Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Month: November 2019

Be careful if you marry a Swede…

A long time ago I heard a story about a married couple trying to get a spouse green card in the US. One of them was from the UK so there was a interview process by the immigration authorities to confirm their marriage was real. They talked about the confusion when they were asked (in separate interviews) what floor their apartment was on. One said the first floor. The other the second floor. Because of course in the US the bottom floor is numbered 1, and in most of Europe that is numbered as 0, and the first floor is the one above.

But not in Sweden. They have their own special way of doing this!

Swedish lift panelIn any given building the lift panel will usually have one button that is marked as the floor where people enter and exit the building. Usually with a green ring around it. But god only knows what number that will be! 

This is the lift panel in the building next to my office (my company uses both). The entrance floor isn’t 0 or 1, but er, number 2.

Swedish lift panelMy office building is even stranger. Apparently the entrance is on floor 4!  Because we are on a hill, and there is a lower down slope entrance we do have a floor 3. But can anyone tell me where floors 1 and 2 have gone to?

With this eccentric approach to floor numbering I would be surprised if many Swedes can pass their US immigration interviews 😉

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The snows comes to Sweden

Last night we had the first proper snow of the season, in Stockholm anyway. 

First snow in Stockholm

Being so close to the sea Stockholm doesn’t get as much snow as the rest of the country. And global warming isn’t helping things either. We usually get some before Christmas, but the serious stuff, that will stay on the ground for days, and the cold that freezes the water for the skaters, really only comes in January and February. 

Away from the balmy south it is a different story though!

 

This was the snow map for the country for yesterday.

Swedish snow 28th November 2019

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Starlink – a humble proposal

It looks like the Starlink satellites are already causing problems for the scientific community. There are less than 1% of the planned constellation of sats in orbit but they have begun interfering with astronomical observations. And if the company gets its way the dozens they have today will grow to tens of thousands! 

Leaving aside the whole question of whether this is the best way to provide internet connectivity to the unserved (full disclosure I work for a company that is committed to alternatives like 5G), what could be done to help?

Two things spring to mind. First, to get around the light pollution issue the best location for the astronomer’s telescopes would be in orbit, above the problem satellites. And secondly in most of the world the principle is “polluter pays”.

My humble proposal then is that Starlink’s parent, SpaceX, should be responsible for providing a constellation of space based telescopes in orbit for astronomers. There is a lovely symmetry to this. SpaceX touts their ability to reduce the cost of access to space, and how their work benefits humanity in the long term. They are have the rockets, and are building/commissioning satellites by the bucket load anyway. And the astronomers would then get an improved platform for observations. 

The article does mention that there is no legal protection for the scientific observation community. But in most of the world, the western bit anyway, regulatory approval would have been conditional on an impact assessment. And it would be possible to make permission to proceed conditional on making sure that impacts are mitigated. Wouldn’t it have been great if Starlink could not get their project rolling until they had built dozens or hundreds of space based telescopes first?

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