2019-03-05 (É carnaval!)

Today, I learned that:

As you probably have heard, one of the most important events during the year in Brazil is to commemorate carnival. For a complete description of what carnival is, I recommend that you consult reference #1 below.

The most important day during carnival is always on the final Tuesday, and this year it occurs very late, March 5. Normally it is in February, but from time to time it can be in March. I thought that March 5 would be the latest possible date for carnival Tuesday, but in order to be sure, I consulted an authority in the matter, a well known German-Swedish meteorologist named André Franke. If you live in Sweden, then you have probably seen and heard him on the weather forecasts. Here is what he told me:

Carnival Tuesday occurs 47 days before Easter Sunday and thus varies in the same way as Easter. This year Easter Sunday is April 21 and as consequence, Carnival Tuesday is on March 5. Next time this will happen is in year 2030.

However, the latest date that Easter Sunday can occur is on April 25, which will happen in year 2038. Carnival Tuesday will then be on March 9, 2038. Recently, in year 2011, it almost happened, Easter Sunday was on April 24 and Carnival Tuesday on March 8. All this is due to when the March Equinox occurs. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March Equinox.

The Equinox, which is a point in time, can occur on different dates on different places of the Earth, due to the time zones, but Easter Sunday is on the same date all over the globe, and as a consequence also the Carnival Tuesday.

André also has his blog, see reference #2 below, where he details various astronomical facts occurring over the year. If that sounds interesting to you, then I definitely recommend that you look it up, it is well worth it!

The periodic table 150 years

Anyone who remembers their Chemistry lessons will surely also remember the periodic table. This table is an elegant composition of the different elements present in our universe. It was proposed by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev and first presented to the world on March 6, 1869.

Thanks to his way of organising the elements in a systematic manner, many new elements which only appeared as blanks in his original table were soon discovered and his forecasts about their properties were surprisingly exact. See also reference #3 below.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Carnival

2: Astroinfo.se

3: Dmitri Mendeleev

*: What did you learn in school today ?


2019-02-28 (Thursday)

Today, I learned that:

The shortest month of the year is almost over and so is the period in Brazil when business is low. People want to enjoy Summer as much as possible, but once Carnival is over, there is no excuse any more. Roll up your sleeves and get started! In my next blog post, I will talk more about Carnival, why it happens in March this year etc.

Interesting mobile news

If you have followed my blog over the years, then you may remember that in 2016-06-07 and in 2016-06-19 I showed photos of what were then concept mobile phones, which could be expanded to bigger ones, with sizes typical to tablets, by simply unfolding them.

Well, comes 2019 and here they are! This month both Samsung and Huawei demonstrated their takes on this kind of phone. See pictures below and read about them in references # 1 and 2 below.

The two first hot versions of a foldable mobile phone. The two pictures on top show the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the two bottom pictures are of Huawei Mate X. Both are very pricey, US$ 1.980 and US$ 2.600, respectively, but let us hope that this concept is accepted by more makers so that it can be reality in every person’s pocket at a price they can pay!

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Samsung Unveils New $1,980 Galaxy Fold Smartphone

2: Huawei Unveils $2,600 Foldable ‘Mate X’ Smartphone to Rival Samsung’s Galaxy Fold

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2019-01-09 (3 years!!!)

Today, I learned that:

Time travels so fast! Exactly to the date, three years ago, I started this blog and it has been a fantastic experience. Thanks all you faithful followers for your support and advice. Unfortunately, during 2018 other commitments made me write very few blog posts, I will try to improve on that in 2019.

For all of you who have struggled with the puzzles I gave in the most recent blog, 2018-12-31, here are the solutions.

Which is the number of the parking space hidden by the car?

Look at the following image and you will see it immediately!

The busy fly

John von Neumann did not waste any time. After having replied immediately to the student who had posed the question, the impressed student asked the master if he had found the solution without making any calculations. No, on the contrary, I summed all the partial distances, was von Neumann’s reply.

But if you are no master in making calculations in your head, you can even beat von Neumann in speed by using the following reasoning: Any physics students knows that s = v x t, i.e. distance equals speed times time. Each cyclist travels 25 km using a speed of 25 km/h, so they will meet after exactly 1 h. The fly travels at 50 km/h during the same 1 h, i.e. a total distance of 50 km. QED!

That’s what I learned in school !


*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-12-31 (Réveillon)

Today, I learned that:

There are so many beautiful natural scenes around us, if we only take the time to go looking for them. This month, I had the the joy of taking my family on a road trip to the southernmost states in Brazil, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

And it was really worth the while. Our main interest was to know the highlands in those states. In the latter one, we concentrated on “serra gaúcha” with the twin cities Canela and Gramado, and although they now are highly commercialised, they still offer quite some entertainment.

But the highlight of the whole trip was no doubt the highlands of Santa Catarina. In winter, many tourists go their to enjoy (?) snow in São Joaquim, but since that is something I have had way too much of in my life, I prefer the summer that has so much more to offer! Not far away from São Joaquim is one of the most breathtaking views in the world, namely the highway that serpentines Serra do Rio do Rastro down in 284 curves, from an altitude of 1 421 m to 220 m in a distance of a mere 12 km. Of course it is impossible to capture all the excitement in a photo, but I hope that today’s header photo, taken from the belvedere overlooking the abyss, can give you a hint. On a totally clear day, one can even see the Atlantic ocean, 100 km away!

See also references # 1 and 2 below.

Some things to think deeply about

I am sure that more than once in your life, you have been challenged to solve a mathematical puzzle that involves discovering the missing term in a sequence.

One such sequence is called an arithmetic sequence, where the difference between the consecutive terms is constant, e.g. 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, … Anyone promptly says 17 when asked of the upcoming term.

It gets a bit more complicated if I give you a geometric progression, such as 2, 6, 18, 54, … ; or 10, 5, 2,5 , 1,25, …; or even 1, 8, 27, 64, 125, …

But there is also a sequence of numbers that can really trick us, until we discover the underlying fact. Here is one of those, which is the number of the parking space hidden by the car in the following image?

Was that too easy? Try the next one then:

Two cyclists have decided to meet half way between their cities. The distance between the cities is 50 km. Both cycle at a constant speed of 25 km/h. At the very moment they begin their trips, a fly takes off from one of the cyclists and when it reaches the other one, it inverts its trajectory and flies back to the cyclist from where it started. When it arrives there, once more it inverts its trajectory and keeps on repeating the process until it has comes to a stop when the cyclists finally meet. If the fly holds a constant speed of 50 km/h, how far has it flown when the cyclists meet?

The brilliant mathematician John von Neumann, who proposed the computer architecture that now bears his name, was once asked the same question. One of his early skills was to make very complex calculations in his head, so he answered the question in a snap. Can you?

The solution will be published in my next blog post.

I wish you an EXCELLENT YEAR of 2019 !

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Serra do Rio do Rastro live

2: Serra do Rio do Rastro

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-11-11 (Guldsöndag)

Today, I learned that:

My prediction on 2018-04-15 was correct, 2018 would be the year of AIK. After the last round of Allsvenskan, the Swedish football championship league, once more AIK ended up being the very best! Oh how happy I am!

And as a tribute to the Stockholm region, where AIK has its headquarters, today’s photo shows a marvellous view of Stockholm. The photo was taken on 2018-11-04 from Skinnarviksberget, Södermalm and it shows the City Hall and Riddarholmen.

A photo of Stockholm, showing the City Hall and Riddarholmen, taken from Skinnarviksberget, Södermalm on 2018-11-04.

Furthermore, it is another photo in my series of hosts of the Olympic Games. Most people know that Stockholm was the host of the Summer Olympic Games in 1912, but did you know that it also hosted the Games in 1956? Since Australia had harsh quarantine restrictions, the equestrian events of the Melbourne games were moved to Stockholm. More about the Stockholm games can be found in references #1 and 2 below. Finally, today marks the exact centenary of the armistice after World War I. Exactly one year ago, I wrote about it extensively, you can find it here.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: 1912 Summer Olympics

2: Equestrian events at 1956 Summer Olympics

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-10-20 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Continuing the post from 2018-09-29, here are two more interesting British facts from the world of Sports:

Wimbledon surrenders to John Isner

The American tennis player John Isner is, among other things, well known for having participated in the two longest fifth sets in the history of the Wimbledon tournament. In 2010, he beat the Frenchman Nicholas Mahut after winning the fifth set by 70-68, after three calendar days and 8 h 11 min of playing time. Then in this year’s tournament, in the semifinals, he lost to the South African player Kevin Anderson by 26-24 in the fifth set.

But that is the end of such marathon games, because as of 2019, Wimbledon has decided to introduce a tie-breaker at 12-12 in the fifth set.

See also references # 1 and 2 below.

Scotswoman breaks record for touring the world on a bicycle

In Britain, there are not only wonder women in golf. The Scottish cyclist Jenny Graham just arrived in Berlin after having gone on a tour around the world. You may remember that in the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty days, her compatriot Phileas Fogg made it, using trains and steamer ships on 80 days. Jenny did not totally get there, but nevertheless her record is an amazing 124  days! (Another Brit, Mark Beaumont, holds the male record, set in September 2017, with 78 days 14 h 14 min., thus beating Phileas Fogg.)

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham stops for a selfie while passing the Russian city of Pskov, close to the borders with Estonia and Latvia. Courtesy of Jenny Graham/The Adventure Syndicate/PA.

See also references # 3, 4, and 5 below.

Donkey steps

On various occasions, I have referenced material from Sveriges Radio (the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation), and here is yet another one:

Yesterday, their correspondent at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Andreas Liljeheden, published a chronicle about the particular construction of the stair case between the two main buildings of the European Parliament. The following photo shows exactly that view.

EU steps

The court yard in the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, highlighting the donkey steps between the two main buildings. Photo taken by Andreas Liljeheden on 2018-10-18.

As you can see, the vertical displacement from one step to another is small, but the horizontal one is much greater, exactly 1,16 m according to Andreas’ measurement. This makes walking up and down the stairs a complicated task. He investigated the origins of that crazy stair case, and found that in some countries of the European continent, such as Austria and Germany, there is a tradition of using deeper steps, whereas the Belgians and Dutch normally, due to the higher population density, have to settle with a different project, with a higher vertical-to-horizontal ratio. Sweden is, as always, “lagom”, i.e. mid-way.

Here are two more photos of donkey steps, the first one being a close-up of the EU Parliament steps, and the second one a typical scene of donkeys climbing the steps in Fira, the capital of the island of Santorini in the Greek Aegean Sea.


Two examples of donkey steps: To the left, a visitor to the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium (photo by Andreas Liljeheden, 2018-10-18). To the right, real donkeys in Fira, Santorini, Greece (photo by Liz Stark, 2016-04-06).

But why is Andreas emphasising this stair case? In no way, he implies that hard working politicians are donkeys, but he thinks it is a symbol for the difficulties encountered by the EU members. If you cannot have a unanimous decision on something by all its 28 member countries (soon to be 27?), then there has to be a compromise, such is life! Thanks Andreas for your valuable contribution!

See also reference #6 below.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Longest tennis match records

2: Call It the John Isner Rule: Wimbledon Plans to Add a Final-Set Tiebreaker

3: Scottish cyclist smashes round-the world record

4: Around the World in Eighty Days

5: Around the world in 78 days: British cyclist completes record-breaking ride

6: Åsnetrappor typiskt för EU: Ekots Andreas Liljeheden, Bryssel

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-09-29 (When I’m 64)

Today, I learned that:

Once more, I woke up this morning with a tune in my head. And this time it was presented by the Beatles, and they dedicated it to me! Watch and listen to reference # 1 below.

Another extremely skilful Englishwoman is the amateur golf player Ali Gibbs. On 2018-08-17, she defended her club champion title at Croham Hurst Golf Club, South of London, with brilliance. In one of the 18-hole rounds, she hit two hole-in-ones, and in the other round yet another hole-in-one. (She had already scored three hole-in-one shots before in her career, on three earlier, distinct occasions).

Ali Gibbs

Ali Gibbs showing the three lucky balls. Photo by Simon Jacobs/Magnus News

The probability of an average golfer scoring a hole-in-one once in their life is calculated to be 1 : 12 500, for a professional to 1 : 2 500, but to hit three in only 36 holes is more than 1 : 1,9 trillion! Read more in reference # 2 below.

London, UK, River Thames

And while we are still in the London area, why not visit the capital. The photo above shows a beautiful bird’s eye view of River Thames and the Tower Bridge. London has already hosted the Olympic Summer Games on three occasions, in 1908, 1948, and 2012. More about those events can be found in references #3, #4, and #5 below.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: When I’m 64

2: 1.9 Trillion to one – Golfer Ali defies the odds to sink three holes-in-one in a day

3: 1908 Summer Olympics

4: 1948 Summer Olympics

5: 2012 Summer Olympics

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-09-23 (Spring is in the Air)

Today, I learned that:

Today is the day of the Equinox, which to the inhabitants of the Southern hemisphere means the official start of spring. So my post today is dedicated almost to that and correlated facts.

First, today’s photo shows three maritaca birds sitting on a wire. This species, with the Latin name of Pionus, is rather commonly seen in the wild. They are considered friendly, but have a bad reputation of eating the wires. I took the photo on 2018-09-20 in the city of Osvaldo Cruz, SP, Brazil. See also reference #1 below.


Three maritaca birds sitting on a wire. Photo taken in Osvaldo Cruz, SP, Brazil on 2018-09-20.

But spring is not fun all the time, seeing these birds reminds me of a ground breaking book published in September 1962 by the American biologist Rachel Carson about how human kind is destroying the Earth by using pesticides indiscriminately. At the time, it had a big impact, and among other things led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See also reference #2 below.

And similarly to the situation then, we are now facing the indiscriminate use of plastics. In the following are some recent facts about how it pollutes our oceans, but mind you there are many more examples out there:

Whale dies in Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags

On 2018-06-03 was reported that a small pilot whale which died after having consumed 80 plastic bags, weighing a total of 8 kg, thus making it impossible for the whale to eat any nutritional food. A veterinary team tried to keep the whale alive, but in vain. See also reference #3 below.

Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea threatens the health of the ocean

On 2018-06-08, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report on the high content of plastics in the Mediterranean Sea:

  • Record levels of pollution from microplastics in the Mediterranean Sea are now higher than those in the oceanic ‘garbage patches’ and are threatening marine species, fisheries activities and human health in the region.
  • Plastic represents 95% of the waste in Mediterranean waters and on its beaches today, with over 130 different marine species known to have ingested plastic.
  • Further to the severe consequences of marine litter for wildlife,  there are significant economic consequences. The EU fishing fleet currently suffers an estimated annual economic loss of € 61.7 million due to reduced catch and damage to vessels.
  • See also references #4 and #5 below.

Research project to discover the distribution of micro plastics in the oceans

On 2018-04-18 was announced that the Swedish international tanker shipping company Concordia Maritime is financing a study with three academic bodies in Sweden, the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, The University of Gothenburg and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), to collect and process information about micro plastics present in the oceans.

By installing a collection device on a tanker, water samples can be collected while it is under way for subsequent analysis by researchers. The aim is to draw conclusions as to the extent, distribution of microplastics and potential consequences for living organisms. See also reference #6 below.

A 600 m long floating boom to collect plastic in the Pacific Ocean

On 2018-09-08 we could read about the deploying of 600 m long floating boom between the US mainland and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world’s largest garbage patch.

The buoyant is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic estimated to exist there. It is fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled. See also reference #7 below.

In loving memory

Finally, exactly 15 years ago to the day, on 2003-09-23, I was reached by the sad news that my uncle, Sten Olof, had deceased. He guided me as to what and where to study when I was a teenager, e.g. advising me to go ahead to study technology, but not forget about languages. That advice is something that I still follow!

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Pionus

2: Silent Spring

3: Whale dies in Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags

4: Plastic pollution in Mediterranean Sea threatens the health of our ocean

5: Out of the plastic trap, saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution

6: Concordia Maritime collaborates with the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment to measure microplastics in the oceans

7: Massive boom helps to wrangle Pacific Ocean’s plastic trash

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-08-12 (Sunday)

Today, I learned that:

Although the FIFA World Cup 2018 was really a joyful event, one of the best ever, it is once more evident that the slow pace of changes in the rules of the game are detrimental to the temper of many people. So, as I promised in my post of 2018-07-10, here are my 2 cents to make football an even better game:

A very welcome addition to this year’s edition of the World Cup was the introduction of the video assistant referees (VAR) , which made quite a few games more fair than before. Even though it could have been used more often to decide about the outcome of a certain play, it surely made some important contributions to the justice of the games. Here is one such event:


While the TV image shows a replay of a questionable first Korean goal scored in the final game of group F between South Korea and Germany, the American referee Mark Greiger has been summoned by the FIFA VAR group to revise the play which would result in a Korean lead against Germany in the 93rd minute of the game. He had previously cancelled the goal due to an alleged offside, but the review made him change his decision and confirm the goal. As a consequence, the reigning champion Germany was sent home after the group matches. See also the official match report in reference #1 below .

So, if the referee of the match is the almighty responsible to judge the outcome, even though he might be shown otherwise and still not change his mind, since we now have VAR, why not institute a system just like in the noble sport of tennis?

Most people are probably unaware that in tennis,  the chair umpire, the person sitting in their high chair proclaiming the score etc., is not the ultimately responsible for the outcome of the game. The highest authority, the referee, is rarely seen by the public, but if the players cannot accept the chair umpire’s decision, then they can appeal to the referee, who then makes the final decision. The article in reference #2 describes very well the ruling system in tennis, if you are interested read it through thoroughly.

As you can see from the match report of reference #1, in total there were 11 officials present in the game. My suggestion is, that in cases where there is a fully functional VAR system installed and working during the game, to change the ultimate decision from the referee to the person named as VAR in the match report, i.e. the responsible VAR person of the four mentioned there, and give them the ultimate authority, just as is the case in tennis. If no VAR is present, then of course the referee will still be the ultimate authority of the game.

Another thing that bothers me and many others is the way the extra time (often also referred to as stoppage time) is awarded. At the end of each half of the football game, it is decided how many minutes should be awarded to compensate for interruptions during the game, a very arbitrary procedure. Look at reference #3 which analysed all the games during the group stage of FIFA World Cup 2018. As you can see there, of all the 32 matches analysed, only one game was compensated sufficiently, even overcompensated. It was the game between Germany and Sweden which was 12 s longer than expected. (Maybe as a result of that, Germany also scored the winning goal in the final seconds of the game!)

The worst example of lack of playing time was in the game between Belgium and Tunisia, which should have been compensated by 21 minutes, but only gained 7 minutes extra. The solution is very simple:

Do like in ice hockey, basketball, etc. Stop the watch when no playful activity is going on. Institute 2 halves of 30 minutes each of effective playing time instead of the current 45 minutes halves and the game will be much more dynamic and fair!

There are more things to suggest, such as a more flexible system of substituting players and other matters, but that I will leave that to a future post.

Sydney, Australia, Harbour Bridge during sunset

Harbour Bridge at sunset in Sydney, Australia

This photo is the first in a series of beautiful, highly defined photos from around the world. In the first round of photos, I will present some of the cities which have hosted the Olympic Games over the years. The first photo shows Sydney, the biggest city in Australia, host of the year 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The photo shows a view of one of its landmarks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. More about Sydney, the Harbour Bridge and the 2000 Olympic Games can be found in references #4, #5, and #6 below.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Match report Korea-Germany

2: Officials in tennis

3: We timed every game, World Cup stoppage time is wildly inaccurate.

4: Sydney

5: Sydney Harbour Bridge

6: 2000 Summer Olympic Games

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-07-10 (Tuesday)

Today, I learned that:

While I was attending the fantastic course about masterpieces of world literature at edX earlier today, you know the big and very elaborate e-learning site for millions of students, one of its videos showed how Alexander the Great spread Greek culture to the countries he had conquered, about 300 years BC. In this particular video, what most attracted my attention was when one of the lecturers, Martin Puchner, on site in Ephesus, on the current Turkey’s western coast, showed the large amphitheater with seating for 25 000 people that the conqueror had erected there. References 1, 2, and 3 give more details about the course, the video in question and also about Ephesus.

Coincidentally, I and my family visited Ephesus exactly 10 years ago today, on 2008-07-10. Besides the photo below of the amphitheater, there are some more pictures I took from this historical site. When we visited it, only 25 % had been excavated so far, hopefully it is more now, because it is really interesting stuff to see and hear about.


This ancient amphitheater in Ephesus was erected by Alexander the Great, in his program to spread Greek culture to the world. It holds 25 000 spectators. Photo taken on 2008-07-10.


Pictures from the ancient city of Ephesus. Besides the amphitheater, the glorious library in the lower right is well known. All photos taken on 2008-07-10.

Later today, our modern day version of popular theater, sports, will see billions of people attending the first of the two semifinals in FIFA World Cup 2018. After the tournament is over, in my next post I will give you my opinion about what needs to be done to improve football further, to make it even more dynamic and joyful.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Masterpieces of World Literature

2: Alexander and the Dissemination of Greek Culture

3: Ephesus

*: What did you learn in school today ?