2016-02-19 (Friday)

Today, I learned that:

There are two blind men who go shopping, and what is the one thing that you most often have to go and buy when you go shopping when you’re a man? It’s usually socks because you put them into the wash and one of them disappears. And even though they are both blind it turns out that their wives like them to wear coloured socks and their wives like variety. So together, they go off and buy five pairs of socks each; a blue pair, a red pair, a pink pair, a green pair, and an orange pair. Now, the shop assistant finds this a somewhat eccentric purchase and gets slightly muddled and puts all ten pairs of socks into the same bag and they leave the shop, and one of them has got a bag with ten pairs of socks, the other has no socks.

Shortly before going their separate ways and going home and showing their socks proudly to their wives and saying, ‘Look what I’ve bought today,’ they realise that one of them has got all the socks. They say, my God, how can we sort out this problem so that each of us has one blue pair, one red pair, one pink pair, one green pair, and one orange pair? The question is the following: how do the two blind men achieve this goal without their wives helping them, without the socks being of different lengths, without the socks having any different texture or whatever? As far as the blind men are concerned they wouldn’t be able to tell the blue pair from the red pair. But how would they ensure that they could divide the socks up so that each of them would have two blue socks, two red socks, two pink socks, two green socks, and two orange socks ?

There is a very simple solution to the problem. I will give you time until Sunday, two whole days, to try and solve it.

Update 2016-02-21: A solution to this riddle can be found on Solution to riddle # 1 (Two blind men).


+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-18 (Thursday)

Today, I learned that:

Researchers at the Australian National University, with headquarters in the nation’s capital Canberra, are reporting about the results they have obtained from ten years of study of ground-nesting wasps, in order to find out how they manage to find their way home to the nest.

According to professor Jochen Zell, he and his rearch colleagues found that the wasps perform learning flights every days to ensure that they can always come home. He says about the wasps that “…their abilities make them smarter than anything humans know how to build.” This inspired the researchers to create equipment to mimic the wasps behaviour, and they now want to apply the acquired knowledge in the development of autonomous flying robots. More information can be found in reference # 1, below.

And speaking about flying animals, did you know that today, exactly 86 years ago, 1930-02-18, for the first time a cow performed a trip with an airplane? It happened in the state of Missouri, from Bismarck to Saint Louis. And the pioneering cow, named Elm Farm Ollie, was also the first one which was milked in-flight. The milk produced was sealed into paper cartons and dropped in parachutes to the public below. Maybe the Rausing brothers got their idea for Tetrapak from there? (This interesting piece of information was revealed today by the German software company SoftMaker Software GmbH, which offers a discount on the sale of their products as a tribute to Ollie.)


A modern-day relative to Ollie? Illustration by SoftMaker Software GmbH

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: Researchers recreate wasp eye view

2: A tribute to flying Ollie

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-17 (Wednesday)

Today, I learned that:

Recently, a big scandal was uncovered in Sweden, at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet, that every year indicates the laureate of the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. A world famous surgeon, Paolo Macchiarini, was hired as a visiting professor of Regenerative Medicine in 2010. He had developed a method of replacing a patient’s defective trachea with a new one made of plastic, which had been completed by the patients’ own stem cells to regenerate a fully compatible organ.

Between 2011 and 2013, Macchiarini performed three surgeries in Stockholm, as well as five more in USA and Russia. However, six of those surgeries ended up with the patients dying, and thus no such surgery was executed. Instead, in 2014 started investigations accusing Macchiarini of research fraud and unethical behaviour. One of the objections was that the alleged integration of the patient’s own cells with the synthetic trachea never happened. More in this matter will surely be announced soon.

However, I just came across an example of where synthetic organs seem to be a good and viable choice. Yesterday, Engadget published sensational information that the doctors at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States, had successfully used a special 3D printer to produce a realistically looking human-size ear. The material used is a “biodegradable, plastic-like material” to form the shape of tissues, as well as water-based ink to hold cells and a series of microchannels to allow oxygen and nutrients to flow through. Look at the following amazing picture, soon to be found on a human being somewhere in the world:


A 3D printed, human-size ear. Photo by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Macchiarini

2: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=6363136

3: http://www.engadget.com/2016/02/16/3d-printed-organs/

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-16 (Terça-feira)

Hoje, eu aprendi que:

Há muitos passatempos e hobbies interessantes no mundo, mas talvez o mais excitante de todos seria de viajar para todos os cantos do globo.

O Estado de S. Paulo mantém uma coluna semanal, intitulada “Mr. Miles”, em que o colunista conta acontecimentos das suas viagens e responde a dúvidas dos leitores. O texto em português é brilhante, salpicado com expressões tipicamente inglêses.


Estadão normalmente publica verdades, mas essa afirmação não procede! Veja este recorte do jornal sueco Aftonbladet de 2010-10-07, que mostra o viajante profissional sueco, Peter Grip, que acabou de chegar no último dos 194 países independentes da época. Além disso, tinha visitado 40 territórios dos 130 existentes:


O homem mais viajado, Peter Grip, mostra o passaporte após ter chegado ao país 194 em 2010-10-07. Artigo no jornal sueco Aftonbladet.

… Por hoje é so!

(This article in Portuguese and Swedish presents the world’s greatest traveller.)


1: http://viagem.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,comunicar-se-ou-nao-eis-a-questao,10000016090

2: https://www.aftonbladet.se/resa/article12580105.ab

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-15 (Måndag)

Idag lärde jag mig, att:


Klubbmärket ovan har blivit utsett till världens vackraste klubbmärke. Det hände 1937 när den engelska firma som levererade tröjmärken till dåtidens största fotbollsklubbar ordnade en omröstning bland allmänheten i London om vilket av alla märken som de tillverkat var det vackraste. Majoriteten röstade då på Allmänna Idrottsklubbens (AIK) märke, detaljer finns i referens 1 nedan.

Och idag är det precis 125 år sedan AIK bildades, på Norrmalm i Stockholm. Antalet medlemmar, över 20.000, gör den till Nordens största idrottsklubb. Elva idrotter praktiseras av klubbens aktiva: Bandy, basketboll, boule, bowling, boxning, fotboll, friidrott, golf, handboll, innebandy och ishockey. Genom åren har det naturligtvis blivit tonvis av medaljer och mästerskap i dessa grenar, och även sådana som för närvarande inte är aktiva, såsom badminton, bordtennis, curling och tennis, samt naturligtvis sparkstöttning, som var en mycket populär sport på 1890-talet.

Födelsedagsfirandet kunde inte ha börjat bättre, herrlaget i fotboll slog 2015 års svenska mästare, IFK Norrköping, med 4-1 igår, och redan om två dagar kan det vara teoriskt klart att herrlaget i ishockey har chansen att kvala in till SHL efter två års förvisning till Allsvenskan. Så det är inte utan att en AIK-are såsom jag kan se framtiden an med optimism. Se också uppdatering gjord 2016-03-09 !

Till sist, men alls inte minst, grattis också till Annika på den gemensamma födelsedagen!

… Slut för idag, tack för idag!

(This post in Swedish celebrates the 125 years of foundation of the biggest sports club in the Nordic countries.)


1: Världens vackraste klubbmärke

2: AIK

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-14 (Sunday)

Today, I learned once more that:

How good it is to have a quiet Sunday and just relax together with the family. And to open up the appetite for yet another tasteful lunch, nothing better than a refreshing drink. Although there are many wonderful drinks, gin and tonic being one of them, ever since the day I first set foot on Brazilian soil, I have been a fan of their national drink, called Caipirinha, as depicted in the following photo.


And if you have the right ingredients, there is nothing easier than making a Caiprinha. Here is the recipe:
Take one lime fruit and cut off the ends. Divide it into eight equal parts.
Put the parts in a tumbler glass.
Bring out the sugar, which must be made out of sugar cane to have the right sweetness. Depending on how sweet you like your drink, add the desired quantity of sugar. I normally use two soupspoons.
Using a wooden muddler, squeeze the juice out of the lime and let it blend with the sugar.
Add some cubes of ice on top.
Pour the sugar cane liquor, cachaça or pinga as it commonly known, over the solution.
Stir it very well, so that the liquor mixes well with the sweet solution.
Saúde !

But life is not only food and drinks. Although not my favourite pastime, I can very well understand those who look forward to when they can put their boat into the water and go for a trip. I recently came across a fantastic pulling boat, handmade only by wooden marine plank, no plastic! The marine planks were delivered by a Finnish company named Vendia, and currently they are exhibiting boats made of their planks at an international boat show in Helsinki, their capital. Look at the following photo, ain’t she a beauty:


Pulling boat made of mahogany veneer marine plank. Photo by Vendia

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: Caipirinha

2: Mahogany pulling boat

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-13 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Winter in the Northern hemisphere is supposed to be filled with snow, so that people can enjoy the great outdoors making snowmen, having a snowball fight and of course bring out their skis for some exciting tournaments.

But the way we treat Mother Earth, sometimes she responds that we have to make our own snow. And that has happened again this year. Last Thursday, February 11, for the first in three years, there would be one more cross-country ski, in the sprint modality, arranged in the vicinity of the Royal Castle in Stockholm, Sweden. Well, the competition only occurred due to the hugh efforts of bringing in snow from far away and laying it on the ground for the athletes to compete.


The Swedish ski star Stina Nilsson in action during a qualification heat for the Royal Castle Sprint in Stockholm. Photos by Bildbyrån

And once more, it was the Norwegians that got most of the medals, both in the men’s and the women’s race, two out of three in each discipline. The Russian athlete Nikita Kriukov was the fastest among the male sprinters and Maiken Falla from Norway won the female race. The Swedish star Stina Nilsson, who headed the World Cup sprint table before the race, ended up with the bronze medal after yet another dispute about what is fair or not when trying to defeat a contender.

fenway park

Fenway Park set up for the FIS snowboard and ski big air events on February 11, 2016. Photo copyright by the Canadian Olympic Committee

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Boston, MA, USA, there was another set of World Cup events on Thursday and Friday, Snowboarding and Big Air, respectively. Also here the setting was quite uncommon, inside of Boston Red Sox Stadium Fenley Park, where a 43 m tall scaffold ramp had been set up with all the snow to go with it. References 3 and 4 below give complete coverage of the events.

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: http://data.fis-ski.com/dynamic/results.html?sector=CC&raceid=25813

2: http://data.fis-ski.com/dynamic/results.html?sector=CC&raceid=25811

3: http://www.fis-ski.com/freestyle-skiing/halfpipe-slopestyle/news-multimedia/news/article=zimmerman-and-gagnier-hit-the-homerun-boston-iconic-balllpark.html

4: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/gruppsida.aspx?programid=3277&grupp=20430&artikel=6367836

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-12 (Friday)

Today, I learned that:

This year has only just started, but what a fantastic year for science it seems to be! My first blog post was on January 9, and since then I have already had the pleasure of presenting four new materials, the first flower grown in space, a possible ninth planet, etc.

And yesterday was the announcement of the discovery of the gravitational waves that Albert Einstein already predicted 100 years ago. I suggest that you listen to today’s podcast from Scientific American, see reference 2 below, where the co-founder of one of the teams that made the discovery, Kip Thorne, is interviewed. It was the confirmation of the crash of two black holes into each other that happened 1,3 billion years ago.


NASA researchers simulated the gravitational waves that would be produced when two black holes merged. Photo by NASA/C. Henze

Updated 2016-02-13: Today’s edition of Radio National’s Sciene Show is a testamonial by David Blair about what really happened on September 14, 2015, when the first gravitional waves were detected in Livingston, Louisiana. See and listen to reference 3 below.


The Advanced LIGO detector in Livingston Louisiana. Photo by LIGO

Today is also the day that we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first penicillin treatment. Although Alexander Fleming had made the discovery in his London laboratory already in 1928, it was a team of scientists in Oxford that made the first drug out of the penicillin fungus. The first time it was tested on a real patient was exactly on February 12, 1941, to save the life of a heavily infected local policeman. They found that the drug had miraculous effects on him and so the scientists were really desperate when the small doses of penicillin they had were out after 10 days of use. They even tried to recover the drug from the poor patient’s urine, but the quantities were too small to have real effect and he eventually died after one month. But it led to that Alexander Fleming, who had not given his discovery too much thought before, started to reassess his feat. He was then awarded with the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1945, sharing the prize with two members of the Oxford team, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain.

I suggest you listen to the podcast in reference 3 below. It is a program from the Science Editors at Radio Sweden, and although the whole program is in Swedish, there are some interviews in English included, the last one from BBC in 1945, when Alexander Fleming was afraid that people would start to use the penicillin for automedication, but in too low doses to have the desired effect. He also forecasted that one day the bacteriae would be resistant to penicillin, which we now can see as a fact.

Finally, this leads me into asking you if you know from where and why the word ‘vaccin’ is derived? It is from the Latin word ‘vacca’ which means cow. In 1796, the English physician Edward Jenner used antibodies from cowpox to vaccinate against smallpox. Then in 1881, Louis Pasteur suggested the use of the term ‘vaccine’ in honour of Jenner’s findings. In 1980, the World Health Organization announced the first eradication of a disease, namely the smallpox.

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: The Detection of Gravitational Waves Is a Triumph for Physics

2: Gravitational Waves Found: Kip Thorne Explains

3: Gravitational waves to allow new observations of the universe

4: 75 år sedan första behandlingen med penicillin

5: Penicillin

6: Vaccine

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-11 (Thursday)

Today, I learned once more that:

LeBron James2

LeBron James and Miami Heat playing Phoenix Suns in Arizona on February 11, 2014. Photo by Lena Rapp

How wonderful it is to see an elite athlete in action. The photo above  is a very good example of that. It depicts one of the very best basketball players in the world, LeBron James. Though currently playing in Cleveland Cavaliers, this photo was taken exactly two years ago, 2014-02-11, when his Miami Heat played Phoenix Suns in Arizona. LeBron made 37 points, thus being once more the main reason why his team won the game, 103-97. Miami ended up second in the NBA championship that year. My sincere thanks to Lena who shared her eyewitness photo with us. In the following I am going to discuss another aspect of that photo.

Although I am not particularly fond of the American way of living, I must admit that when it comes to sports, there is hardly a place where sports are taken so seriously, probably due to the huge amounts of money involved. As an example, last Sunday, there was the Super Bowl final, where Denver Broncos, against all ods, once more could raise the trophy. And once more, the number of people who watched the game on TV was record high. In fact, the last three years of Super Bowl have all reached more than 110 million American viewers on TV. It is the moment when TV commercials cost more to show than during any other program during the year.

Now back to the basketball photo above. As you can see, Miami Heat is using a black uniform, since they are playing away from home. When they play at home in Miami, their uniform is totally white. And from what I can understand, it is the same thing for other NBA teams, one uniform when playing at home and another one when playing away. In fact, I believe that such a rule applies to most, if not all,  of the professional team sports in USA. In Europe, it is different, a team tries to use its main uniform as much as possible, be it at home or away, and normally only using an alternatively coloured uniform in order to avoid being confused with the opponents.

Yet another difference is that in USA, it is always the time left of the game (or half, period, etc.) that is mentioned, not how long time has gone since the start. Compare North American icehockey with European icehockey in that sense.

Another interesting point is how the Americans name the order of the two teams in a game, always starting with the visiting team, and finishing with the home team. So for instance the NBA game above, in USA it is written Miami Heat vs. Phoenix Suns. In Europe, it is always the home team that is mentioned first.

So which is the favourite sport of an American in general? Of course, it varies according to region, age, etc., but how anyone can be a fan of such a dull sport as baseball is difficult to understand. I asked that question to an American friend once, and his sincere answer was: Of course it is dull and slow and so on, but it is perfect for me and my friends to go watch a game, bring a six-pack of beers, chit-chat about the important things in life and still not miss anything that happens in a game!

I still remember the first time I went to USA, in 1977. My host family said that the most popular sports among college girls was football, not American “football”, but what Europeans call football. And we have seen the results, the US female national teams have won many World Championships and Olympic Games in football (or “soccer” as they call it). To that I would like to add one more opinion about football. In 1995, Dan McCarthy, President of the electronics company Conceptronic, said that he used to train junior football teams on his spare time, and according to him it was the best of all the five major sports (American football, baseball, basketball, icehockey and football), because it was the only one that really permitted that the players took their own initiative, not being so tied up by the coach’s tactics in the other sports.

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns 02/14/2014

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-10 (Onsdag)

Idag har jag åter lärt mig, att:

Världens just nu oroligaste hörn verkar ligga på den koreanska halvön. Under de senaste veckorna har det rapporterats om hur Nordkorea åter börjar visa upp tester med vapen som om de används i attacksyfte kan leda till mycket allvarliga konsekvenser. Dessutom har nu Sydkorea beslutat sig för att inte längre skicka sin arbetskraft till det område inne på nordkoreanskt territorium där man har tillverkat exportgods, samtidigt som man har åter skruvat upp volymen på de propagandasändningar och musik som man sprider ut genom gigantiska högtalare vid gränsen.


Panmunjoms blåa hus, där Spökkommissionen sammanträder. Foto: Henrik Ishihara, Wikimedia

Men hur är det då vid gränsen, den så kallad Demilitariserade Zonen (DMZ) ? SR Vetenskapsradion Historia sände den 3 februari ett reportage om de svenskar som arbetar i den nu skämtsamt (?) kallade Spökkommissionen, som är ansvarig för att träffa nordkoreanska myndigheter i förhandlingar, även om det inte har blivit så många sammanträffanden de senaste 20 åren. Mycket lyssningsvärt, se referens 2 nedan.

Och när du ändå är inne på SR Vetenskapsradion Historias hemsida, kolla också in dagens program, där man försöker fastställa om den förste kände svensken, Hugleik, verkligen levde år 516, dvs. för precis 1500 år sedan, referens 3 nedan.


Återskapad hjälm från Sutton Hoo-gravarna i England, kanske använde Hugleik en sådan. Foto: Gernot Keller, Wikimedia


… Slut för idag, tack för idag!

(This post in Swedish announces a report about how it is to work in the DMZ in Korea.)


1: Neutrala_nationernas_övervakningskommission

2: Spökkommissionen i Panmunjom

3: Hugleik äldsta historiska svensken

+: What did you learn in school today ?