"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.


Former Astronauts Share Ways To Cope With Social Distancing & Isolation (Forbes)

As the reality of a prolonged period of social distancing sets in, spending so much time alone or in the company of just a few family members or roommates might feel profoundly strange. Nobody understands this feeling better than the astronauts and cosmonauts that have spent weeks to months either confined to the International Space Station or training for extended missions to the Moon or Mars. In fact, NASA spends a lot of time trying to understand the psychological effects of such isolation on the human brain. Astronauts’ advice for social distancers amidst the current pandemic includes points such as setting expectations, exercising and cleaning on a regular basis, and doing something nice for loved ones. Read more…


Copper Destroys Viruses and Bacteria. Why Isn’t It Everywhere? (Vice)

Copper is the hand sanitizer of metals. Bacteria and viruses that land on its surface are destroyed in short order, a phenomenon that’s been noted for centuries, all the way back to the days of ancient Egypt. That’s because copper releases ions which blast their way through the delicate shells of microbes and neutralize whatever DNA or RNA lies within. With all of this natural disease-fighting ability, you would think that copper would be found more places — door handles, staircase rails, subway poles, gymnasiums, hospitals. But mankind’s love affair with cheaply-produced plastic and stainless steel means that these materials are much more common. That's good news for a virus like COVID-19 that survives on hard surfaces for up to three days. Could we afford to incorporate copper into building design? It turns out that copper is one of the most common metals on Earth, extremely recyclable, and the cost of copper conversion might pay for itself weighed against the cost of viral or bacterial infections contracted from hospital beds. Read more…


Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All (Quanta Magazine)

One would think that glass, used for centuries around the world, would be well understood by now. But actually, glass is a serious scientific mystery. In contrast to crystals, which have a lattice-like molecular structure, glass looks disordered under a microscope’s lens, in the same way that liquids do. How this makeup results in a solid, crystalline substance has always been a puzzle — it’s like the liquid has frozen in stasis. One way that we might solve glass’ riddle is to  synthesize a material called “ideal glass”, which is a glass that’s formed so slowly and densely that it possesses the highest amount of molecular order before solidifying. This theoretical material would exhibit something called ‘long-range order”, which would hopefully explain the unique abilities of glass once and for all. A recent clue in the quest to form ideal glass came in the form of 110-million-year-old amber discovered near Madrid, Spain. This amber should have stabilized into low-energy form over time, but experiments show that it remains unstable. Does this mean ideal glass is a myth? Or is there still more work to be done? Only time will tell. Read more…


Space: The Final Illusion (Scientific American)

“Many of the great advances in science are marked by the discovery that an aspect of nature we thought was fundamental is actually an illusion, due to the coarseness of our sensory perceptions.” This remarkable notion is especially relevant when thinking about space, where the laws of nature paint a beautiful and mystifying portrait across nearly infinite stretches of time and distance. In the 20th century, physicists wrestled with Einstein’s relativity theory, which shows that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, contrasted to the discoveries of quantum mechanics, which demonstrate that "entangled particles" completely ignore the constraint of light speed. Is there an illusion in human perception that we need to overcome in order to bridge the gap between these observations? The new concept of "quantum gravity" may offer a path through the human illusion of cause and effect within a universe limited by light speed. Simply put, quantum gravity holds that events tend toward cause and effect, but in fact they can create ripples anywhere in space and time. i.e., instant communication across light-years of distance, anywhere in the universe. Sound freaky? Well . . . Read more…

The Bizarre Social History of Beds (The Conversation)

Bedrooms today are something of a sacred space, the most personal area of our homes where we allow ourselves to relax alone or in the company of spouses, lovers, or good friends. Hopefully, readers have been able to spend a little more time in bed relaxing during the COVID-19 lockdown. But, you might be surprised to know, this has not always been the main purpose of bedrooms. Beds in the past served a much more communal role. “For most of human history, people thought nothing of crowding family members or friends into the same bed.” That generosity extended to travelers — you might share a bed at an inn with fellow travelers or guests, some of them drunk or suffering from various ailments. It took the evangelical Christianity of the Victorian era to turn the bedroom into a private space. However, the digital era has been opening bedrooms to the world in recent years, as these private areas become the stages of the 21st century. Read more…

Check out my Blog: "Minding Your Business"
See you next week!
            - Greg
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