2018-04-15 (Guldkantad söndag)

Today, I learned that:

On the Northern hemisphere there is spring in the air, finally after a harsh winter. And in Sweden, one of the traditions at this time of the year is that schoolchildren from all over the country sell a miniature flower, called Majblomman (“Mayflower”), with the proceeds being used to help children in need. This year’s flower is the one you can see in the header photo, a beautiful work of art with black and golden petals surrounding a mother of pearls. The creator, 13-year old Elina Hall, was inspired by a bumblebee. In the following image are all Majblommor sold since it all began, back in 1907. In reference #1 is an English translation by Google of an interesting page from Majblomman’s home page.

MB_Blomkort_2018

A collection of Majblommor, starting in 1907 and updated most recently with the beautiful bumblebee inspiration of 2018. Photo by Majblomman.

And exactly today, the same colours are so true to also reflect the outcome of the Swedish first division football derby between AIK and Djurgården, won by the former squad, with the nickname of ‘de guldkantade’, which means “the golden cuffed”. I wanted to tease a friend of mine who is a fan of the opponents and she hinted me (thanks Lady Godiva) about Majblomman. Could it be a coincidence? I do not think so, 2018 is going to be the year when AIK wins the Swedish championships once more! If you want to know more about my team, read my post from 2016-02-15, when the sports club celebrated its 125th anniversary.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Majblomman in English

*: What did you learn in school today ?

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2018-03-24 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Most people around the world do not have the slightest idea what curling is. Well, it is a sport with centuries of traditions from the ices in Scotland which was first introduced to the Winter Olympic Games already in 1924 for a one-time appearance. It then reappeared there permanently in 1998 and now it is one of the most exciting events of the whole games, often called ‘Chess on Ice’, due to the similarities in needing to predict moves well ahead.

Curling is played on an ice sheet with the approximate dimensions of 45 x 5 m. The traditional way is to play the game in teams of four players (in separate male and female disciplines) and recently also in mixed doubles. In the four-member games, each team player has two 20 kg granite stones that s/he tries to place close to the target. Whilst one of the players throws the stone, two other members use their brooms to sweep the ice to ease the stone in getting to its target, under the guidance of the captain (called skip). More details about this fascinating sport can be found in reference # 1 below, and in reference # 2 is a video showing how the curling stones are made.

The yearly women’s world curling championships are taking place this week in North Bay, ON, Canada, another of the leading curling countries. The thirteen participating national teams played each other once in a round robin format. The two best teams in the number of wins, Canada and Sweden, were directly qualified into the semifinals and the third to sixth teams played two games this morning to qualify as the remaining two semifinalists. In one game, Russia beat Czechia, and in the second game, between USA and South Korea, the game was tied at 3-3 after 8 periods (called ends). Then in the ninth end (out of a maximum of ten ends, if no extra end is necessary), something very rare happened, and this was only the third time at all in the history of these world championships.

Since each team throws 8 stones in one end, the maximum theoretical score for one team per end is consequently also 8. That has never happened, but in 1999 Sweden beat Denmark by scoring 7 points in one end, and in 2002 Norway repeated that feat against South Korea (yes, they were involved already then).

In this morning’s game, the Korean players made two fatal mistakes. In throwing stone 11, their vice-skip Kim KyeongAe committed a so-called hogline violation, meaning that she did not release the stone in time, and thus that throw was declared as void. Then in stone 15, the Korean skip Kim EunJung (yes all four ordinary players and the substitute are called Kim, and two of the five players are sisters) throw the stone too hard. In reference # 3 is the official shot-by-shot report from the game and in reference # 4 is a link to a video recording from the game, if you are interested in viewing this rare fact. And in one week’s time, Las Vegas, NV, USA will be the host for the men’s curling world championships. Las Vegas rocks!

And I also learned that in a recent male tournament, something probably even more rare happened, that two stones with opposing colours were both at the exact same distance from the center, so that neither team could win any point. You can find that video clip in reference # 5 below.

The photo below was taken in the Southern part of the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais. Travelling on its highways you may find many breathtaking views and this was surely one of them. It was taken close to the city of Ipuiuna on 2018-03-04 from a view point with the adequate name of Pedra do Mirante.

Pedra do Mirante

Photo taken on 2018-03-04 from Pedra do Mirante, close to Ipuiuna, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Curling

2: How it’s made – Curling stones

3: Shot by Shot KOR-USA

4: Korea vs United States – Qualification game (3v6) – Ford World Women’s Curling Championships 2018

5: Most bizarre curling play of the year results in tie end

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-02-28 (Wednesday)

Today, I learned that:

We are in the middle of the Winter Olympic games and the Paraolympic games, but did you know that not only humans compete in skiing? Watch the video in reference #1 and marvel about what our AI friends can do!

On various occasions, I have told you the story about a new fantastic material called graphene. If you want to catch up on those, look at my posts from 2016-02-01, 2016-05-22, 2016-10-29, and 2017-06-23. And here comes another interesting fact from “down under”. Researchers in Australia have produced a very effective water filter using graphene film with microscopic nano-channels. When tested with the polluted waters in Sydney harbor, the result was so good that they could drink the water without any health issues. See more in reference # 2 below.

Finally, look at this amazing photo! It shows the light emitted by a single atom. More information can be found in reference #3 below.

Single atom light

The tiny dot in the center of the screen, between the two metal electrodes, is the light emitted by a single atom. Photo taken by quantum physics professor David Nadlinger, University of Oxford.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Skiing robots hit the slopes in South Korea

2: Graphene film makes dirty water drinkable in a single step

3: A ‘trapped’ atom is visible to the naked eye

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-01-09 (2 years !!!)

Today, I learned that:

What started out as a dream (literally) is now reality since 2 years ago. Of course I am talking about this blog. Thanks to all my followers for your encouraging remarks and faithfulness! And instead of publishing a new header photo today, for some time ahead, each time you open my blog again there will be a random photo from the first two years to catch your eye!

My main topic today is AI, robots, and how they interact with us humans to make the world a better place to live:

One month ago, the Swedish writer Johan Nyberg published his column in Radio Sweden’s weekly news program, Godmorgon, världen (“Good morning, world”). It was an interesting story on how today’s computers can perform many of the routine tasks in any many disciplines much more efficiently than human beings, but the best solution of all is when the two work together in a team. He gives various examples on such successes, not only chess, but also everyday situations in big service companies such as Amazon, which besides the investment in 45 000 robots during the last three years also has employed 250 000 people. So his closing remarks are that we should not have any fear that the computers will grab our jobs, but that workers with computers will take the jobs from workers without computers. See also reference #1 below for a complete transcript (in Swedish).

Then, a couple of days later, I heard another interesting story of how AI computers and people interact with good result. X-ray images that need to be analysed by a physician can now be pretreated by a computer which scans the images to present the doctor with results of areas where s/he can look further to make a more accurate and faster diagnose as compared to the old method when few areas were chosen out of random or a hunch. Reference #2 discusses this topic (also in Swedish).

And yesterday, there were two interesting topics on the same issue: In the morning, I heard that in the Southern city of Trelleborg, the city administration’s social assistants are delighted, because a “robot” (in fact an app on their web) is now taking care of the investigative, preparatory work, such as checking with the tax authorities etc., when a person is applying for social allowance. They now enter only in the decisive phase, which leaves them available for more personal contacts, and the result is that they have been able to find new jobs for those people in record numbers and huge savings in not needing to pay out social allowances.

At the same, in a later edition of the same news program, it was reported that their counterparts as social assistants in the city of Kungsbacka, immediately south of Göteborg (Gothenburg in English) are  disappointed, they would like to continue turning papers instead of doing proactive work, so 12 out of the 16 assistants have handed in their resignation notes, as a protest against a similar system which will begin to operate in the month of May. More about these two cases can be found in reference #3 below (also in Swedish).

With so many interesting news stories from Sweden, why not learn Swedish and accompany the news yourself? If you are interested, drop me a message to Swedish lessons and I am sure we can work out something interesting!

Finally, did you hear that a robot recently reported having been molested by a human being? Its name is R2Me2 of course!

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Krönika av Johan Norberg

2: Aj aj blir AI AI – Möt din blivande läkare datorn

3: Socialsekreterare säger upp sig när robot ska ta över deras arbetsuppgifter

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2017-12-06 (Kippis)

Today, I learned that:

Some countries have suffered through centuries to finally be able to celebrate their independence as a state. One such example is Poland, squeezed between the super powers of their time, and another is Finland. The latter was reigned by Sweden and Russia during some 700 years, until finally, in the wake of the World War I and the bolshevik revolution in Russia, it declared its independence exactly 100 years ago today. It is inhabited by people who never give up, but always work hard to get their opinion through. So today, continuing their spirit of ‘sisu’ and ‘hakkaa päälle’, I raise my glass and cling it with my Finnish friends and shout ‘Kippis!’ And of course, we enjoy the music of M. A. Numminen, singing his Swedish version of ‘American patrol’, named ‘Uppå källarbacken’, a song which played 24/7 when we built our Cortege-car at Chalmers 1975. See also reference #1 below.

References # 2, 3, and 4 below show some different aspects of Finland and its achievements over the years. And the following photo depicts the Finnish national animal, the Bear. The photo was taken by Saajaja on 2012-03-08.

Karhu

The Finnish bear, captured by Saajaja on 2012-03-08

Finally, if you like the works of the Canadian multimedia artist Neil Young, here is a great hint for you: From now and until 2018-06-30, you can stream all of his songs and videos for free with an audio bit rate of at least 320 kbits/s. Click on the link in reference #5 and good listening!

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: M. A. Numminen – Uppå källarbacken

2: Finland

3: Finland celebrates 100 years of independence: ten fast facts

4: Finland fyller 100 år – detta får du inte missa

5: Neil Young Archives

*: What did you learn in school today ?e

2017-11-27 (Monday)

Today, I learned that:

Last Thursday was celebrated Thanksgiving Day in the USA, when the Americans remember the pilgrims who escaped England in the 17th century for a better life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and how they in turn celebrated the first crop of their new fields. But do you know why they choose Cape Cod as their destination for the Mayflower? Well, they did not, their goal was to arrive in Virginia, where they had expectations of obtaining fertile land.

So, why did they disembark in the inhospitable Cape Cod? The answer can be found in a book that Susan Cheever published two years ago. The simple answer was that they had ran out of beer! That fact was only the first one about the American relation to alcoholic beverages. Others, such as the true story about the prohibition time in the decades of 1920 and 1930, can be found in this book. If you are interested in knowing more, hear an interview with the author on the Los Angeles based radio station KCRW, reference #1 below, read the critics published in Vogue, reference #2, and if that thrills you, buy the book and read more, e.g. from Amazon, reference #3.

Speaking about the day succeeding Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, and today, Cyber Monday, did you already suspect that when the stores announce hefty discounts, they have already raised the prices to be used as a base for calculating the discount, aka “fake prices”? Well, here is one proof that it is true. One of Brazil’s biggest newspapers, Folha de S. Paulo, compared the prices of 6.875 different objects at the end of October 2017 to those published for sale during Black Friday one month later. The results showed that all the 9 surveyed stores practised that bad “habit”, the worst one in 12 % of all cases surveyed. See the complete article (in Portuguese) in reference # 4 below.

Cape Cod, Old Harbor Life Saving Station at Sunset

Old Harbor U.S. Life Saving Station at Cape Cod, photo taken on 2011-12-18 by JCefaly

 

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Guest: Susan Cheever

2: In Drinking in America, Susan Cheever Puts the Bottle Back in the History Books

3: Drinking in America: Our Secret History

4: Comércio eleva desconto sem reduzir preço antes da Black Friday

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2017-11-17 (Friday)

Today, I learned that:

Besides dedicated software applications, e.g. translation software, without any doubt, it is the general applications word processing and spreadsheet calculations I use most, as I guess is the case for most people.

Of those, it is especially the spreadsheet that I tend to use for almost any task. Back in the 1980s, unfortunately I did not use the very first spreadsheet, Visicalc, which was introduced for the Apple II in 1979. More about that in reference # 1 below. But soon after that, I already started to use various of its successors, which during the following decades have included such softwares as Lotus 1-2-3, Multiplan, Quattro, Excel and Numbers.

Now there is even celebrated a Spreadsheet Day, on October 17 every year, in remembrance of the date of introduction of Visicalc. And on that day this year, I had the pleasure of receiving a newsletter from a person who knows a great deal about spreadsheets. Her name is Mynda Treacy, and in that newsletter she presented a comprehensive article about how to work with dates and times in Excel, which currently is the most commonly used spreadsheet application worldwide. If you think that it is difficult to use them in Excel, Mynda will explain it to you in an easy fashion, complete with all the formulas you need. See reference # 2, where you can download the article and accompanying spreadsheet file, as well as sign up for her newsletter.

And now back to another favourite topic of mine, robots. Examples of that can be seen in my posts from 2016-03-12 and 2017-03-12. In both of them were presented robots from the American company Boston Dynamics, named Atlas and Handle. Now, its new owner, the Japanese company Softbank, reveals how Atlas has developed since we last saw it. How about the following backflip? More about Atlas, including a video, can be found in reference # 3 below.

Atlas 2017

The humanoid robot Atlas performing acrobatics with a perfect backflip.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: VisiCalc: Information from its creators, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston

2: Excel Date and Time – Everything you need to know

2: Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot is a parkour master

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2017-11-11 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Exactly 39 years ago today, I was studying in the French city of Compiègne, located 80 km north of Paris. And on that very day, there was a big crowd coming into the city to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement of the first world war between France and Germany. The signing had taken place in a railway car in the forest of Compiègne, and the railway car is still there close to the original site, and copies of the documents and utensils used for the signing can still be found inside. However, the car as such is also only a replica, the original one was confiscated as a war bounty when Germany invaded France in June, 1940. The following painting of the 1918 event is also considered to be not totally true to the original. More information can be found in references #1, 2 and 3 below.

Waffenstillstand

This image appears to be a painting, not a colourized photograph. (It might have also been published as a sepia postcard.) The probability that it is not a photograph is also indicated by the inaccurate depiction of furniture, in Maréchal Foch’s ‘dining car’, which had a fixed-to-the-floor table and French chairs (as seen in photographs of the event). The probable inaccuracy of the depiction might be the reason for its anonymity.

Then, on the very same day 4 years later, I had the pleasure of going to a concert with the Swedish singer Lill Lindfors. After the concert, she signed her portrait with a dedication to me. In reference # 4 you can read more about her and references # 5 and 6 give links to one of the songs she sang then. In Swedish the title is Teresa (about a young girl and her dreams), whereas the original Brazilian title is Tristeza (which means sadness, but you can make it go away when you sing, just like Elis Regina does here). ENJOY!

Lill

The newspaper insert from Svenska Dagbladet reads, translated into English : “Lill finishes her concert tour in Akalla. Lill Lindfors will give her last concert of the tour she is making in the outer suburbs of Stockholm tonight at 19.30 at Akalla Träff. The set list is based on the theme of longing and it is a performance of songs and music, where also the trio Anders Ekdahl (piano), Jan Bergman (base guitar) and Ola Brunkert (drums) participates.”

Finally, today’s photo shows the Ayrton Senna bridge joining the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná. On the right side can be seen the city of Guaíra, PR. Photo taken on 2017-10-28. See also my post from 2016-11-30.

Ponte Ayrton Senna 2017

Ponte Ayrton Senna, the bridge that joins the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná. In the right corner can be seen the city of Guaíra, PR. Photo taken on 2107-10-28.

 

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Forest of Compiègne

2: Compiègne Wagon

3: Painting of November 11, 1918

4: Lill Lindfors

5: Lill Lindfors – Teresa, 1987

6: Elis Regina – Tristeza, 1965-1968.

*: What did you learn in school today ?

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 ?

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:

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.
FaceIt

Example of tips generated by Face It

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

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 ?