The Solution Podcast
Smart Minds Solving Problems & Making the World a Better Place


To find your solution you must remain curious. 

Mirny Mine

This is the Mirny Mine. It is 1,722 feet (525 meters) deep, and 3,900 feet (1.25 kilometers) across. Also:

Airspace above the mine is off-limits to helicopters, after “a few accidents when they were ‘sucked in’ by downward air flow…”

How does that happen?

If a hole is deep enough — and a half-kilometer deep hole qualifies — the earth will warm the air inside it. The deeper the hole, the warmer the air. Warm air rises, and cool air sinks, so with a big temperature difference between in-hole air and aboveground air, you get a lot of wind.

Thus, two things are happening. First, the warm air rising from the hole is less dense and gives less lift to helicopter rotors than the cooler air it had been flying through. Since the temperature change is extremely abrupt as the helicopter flies over the hole, the pilot may lose a bunch of altitude before managing to adjust the speed enough (read: increase the spin rate of the rotors) to compensate for the loss of lift.

At the same time, the cool air pouring into that hole from all sides is going to create quite a wind shear. If a helicopter loses enough lift to hit the stream of cold air, it could easily be slammed into the side of the borehole before it ever developed enough lift or power to recover.

Roger Nairn
Empire State Building
 Photo Credit:  B  rian Sugden

Photo Credit: Brian Sugden

Today I learned that the window washers for the Empire State Building are so high up that they can sometime be attacked by foreign objects.  

The most bizarre?  

During the summer months the guys can be hit by barley grains that have been lifted from the mid-west fields from frequent storms.  

Roger Nairn
Cohen vs. Dylan
 Photo Credit:  Scott Gruber

Photo Credit: Scott Gruber

Are you a Cohen or a Dylan? 

Isn't it amazing that two of the greatest musicians (and poets) of our lifetime have popped back into the zeitgeist? This year Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. And shortly after Cohen released a new single, before passing away. 

One of the many amazing tidbits from David Remnick's New Yorker profile on Cohen:

In the early eighties, Cohen went to see Dylan perform in Paris, and the next morning in a café they talked about their latest work. Dylan was especially interested in “Hallelujah.” Even before three hundred other performers made “Hallelujah” famous with their cover versions, long before the song was included on the soundtrack for “Shrek” and as a staple on “American Idol,” Dylan recognized the beauty of its marriage of the sacred and the profane. He asked Cohen how long it took him to write.

“Two years,” Cohen lied.

Actually, “Hallelujah” had taken him five years. He drafted dozens of verses and then it was years more before he settled on a final version. In several writing sessions, he found himself in his underwear, banging his head against a hotel-room floor.

Cohen told Dylan, “I really like ‘I and I,’ ” a song that appeared on Dylan’s album “Infidels.” “How long did it take you to write that?”

“About fifteen minutes,” Dylan said.

It’s true. Some people are more like Cohens, some people are like Dylans. Which one are you? 

Here’s another great tidbit from the piece:

Cohen lived in a tiny cabin that he outfitted with a coffeemaker, a menorah, a keyboard, and a laptop. Like the other adepts, he cleaned toilets. He had the honor of cooking for Roshi and eventually lived in a cabin that was linked to his teacher’s by a covered walkway. For many hours a day, he sat in half lotus, meditating. If he, or anyone else, nodded off during meditation or lost the proper position, one of the monks would come by and rap him smartly on the shoulder with a wooden stick.

And here was Cohen's last single. He's so rad. He will be missed. 

Roger Nairn
 Photo Credit:  Bhavyesh Acharya

Photo Credit: Bhavyesh Acharya

Today I learned about bicameralism. 


Bicameralism states that humans developed consciousness with a step in the middle - bicameralism. This included 2 parts of the brain talking to one another - one tells the other what to do. 

Why is this interesting? Because many believe that this is what the concept of "god" comes from, as early humans were literally hearing a voice giving them a command. But over time this evolved into consciousness with an internal dialogue. 

Roger Nairn
Emoji's in MoMA for Life.
 Photo Credit:  Scott Webb

Photo Credit: Scott Webb

Today I learned that some of the original emoji designs are now being permanently displayed in MoMA

The first emoji were designed by Shigetaka Kurita for the Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo. Kurita created the glyphs on tiny grids measuring 12 pixels by 12 pixels after studying manga, street signs, and Chinese characters. Emoji didn’t gain worldwide acclaim when they launched in 1999, but they are now considered the fastest growing language in mankind.

MoMA will feature the 176 original emoji in the museum’s lobby starting in December, as part of an exhibit that includes other graphics and animations.

Roger Nairn
The Peanut Patch.
 Photo Credit:  Alisa Anton

Photo Credit: Alisa Anton

Today I learned about the Peanut Patch. 

Today more and more kids with peanut allergies are popping up. But the Viaskin Peanut Patch is currently being tested by biopharmaceutical company DBV Technologies as a potential way of protecting people with peanut allergies from allergic reactions.

The Patch is applied to the arm or between the shoulder blades and gradually delivers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin, helping the wearer to build up a tolerance.

Roger Nairn
Voting on Tuesday.

Have you ever wondered why Americans always vote on a Tuesday? John Oliver asked the same question. 

Roger Nairn
History of Vacations.
 Photo Credit:  Lukas Budimaier

Photo Credit: Lukas Budimaier

It's that time of year when we're all itching for some time off. Vacation time can't happen quick enough.  

But where did the term 'vacation' come from? 

Have you ever thought about it? The word vacation actually comes from the Adirondacks. Why do Americans go on vacation, while the British go on holiday?

During our vacations we usually go to the water or the ski hills. 

This is just like the wealthy New Yorkers and Bostonians who used to escape the city when the weather got warm. 

The literally "vacated" theirs homes - and this is where the term vacation came from. 

Roger Nairn
Curious Cats

In Holland’s embassy in Moscow, two Siamese cats kept meowing and clawing at the walls of the building. Their owners finally investigated, thinking they would find mice. Instead, they discovered microphones hidden by Russian spies.

Roger Nairn
Richmond Defence

Today on a walk with Allison along the Richmond Dyke we learned the history of Fort Steveston - which houses 75 men during the war who's role was to guard the South Arm of the Fraser River. 

Roger Nairn
Learn from Yesterday.
Learn from yesterday.

Live for today.

Hope for tomorrow.

The important thing is not to stop questioning.
— Albert Einstein
Roger Nairn
Jared and Jerusalem.

Curious how Jared Kushner is experienced enough to handle Middle East peace talks? It turns out his ties to the Middle East (and Benjamin Netanyahu specifically) are much closer then you'd think. In fact, Bibi once slept in Jared's bed. 

Listen to The Daily by The New York Times to learn more. 

Roger Nairn

Did you know what WD-40 stands for?  

WD-40 was developed in 1953 by Norman Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, in San Diego, California. "WD-40" is abbreviated from the term "Water Displacement, 40th formula", suggesting it was the result of Larsen's 40th attempt to create the product.

Roger Nairn
It’s the not knowing that makes it interesting.

Stick to the same routines for too long, and you become stale and boring. And I don't know about you but that's the last place I want to be. 

But staying curious helps me move into uncharted territory, making life and work more creative and rewarding.

“I don’t mean to give you a Zen koan,” musical composer Philip Glass told The New York Times in an interview he did with Beck, “but the work I did is the work I know, and the work I do is the work I don’t know. And it’s the not knowing that makes it interesting.”

Photo: Patrick Pilz

Roger Nairn
10 Things I Learned From Watching HBO's 'Becoming Warren Buffett'.

If you get a chance to watch HBO's up close and personal documentary on the man himself (starring the man himself) I highly recommend it.  

Here are 10 things I learned about the world's richest man: 

1.  As a paper boy, he delivered nearly 500,000 copies of the paper to his neighbors in Omaha and made $175 a month.

2.   Buffett made his first stock purchase in 1941, when he was just 11 years old.

3.  He has donated a total $25 billion to charities. He gives most generally to his kids’ foundations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett has pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth rather than pass it down as an inheritance.

4.  Warren Buffett has lived in the same five-bedroom Omaha, Neb., home since 1958, when he bought it for just $31,500 — the equivalent of roughly $255,000 today.

5.  When it comes to making investments, Warren Buffett is quoted saying, “The first rule of investing is don’t lose money; the second rule is don’t forget rule No. 1.”

6.  He's the richest man in the world, but only owns 1 car. It's a Cadillac.  

7.  Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have a friendship that goes back to 1990. Back then Warren asked Bill a question that changed the face of Microsoft. Warren asked 'Hey, Microsoft is a small company, IBM is this huge company, why can you do better? Why can't they beat you at the software game that you're playing?' From then on Gates always asked himself 'how can I make our software better?'

8.  Buffett has retained the original 23 employees at Berkshire Hathaway.  

9.  Warren's favourite beverage is cherry Coke, which he still purchases for the last amount of money he can find it in the stores...even though he is Coca-Cola's largest shareholder... 

10.  At the beginning of the documentary, the 86-year-old Buffett takes the camera crew through his daily routine going on more than 50 years, including the five-minute drive from his home to to the offices for his holdings company Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, Nebraska. On that short drive, he makes a daily pit stop.

"One of the good things about this five-minute drive is that on the way there's a McDonald's," he says in the documentary.

This is where he reveals how he determines which breakfast sandwich he'll purchase. Every morning, Buffett tells his current wife, Astrid, how much exact change to place in the center cup holder of his car. It's either in the amounts of $2.61, $2.95, or $3.17.

"When I'm not feeling quite so prosperous, I might go with the $2.61," he explains. "That's two sausage patties and then I put them together and then pour myself a Coke. $3.17 is a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. But the market's down this morning, so I think I'll pass up the $3.17 and go with the $2.95."

Roger Nairn
 Photo Credit:  Milada Vigerova

Photo Credit: Milada Vigerova

Today I learned...  

  • Just how weak America's electrical infrastructure is. But did you know that the technology doesn't currently exist for major cities to store their electricity? So essentially what we capture we have to use. So it's a constant balancing act of only taking in the electricity that we need. This interview on NPR's Fresh Air blew me away.
  • I always thought that the Mars Curiosity Rover was small (based on the photos). I was very wrong.
  • Last Thursday a group of 15 musicians played for 10.5 hours inside an active volcano. The results were haunting to say the least.
  • Esquire Magazine has a fantastic podcast called The Esquire Classic Podcast. This week's episode features Martha Sherrill's 1999 Esquire essay, "My Father the Bachelor". The essay is read live by a voice over actress, then the host and the writer discuss the essay. In this case, Martha had to talk about her father's many girlfriends that surfaced once he passed away. 
Roger Nairn
The Real Life James Bond.

Today I started reading the incredible true story of Dusko Popov in Larry Loftis's "Into the Lion's Mouth."  

Popov was considered by many to be the real life James Bond. Why? 

- He was a spy for Britain

- He was a double agent for Serbia

- He was a double agent for Germany

- He had a penchant for "sports cars and sporting girls"

- He was an incredible card player

- Oh, and his MI6 handler during World War II was none other than Ian Flemming, who went on to write the James Bond novels... 

Roger Nairn
My Way

This past weekend was the 1 year anniversary of David Bowie's death. BBC Radio 6 recently did an incredible documentary on Bowie which I highly recommend. 

One of the things that blew me away was that Bowie was actually the first to lay his hands on the melody for "My Way". It was originally written by a French artist who asked Bowie to apply English words, a common practice. Originally titled Comme d'habitude the song was about a sad clown. 

Bowie's version was never released, but Paul Anka bought the rights to the original French version and rewrote it into "My Way", the song made famous by Frank Sinatra in a 1969 recording on his album of the same name.

But the story doesn't end there.

The success of the Anka version prompted Bowie to write "Life on Mars?" as a parody of Sinatra's recording - which is consistently listed as one of the greatest songs of all time. 

Roger Nairn