn kernel, which can make the difference between hitting the ball out of the park or into the stands behind home plate. Add to that problem the issues facing an average batter, where pitches must be identified, evaluated, and swung at only if they present a good chance of making a hit, and it’s no wonder that even Michael Jordan struggled to make it in the minor leagues. Read more…


Mathematicians Outline How Cities Can Avoid Traffic Jams (Fast Company)

Traffic is an enduring problem in the 21st century, but might it be possible, with all of our modern technology, to improve traffic flow by using algorithms that optimize so many other aspects of life? According to mathematicians like St. Petersburg University’s Alexander Krylatov, these solutions already exist, if traffic engineers — and society at large — would care to implement them. A list of five improvements presents some ideas that could be implemented today, such as only allowing cars to park along roadsides in areas where it does not harm traffic flow and increasing the number of “green” lanes for clean vehicles. Other solutions would take more time and investment, like creating a single GPS system to coordinate all traffic flow. Read more…


Rocket Lab: Helicopter Catches Returning Booster Over the Pacific (BBC)

In the early days of spaceflight, little thought was given to the rocket boosters that carried spacecraft into orbit, which usually either burned up when falling back to earth or were left to fly through space for decades afterwards. Today, the amount of space debris surrounding the planet, as well as financial concerns, have led to a surprising level of creativity in seeking to recover pieces of rockets sent into space. While Elon Musk’s Space X corporation has made headlines by designing rockets that can land themselves right back on their launchpads, a joint US-New Zealand company retrieved a booster rocket by helicopter last Tuesday in mid-air, the first time such a feat has been accomplished. Though safety concerns led to the eventual jettisoning of the booster into the sea before the helicopter reached land, this proof-of-concept flight is sure to inspire similar efforts in the near future. Read more…

 

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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