2017-10-23 (Monday)

Today, I learned that:

We were very lucky recently to catch the collision of two neutron stars, possibly forming a so called kilonova. It happened 130 million years ago. This kind of event typically happens less than once in a century, and if it had happened only one month later, then we would have missed its ripples completely! The reason for that is that the detector system will then undergo an upgrade which will result in a double precision in the measurements compared to the first generation.

Of course, this is all connected with the recent confirmation that gravitational waves, which were forecasted by Albert Einstein already in 1916, really exist. The first successful discovery was only announced in the beginning of 2016, and more about that event can be found in my post of 2016-02-12.

As you probably know, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been awarded to the three main scientists behind the detection of gravitational waves, and thus this recent event, which occurred on 2017-08-17 and was announced to the public on 2017-10-16, came at a very good time. You can read (and hear, if you understand Swedish) more about this fantastic event in references #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 below. In reference #6 there is also an interesting discussion on how the heaviest materials in the universe are formed.


This illustration shows the hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from the neutron stars just before they collided. This cloud produces the kilonova’s visible and infrared light. Within this neutron-rich debris, large quantities of some of the universe’s heaviest elements were forged, including hundreds of Earth masses of gold and platinum. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab

You have surely heard about “fake news”, but what about “fake food”? Currently, there is a heavy discussion going on in São Paulo, where the mayor, João Doria Jr., has declared that he wants to introduce a low-grade flour called ‘farinata’ to increase the volume of the school lunch in the public schools. Reference #5 below, in Brazilian Portuguese, published by O Estado de S. Paulo last Friday, claims that it is not a bad thing from a nutritional point of view, although there are so called ‘experts’ who argue about that.

This reminds me of a habit in the Nordic countries some centuries ago. If the crop failed, the poor had no alternative than to shred the trees from their bark and grind the material into a powder which was then added to the flour. Of course that was a measure which only served as landfill in the stomachs, without taste and nutrition. Reference #6 discusses that topic in detail and in references #7 and 8 you can listen to a tune which deals with that subject, both sung by Monica Thörnell and in an instrumental version by Kebnekaise.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Doomed Neutron Stars Create Blast of Light and Gravitational Waves

2: In a First, Gravitational Waves Linked to Neutron Star Crash

3: GW170817

4: Tracking down a kilonova: The story of how thousands of scientists decoded the year’s biggest discovery

5: Ny astronomi såg den enorma stjärnsmällen som gav guld

6: Thanks to the biggest discovery of the year we finally know where all the elements of the periodic table get made

7: Verdades sobre a farinata

8: Bark bread

9: Monica Thörnell – Barkbrödslåten, 1972

10: Kebnekaise – Barkbrödslåten, 1973

*: What did you learn in school today ?


2017-10-15 (Summertime)

Today, I learned that:

On the Southern hemisphere, we are moving on towards the brightest season of the year. One of the signs of that is the adoption of daylight saving time, a.k.a. summer time, when the clock advances one hour instantaneously. However, the Brazilian government continues to make that happen at midnight, moving ahead to 01:00. Although this might not be a big obstacle right now, when moving back to standard time in February, 2018, it will occur once more at midnight, jumping back to 23:00. I think that the European model, where the change occurs at a time when much less people are active, involving 02:00 and 03:00, is much better, and its also does not involve two different dates. References #1 and 2 remembers that wonderful time of the year, seen through the hands and voice of George Gershwin and Janis Joplin.

And for the following people, in jail because of corruption, summer time may be some sort of relief:


Cartoon from Folha de S. Paulo today:
“-We managed to reduce your stay! -How much? -One hour. Summer time is about to start.”

In my post of 2017-09-29, I mentioned the word infinitesimal used in a broadcast from Radio National, Australia. In the same interview is also remembered the old commercial from Esso, “Put a tiger in your tank”, which can be answered by “What is the use of a tiger in tank, if there is a jackass at the steering wheel?” (See also the transcript in reference #3 below).

As a parallel, watch the two videos in references #4 and 5 below. So what is the use of high speed automated routing system for packages when they are treated so badly at the destination?

But everything in Brazil is not as pessimistic as it may seem from the examples above. The Swedish-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (Swedcham) just published its annual survey of the business climate in Brazil for 70 Swedish companies. Despite the Brazilian recession, 36% of the companies say that they are satisfied with the present business climate. You can read the complete report in reference # 6 below.

Finally, here are two interesting examples of how AI (artificial intelligence) is helping out in the fields of health and beauty:

  • In an eye clinic in the Aravind hospital in Madurai, India, AI is examining photos taken of the eyes of diabetic patients. If they are not treated in time, there is a risk that they may go blind. So together with Google, the hospital has developed a computer program to examine the photos of the retinal fundus of the eye. Tests have shown that the program has the same accuracy as the professional ophthalmologist, up to 90 %, and in much less time. See references # 7 and 8 below.
  • Intel has developed a mobile application (named Face It) that uses computer vision to acquire data about a user’s facial structure as well as machine learning to determine the user’s face shape. This information is then combined with manually inputted information to give the user a personalized set of hair and beard styles that are guaranteed to make the user look his best. A personalized list of tips are also generated for the user to take into account when getting a haircut. See the screenshot and reference # 9 below.

Example of tips generated by Face It

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Summertime

2: Janis Joplin – Summertime, Live 1969

3: Micropayments could amount to large sums for conservation

4: Shipping Warehouse Robots

5: Flagra de funcionário dos Correios jogando encomendas

6: Swedish business climate in Brazil 2017

7: AI räddar synen för diabetiker

8: Ophthalmoscopy

9: Face It – The Artificially Intelligent Hairstylist

*: What did you learn in school today ?