2019-05-31 (Friday)

Today, I learned that:

I owe a big apology to all my faithful readers for having been absent with new posts for almost two months, so let me make it up today with a quite few interesting facts:

1. Image of a black hole

During the month of April, we received the astonishing news that astronomers had finally managed to catch a black hole on film. The image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile, in an effort involving more than 200 scientists. Read more about it in ref. #1 below.

The image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. Photo by the EHT Collaboration team, consisting of 200 astronomers at eight different telescope sites.

2. Late Easter (continuation from earlier post)

In my post of 2019-03-05 I wrote about the late date of Easter this year, and as you may remember my friend, the German-Swedish meteorologist André Franke explained it all for us.

However, I have received comments about this subject. In 2019, the March equinox occurred on March 20, and there was a full moon already the next day, March 21. So, why was not Easter Sunday celebrated on March 24? André can explain that, as well. It is quite complicated, but here is the short explanation:

It all started in year 325, when the First Church Council of Nicaea among other things decided that the March equinox should always fall on March 21, and then Easter Sunday would always be the first Sunday following the first full month after the March equinox. But as we know, the Earth’s rotation around the Sun is not exactly 365 days. It is approximately 6 h more, and that causes that the fixed March equinox day is not always the same actual, astronomical day for the same equinox, as happened this year.

If you want know the long story, take a look at reference #2. Unfortunately, it is written in Swedish, but there are many other sources around the internet that can tell the same story.

3. Baarle

Baarle is a village right on the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. 91 % of the total area of the village belongs to the Dutch, the rest is Belgian. But it is not a clean cut, there are in fact 16 Belgian exclaves within the Dutch territory, and they in turn surround seven Dutch areas. See also reference #3 below. Thanks to Radio Sweden’s Andreas Liljeheden for yet another idea to an interesting blog fact, see also ref. 4 below! (You may remember Andreas’s earlier contribution to my blog on 2018-10-20, when he presented the donkey steps in the EU headquarters in Brussels.)

Andreas Liljeheden posing on a selfie in Baarle, in a street where both the Dutch and Belgian flags are blowing in the wind side by side.

4. Different maps of the world

One of my interests is maps, traditional, historic, different kinds of maps – you name them! It is therefore a great pleasure for me to present a total of 45 different maps of the world, the big majority of them are without doubt something you have never seen before. Click on the link of ref. #5 below and start being amazed. (I like maps #1, 2, 7, 8, …)

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Black hole picture captured for first time in space breakthrough

2: Vårdagjämning, fullmåne och ovanligt sen påsk: därför ser almanackan underlig ut 2019

3: Baarle

4: Andreas Liljeheden om ett avgörande EU-val

5: 45 Amazing World Maps

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-10-20 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Continuing the post from 2018-09-29, here are two more interesting British facts from the world of Sports:

Wimbledon surrenders to John Isner

The American tennis player John Isner is, among other things, well known for having participated in the two longest fifth sets in the history of the Wimbledon tournament. In 2010, he beat the Frenchman Nicholas Mahut after winning the fifth set by 70-68, after three calendar days and 8 h 11 min of playing time. Then in this year’s tournament, in the semifinals, he lost to the South African player Kevin Anderson by 26-24 in the fifth set.

But that is the end of such marathon games, because as of 2019, Wimbledon has decided to introduce a tie-breaker at 12-12 in the fifth set.

See also references # 1 and 2 below.

Scotswoman breaks record for touring the world on a bicycle

In Britain, there are not only wonder women in golf. The Scottish cyclist Jenny Graham just arrived in Berlin after having gone on a tour around the world. You may remember that in the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty days, her compatriot Phileas Fogg made it, using trains and steamer ships on 80 days. Jenny did not totally get there, but nevertheless her record is an amazing 124  days! (Another Brit, Mark Beaumont, holds the male record, set in September 2017, with 78 days 14 h 14 min., thus beating Phileas Fogg.)

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham stops for a selfie while passing the Russian city of Pskov, close to the borders with Estonia and Latvia. Courtesy of Jenny Graham/The Adventure Syndicate/PA.

See also references # 3, 4, and 5 below.

Donkey steps

On various occasions, I have referenced material from Sveriges Radio (the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation), and here is yet another one:

Yesterday, their correspondent at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Andreas Liljeheden, published a chronicle about the particular construction of the stair case between the two main buildings of the European Parliament. The following photo shows exactly that view.

EU steps

The court yard in the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, highlighting the donkey steps between the two main buildings. Photo taken by Andreas Liljeheden on 2018-10-18.

As you can see, the vertical displacement from one step to another is small, but the horizontal one is much greater, exactly 1,16 m according to Andreas’ measurement. This makes walking up and down the stairs a complicated task. He investigated the origins of that crazy stair case, and found that in some countries of the European continent, such as Austria and Germany, there is a tradition of using deeper steps, whereas the Belgians and Dutch normally, due to the higher population density, have to settle with a different project, with a higher vertical-to-horizontal ratio. Sweden is, as always, “lagom”, i.e. mid-way.

Here are two more photos of donkey steps, the first one being a close-up of the EU Parliament steps, and the second one a typical scene of donkeys climbing the steps in Fira, the capital of the island of Santorini in the Greek Aegean Sea.

Belgium&Greece

Two examples of donkey steps: To the left, a visitor to the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium (photo by Andreas Liljeheden, 2018-10-18). To the right, real donkeys in Fira, Santorini, Greece (photo by Liz Stark, 2016-04-06).

But why is Andreas emphasising this stair case? In no way, he implies that hard working politicians are donkeys, but he thinks it is a symbol for the difficulties encountered by the EU members. If you cannot have a unanimous decision on something by all its 28 member countries (soon to be 27?), then there has to be a compromise, such is life! Thanks Andreas for your valuable contribution!

See also reference #6 below.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Longest tennis match records

2: Call It the John Isner Rule: Wimbledon Plans to Add a Final-Set Tiebreaker

3: Scottish cyclist smashes round-the world record

4: Around the World in Eighty Days

5: Around the world in 78 days: British cyclist completes record-breaking ride

6: Åsnetrappor typiskt för EU: Ekots Andreas Liljeheden, Bryssel

*: What did you learn in school today ?