"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
12/12/19
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 One-Traffic-Light Town with Some of the Fastest Internet in the U.S. (The New Yorker)

For all the investment promises made by big telecom companies, progress rolling out high speed internet to rural locations in the United States has moved at a snail’s pace. McKee, Kentucky lies in one of the poorest areas of the country, but residents enjoy high speed internet at rates of one gigabit per second, with plans to expand to ten gigabits in coming years. How did they do it? Residents in Jackson County, KY are part of an organization called Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative (P.R.T.C.), which took it upon themselves to lay fiber-optic cable connecting all seven thousand structures in the region. “It’s no more difficult to build fibre than it is copper…it was just a matter of money and time.” As a result, work-from-home tech jobs have flourished, with more and more residents getting involved in the high tech economy. Read more…

 

Why Cruise Lines Keep Cutting Their Ships in Half (Bloomberg)

It looks absolutely crazy — like pulling apart a child’s Lego set — but here’s how Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze was pulled apart in order to add a new, 50-suite midsection, refreshing the 1980s-era liner with upgrades designed to keep the ship contemporary into the next two decades. Such upgrades are increasingly popular with cruise lines, which face particular economic considerations that force them to weigh expansions like this against the expensive construction of all-new designs. Because the new midsection can be constructed on land, the ship is only out of commission for a few months as it’s cut in half and reconnected. The new quarters require the hiring of a few additional personnel, but far fewer than a second ship would need. And, as an added bonus, the lengthening gives the liners a sleek, elongated new look. Read more…

 

The Bonkers, Bristly Story Of How Big Toothbrush Took Over the World (Wired)

People have used toothbrushes for centuries — they have to be one of the most simple personal hygiene products imaginable. In recent decades, the rise of the electric toothbrush has resulted in big business for toothbrush companies: “Now, there are 41 different electric toothbrush options on the Oral-B website alone – some of which are different colours of the same essential kit…but many of which have different features.” The essential question here: do they work? Scientists note that it’s very hard to eliminate bias and different habits from the data, but there appears to be an advantage, albeit a slight one, to using an electric brush. “An average 11 per cent reduction in the degree of plaque buildup, in the short term, and a 21 per cent over three months term; a six per cent or 11 per cent reduction in gingivitis, depending on how you measure it.” Read more…

 

These Guys Just Drove Across America in a Record 27 Hours 25 Minutes (Road and Track)

The Cannonball Run is a cornerstone of American automotive legend. The brainchild of golden-age Car and Driver journalist Brock Yates, the high-speed, highly illegal, New York-to-Los Angeles dash even inspired an early-80s movie series starring Burt Reynolds. It might seem like such reckless behavior would be harder and harder to manage on today’s roads, but the record has been creeping slowly faster over the years — from 32 hours in 1983 to 28 hours in 2013, and now, most recently, to a nigh-unbelievable 27 hours, 30 minutes. The team that set the new record used a Mercedes E63 AMG, looking like a bland sedan from the outside but packing 700 horsepower and advanced radar technology that enabled the team to evade speed-enforcing aircraft. At an average speed of 103 miles per hour, their run was incredibly dangerous (and definitely not recommended), but that probably won’t stop the next group of outlaws from trying to break this iconic record. Read more…

 

Relativistic Baseball (xkcd)

Comedy website xkcd is legendary for their breakdowns of physics-related questions sent by readers. Over the years, questions have included “How can you make a jetpack by using a machine gun firing downwards?”, “What if all the rain fell to earth as one giant raindrop?”, and “If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”. This article explores the implications of attempting to hit a baseball traveling at 90% of the speed of light. As it turns out, an object traveling that fast would actually fuse the atoms of air in its path together, rather than pushing them aside. That creates a ton of energy, and the result is explosive: “The shell of x-rays and superheated plasma expands outward and upward, swallowing the backstop, both teams, the stands, and the surrounding neighborhood—all in the first microsecond.” Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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