"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.


How Insects Become Airborne, Slowed Down to a Speed the Human Eye Can Appreciate (Aeon)

Insects are so ubiquitous that we can easily miss the wonder of how they move and interact with the world. In these slow-motion videos from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, creatures like praying mantis, flies, and beetles appear more like miniature robots than living creatures. Bizarre anatomical features like the mantis’ four-bladed wings are more comprehensible and beautiful when viewed in slow motion - a speed that allows the human eye to watch them at all. . Watch more…

Why the Modern Bathroom is a Wasteful, Unhealthy Design (The Guardian)

There is no question that modern sanitation and plumbing save countless lives and make human existence much more pleasurable. But is it possible that our modern bathrooms were developed along flawed justifications? “It is hard to find something that we actually got right in the modern bathroom.“ Laid out for convenience of construction, bathrooms keep all of our water in the same place. Designs for toilets, sinks, and showers, however, don’t take into account the human element or the environmental impact of channeling all of the used water to the same place. What could we do instead? This article presents some solutions, from composting toilets to the Japanese way of bathing, which only uses water as needed and takes place in a room separate from other sanitary needs. Read more…

This New Robot Rat Invention Could One Day Save Your Life (Screenshot)

Rats are highly skilled at burrowing into tight spaces, so it makes sense that scientists would study their design when building robots assigned to do the same thing. A robotics institute at the Beijing Institute of Technology recently announced the development of a robotic rat that might someday search rubble and debris in disaster areas, and possibly deliver emergency rations or fix dangerous leaks underground. Right now, the robot rats can travel about 15cm a second for about 30 minutes on a single charge, and carry up to 200 grams. Those are modest numbers, but the team says that they will continue to upgrade the robots, improving — among other things — speed, sensory ability, and waterproofing. Read more…

Saving the Sounds of the Early 20th Century (Atlas Obscura)

The New York Public Library recently acquired a machine to digitize wax recordings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a breakthrough that means we could finally hear some of its vast collection in digital form - in many cases for the first time ever. In the early days of sound recording, wax cylinders were used instead of the more familiar disc designs, and only seven machines exist in the world for the purpose of transferring their sounds into a computer. For the library’s staff, it’s a chance to wander into the past, with no clue what they might find waiting in the vaults. “Hundreds of the library’s cylinders don’t have any notes whatsoever about what may be recorded on them. Some might be family home recordings of a birthday or holiday. Others might contain unreleased musical recordings or vaudeville comedy routines. No one knows.“ Read more…

Where Do NYC's Street Cart Donuts Come From? (Café Anne)

New York City is a marvel of man-made efficiency, with an incredibly complex supply chain keeping people moving, comfortable, and fed 24 hours a day. One classic amenity found on the streets of NYC are the coffee carts, each one run by a different proprietor but each serving essentially the same breakfast pastries and hot beverages. For this article, the author wondered: where do all the donuts — sold all over NYC and essentially the same from cart to cart — come from? In the end, he finds a small, family-owned operation run by immigrants from Tajikstan — just what you might expect in such a diverse city. Unfortunately, remote work has impacted business, but the donut factory in Long Island City still boxes some 15,000 donuts per day and sends them to coffee carts across the city. Read more…

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