"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
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.


Texas Cinema’s ‘Drive-In’ Is A Blockbuster Opening Weekend Hit (Forbes)

Social distancing measures to control the spread of Coronavirus have hit a number of industries hard, especially traditional movie theaters like AMC, who have reported nearly zero revenue in recent weeks. But a bright spot for the industry is the drive-in theater format, already a model for social distancing. EVO Entertainment of Schertz, Texas debuted an improvised drive-in cinema in the parking lot of its multiplex this week, and has sold out every show. “Guests will have the opportunity to order menu items from the theater kitchen via a custom mobile ordering interface that was built specifically for this initiative. All payments are made through the app and no cash is accepted. When orders are ready, an EVO employee equipped with nitrile gloves brings the items to the driver side door.” It’s a relatively easy and safe way to keep entertainment going during exceptionally strange times. Read more…


The Unintended Beauty of Starlings (Nautilus)

Starlings, a European species of bird, were released in New York City’s Central Park in 1890 and 1891 by ornithologist Eugene Schieffelin. In the decades to come, the invasive breed spread across the United States and southern Canada, with the original population of 100 growing to perhaps 200 million in the wild today. They’re often found ambling through grassy fields, sporting dark feathers topped by bright yellow beaks. But the most interesting behavior of starlings is their habit of flocking together in enormous numbers, triggered by any sort of perceived threat, marked by 15 minutes of intense, coordinated swooping. These displays are called “murmurations,” and they’ve been extensively studied by ornithologists and other scientists in order to figure out how such a group can coordinate so efficiently. Researchers in the 1960s found that each bird takes its cue from six or seven nearby birds, which seems to be the optimal number in order to balance “group cohesion and individual effort.” Read more…


Inside the Secretly Lucrative World of Solo Piano Music (Rolling Stone)

Is making a profit in recorded music a thing of the past? It turns out that some of the highest-paid artists in streaming music are not just pop darlings like Ariana Grande. A handful of solo pianists are able to make $7000 to $10,000 a month creating music to be used in waiting rooms and offices across the country. “Some of them are making far more money from their music than the artists than you see on major labels that sell OK but are not crossing the threshold of really having an income stream for years to come…these piano players have cracked that.” The reason that solo piano is so successful seems to stem from its unobtrusiveness — it creates an environment where one can get lost in thought. That explains why the some of the largest audiences for such music lie in the 18-24 year old bracket, seeking a soft, unobtrusive soundtrack to study to. Read more…


You Think You Know what Blue Is, But You Have No Idea (Inverse)

We’ve seen red flowers, orange flowers, yellow, white…but blue flowers are an exception. In fact, violet or blue chrysanthemums, roses, and other ornamental flowers can usually only be produced in a laboratory using genetic engineering. The pigment that produces true blue is called anthocyanin, and its extremely prone to being shaded by other factors like sugar content or acidity, turning its blue tones into violet or purple. To combat this tendency, researchers working on the world’s first blue chrysanthemum in 2017 first isolated the gene for anthocyanin production, then added a gene that would bond just enough sugar molecules to the pigment to bring it toward the blue end of the spectrum. Read more…


The Fight to Preserve a 44,000-Year-Old Painting (1843 Magazine)

43,900 years ago, someone living in the Indonesian archipelago created what’s being called the “oldest pictoral record of storytelling,” a painting of hunters chasing wild pigs and buffalo, deep within a natural cave. Eons later, the work has been discovered in the midst of mining operations, which sadly are endangering the future of these messages from humanity’s past. In addition to physical operations like dynamiting, rapid industrialization in the region is changing the climate and leading to deterioration of prehistoric remnants on the limestone walls of the caves. Fortunately, archaeologists like Budianto Hakim have been working to catalog and document pieces like the hunters’ painting before they are lost. “I want every student in Indonesia to know that art came from here. From us.” Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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