2016-06-21 (Tuesday)

Today, I learned that:

The world is changing and besides the traditional places where advanced technology is being used we now also see countries like Rwanda in Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East.

Dubai

Photo of the city of Dubai, with the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, 828 meters, in the center. Courtesy of Chiara Anzalone.

One of the seven emirates in UAE is Dubai, and Dubai is also the name of its capital. My deepest gratitude to my friend Chiara, who took this impressing header photo of Dubai. It shows the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, 828 meters, in the center. See more about Dubai in reference #1 below. Today, I want to talk about recent technologies that are being employed in Dubai.

The first one deals with construction of buildings. Besides being the city with the tallest building in the world, now there has been demonstrated a method similar to 3D printing to be used in the construction process. But instead of resulting in traditional small 3D printed objects, this time it is a complete office building. Using a printer with dimensions of 6 m x 36 m x 12 m, in 17 days was built a 250 m2 fully functional office building, at half the cost of traditional methods. Initially it is the temporary headquarters of Dubai Future Foundation, and it was opened one month ago. Reference #2 below gives more details.

3D-office

The world’s first 3D-printed office. Photo by REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Another field where Dubai is showing its advanced state of technology is in a communications technology abbreviated Li-Fi. Most of you know what Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) is, a technology which permits that we connect our computers and smartphones to the internet via hotspots. However, one of the drawbacks with Wi-Fi, as compared to wired connections, is the slower speed and susceptibility to interference from other sources.

Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) is similar to Wi-Fi, but instead of radio waves it uses infrared light to convey the information. It can therefore be used in electromagnetic sensitive areas such as in aircraft cabins, hospitals and nuclear power plants without causing electromagnetic interference. Typically one can also expect data transmission speeds 100 times higher than when using Wi-Fi. Reference #3 below offers further information about Li-Fi. The communications provider du has recently performed a trial in Dubai and the result confirmed that Li-Fi can be a major communications technology in the near future, as described in reference #4 below.

Finally, speaking about light, today was inaugurated MAX IV in Lund in the south of Sweden. It permits researchers to make their investigations in the strong synchrotron radiation. Listen to Radio Sweden’s program in reference #5 and read more about synchrotron in reference #6 below.

MAX4

The Max IV installation in Lund. Photo by Perry Nordeng

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Dubai

2: Dubai opens the world’s first functioning 3D-printed office

3: LiFi

4: du trials Li-Fi, 100 X faster internet than WiFi

5: Lysande start för Max IV

6: Synchrotron

+: What did you learn in school today ?

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2016-06-19 (Sunday)

Today, I learned that:

In our modern world of communications, exciting things still happen. In my post of 2016-06-07, I showed a product concept for a rumored smartphone from Samsung. It consisted of an external normal 5″ smartphone, with an internal foldable 8″ tablet.

But other companies are also working on similar concepts. Lenovo, that acquired Motorola last year, recently hosted a Tech World event in San Francisco, where they presented two concepts similar to that of Samsung: a huge wrist phone and a foldable tablet, see pictures below. A complete article with more pictures can be found in reference #1 below.

Lenovo

Lenovo concept products: a wrist phone and a foldable tablet. Photos taken during the Tech World on 2016-06-10 by John Velasco.

But if you think that things have gone to far, how about a smartphone with a minimal set of apparent attractions? I am thinking about the Runcible, a totally different form factor for a mobile phone. Its basic features include an analog clock, a compass and what appears to be a photo viewer. But, this so-called anti-smartphone also has a 7-megapixel rear-facing camera and supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth out of the box. More details are available in reference #2 below.

Runcible

How about using Runcible as your next generation smartphone? Photo by Myleen Hollero.

Finally, today there are only 47 days left to the scheduled opening ceremony of the Summer Olympíc Games in Rio de Janeiro. Two days ago, the state government in Rio declared a state of calamity, blaming the weak finances on decreasing tax income and royalties due to the lowered market prices for petroleum. To me, the situation seems similar to the one in Venezuela. Maybe the expression below gives an adequate description of the panic:

Fui

IF MONEY COULD TALK, MINE WOULD SAY: GONE…

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Lenovo foldable smartphone and tablet concept hands on

2: Monohm’s circular ‘anti-smartphone’ is up for pre-order

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-06-07 (Tuesday)

Today, I learned that:

Although I am by no means a fan of Samsung’s mobile phones, if the rumor about what they are up to comes true, then it is really a disrupting idea!

Samsungfold

A mockup of a rumored Samsung mobile phone

I am talking about a bendable smartphone, on the outside it would act like a normal 5″ phone, but when it is unfolded inside there would be an 8″ tablet. Think about carrying one of those in your pocket! See also reference #1 below.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Samsung Rumored to Launch Fully Bendable Smartphones in 2017

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-05-29 (Söndag)

Idag lärde jag mig, att:

Den stora partikelreaktorn Large Hadron Collider (LHC) vid Cern i Schweiz fortsätter att producera intressanta resultat, som kanske kan komma att visa sig väl så viktiga som bekräftelsen av Higgspartikeln i juli 2012.

Efter en uppgradering så kan LHC nu åstadkomma ännu högre energinivåer och nu har det observerats något som man ännu inte vet vad det kan vara. Om man kan repetera resultaten så kan man också kan komma närmare på spåren om vad denna partikel är för något. Kanske är det den första partikeln i en ny grupp av tunga partiklar, eller är det en slags ny Higgsliknande partikel, 6 gånger så tung som den tidigare? Lyssna på Vetandets värld, referens 1 nedan, och läs mer i Chalmersartikeln i referens 2.

LHC

En bild på Atlas-detektorn, som registrerar och mäter de partiklar som genereras i den 27 km långa Large Hadron Collider, lokaliserad på gränsen mellan Schweiz och Frankrike.

På onsdags i nästa vecka, 2016-06-01, är det så dags att inviga världens längsta järnvägstunnel, Gotthardstunneln. Det rör sig egentligen om två parallella tunnlar på hela 57 km vardera som har byggts under 17 år mellan Schweiz och Italien. Invigningen kommer att förrättas av invånarna i byarna i tunnelns ändpunkter som kommer att närvara på de två tåg som samtidigt kommer att färdas genom tunnlarna i motsatta riktningar. Lyssna till historien på Vetandets värld, referens nummer 3 nedan.

Gotthard

Den nya Gotthardtunneln har sina portaler vid Alpernas fot. Foto: Mats Carlsson-Lenart

… Slut för idag, tack för idag !

Refs.:

1: Partikeln som kan förändra fysiken

2: Hints of unknown elementary particle explained using Swedish theory

3: Världens längsta järnvägstunnel går under Alperna

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-04-07 (Thursday)

Today, I learned that:

The news we received earlier this week that the digital communications application WhatsApp has finally received end-to-end encryption of all messages sent is definitely a welcomed one. That way, one can start to use it also in areas where we would not dare using it before. But do not think that now you can relax your own security measures. Reference #1 gives a good explanation about the whole situation now.

WAduo

The co-founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, in the company HQ in Mountain View, CA, USA, in May 2013, the year before they were bought by Facebook for US$ 19 billion. Photo by Peter da Silva / The New York Times

But did you ever wonder how a company can produce an application used by one billion users and suffer from low indices of downtime? Which is the underlying structure, e.g. which programming language was used to permit the creation of a such a largely scalable system and permit it to be used in real time? The answer is that the creators of WhatsApp got inspired by Erlang, a programming language originally created in the 1990’s by the Ericsson engineer Joe Armstrong to be used as a base for the data switching version of their flagship central office AXE system, named AXD 301. In 1998, Erlang was released as an Open Project. Reference #2 below can fill in all the blanks in that story.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: WhatsApp Encryption A Good Start, But Far From a Security Cure-all

2: Inside Erlang, The Rare Programming Language Behind WhatsApp’s Success

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-03-29 (Tuesday)

Today, I learned that:

Almost one decade ago, there was a big dispute in Canada over how to interpret the meaning of a comma in one paragraph of a contract between two companies in the telecommunications industry. And it was not academic, the amount in dispute was as high as 2,13 million Canadian dollars. You might have heard about the so-called “tele-comma” case, if not here is the story:

In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, located on the South East coast, the local electricity company, NB Power, leased space on their outside poles to the telecommunications corporation Rogers Communication, so that they could distribute cable TV by means of those poles. A third party, Bell Aliant Regional Communication administered the poles on behalf of NB Power, so the lease contract was drawn up between Aliant and Rogers in year 2002, with an initial validity of five years, renewable in five-year periods, and with cancellation possible with a one-year prior notice. However, in 2005, Aliant gave the one-year notice that the contract was cancelled and furthermore the cost of leasing the pole almost triplicated, from $ 9,60 per pole to $ 28,05, which multiplied by 91 000 poles would lead to an extra cost for Rogers of almost $ 1,7 million.

Aliant said that this was all regulated in the following paragraph of the contract: “[…This Agreement] shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.” They alleged that the comma in “… terms, unless …” gave them that right, which was also confirmed by Canada’s Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission.

However, Rogers kept insisting that the cited comma did not have any real meaning, and eventually found also a French version of the same contract, where such a comma did not exist. And they were successful in their appeal with the Commission, that reversed their earlier decision due to the existence of the French contract.

NB

NB Power poles and light house in Caissie Point, New Brunswick. Photo by Charles W. Bash

Below are three references that gives all the juicy content of this case, the two first ones being Canadian newspapers, and the third one is a British law site with a different angle to the story. Read and learn, and after that be very sure that the contracts you sign do not contain any such draconic comma.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: A $2-million comma? Au contraire, Rogers tells Aliant

2: Rogers wins ‘comma’ contract dispute

3: The case of the million-dollar comma

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-03-24 (Thursday)

Today, I learned that:

Exactly 36 years ago to the day, I set foot for the first time on Brazilian soil, more exactly at the Galeão airport in Rio de Janeiro. Cumbica airport in São Paulo did not exist yet, so I had to disembark there and switch planes. And it was worth it, because in the following flight I got a window seat on the right side of the aircraft and could see the whole Bay of Guanabara in all its beauty.

The whole week before I had been in Lisbon, where I improved my Portuguese skills and enjoyed enormously the visit to Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian with all its artifacts and objects of sheer art. The last day there, Sunday, was a perfect day to visit the medieval Sintra castle in the outskirts of Lisbon. And when it was finally time for departure from Lisbon airport, who did I meet there? The famous Swedish artist Lasse Åberg, who was bringing the whole film set to Rio de Janeiro to shoot the final scene of the comic movie Sällskapsresan (“The Charter Trip”). That scene is only a few minutes long, so I am sure that the whole film crew enjoyed their trip to Rio to get some vacation as well. See photo and reference #1 below.

sresan

“I filmens slutbilder fångar kameran in en båt utanför Copacabana i Rio, där Stig-Helmer, Majsan, Ole och Siv uppklädda sitter och läppjar på drinkar medan en orkester spelar endast för dem.”

As I said before, living in Brazil has its advantages, the (meteorological) climate and the (human) climate are of course two great benefits, and since we are in back water to the rest of the world, why would anyone ever want to perform a terrorist attack here? But I must admit that the economic and political situation right now is the worst I have ever seen during the three decades I have lived here, and there is no silver lining in view.

Enough with complaining for today, instead today was announced the highest rate of data transmission ever on our earth, a whopping 57 Gbits/s of sustained rate, with no errors! Once more, it was researchers at the University of Illinois who accomplished that feat, see more in reference #2 below.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Sällskapsresan eller Finns det svenskt kaffe på grisfesten (1980)

2: Record-speed data transmission could make big data more accessible

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-25 (Thursday)

Today, I learned that:

In our connected world, where everyone has a smartphone, do you ever give the ubiquitous communication technology a thought? It is true that the mobile phone networks (2G, 2.5G, 3G, 4G, …) play an important role, but frankly speaking Wi-Fi is the main player, right?

So how did Wi-Fi come about? I think that it is one the most important inventions ever made, but originally it was not meant as such. The whole story was told in the Australian Radio National’s Science Show by Brian Schmidt, Nobel laureate in Physics in 2011, on May 5, 2012. See reference #1 below, it is an amazing story!

And speaking about amazing, how about having the same Brian Schmidt and the marvellous educator Paul Francis teach you astrophysics without any cost? Details in reference # 2 below.

P&B

Paul Francis and Brian Schmidt introducing one of the astrophysics courses. © edX Inc.

Getting back to Wi-Fi, you have probably also noticed how much battery power is consumed when the Wi-Fi functionality is switched on. But here comes good news:
A team of University of Washington computer scientists and electrical engineers has demonstrated that it is possible to generate Wi-Fi transmissions using 10 000 times less power than conventional methods. See reference #3 below for the complete story.

And finally, do you know what Li-Fi is? It is a communication technology that uses light signals for communication instead of the radio waves in Wi-Fi. It has been around for some years, but is not very well known yet. The advantage with Li-Fi is that it permits very high transmission speeds. Very likely, you will see it around some time soon. In the meantime, look at reference #4 below.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: The value of international scientific collaborations

2: Learn contemporary astrophysics from the leaders in the field

3: UW engineers achieve Wi-Fi at 10,000 times lower power

4: Li-Fi

+: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-02-02 (Tisdag)

Idag vill jag åter minnas, att:

I skolan lärde vi oss att elektriska kretsar kan beskrivas med hjälp av Ohms lag. En elektrisk ström genereras av en spänningskälla och på vägen till att sluta kretsen träffar den på ett antal motstånd. För att skräddarsy kretsen kan vi variera värdena på spänning och resistans (motstånd) och beroende på hur vi kopplar ihop motstånden så får vi en viss ström som cirkulerar i kretsen.

Kopplingsalternativ

Två grundalternativ till en elektrisk koppling, seriekoppling (till vänster) och parallellkoppling (till höger)

Hopkopplingen av motstånden kan göras på två olika sätt, serie- och parallellkoppling. Ju större resistansvärden vi kopplar ihop i serie, desto mindre blir strömmen som passerar genom motstånden. Men om vi istället gör en parallellkoppling så minskar vi den resulterande resistansen och följaktligen ökar vi strömmen.

Men varför då denna lektion i elektrisk kretsteori? Jo, visserligen är det naturligt för en elektroingenjör som jag att ta hjälp av herr Ohm, men framför allt så tycker jag att det passar mycket väl in för att illustrera hur man skulle kunna lösa problemet med att inrätta höghastighetståg för de olika intressenter som önskar att tåget skall stanna just i deras stad.

Om vi först tittar på den södra länken, så har de två huvudalternativen varit att dra järnvägen genom antingen Värnamo eller Växjö. Utan att behöva framstå som partisk i frågan, så är naturligtvis Värnamo det naturliga valet, då vägen däröver är kortare än över Växjö. För att tillfredsställa Växjö, Karlskrona, Kalmar, m.fl. skulle man kunna göra en parallellkoppling med Malmö-Värnamo-Tranås, men denna anknytning borde i så fall inte starta i Malmö utan i Karlskrona och ansluta sig till huvudlinjen i Tranås.

Om vi sedan tittar på den västra länken, så är det uppenbart att Göteborg, Borås och Jönköping måste ligga på huvudlinjen, men exakt vilja mellanliggande orter som man borde stanna i, t.ex. Mölnlycke eller Bollebygd, är en fråga om seriekoppling. Ju fler orter (motstånd), desto lägre hastighet (ström) och längre tid.

Mitt tips är att den södra länken inte blir antingen en linje 1 eller linje 2, utan istället en linje 3, (minns ni kärnkraftsomröstningen 1980 ?), en kompromiss där både Värnamo och Växjö blir nöjda. Om vi skall uppnå målet om fossilfria bränslen år 2050 kanske det måste till. Om bara den politiska viljan finns, så ska nog pengarna också kunna skakas fram. Den västra länken behöver kompletteras med något alternativ som tillfredsställer också de orter som inte blir uttagna för huvudlinjen.

… Slut för idag, tack för idag!

(This post in Swedish uses Ohm’s Law to analyze the options for a highspeed train in the Western and Southern parts of Sweden.)

Refs.:

1: Ohms lag

2: Seriekoppling

3: Parallellkoppling

4: En ny generation järnväg

5: Ekot Kvart i fem 1 februari 2016

6: Ingen station i Ulricehamn och Bollebygd men i Borås

7: Borås chockat av järnvägsbud

+: What did you learn in school today ?