"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
11/12/20
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.

 

When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red (Smithsonian Magazine)

Every two years, news networks familiarize us yet again with the big red and blue map, pointing out which areas of the country are turning deeper shades, or even “purple” with indecision. But why do we associate political parties with colors anyway? While the electoral map dates back to at least the 1970s, the color coding was far from set for quite a while. In fact, the original rule of thumb held that Democrats be cast in red while Republicans were represented by blue, to mirror the conventional left-right colors in Great Britain. Amazingly, the modern colors weren’t widely adopted until just 20 years ago during the controversial 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when it seems that the New York Times set the standard that defines American politics today. “‘I just decided red begins with ‘r,’ Republican begins with ‘r.’ It was a more natural association,’ said Archie Tse, senior graphics editor for the Times. ‘There wasn’t much discussion about it.’” Read more…

 

Small Things (Aeon)

“If we humans were God’s ultimate purpose, why would he create anything that we couldn’t see?” Imagine the dilemma as 17th century scientists peered through homemade microscopes into the monstrous world of the microscopic. What were those strange and beautiful creatures? And what did their existence mean for us at the macro level? Their discoveries led to a new awakening in the understanding of diseases, the workings of the body, and even the larger scale of the cosmos itself. In the 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell even floated the idea of a “demon” at work that would preserve energy within certain regions at the microscopic level, to counteract the forces of entropy threatening to smooth out the universe. It’s a basic human fascination and fear that persists to this day: the idea of “man vs. germ,” the constant awareness that life goes on around and within us at unimaginable scales. Read more…

 

Flying the Hump: A Veteran Remembers (Air & Space Magazine)

For aviators in the Second World War, one of the most dangerous missions rarely involved enemy aircraft. Flying over “the Hump,” as aviators called the Himalaya mountain range rising between supply bases in India and combat zones in China, was fraught with danger despite use of the best available technology. Allied pilots flew underpowered piston-engine aircraft and relied on rudimentary navigation methods, inaccurate weather forecasts, and unreliable charts. From the Library of Congress Veterans History Project comes this story written by First Lieutenant Milton Richard Buls, who was tasked with flying a C-87 transport into the heart of unforgiving terrain and braving frequent thunderstorms. “Once in a while, you would get into a thunderstorm that would spill all your gyro instruments. Then you had nothing but the needle, which gave you left and right, and the ball, which told you whether you were slipping or skidding. The airspeed was the only indication you had if you were going up or down.” Read more…

 

Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes (Quanta)

From the leading edge of scientific thought comes an outlandish idea that is gaining legitimacy: the idea that “wormholes", i.e., tunnels connecting different points in spacetime, might be sustained through entanglement between two black holes. According to research by experts at Harvard and Stanford universities, such a wormhole would allow a spacecraft to pass from one point in the universe to another in the same way that quantum particles have been teleported in laboratories around the world. If true, this idea would seem to bring balance to an old debate regarding whether Einstein-Rosen “ER” macro-scale wormholes are equivalent to  Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen “EPR” quantum-scale entangled particles. And it might give us a clue to what black holes actually are. Are they really bottomless pits? Or are they empty shells — doorways to other places in space and time? Read more…

 

Does Scrabble Need To Be Fixed? (Nautilus)

How much of Scrabble success comes down to luck? We might feel we’re walking dictionaries after an intense Scrabble game, but the score might actually favor the player who manages to draw that 10-point Z tile, or is lucky enough to grab a triple word score. This debate has been raging lately in the Scrabble world, with some advocating for changes in the points assigned to various letters, e.g., leaving Q at 10 points but dropping Z to 6. According to statistical analysis, however, there’s another factor that might make the game even more fair: eliminating “Scrabble bingo,” or the 50 points granted when a player uses all seven of their tiles at once. Those points add up, and might be enough to swing games if other players can’t catch up with a “bingo”. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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