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.

NeutronStarMerger_Shot1_4KStill7_v01_print

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 !

Refs.:

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 ?

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2016-07-04 (Monday)

Today, I learned that:

If you are in the US, then you can enjoy an extra day off work and celebrate the nation’s independence day, congratulations!

And thanks to the internet you can also listen to a Swedish radio programme, where Gloria Ray Karlmark counts her life story, including fighting for racial emancipation in Little Rock, Arkansas, and being the first coloured female student at MIT. But you need to know Swedish, and if you do, the link can be found in reference #1 below.

And when it is time for the fireworks tonight, think about what is happening at that very moment even further out in the sky, on a distance 48 light-minutes away. A Nasa probe named Juno penetrates the Jupiter atmosphere, searching for clues to the composition of this gigantic planet, the biggest one in our solar system. For more information, see reference #2 below.

But do you know why the probe is called Juno? It all started back in ancient Rome. Their god of gods was Jupiter, married to Juno. But Jupiter also had women on the side, the four most prominent being Io, Europa, Ganimedes and Calisto. In order to hide his extra-marital affairs from his wife, Jupiter surrounded himself by a cloud. But the jealous Juno had a sight which could penetrate that cloud. So now, Juno will once again penetrate the clouds of Jupiter and report her findings to Mother Earth.

In the meantime, I suggest you appreciate the following image. Further information can be found in reference #3 below.

jupiter-aurora

An image showing what the Hubble telescope found when directing UV rays towards Jupiter. It shows a permanent aurora, a result of the combination of solar winds and charged particles from the planet’s biggest moon, Io. Image by NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Gloria Ray Karlmark

2: Juno by NASA

3: Hubble photographs Jupiter’s dramatic auroras

+: What did you learn in school today ?