Eduardo from Mexico Adores Arvo Pärt and Eerie Estonia

Seven years ago, Eduardo Torres was studying violin in Mexico and wanted to become a composer. An opportunity to study music abroad for a year came his way, but Eduardo’s first choice wasn’t Estonia. In fact, he didn’t even know where it was located. However, he somehow remembered that Arvo Pärt, whom he discovered at the age of 14 or 15, was Estonian. So he thought: “Okay, let’s go to this place and figure out if there is something special about Estonia that makes his music so wonderful.”

That’s how Eduardo found himself at the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium in Tallinn. During that first year in Estonia, Eduardo met his first love in Tartu, which pretty much defined his experience with this town.

Eduardo Torres

Eduardo on the steps of the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium in Tallinn in 2018. Photo from a private collection

Eduardo with friends

Eduardo with friends. Photo from a private collection

There was also another encounter of the greatest importance; namely, Eduardo happened to see Arvo Pärt in St. Catherine’s Church in Tallinn. He confesses: “I was shocked because he was so close to me. In that moment I decided that if I were ever to talk to him, I would do it in Estonian.” That’s how Eduardo learned Estonian in no time. And, well, he did get a chance to talk to Arvo Pärt!

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How To Mourn Properly on Facebook?

The social media platform Facebook has a problem, and it is not just about the privacy measures or safety of users. According to calculations made by scientists, in a couple of decades the number of dead Facebook users will be greater than the number of living ones.

After a the passing of a close one, modern people have another thing to take into account, in addition to funeral planning and all kinds of paperwork: What to do with the remaining social media account?

In times when social media and all the communication happening in this domain are becoming a more and more significant part of our lives, expressing grief, as well as the topic of death in general, has become a much more usual thing to encounter while visiting social media portals. Annika Maksimov, who studied journalism and communication at the University of Tartu, wrote her bachelor’s thesis about grieving on Facebook.

During her research, she conducted interviews with Facebook users who had lost their friends, and following that, expressed their grief on communication portals by themselves, or had seen others do so.

Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, Maksimov picked the people to interview from the circle of her personal acquaintances.

“A warm and trusting relationship with people making up the sample helps to decrease the risk of my study causing them some emotional or mental damage,” she explained.

Küünlad

Researching grieving rituals is a sensitive topic that should be approached with care. Image credit: Thomassin Mickaël/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

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Dream Job or Not? Part II

The adventures of Eveli, Head of International Marketing, continue… For Part I, look HERE.

Day 5 – Bishkek, Kyrgystan (1)

The flight leaves at 5 am, so we do not get much sleep. We make it to the hotel by 9 am, but the check-in starts at 2 pm, which means that we finally have (very sleepy) time to go properly sightseeing! The general impression is that they really love monuments – these are everywhere. There’s even a massive Lenin and a man carrying a horse! While looking for the  statue, we were accidentally standing next to a government building and obviously the security guards were not into it, so they approached us to ask what we wanted. Katya explained to them that we were looking for a man carrying a horse and you could hear them laughing behind us for a long time.

Photo: The best monument in Bishkek (Baatyr Kaba Uulu Kozhomkul)

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Dream Job or Not? Part I

My name is Eveli; I work as Head of International Marketing at the University of Tartu and lead a team of international marketing specialists. We recruit international students to the university’s international bachelor’s and master’s programmes. I’ve often been told that we have dream jobs, because we get to travel very often. I’ve been on 34 business trips abroad during the past 6 years with a total duration of 206 days. The longest trip was to China for 17 days and the shortest ones have been to Latvia for just a day.

While travelling sounds like a lot of fun, we often do not see more than a fair centre, hotel, and airport. We always try to have at least some time to look around, but that does not always happen. Once we visited the US for 10 days and only had half an hour to look around in Washington (the total amount of sightseeing during the entire trip!).  Luckily we had a car, so we drove quickly to each monument and the White House, where we spent a total of 5 minutes. Sounds fun, right?

Photo: A sign in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

One of our latest adventures was to Kazakhstan and Kyrgysztan. I had been to Astana before for another fair 3 years ago, but this time we also visited Almaty, Shmykent, and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. We usually go to fairs alone to save money, but since these were new markets, we went together with my colleague Katya.

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What About the Truth of Science?

In the famous “Epigram on Sir Isaac Newton”, the poet Alexander Pope wrote:

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.

In reply to this, J. C. Squire (1884-1958) continued:

It did not last: the Devil howling “Ho!
Let Einstein be!” restored the status quo.

In the twentieth century, the picture of our world has changed entirely. In the past, the notions of space and time were accurate and robust, allowing a proper and robust cognitive organisation of object. The evidence of space-time order would enable us to set a causal structure that regulates the external world. Scientists were looking for a simple and strong theory to explain the regularity of the world, whereas this world would have to conform to the mathematical language.

New description of the world

Then, when Einstein’s relativity and quantum theory had appeared in the scientific panorama, the assumptions of classical physics, perfectly intuitive and in accord with the most common perception of the world, were deconstructed one by one.

Some strange things happen in this new description of the world. There is no precise measure of time and space: a quantum object has no defined properties (we can only detect an electron in a specific volume of space, regardless of the instrument we use).

There is no objectivity about the experiment: an experiment on a quantum object is always altered by the observer. There is no static universe: our universe is, according to Hubble, constantly expanding. Stop reading for a moment and imagine something that is constantly expanding. We are living in such space!

Moreover, there are fewer practical experiments and more mental experiments to provide conclusions about the world. Einstein used abstract examples to develop both special relativity theory and general relativity. Schrödinger developed his famous example of the cat to illustrate quantum mechanics theory.

Alice in Wonderland

The allegory between the lost man in the quantum physics and Alice in Wonderland is nothing new. Image: the cover illustration, by E. Gertrude Thomson, of The Nursery “Alice” by Lewis Carroll

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Digging Deep In Archaeology: The Orange and The Scurvy

When I was a young and innocent BSc student, I was assigned a study about an Egyptian mummy. I was incredibly proud of my Egyptian boy, whose name was Ptahmose. He was around 35 years old and had his brain removed through his nose, as expected of every good mummy from the Greco-Roman period.

One doubt, however, remained stuck in my young scientist mind for years. Namely, Ptahmose’s skull had signs of scurvy, a metabolic disease related to low intake of vitamin C, often connected to diets poor in vegetables and citrus fruit. Why on earth was a wealthy Egyptian guy, with access to as many greens and fruits as he wanted, lacking in vitamin C? As no information about his diet was available, this question remained locked in a small drawer in my brain for the remainder of my studies. I had the scurvy in my study, but not the orange (or, in his case, the lack of it).

Everyday science in pyjamas

Five years and an MSc in biological anthropology later, I got involved with health, food, and bones once again, but this time in Estonia. I know the first thought that comes to mind when you think of a “biological anthropologist” is flawless Dr Temperance Brennan dressed as Wonder Woman in an episode of the famous TV show “Bones”, with her hot and loyal partner Seeley Booth. Technically, that was forensic anthropology, but this does not prevent me from receiving the evergreen comment: “Hey, you are like Bones!”

I am really sorry to destroy this myth by telling you that biological anthropology is definitely less sexy and glossy, involving hours, days, and sleepless nights in pyjamas, learning how to side a metatarsal or how some vertebrae may develop discal herniation – particularly when your specialization is ancient bone pathology. However, archaeological human remains can tell you rather unexpected tales, sometimes beyond expectations.

mummy

Archaeological human remains can tell you rather unexpected tales, sometimes beyond expectations. Image credit: Andres Tennus / UT

Double-checking historians and chroniclers

My research brought me to a PhD project on medieval and early modern Estonian populations. This period was marked by complex political, economic, and socio-cultural changes, which dug under the surface, burned deep into Estonian culture and consciousness, and transmuted this area in the country we know today.

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The Secret Colours of Maltese Fishing Boats

Strolling along Malta’s coast, you’ll be mesmerised by the rainbow of traditional fishing boats ambling on the water—that and all the eyes ogling at you from their bows. Science portal ERR Novaator Editor in Chief Katre Tatrik takes a closer look at the hidden meaning behind the luzzu’s colours.

The Maltese fishing boat luzzu dates back to the time of the ancient Phoenicians. For generations, Maltese fishermen have painted them in a kaleidoscope of bright colours, turning them into a national icon. But is there rhyme or reason to the hues they choose?

Lifelong fishermen, brothers Charles (62) and Carmelo (70) from Marsaxlokk, paint their luzzus twice a year in bold blues, reds, and yellows. It’s no easy task, requiring thorough cleaning and six layers of paint. Despite their dedication, Charles and Carmelo, like many others, are largely unaware of the hidden meanings the colours on their boats carry. ‘They’re all the same,’ Carmelo says. ‘It’s just for beauty.’ Charles adds that ‘these boats have always looked the way they look.’

Malta’s traditional fishing boats ambling on the water. Photo: Pixabay

But in 2016, Prof. Anthony Aquilina from the University of Malta embarked on a project that would uncover more. ‘Contrary to what you have been told, there is a lot of meaning in the way our traditional boats are painted,’ he explains. Aquilina edited and published The Boats of Malta – The Art of the Fisherman, written by world-famous anthropologist Desmond Morris.  Continue reading

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