Cluster Map

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pollyanna is waiting for spring

A
Map of polarization of dust in the universe as seen by Planck--more below

Pollyanna is with you again as we enter the Hebrew month of Adar during which we are all supposed to be very happy.
Image result for happy adar
We soon will have our Purim holiday and spring is right around the corner.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER 

This week Pollyanna refers you to Project Concern International. PCI is rated highly by Charity Watch and is committed to fighting poverty worldwide. PCI’s mission is to prevent disease, improve community health, and promote sustainable development worldwide. We recommend it to your consideration. In particular, Pollyanna recommends the WE-Women Empowered initiative as worthy of support.

GOOD NEWS COMES BEFORE THE RANTS

Rodney Reed in Texas was about to be executed for a crime for which he was convicted on flimsy evidence. We are told that a stay of execution has been granted for the presentation of new evidence that may exonerate him. Also, a Dominican man arbitrarily deported to Haiti on 19 February was able to return to his hometown in the Dominican Republic. These things show that human rights actions really work, so please join the activists, says Pollyanna. She is also pleased with the legalization of pot, not that she encourages its use, but thinks that the resources expended on fighting it should be used for  stopping the spread of hard drugs. She also adds a cartoon that won the Herblock award this year and congratulates Jen Sorensen the artist:
 

CHEERS FOR NORWEGIAN MUSLIMS 

Pollyanna is pleased to share with you a posting by Rabbi Melchior of Oslo. A ring of young Muslims came to protect the synagogue this week.


 GOOD NEWS FROM MEDICINE

Pollyanna is happy to tell you about a new horizon that has appeared for cancer patients. It involves using a "basket" of drugs to treat tumors that share mutations. It has opened a vista of hope for many patients who were considered terminal and we all hope to see the research continue and expand its scope. She is also pleased to pass on the news that the mortality rate from Ebola has decreased in Africa although the doctors from MSF are puzzled by the effect.
Benetha Coleman, an Ebola survivor and nurse’s aide, comforted a baby with Ebola symptoms in Liberia, as seen through a net. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

A FEW RANTS

Pollyanna is in full support of the striking oil refinery workers in the US. They are on strike for health and safety, demanding stronger measures to protect workers and surrounding communities from  hazards inherent in the industry. Workers cite outsourcing, short staffing, and forced overtime that produces dangerous fatigue—in a job where mistakes can be fatal.

Photo via USW's facebook page

THE JIHADI BRIDES TRAIL 

Eight British schoolgirls have traveled to Syria in the last seven months using a route which has become known as the 'jihadi bride trail' - and hundreds more besotted British women have proposed marriage to extremists online.


This week  three British schoolgirls vanished and are believed to be headed to Syria to join the Islamic State extremist group. They were good students at an East London high school and no one thought that they had been radicalized.  It is apparently done online.

A SECOND RAPE 

In Israel the macho sexist exploitative behavior of a large number of senior police officers including the deputy to the national Chief of Police has finally led to some real investigations. Unfortunately, the investigations and the interrogation of the victims amount to a second rape. The pressure is extreme and the investigators go into intimate anatomical details. One woman complained that she fainted during the interrogation. These women are victims,not accused. Pollyanna cannot suppress a feeling that this is an attempt by the investigative body in the Ministry of Justice, which includes police officers, to protect their colleagues who are under a cloud at the moment. It implies the norms of the Mafia, as we have seen with our "most moral in the world" army, as well.

SCIENCE GOODIES
ESA’s Planck space telescope has much to tell us about the universe in which we live.
[4/7] Planck investigates the cosmic infrared background
Planck sees the microwave background

Planck was launched on 14 May 2009, and the minimum requirement for success was for the spacecraft to complete two whole surveys of the sky. In the end, Planck worked perfectly for 30 months, about twice the span originally required, and completed five full-sky surveys with both instruments. Able to work at slightly higher temperatures than HFI, the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) continued to survey the sky for a large part of 2013, providing even more data to improve the Planck final results.
 Planck
Planck was turned off on 23 October 2013. The high-quality data the mission has produced will continue to be scientifically explored in the years to come. Now ESA has given us a new interface for Planck data and  a summary of the findings up to now. They include the result that gravitational waves are still elusive, information about the magnetic field structure in the Rosette  Nebula, studies in galactic structure and much more. While much of the standard cosmology has been confirmed, there are discrepancies that will necessitate more modeling and rethinking, which is great because that is how science works.












MATTER OVER ANTIMATTER 

UCLA physicists offer a possible solution to the mystery of the origin of matter in the universe.
Credit: NASA
[Click to enlarge image

Have you ever wondered why the universe is primarily made up of matter and not antimatter?  Pollyanna certainly has lost much sleep over  the  question. At the time of the Big Bang equal amounts of each kind of matter were produced and should have annihilated one another totally. Nonetheless, here we are and here is our universe.  Recent work by physicists at UCLA and the University of Minnesota claims to provide an answer on the basis of the behavior of the Higgs boson and the Higgs field associated with it in the early universe. It is an intriguing idea says Pollyanna.

 SILLY TIME

 What If? asks What would happen if all of the rivers in the US were instantly frozen in the middle of the summer?

Zoe Cutler: The answer is around as bad as it gets. Please, Zoe, do not freeze the rivers.


Pollyanna is pleased to share with you some of her knowledge of fundamental physics:

Fundamental Forces

Physicist also talk a lot abut the vacuum and the great zero point energy:
 Vacuum

She also thanks Randall for giving us the speeches that, to our great good fortune, were never given:
Apollo Speeches

Technology is great, but sometimes, if you try to combine voice recognition software with GPS:

Dustin Cartoon for Feb/22/2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pollyanna sends a belated Valentine's greeting

Pollyanna is with you again after St. Valentine had his day. It was also the birthday of our beloved Hadass and Joey is coming up next. It is nice that there is a holiday of sorts, with or without the Catholic Church connection,
 Wizard of Id Cartoon for Feb/14/2015
 devoted to the idea of love.

It certainly does wonders for the economy, flowers, taking your wife/partner/girlfriend to dinner and other fun things. In Paris, the florists go one step further in promoting love and we admire them for it.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER


Combatants for Peace Promotional Film by idanbarir

This week Pollyanna refers you to Combatants for Peace, a joint Israeli-Palestinian nonprofit made up combatants who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence, Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, they have decided to put down their guns, and to fight for peace. They engage in a broad spectrum of activities aimed at achieving this goal. One of the more recent ones is the building of a playground in village of Yanun in the Nablus region, in memory of Abir Aramin.
Abir

She was the daughter of Bassam Aramin, one of the founders of Combatants for Peace. Abir was killed at age ten in 2007 by an Israeli sniper, on her way from school. The killer was never prosecuted although the Aramin family won a wrongful death suit, the proceeds of which they donated to the cause of playgrounds in which Palestinian children can play in safety, away from the killer  soldiers of the Occupation.

GOOD NEWS COMES BEFORE THE RANTS

We have a few things to cheer about this week.

CHILD SOLDIERS RELEASED


"Buret," 11, the day before his release from the Cobra Faction in late January.
Pollyanna is pleased to hear of the demobilization of hundreds of child soldiers  of the Cobra faction of  South Sudan Democratic Army. The release of the soldiers was engineered by UNICEF in the wake of a truce in the South Sudan civil war.  "I don't want to be a soldier," one boy, aged 12, told UNICEF. "I will end up with nothing by being a soldier and I know one day I'll get killed if I continue being a soldier. First, I want to go to school, then later I want to study medicine." Pollyanna hopes that the rest of them will also be released soon and sent to school where they belong.

MEASLES

A pediatrician holds a dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 photo, a pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. Photo by AP
Pollyanna is also encouraged by the news that in Israel the health authorities take pride in the World Health Organization having declared in July 2014 that Israel has eradicated the disease. Make no mistake, that does not mean the disease, which is extremely contagious, is completely nonexistent in Israel. 
"It means that there are no long chains of infection within Israel," the Health Ministry explained to Haaretz. "But sporadic cases can occur, among travelers who were infected outside the country, or Israelis who came into contact with such people." There are pockets of anti-vaxxers, mostly in the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community, but they presumably have particular protection from Above. Pollyanna thinks that people whose children are not vaccinated should not  receive child allocations and their children should be barred from public schools.



A FEW RANTS

BUSHMEN

 Pollyanna would like to call your attention to the persecution of the Bushmen of Botswana.
Survival's 'Bushmen aren't forever' campaign led to supermodel Iman quitting her contract with diamond company De Beers over the persecution of the Bushmen.
Survival's 'Bushmen aren't forever' campaign led to supermodel Iman quitting her contract with diamond company De Beers over the persecution of the Bushmen.
© Survival International
They are being driven from their ancestral homes because of the profits to be made from the marketing of diamonds discovered there. She joins the call of Survival International to boycott the diamonds of De Beers. She also supports the tourist boycott of Botswana. Think  about what it means for the locals before you go on safari.

MIGRANT DEATHS AT SEA

Pollyanna is distressed by the tragedy in the Mediterranean in which hundreds of would-be migrants from Africa to Europe are drowning. The Italian government has discontinued its Mare Nostrum rescue program and  efforts made by the EU are totally inadequate.
"The humanitarian crisis that sparked the need for Mare Nostrum has not gone away. With people continuing to flee war and persecution, EU member states must stop burying their heads in the sand whilst hundreds keep dying at sea." John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International

GEOENGINEERING?

There has been much talk in the past few years of taking proactive steps to control climate change. Most of them involve meddling with natural processes in the atmosphere, such as blocking sunlight by introduction of artificial pollutants (e.g. sulfur dioxide or saltwater). Pollyanna calls your attention to the strong opposition by Naomi Klein in which she points out correctly that the scaling of lab results to planetary scale is not a test of geoengineering, but the act itself. In principle, the entire concept of geoengineering does not allow for testing without encountering the dangers being tested for on a planetary scale.

DEATH OF AN IDEALIST AID WORKER 

Kayla Mueller
Kayla Mueller. Photograph: guardian.co.uk

Pollyanna mourns the death of Kayla Mueller, who was captured by ISIS after going to help at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Syria. She was reported by ISIS to have been killed in an air raid, but there is no proof of this and her captors may have killed her. The Guardian tells her sad tale in detail. The means of her death do nothing to absolve ISIS of its responsibility. Pollyanna has only contempt for those who are smearing her memory.


DISCRIMINATION IN FRANCE

NSL Studio's Facebook page
The ad was posted by NSL Studio
 Pollyanna is incensed about an advertisement for a job in France in which it was said the candidate should "if possible not be a Jew". The ad was posted on Monday by Paris-based NSL Studio on the jobs site Graphic-Jobs.com. The company and the Web site have apologized although the explanations offered by NSL Studio have varied. Now they claim to have been hacked. Yeah, sure, says Pollyanna.

TERROR IN COPENHAGEN 

Over this weekend there were terrorist attacks at a cafe and a synagogue in Copenhagen, all connected to portrayals of the Prophet Mohammad as a dog in cartoons.  As tweeted by the journalist Morten Frich the sum of the day "15.30 1 civ. killed, 3 cops wounded 01.00 1 civ. killed, 2 cops wounded 04.50 Suspect opens fire, killed by police"
For his full tweet report click here.    As the Daily Beast puts it "...the defense of art, of the right to blaspheme, and the freedom to speak grows more dangerous by the day."

...in the meantime in Washington and Jerusalem:
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Feb/12/2015

THE POLLYANNA LIBRARY 

Pollyanna invites you to upload and read 18 short stories by the Nobel Laureate author Alice Munro. Try it, you will like it and it will be good for you.

A BIT FROM SCIENCE

NEWTON'S NOTEBOOK

We usually think of Isaac Newton as the greatest mathematician and physicist of his time. But buried in a notebook Newton used during his undergraduate days, is half a page of text on plant function, which has been reviewed in the journal Nature Plants by Professor David Beerling of the University of Sheffield. In his notes, Newton describes how water is drawn up through a plant's roots and out through its pores.
 extract of Newton"s notebook
This was understood in modern times only at the end of the 19th century. Amazing genius. Pollyanna is impressed.

NEW CANCER THERAPY 

At Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, doctors are testing a new type of cancer treatment known as immunotherapy. "Immunotherapy for cancer means developing treatments to harness your immune system and using your own immune system to fight the cancer," says Dr. Julie Brahmer, an associate professor of oncology. Immunotherapy graphic
Pollyanna is delighted about this new hope for cancer patients.

SILLY TIME

What If? asks What would happen if the Moon were replaced with an equivalently-massed black hole? If it's possible, what would a lunar ("holar"?) eclipse look like?
—Matt The truth is not much.

REFORM OF THE NEWSROOM 



Gene Weingarten ,writing in Below the Beltway, waxes nostalgic about the old days in the sexist, boozing, smoke-filled and foul mouthed atmosphere of the old time newsroom. You are invited to sympathize with him if you have nothing better to do.

Poor little Cynthia is trapped by modern technology and her addiction to it..;
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Feb/12/2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

Poilyanna comes to cheer you up

Pollyanna is back and will do her best to lift the gloom of life in these tough times. It is hard to find good news in a world racked by senseless killing and bitter struggles, but she will do her best. She is happy to tell you that the New Horizons spacecraft, sent to Pluto in 2006, came out of hibernation successfully in December and last week began its preparations for the encounter that will take place in July. Pollyanna is glad to see that many interesting new phenomena are  being seen by Rosetta on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. There is a recent summary in the Scientific American which you may be able to open. Pollyanna is also excited about the Dawn spacecraft that is providing first,  close and revealing images of the dwarf planet (former asteroid) Ceres.  Note the odd white spot on the northwestern side of the object.
animation of the dwarf planet Ceres
This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Jan. 25. The spacecraft's framing camera took these images, at a distance of about 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres, and they represent the highest-resolution views to date of the dwarf planet.
Image Credit: 
NASA/JPL
Of course, our dear Randall has a prediction of what a spacecraft might find on an asteroid. This renders him vulnerable to suspicion of being a closet creationist.
Ceres

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER 


This week Pollyanna refers you to Orr Shalom (Light of Peace) Israel’s largest non-profit organization providing residential and therapeutic services to children who have been removed from their homes because of severe abuse and neglect. It has a high rating for transparency from the Israel Gives charity watchdog. We quote its vision statement: "Orr Shalom's vision is to enable all of Israel's children-at-risk to realize their potential and their right to grow up loved, protected and respected, individual and special, in a positive family setting. Since 1980, our organization has steadily expanded its network of care to ease the plight of Israeli children at risk, helping them break the cycle of violence and become productive, independent adults. Orr Shalom currently cares for 1,300 children from birth through 18+ years of age in a wide range of multifaceted programs that provide caring, professional, one-on-one treatment. Orr Shalom maintains the highest quality of expert care, with a high staff-child ratio. This ensures that at Orr Shalom, each child receives the attention, therapy, and enrichment s/he needs to thrive. At the core of our approach is the small family community based setting which has proved itself over the decades." Please help out.

IN MEMORIAM RICHARD H. TOWNES 1915-2015

Whenever you use a DVD, check out quickly at a store or have eye surgery, you are benefiting from the life and work of this great scientist who died this week at age 99. He invented first the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and then its light descendant, the laser. The laser is ubiquitous in our modern life, in consumer electronics, astronomy and medicine to name a few, yet its development was motivated by a military need.  Towards the end of the second world war, the US Pentagon funded research aimed at improving the reach and accuracy of communications and radar systems. Townes, who had worked on radar during the war, conceived the idea of trapping molecules. In the spring of 1951 when, seated on a park bench among blooming azaleas in Washington, D.C., he was struck by the solution to a longstanding problem, how to create a pure beam of short-wavelength, high-frequency light. That revelation – not much different from a religious revelation, Townes believed – eventually led to the first laser. Albert Einstein proposed in 1917 that the right wavelength of light can stimulate an excited atom to emit light of the same wavelength, essentially amplifying it, but Townes was stymied by how to corral a gas of excited atoms without them flying apart.

His revelatory solution allowed him to separate excited from non-excited molecules and store them in a resonant cavity, so that when a microwave traveled through the gas, the molecules were stimulated to emit microwaves in step with one another: a coherent burst. He and his students built such a device using ammonia gas in 1954 and dubbed it a maser, for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.
Charles Townes with maser
Charles H. Townes (left) and James P. Gordon shown with the second of two microwave amplifiers, or masers, that they built in 1955 with H. J. Zeiger (not shown). Townes shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the maser and the description of the laser, which was first built in 1960. (Courtesy the American Physical Society)


For this he shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with two Russians,  Aleksandr M. Prokhorov and Nicolai G. Basov, who independently came up with the idea for a maser. He and his brother-in-law,  and future Nobelist Arthur Schawlow conceived the idea of doing the same thing with optical light, but using mirrors at the ends of a gas tube to amplify the light to get an “optical maser.”  The rest is history.

He is eulogized by the University of California, Berkeley and in an obituary in the Guardian, inter alia. His life and work impacted us all. Rest in Peace Professor Townes.

GOOD NEWS COMES BEFORE THE RANTS

We have a few things to cheer about this week.

One of them is the granting of a pardon to a woman in El Salvador. She had a miscarriage, but was accused of having aborted the fetus and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. She was granted a pardon by a very narrow vote of the paliamentary body that deals with pardons. El Salvador has the most draconian laws in all of Latin America. Abortion is forbidden in all cases including rape, incest and danger to the mother. The pardon was certainly associated with the world wide outcry and we hope that it will help the 17 other women in a similar situation. Pollyanna also hopes that the laws will be changed.

Pollyanna cheers the legislative initiative in the UK to require plain packaging of tobacco products.
Cigarettes on display in London
Cigarettes on sale in London. MPs are to be given a free vote on whether to enforce plain packaging for tobacco products. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
  Figures released by Cancer Research UK show big support for the reform plans. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of voters across the political spectrum said they supported removing the colorful designs and branding from tobacco packaging, replacing them with packs of uniform size and shape with prominent health warnings. Only 15% opposed the measure.The new survey of more than 1,800 adults from across Britain reveals high levels of support from potential Conservative, Labor, Liberal Democrats and Ukip voters. The law is said to have reduced smoking levels in Australia where it was introduced in 2012.  Smoking levels are down to 12.8%. According to  the health charity Ash, said: “We won’t be taking anything for granted in the run-up to the final vote. If the regulations do become law this will be the most important public health reform of this parliament.”

 NOW THE RANTS

1) Pollyanna, Titan and a host of bloggers have shouted long and hard against the anti-vaxxers, the people who refuse for whatever silly reason to vaccinate their kids. In many places, these unvaccinated children come to school and constitute a threat to any child who is immune compromised. It is indeed criminal.  Pollyanna calls your attention to a most egregious  case in California, where a father is taking steps to protect his child. A six year old had chemotherapy for leukemia which succeeded, but left him with an suppressed immune system that precludes vaccination against a variety of diseases. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what is known as herd immunity.
Rhett Krawitt, 6, outside his school in Tiburon, Calif. Seven percent of the children in his school are not vaccinated.
Rhett Krawitt, 6, outside his school in Tiburon, Calif. Seven percent of the children in his school are not vaccinated.
Courtesy of Carl Krawitt
Unfortunately he lives in Marin county where 6.5% of school children are not vaccinated against communicable diseases such as measles, polio, whooping cough and more, because of so-called "personal exemptions". The father of the child is demanding that unvaccinated children be excluded from schools. Pollyanna thinks that his is appropriate as a means of protection of immune-compromised children for whom this may be a life-threatening issue.

2) We are informed that the medical staff of Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have closed down their activities in Sudan. The Brussels-based section of MSF was focusing on three conflict-affected parts of Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and in need of assistance. Total denial of access to Blue Nile State, forced closure of activities in East Darfur State, and administrative obstacles and blockages in South Darfur State have made it impossible for MSF to respond to medical emergencies in these areas. The Sudanese air force even bombed a hospital run by MSF. Pollyanna regards this inhumane treatment of the population by the Sudanese government as an unspeakable atrocity.
On January 20, this hospital run by MSF was attacked by Sudanese bombers
 
3)Pollyanna is outraged by the poaching of wildlife and the trafficking in animal parts  that supports it. Asian superstitions about healing or aphrodisiac qualities of rhino horn or the ego trip of owning elephant parts are driving these magnificent beasts to extinction. In the US,  the National Wildlife Property Repository on the outskirts of Denver is full of the remains of 1.5 million animals, whole and in parts.
Coleen Schaefer (left) and Doni Sprague display a tiger pelt that was confiscated and is being stored at the National Wildlife Property Repository on the outskirts of Denver. Some 1.5 million items are being held at the facility. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is still under negotiation, would punish wildlife trafficking.
Coleen Schaefer (left) and Doni Sprague display a tiger pelt that was confiscated and is being stored at the National Wildlife Property Repository on the outskirts of Denver. Some 1.5 million items are being held at the facility. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is still under negotiation, would punish wildlife trafficking.
Jackie Northam/NPR

To give you an idea of the extent of the trade, in 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered, and last year the repository crushed 6 tons of confiscated ivory. Obviously international action has to be taken to put a stop to this scandal.

WEIRD LAWS INDEED 

Those who bother to read our blogs know that last week Titan told a Pyramus and Thisbe story about porcupines in the Israeli Safari zoo, with a wild suitor outside a fenced enclosure, a captive female inside and love aka estrus foiled. He also mentioned the story of the German tourists in Florida who, having heard of the state law prohibiting people from have sex with porcupines, went out, presumably well fortified with alcohol, to violate the law for the principle of individual freedom. You may let your imaginations fill in the rest of this prickly (double entendre intended) story. After giggling a bit, Pollyanna decided to share with you the 10 weirdest laws concerning sex now existing in various states of the leader of the free world. Pollyanna is now blushing, especially that now she knows that in Bakersfield, California, anyone having intercourse with Satan must use a condom..


ANCIENT JAWBONE SHAKES UP PALEONTOLOGY 

An ancient mandible was found recently in the deep ocean near Taiwan and dated to 190 to 15 thousand years ago. It indicates that hominids evolved in  multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region. “During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China,” Live Science reports on the discovery.  A scientific paper was published in Nature Communications. Pollyanna finds the implications fascinating. If Samson could defeat the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, imagine what the jawbone of a hominem  will do to science. (Pollyanna disclaims the last sentence)

in the deep waters of the Penghu Channel, west of Taiwan, was pulled from the seafloor by a fishing net. - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.CxsYbZvP.dpuf and dated to 190 to 15 thousand years ago. It indicates that hominids evolved in multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region.
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China,” LiveScience reports on the discovery. - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.FipmqKh0.dpuf A paper was published in Nature.
“During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China,” - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.Pnr0GVwo.dpuf

“During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China,” - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.Pnr0GVwo.dpuf
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.3JwdXp6m.dpuf
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.3JwdXp6m.dpuf
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.3JwdXp6m.dpuf
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/taiwan-jaw-bone-connected-origins-humanity-020183#sthash.3JwdXp6m.dpufLiveScience reports A scientific report was publishedin Nature Communications. Pollyanna finds the implications fascinating. If Samson could defeat the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, imagine what the jawbone of a hominem  will do




SILLY TIME


What If? asks Would it be possible for two teams in a tug-o-war to overcome the ultimate tensile strength of an iron rod and pull it apart? How big would the teams have to be?

—Markus Andersen You will be surprised what a dangerous game this can be.

GRAPHICS If you have ever given or sat through a PP presentation, you will identify with the speaker and audience in this WuMo.
whereas our friend Wally knows how to avoid being invited to meetings:
 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

In China, the use of puns in public media has been prohibited. We have mentioned this in the past, but now find further support for the idea:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/30/2015
This is somewhat belated, but it was only published this month in the Washington Post. Gene apparently cannot give up Below the Beltway blows and he indeed got invited to the White House to celebrate Hannukah.
 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pollyanna in Winter, trying to be glad

 Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jan/15/2015

Pollyanna is back, winter weather and all, and would really like to live up to her reputation and talk about glad things. Unfortunately, this world of ours does not support gladness, but she will do her best this week. She shares the feelings of all civilized people in the wake of last week's massacre in Paris and was thrilled to see the French people turning out in their millions to support the principle of free speech and the principle of not allowing terrorists to dominate our lives or to trample on our rights. Below she will get into a more nuanced discussion of free speech and its limits.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER  

This week Pollyanna refers you to Books for Africa which is rated very highly by Charity Navigator and is serving a vital need for the advancement of the emerging nations of Africa. We note that it has a high transparency rating and an administrative layout of 0.3% which is certainly admirable.
Books arriving in South Sudan




JE SUIS CHARLIE, BUT...

The horrible attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket in Paris last week still resonates in our minds and hearts. Yet Pollyanna wonders why millions are not  marching to stop the ongoing terrible slaughter in Nigeria by Boko Haram killers who go from town to town, killing indiscriminately.
Illustration by Amos Biderman
The Guardian has a section on these harrowing events that you should read--‘I walked through five villages and each one was empty except for dead bodies’ The Nigerian army is unable or unwilling to do much about it. Soldiers drop their weapons and flee with the townspeople. The US tried to help after the  abduction of the schoolgirls last spring, but was unable to do much in collaboration with the corrupt and ineffective Nigerian security forces. Something should be done, but no one seems to have an idea or to really care all that much. Is it because the French victims are from our tribe? Is it because Africa is remote  and black-skinned and Paris is near and our color? We all shout that we must protect free speech and what is wrong with Muslims that keeps them from having a sense of humor? Tom Lehrer, the American Jewish satirist, wrote a song in 1964 in the wake of Vatican II, that ridiculed the Catholic Church, its rituals and  beliefs, and no one batted an eyelash.
  
Joe Sacco, himself a cartoonist raises the question bluntly:



As Titan noted last week, religion can be toxic. He dealt with alienation of children from their parents by Jewish "missionaries." There are also the irritants such as the idiots who refuse to sit hear women on planes or buses and indeed people are petitioning and making noise about these things. It becomes really poisonous when blood is spilled in the name of the Prophet. It is certainly wrong to surrender to them, either by flight (e.g. French Jews) or by self-censorship. One can fault France for allowing the blight to fester in the notorious banlieues just outside Paris that are home largely to second- and third-generation immigrants from former French colonies in North and West Africa. These places are fertile soil for Muslim extremism, either recruitment for the IS in Syria/Iraq or for terror at home. Not that terror and mass killing are a Muslim monopoly--the massacre in Norway was carried out by Anders_Behring Breivik, the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook school in Newtown CT  by  Adam Lanza and  the Columbine killings by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. None of these were in any way connected to Islam or to religion of any kind.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/13/2015
Nonetheless, the majority of the events that account for the rise of terrorism in the world in recent years are associated with Islamic entities, be they the Taliban, Boko Haram, El Qaeda or the IS. Certainly, no one implies that terror is mainstream in the Muslim world, but obviously something needs to be done and it must be done by Muslim religious leadership.


Finally Pollyanna wishes to express her agreement with the sentiments expressed by the Pope. His Holiness agrees that freedom of expression is a fundamental right, but it has limits. Certainly shouting Fire! in a crowded theater, hate speech and incitement  and child pornography cannot be said to come under the umbrella of  protected free speech. Ridiculing someone's religion, ethnicity or beliefs is certainly poor taste, vulgarity and inappropriate behavior, but, as the Pope says, are by no means a justification for violence and murder. Abuse of the right of free speech should be dealt with in the framework of the rule of law. Someone who is the victim of slander can have recourse to the courts and obtain damages. Satire, if it is to be worthy of the name, must be biting and strong, such as Andy Borowitz who can portray the Speaker of the House as a drunken sod and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman as an idiot, with no fear of reprisal. Scurrilous reporting, such as the Swedish tabloid that claimed that the Israeli Army was killing Palestinians in order to sell their organs, should be a matter for the professional associations of journalists to deal with and sanction. The fact that Israel reacted by protesting to the Swedish government that it was not doing its job of controlling the press is just a sign of stupidity. At least no one was killed. We also note that Charlie Hebdo was even-handed in dealing with religions:
They all agree that Charlie Hebdo must be veiled...


Pollyanna wishes to reiterate that transgressing the bounds of free speech, which Charlie Hebdo may well have done, should be responded to by nonviolent and legal means. The honor and respect for the Prophet is not enhanced by killing in his name.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/11/2015

OK, NOW BACK TO BEING POLLYANNA

Pollyanna would like to share some nice things with you. One is the hope that translation by computer will actually work. We have all seen computer translations and have guffawed at them. Now it appears  that real progress is being made and we will be able to communicate in real time conversations with people with whom we do not have a common language. Cheers.

CONGRATULATIONS MAMA SHARK

Pelagic thresher shark reportedly giving birth. (Courtesy of Attila E Kaszo)
For the first time ever, the birth of a baby shark has been caught on camera.  The picture was taken by Attila Kaszo during a 2013 research dive in the Philippines and now has been published in  Coral Reef, the official journal of International Society for Coral Reef Studies. Is this an infringement of privacy? She has not yet complained. The story of how the event was found in the data is itself of interest.

HUYGENS TEN YEARS AGO 

Carolyn Porco reminds us of the day ten years ago when the Huygens probe landed successfully on the surface of Titan. It was the first time a man-made object has been placed on a moon of another planet and the results were of course fantastic.


Share the memory with Carolyn.












YOU MAKE ME COLD..

We have a penchant for walking around in sports gear, including shorts, in all kinds of weather. For years we have been getting the reaction, especially from women,  "it makes me cold to look at you" and have always ascribed it to the Jewish mother latent in every female (no, that is not a sexist remark). Now according to new research from Sussex University, the effect is real and being cold is contagious. Empathy is something that seems to have evolutionary value according to the researcher, "Humans are profoundly social creatures and much of humans' success results from our ability to work together in complex communities -- this would be hard to do if we were not able to rapidly empathize with each other and predict one another's thoughts, feelings and motivations."


NEANDERTHALS AIN'T SO DUMB 

The tool in question was uncovered in June 2014 during the annual digs at the Grotte du Bison at Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy, France. Extremely ...
Credit: University of Montreal - Luc Doyon

New evidence has surfaced that indicates that Neanderthals made bone tools, something that has always been thought to be a Homo Sapiens innovation. The tool was discovered in France and dates from about 55,000 years ago. It implies that the technical and cognitive gap between H. Sapiens and Neanderthals is less marked than had been thought. Interesting indeed, says Pollyanna

A BREAKTHROUGH IN ANTIBIOTICS 

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics has long plagued modern medicine and has rendered many compounds useless. Now a search for a magic bullet antibiotic that will not generate resistance seems to have hit pay dirt--a finding that challenges conventional wisdom and has made headlines everywhere. It was just published in Nature. This can be a huge step forward in the fight against disease. Hooray says Pollyanna.

SILLY TIME

What If? asks What if there was a lake on the Moon? What would it be like to swim in it? Presuming that it is sheltered in a regular atmosphere, in some giant dome or something.

Kim Holder
The answer is fun.

THE HEISENBERG PRINCIPLE

Woe to the website that tries to violate the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle by trickery--cheers to our lady
Location Sharing

ROMANCE AND DILBERT
Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/09/2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pollyanna wishes you a Happy New Year


Pollyanna is back and wants to wish all her readers a Happy New Year. Let us hope that 2015 will be better for us, humanity in general and our planet.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER 

This week Pollyanna refers you to Project Education South Sudan aka PESS. During the first civil war, many boys fled and became known as the "Lost Boys" of South Sudan. One of them was Daniel Majook Gai who fled the civil war in Sudan, running miles by himself to safety and leaving his family behind.
Daniel Majook Gai from South Sudan goes in and out of his war-torn country to help children there go to school.
Daniel Majook Gai from South Sudan goes in and out of his war-torn country to help children there go to school.
 He eventually got to the US, obtained an education and is now trying to get kids, especially girls, into school in South Sudan. He works for PESS which builds schools throughout the country and helps break down barriers for girls. In the area of South Sudan where Daniel has been working, 3,000 boys and girls have been out of class for a year now.  Please help out.

AIRLINE DISASTER

Pollyanna is sad about the tragic fate of the passengers and crew  on the AirAsia flight whose plane crashed at sea.  The aircraft apparently went  down in bad weather, but there are certainly many questions to be asked. In general, 2014 was the deadliest year for aviation fatalities in a decade, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.
Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour
Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour

The  BAAA data show that 1,326 people died this year in airliner accidents, the worst on record since 2005. That figure includes both Malaysia Airlines disasters — Flight MH370, which disappeared off the Vietnamese coastline and Flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.

NEW YEAR CALAMITY

Two men place candles in the shape of a heart at the site of a New Year's Eve stampede at The Bund in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKER
Two men place candles in the shape of a heart at the site of a New Year's Eve stampede at The Bund in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKER
Pollyanna is also upset by the sad events in Shanghai where New Year's Eve celebrations were marred by a stampede that claimed the lives of 36 people with over 50 more injured. The cause is still unclear although there was a report that some people had thrown fake money from a balcony. The police do not confirm this claim. It is tragic that an event designed for enjoyment turns into tragedy.

HOPE FOR JUSTICE 

Pollyanna is glad to hear that the three Al Jazeera journalists, who were sentenced to long prison terms in Egypt in what was patently a politically motivated show trial, have been granted a retrial on appeal. The appeals court decision indicates some signs of an independent court system in a country ruled by a dictatorship. It is unfortunate that the three, the Australian Peter Griese, Mohammed Fahmy who holds Egyptian and Canadian citizenship and Baher Mohamed were not granted bail for the duration of the retrial.



RANTS AND RAVES 




Rachel Daniel, sitting with her son, Bukar, held a picture of her daughter, Rose, who was among nearly 300 Nigerian teenage girls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram. Credit Joe Penney/Reuters
Usually Titan produces the rants and raves, but Pollyanna cannot remain silent in the face of the incompetence and indifference shown by the government and army of Nigeria in the matter of the hundreds of girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram. The NYTimes reports on the failure of the Nigerians to take advantage of the aid provided to them by the United States.  The Nigerian army is not only incompetent, it has a dismal record of human rights violations. (It should be a matter of shame to us that Israel nearly sold military helicopters to Nigeria. Fortunately, the US blocked the sale, which it had the power to do because the aircraft were of US manufacture.) There is great fear that the girls have been sold to Boko Haram fighters, who in the past six months have seized hundreds more civilians, including children, planted bombs in Nigerian cities and captured entire towns.

SCIENCE IN 2014 

Ruth Schuster writing in Haaretz has summed up the best science stories that appeared in the paper during 2014. They are all interesting although at times her comments are a bit patronizing towards basic science. The discovery that canine defecation direction is related to the magnetic field is interesting, not for the scatology, but because of the indication that dogs have magnetic sensors. This has long been known in birds and is the means of pigeon navigation. Humans have no such capability.  We note that this must refer to freely roaming dogs and we shall observe Murphy when we are next with him on the dune or beach. While walking on the leash, he will simply poop in the direction opposite to our walking.
Another interesting and more important finding is the adverse affect of artificial sweeteners on the body. Using artificial sweeteners can increase the probability of developing diabetes and obesity, ironically the very conditions they're supposed to prevent, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science announced. They discovered that while artificial sweeteners don't contain glucose, they do affect how our bodies process sugar: our bodies can lose the ability to handle sugar. Since our intestines don't even absorb these sweeteners, the scientists wondered what  does and found that it is  the bacteria in your guts. If you have certain types, eating the sweeteners has exactly the wrong effect on you.
Diet drinks may have the exact opposite effect of what we want. Photo: Adi Dovrat-Meseritz.

LEGION D'HONNEUR DECLINED

We are informed that the  French economist Thomas Piketty,
 
the author  the best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has declined an honor from the French government. His book, in which he pillories the causes of economic inequality, was one of the greater intellectual events of the year. We quote the Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman on Mr Piketty's "big idea" in the New York Review of Books: "We haven't just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we're also on a path back to "patrimonial capitalism," in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties."
The book has naturally attracted much comment and no small amount of fierce criticism. 

BOOK REVIEW 

Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece, by Andrew Levy, Hardcover, 342 pages, Simon & Schuster, List Price: $25


This book is reviewed in NPR blogs by Linda Holmes. We quote the opening of the review "Is there anything left to say about Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn?"

That is the question that animates big parts of the book,  a richly researched, copiously annotated, fascinating argument that in all the debates over the book's treatment of race and despite its position as both a widely banned book and a widely assigned book, we tend to miss some of the most important things it teaches.  Pollyanna  recommends it to your consideration. Levy comes to grips with the complex issues of Twain, racism and children's literature.

SILLY TIME

Since again there is no new What If?, we looked for something equally informative. This week we saw an unnamed Luddite enjoying her new smart phone and came to think a bit about our relationship with advances in technology. We find that Randall has addressed this question as well.
Simple Answers

ALMOST DARWIN 

You are probably familiar with the Darwin Awards web site in which human stupidity is documented and people die deaths caused by their own idiocy, thus removing themselves from the gene pool. You might also enjoy the crop of idiot sightings at Authentic Forum.  Pollyanna found several impressive cases there, such as "I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."
Happened in Birmingham , AL.
"
Pollyanna is amused by the chap in Australia who tried to blow up an ATM to steal the money inside. The security cameras caught the story. At least he survived and gave the police some amusement on Christmas Eve.

WUMO wind down the year with their own version of functioning of idiots. Pollyanna will risk being sued and show you the cartoon.
Wumo Cartoon for Dec/31/2014

For those whose New Year's resolutions involve weight loss, she offers the pasta diet:
 The Proven New Year's Pasta Diet
Take up this diet in 2015 and you are certain to lose weight!

1) You walka pasta da bakery.

2) You walka pasta da candy store.

3) You walka pasta da Ice Cream shop.

4) You walka pasta da table and fridge.

Cynthia starts off the year with the right attitude:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/01/2015
Of course, he would not have replaced her phone, discipline etc., but he will certainly replace his own. How many of us have raised a Cynthia or two?

Dilbert has decided to reduce the number of decisions in his life by  inventing tube clothes, a la the grey tee shirts of Mark Zukerberg. He then invokes a dating service, poor chap...or poor ladies.
Dilbert Cartoon for Dec/31/2014


Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/01/2015

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/02/2015

Id goes to war:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Dec/27/2014