Cluster Map

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pollyanna is very sad

Pollyanna mourns the death of the three teenagers who were killed  by terrorists and whose bodies were found this week. All of us here extend condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naphtali Fraenkel.

Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naphtali Fraenkel

We also extend condolences to the family  of the 16-year-old boy, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose body was found this week in a forest in Jerusalem with indications that it may have been a revenge killing by right wing Jews.
Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir

We hope that their respective religious faiths will give them strength to bear the unbearable burden that evil men  have laid upon them. We also hope that the arm of justice will find all these base killers and that they will pay for their foul deeds. The Reform Movement in Israel and its Rabbis have composed the following prayer and our apologies for those who lack Hebrew.

כִּי עָלָה מָוֶת בְּחַלּוֹנֵינוּ בָּא בְּאַרְמְנוֹתֵינוּ לְהַכְרִית עוֹלָל מִחוּץ בַּחוּרִים מֵרְחֹבוֹת" (ירמיהו ט, כ (

בלב שותת ואבל, המומים ודואבים, אנו ניצבים אל מול הידיעה המרה על הירצחם של נפתלי פרנקל, איל יפרח וגיל-עד שאער ז"ל. גדול האבל, עצום חרון האף, רבה הכמיהה לנקם ושילם.

יהי זכר ההרוגים לברכה לכל בני משפחותיהם ואוהביהם. יהי רצון שינוחמו מן השמים וימצאו כוחות רוח ונפש להתמודד עם אבלם. תהי האהבה והשותפות המורעפת עליהם מנת חלקם גם בימי המבחן המצפים להם.

יהי רצון, שברגעי מסה אלה נֵדע לזכור ולהזכיר שאנו מצוּוים להרבות חיים, לרדוף שלום וצדק, להביא מרפא, לתקן עולם במלכות שדי.

יהי רצון, שהעושה שלום במרומיו יעניק לנו ולשכנינו כוח אמונה ותבונת לב להיעשות אגודה אחת לעשות רצונו בלבב שלם. יהי רצון שישובו שמחה לארצנו וששון לעירנו, למען תקפוץ העוולה פיה ויעבור זדון מן הארץ (על יסוד תפילת העמידה לעשרת ימי תשובה) ונאמר אמן

הרב פרופ' יהוידע עמיר, יו"ר מועצת הרבנים המתקדמים בישראל  

We also append an anonymous prayer from Beliefnet for the victims of war  and terror:

Prayer for Victims of Terrorism
Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace, the world cannot give, reign in our hearts.

We hope that the memory of the fallen will not be further desecrated by more acts of vengeance against innocent people. No matter the degree of outrage, we must strive for justice. We quote Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On:
“Kidnapping and murdering teens is a war crime that must be punished to the full extent of the law. At the same time, in these moments we must differentiate between those who are responsible for the criminal act and the Palestinians who rejected it, like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas...We must take diplomatic action that will strengthen the moderates.”

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has 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.

This week Pollyanna is choosing her charity in the light of the tragic death of the boys. She could not find any local charity in Israel that both helps terror victims and accepts online donations, both abroad and in Israel. She is, therefore, referring you to the OneFamily Fund, which is devoted to the support and help of terror victims in Israel. Please go to their home page and donate.

Pollyanna joins Bradley Burston in Haaretz in protesting the cynicism of extremists on right and left who would use the tragic killing of these three boys as grist for their political mills. On one side you have people whose hatred of Israel causes them to blame the bereaved parents for the loss of their sons and to use the killing of Palestinians as a justification for callousness towards the grief of us all. On the other you have the extreme right shouting for revenge and collective punishment against the entire Palestinian community. To both Pollyanna suggests going to a poem by Bialik written after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, On The Slaughter, in Hebrew or in English. To Pollyanna the operative lines are "And cursed be the man who says: Avenge! No such revenge - revenge for the blood of a little child - has yet been devised by Satan." As Bradley Burston writes "There's a name for blaming all members of a group for the actions of a few. Whatever the target group, and no matter how religious or ideologically drive the person who preaches collective guilt and advocates collective punishment, it comes out the same: racism." The report of the murder of a Palestinian boy  possibly by revenge-seeking Jews shows us how futile our struggle for human values can become. We have an incompetent government that has no idea what to do and how to proceed and allows the settler lunatics to lead it by the nose.

Pollyanna is certainly unable to be glad this time around. Let us all look at ourselves, our world, our leaders and weep for the future of our children.

Pollyanna is not putting this under Goodies from Science because this is bad stuff from science. We are screwing up our planet and while the technical means of coping with , albeit not stopping, climate change exist, the will to do anything about it seems to be lacking. We run across people, some even close to us, who know less about atmospheric science than we know about medicine or Icelandic literature, who will hold forth in denial of everything that the data and the models are telling us. Bill McKibben writing in the New York Review of Books tells it as it is in terms of the end game of our confrontation with Nature. Pollyanna recommends his article to all of you who still want to think about the future of humanity.
John Weller/Rizzoli 2013 An Adélie penguin on an iceberg in the Ross Sea; photograph by John Weller from his book The Last Ocean: Antarctica’s Ross Sea Project, Saving the Most Pristine Ecosystem on Earth. It includes a foreword by Carl Safina and is published by Rizzoli.

We belong to a reform synagogue in Natanya and were naturally appalled at the hostility of our President-elect Mr. Rivlin to our movement. OTOH, it was nice to read that Uzi Baram of the old Labor establishment is considering joining us and regards us as the path to the future. A few more people chip in on this discussion. The public is becoming more friendly to us.
Rehearsals for a Reform Bat Mitzvah, May 8, 2003.
Rehearsals for a Reform Bat Mitzvah, May 8, 2003. Photo by Lior Mizrahi / BauBau

FIFA has granted 50,000 free tickets to the workers who participated in the building of the venues for the World Cup. Of course, they could have consulted the unions on the distribution, but let us not quibble.

A Chilean army engineers wearing protective gear uses a magnetic detector in a minefield on 26 May 2014
To date 161 states have joined the Ottawa Convention but the US, China and Russia are not among them

The US is inching towards joining the Ottawa convention against land mines. As of now, 161 states are on board, not including the US, Russia, China or Israel. We hope things move a bit more quickly.

Our friend and collaborator Ray has written an interesting piece for his local techie magazine about the Rosetta mission to Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It has been a long ride and we hope for interesting results. Cheers for Ray and the Rosetta team.
photo of author Ray Goldstein, Ph.D.
Dr. Raymond Goldstein, a staff scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Division, has an extensive background in the design, testing and data analysis of laboratory as well as space instrumentation. He led the preliminary design of an ion mass spectrometer that flew by comet Halley on the European Giotto spacecraft and has been co-investigator for instruments aboard NASA and European Space Agency missions, including DS-1, Rosetta and Bepi Columbo.
This mission could confirm  a recent finding that indicates that the essential building blocks of Titan formed under similar conditions as ancient comets in the Oort cloud rather than in the warm disk that surrounded Saturn when the planet was young,

man-made contemporary prehistoric hand-axes by ami drach and dov ganchrow
Man-made contemporary prehistoric hand-axes by Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow
For more than a million years, the simple stone hand axe was one of our most important tools, but in the age of smartphones and virtual reality it can be hard to understand how revolutionary it really was. In their design series  "Man Made," Tel Aviv designers,  Dov Ganchrow and Ami Drach, use 3D printing to make the tool's importance a little more clear. With the help of paleontologists they made some nice stone axes. Cool says  Pollyanna.

Our beloved spacecraft Cassini entered orbit around Saturn on June 30, 2004. Since then it has been in flawless orbit. It delivered the Huygens lander to Titan and has gone on and on, alas with our CAPS experiment turned off since 2011 because of an electrical malfunction. As we write it is moving out to Apoapsis Rev 169 period = 24.0 days, inclination = 21.2°, r = 48.049 Saturn radii, phase = 76°. Let Carolyn Porco of the CICLOPS team express what we are all feeling.

The big guy that wiped out the dinosaurs and gave us mammals a chance also caused a rain of BB-sized(4.5mm) mineral droplets, called spherules.
Asteroid Impact Fueled Global Rain of BBs
A spherule that has been sliced and polished. The dark areas are clay minerals and the bright, reflective grains are spinels.
Credit: Frank Kyte

They did not kill the dinosaurs, but the information contained in them can tell us something about the direction of the incoming asteroid, as well as possible extinction scenarios, according to new research. The falling spherules might have heated the atmosphere enough to start a global fire, as one example. Cool and interesting says Pollyanna

white dwarfs

The future of the binary white dwarf system WD 0931 +444 includes a merger millions of years from now. Until then, they may prove useful in testing one of Einstein's predictions.
Drawing by David A. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
The flap about BICEP2 continues and we should have some answers in the fall. For
details see Pollyanna of June 7, 2014 and the links there. Now Bill Plait points us at another object, a white dwarf binary that could provide an observation of gravitational waves. It will be a few decades before the spacecraft is up for this, but you young folks can wait patiently.


What If? asks:What would happen if all the bodies of water on Earth
magically disappeared?

—Joanna Xu

Scary question and answer.

We have all at some time called tech support..

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more


     BC for 7/4/2014

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Jul/03/2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pollyanna wishes you a happy Midsummer Day

Pollyanna says hi and takes you to Stonehenge for Midsummer Day:

On Midsummer Day in 1999 our Ari came into the world. He had a medically rough early few years, but he is our delightful teenager today. Pollyanna, Titan and YandA join in wishing him a very happy birthday with much love.


For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has 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.

10 Days to Invest
This week Pollyanna refers you to Because I am a Girl, a charity sponsored by PlanUSA to help girls around the world. There are several projects for helping girls and Pollyanna and the rest of us here ask you to watch the video and then choose the project that fits you best.


The Washington DC team in the National Football league is known as the Redskins, which is certainly demeaning to Native Americans.
Pollyanna is pleased to pass on to you the news that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office,  has ruled that the name is disparaging and has stripped it of copyright protection. The fight will go on, but this is a step forward.

Pollyanna says cheers to Betsy Benjaminson, the Israeli-American translator who blew Toyota's cover on the lethal flaws in the accelerator system of its cars that cost the lives of many people.
Betsy Benjaminson with her lawyers Dor Heskia (left) and Amos Hacmun
Betsy Benjaminson flanked by her lawyers Dor Heskia (left) and Amos Hacmun. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Toyota has paid out billions to settle lawsuits. It gives you pause to think that a corporation will risk your life to enhance profits. The mass recall by General Motors is making news now. The flawed ignition switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt could easily slip into the “off” position—cutting power, stalling the engine, and disabling airbags just when they’re needed most. The part has been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes.
In 2006 the wreck of a 2005 Cobalt killed two and injured one
In 2006 the wreck of a 2005 Cobalt killed two and injured one

The whistleblower was silenced and pushed out of his job.The “Valukas Report,” named for former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who assembled it at GM’s request from interviews with 230 witnesses and 41 million documents, blamed a culture of complacency for the more than decade-long delay before the company recalled millions of faulty vehicles. Cheers also to the GM hero Courtland Kelley.

This week Pollyanna is ranting about infringement of a woman's right to choose in matters involving pregnancy and abortion. Her focus is on two countries in particular, Spain and Argentina. The law that guarantees women and girls access to safe and legal abortion services in Spain is at risk of being significantly amended, taking the country back decades to a precarious time. There are serious concerns for their health and lives if these changes are introduced. The government must withdraw the bill immediately. Pollyanna asks you to open the link and take action. She also calls your attention to the work of Socorristas En Red - Socorro Rosa: A Feminist Practice For The Right To Choose In Argentina. Abortion is illegal in Argentina, with three exceptions: when the pregnancy was the result of a rape, abuse against a woman with a mental disability and when the pregnant woman’s life or health are at risk. However, even these cases often end up before the Courts and women continue to undergo surgical clandestine abortions that put their lives at risk. AWID talked to feminist activist Dahiana Belfiori about the feminist collective that is implementing safe accompaniment for women opting for medical abortion.
Socorristas en Red - Socorro Rosa: A feminist practice for the right to choose in Argentina
Photo: La Revuelta Colectiva Feminista

Pollyanna would also like to remind you of her rant on a similar issue in El Salvador in her last blog posting.

Pollyanna is venturing into the minefield of the local conflict to express her protest over the kidnapping of three teenage yeshiva students by unknown Palestinian militants. She joins the protest of Amnesty International along with their call to refrain from collective punishment of the Palestinian population.
Israeli soldiers interrogate a Palestinian family.
Israeli soldiers interrogate a Palestinian family during a raid in the West Bank refugee camp of Jalazon, north of Ramallah, June 16, 2014. Photo by AFP
While Pollyanna understands the need for the victims' families to seek consolation in prayer, she agrees with Uri Misgav that the mass prayer meeting going on in the media and everywhere else is revolting and enhances the religious ideology that is eroding our national identify. We quote Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary: “Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.” She also agrees with Gideon Levi that it is hypocritical for us to cry foul over the hostage-taking in view of our actions in the past. It also would be helpful if we had a security establishment that was worth more than a "a bucket of warm piss" to paraphrase the late John Nance Garner's description of the vice-presidency of the US. The media tell us that the PM and the CoC are "evaluating the situation blah blah" while their  incompetence  screams to the high heavens.  Here are our great heroes in all their glory.
Netanyahu and senior defense officials during a security briefing on Saturday
Netanyahu and senior defense officials wanking off on camera
 One of the victims even managed to call the police to say that they had been kidnapped. The police brushed it off as a joke.

Picasso's The Blue Room was among the first paintings produced during the legendary artist's "blue period," a multi-year span that saw him focus on somber works using mostly shades of blue.

But this early work contains a fascinating mystery of its own: a hidden portrait of a man that art experts are hoping to identify.
Image AP/ Evan Vucci
The portrait of the mysterious man on the right was discovered under Picasso's 'The Blue Room.' (AP/ EVAN VUCCI)

Portrait of Alan Turing from archive of papers relating to the development of computing at the National Physical Laboratory between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. Includes material on Pilot ACE, ALGOL, Alan Turing etc. 74 boxes + 1 envelope. CREDIT: Science Museum, London/SSPL
Alan Turing from archive of papers relating to the development of computing at the National Physical Laboratory between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. (Science Museum, London/SSPL)
We are told that a computer program has passed the Turing test. Can a computer trick a human into thinking it is actually a fellow human? That question gave birth to the “Turing Test” 65 years ago. You might wonder if the humans that tested it were up to it...

OTOH, we also have a failure. Quantum computers have been long touted as the Holy Grail of computer speed and efficiency. Google spent $15 million on such a device and after rigorous tests it was found to be no faster than conventional computers. Read all about it in Science. Our hearts weep peanut butter for poor baby Google.

You all recall "Painless Pole" the dentist in M.A.S.H. with his hilarious sex problems. It now appears that painless dentistry will soon be with us. Scientists have developed a new pain-free filling that allows cavities to be repaired without drilling or injections. The tooth-rebuilding technique, developed at King's College London, does away with fillings and instead encourages teeth to repair themselves.
The new treatment, Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER), could be available within three years. Photograph: Hermes Morrison 2/Alamy
 Pollyanna is all in favor of it and is glad indeed.

A new food substitute has come out of the Silicon Valley and it seems to be gaining popularity. Rob Rhinehart was getting fed up on the hassle of food expenses and preparation. He is twenty five, studied electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, and he began to consider food as an engineering problem. “You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself,” he said. “You need carbohydrates, not bread.” Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but they’re “mostly water.” He began to think that food was an inefficient way of getting what he needed to survive. “It just seemed like a system that’s too complex and too expensive and too fragile,” he told, the New Yorker writer who interviewed him. If the New Yorker link does not open, you can read about it in the Guardian. The product known as Soylent is a drinkable mix of vegetable oil and nutrients.
Tasters have compared Soylent to Cream of Wheat and “my grandpa’s Metamucil.”
Tasters have compared Soylent to Cream of Wheat and “my grandpa’s Metamucil.” Photograph by Henry Hargreaves.
 It is open source on the Web and you can make your own if you wish. It is obviously not for everyone and the name evokes a disgusting movie, but who are we to judge?

When we were in school we suffered reprimands and hassle because of our bad handwriting. We seem to have passed this mild alexia on to our progeny.

Our handwriting did not lead us to medical school and our grades went up when we learned to type and started submitting typed (yes children, there once were machines called typewriters before computers and printers) homework. Now we are told that handwriting is good for our cognitive processes, which is quite interesting, although not everyone agrees.

Pollyanna is sure that you all have been losing sleep, as she has, over the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe. If at the time of the Big Bang equal amounts of matter and antimatter had come into being, they should have annihilated one another and there would have been no matter, no stars, no us, nothing. A major step towards understanding why this did not take place is the recent accurate measurement of the magnetic moment of the proton. The magnetic moment is one of the fundamental properties of protons, which combine with neutrons to form the nucleus of atoms. In principle, the method can also be used to measure the magnetic moment of an antiproton with a similarly high precision, making it possible to investigate matter/antimatter asymmetry. Pollyanna proposes a toast or antitoast to the researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) for their beautiful experimental work.
The oscillating proton (red) generates a tiny current which is recorded using highly sensitive electronic detectors. The red arrow represents the magnetic moment of the proton; the green lines indicate the magnetic field in the trap.
Credit: © Georg Schneider, JGU


What If? asks: As plastic is made from oil and oil is made from dead dinosaurs, how much actual real dinosaur is there in a plastic dinosaur? Steve Lydford

Interesting question and answer.

Randall has a good illustration of what is meant by global warming and this is not funny:

4.5 Degrees

 Poor Barney has a moral problem. Maybe he should turn atheist...
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jun/15/2014

 We should be careful in our use of words.
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jun/17/2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pollyanna greets you

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
NGC 2359: Thor's Helmet
Image Credit & Copyright: Bob and Janice Fera (Fera Photography)
Explanation: This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The sharp image, made using broadband and narrowband filters, captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures. It shows off a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

Pollyanna greets  you all again and would like to share something beautiful from the cosmos. Here is an image of a nebula known as Thor's Helmet because of its shape.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam, 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.

This week Pollyanna refers you to the Center for Biological Diversity. They have exciting good news that the State of  California has granted protected species status to wolves. The Center  announced the decision along with the news that the former lone wolf OR-7 has been seen with pups in southern Oregon.
OR-7's wolf pups

Wolves play an important ecological role, primarily in controlling the rodent population and are worthy of protection. They are also magnificent animals. Cheers and please send them a donation.

The grand lady of Israeli theater passed away this week at age 90. She had a long and most successful career despite setbacks that would have defeated a lesser person. In 1970, en route to London via Munich to audition for a part in the West End production of Fiddler on the Roof opposite fellow Israeli actor Chaim Topol, Maron was injured following a failed terrorist hijacking of her El Al flight and lost her left leg. After a hiatus, she returned to the stage and in the years to come became a vocal peace activist.
Hanna Maron - H 2014
Hanna Maron speaking at an anti-racism gathering in 2010.

She was born in Berlin where she appeared as a child actress at age 4 and in 1931 made her cinematic debut in Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang's thriller M. With the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933 her family emigrated to Palestine. She volunteered to entertain troops in WWII and after the war was among the founders of the Cameri theater in Tel Aviv. We have the DVD's of the 1980's sitcom Near Ones/Dear Ones in which she starred and find them still funny and the satire still relevant. She starred in numerous plays including Carlo Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, Arthur Miller's All My Sons, multiple Shakespearean plays and the musical Hello, Dolly.  

In 1973 she was awarded the annual Israel Prize, regarded as the state's highest honor. She was long upheld as one the country’s first ladies of theater and in 2011 was acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the actress with the longest theater career in history. She also took a major role in liberal and left wing politics. Pollyanna mourns the loss of a great person and actress.   A detailed obituary is in Haaretz.

The week's rant is about the intolerable situation of  women in El Salvador. Because of El Salvador’s absolute ban on all abortions, seventeen Salvadoran women who arrived at public health care facilities after suffering a miscarriage, stillbirth or other obstetric complication, often hemorrhaging and unconscious, were accused of provoking an abortion and turned over to police. They were prosecuted for aggravated homicide based on a constitutional amendment declaring that life begins at conception and now sit in prison, serving sentences of up to 40 years.

For the “crime” of having an obstetric complication while living in poverty, these women -- Alba, Carmen, Cintia, Ena, Evelyn, Guadalupe, Johana, Maria, Mariana, Marina, Maritza, Mirian, Mirna, Salvadora, Teodora, Teresa, and Veronica -- were vigorously prosecuted and harshly sentenced. Pollyanna calls upon all of you to join the call to the President of El Salvador to grant pardons to these most unfortunate women.

Pollyanna is also outraged over the discovery of 796 bodies of infants and small children in the septic tank of a convent in Ireland. If you saw the film Philomena you should be aware of the system of nun operated orphanages in which unwed mothers and their children were exploited and abused in Ireland. The orphanage in question in Tuam county, Galway, operated from 1926 until 1961. A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living in the Tuam orphanage alongside 61 unwed mothers. The local Archbishop is talking about getting the sisters of the order that ran the hell house to put up a memorial. Local people are talking about church accountability and a state-funded investigation and excavation of the site.
An Irish historian discovered this 1920s photo of children at an Irish orphanage in Galway county, along with a Connaught Tribune news story about potentially moving the children's orphanage to Tuam, where a researcher now believes nearly 800 dead infants were buried in a mass grave between the 1920s and '60s.
An Irish historian discovered this 1920s photo of children at an Irish orphanage in Galway county, along with a Connaught Tribune news story about potentially moving the children's orphanage to Tuam, where a researcher now believes nearly 800 dead infants were buried in a mass grave between the 1920s and '60s.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew recognition of the unions of the UN employees last year. Pollyanna is pleased to pass on to you the news that recognition has been restored. This is a result of the explosion of anger from unions and working people all over the world. The Secretary-General has agreed a new negotiating system that significantly improves on the UN Staff Management Committee (SMC) rules that applied previously.
Pollyanna is pleased to note that despite all the hysteria of the energy industry after President Obama's pollution cut announcement, ten states have implemented such cuts with no real economic damage. It should be clear that short term profits of special and well heeled interests need not impact the real public interest in saving our planet.  Pollyanna is right with you Mr. President.


You will recall that last March Titan told you about the great discovery of gravitational waves by the Biceps2 telescope. At the time, the phrase in the background was "if the results hold up to further scrutiny."

In the meantime, as happens in science, various people have been taking a hard look at the data and the claims are expressing severe doubts about the validity of the results. The question raised in a Nature blog was whether the foreground dust and the polarization it could have caused was accounted for properly. The answer to that question will only be out when the full Planck spacecraft data set is published in the fall.
Preliminary data from the Planck probe on how galactic dust scatters microwave radiation, presented at an April 2013 meeting, are now being used to evaluate the strength of signals from the primordial Universe.

In the meantime, the observers are standing by their results. They used partial Planck data from a slide, so called data scraping, which is legitimate practice to reach the conclusion that the observation is real. Brian Koberlein writing in Universe Today tends to support the observers. Stay tuned.


New techniques may make it possible to restore an old drawing about 500 years old by Leonardo da Vinci. The mysterious da Vinci portrait, widely considered to be a self-portrait of the artist, was drawn with red chalk on paper in the early 1500s and has since been fading.

A self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci done in red chalk.Leonardo da Vinci, ca. 1510-1515
If the restoration succeeds, it will be a great boon to art and history.

Not only painting, but sound recordings, especially old ones are subject to decay. A Berkeley physicist, Carl Haber, has been using techniques that were applied to the Higgs hunt at CERN to restore ancient sound recordings.
He was awarded a MacArthur genius grant to pursue this development and Pollyanna is most impressed. Read the link for fascinating details.

The late great physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) asked the question "if the time for a civilization to spread through the galaxy is short compared to the lifetime of the galaxy, then were are they, if they exist?"   Fermi's colleague  Leo Szilard, is said to have assured him that they are here among us and are known as Hungarians. Randall has revived the question in the light of the discovery of exosolar planets.


What If? asks: I was watching this video and was wondering: How
many birds there would need to be for gravity to take over and
force them into a gargantuan ball of birds?

—Justin Basinger

Relax, we are not going to be overwhelmed with starling clouds.

Have you ever wondered what drove Tom Lehrer to become an enemy of
Wizard of Id

We will even forgive Randall for this:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pollyanna again

Fresco restored to Herodian palace at Masada
Pollyanna would like to provide some relief from the dour picture brother Titan unloaded on you last week. To his credit, he did have a few positive things to report. Pollyanna also has a few nice things to tell you. First, she is delighted to show you one of the frescoes restored to the palace of King Herod (37-4 BCE) in Masada. She salutes the team headed by Italian expert renovator Prof. Maurizio Tagliapietra of the University of Verona and including employees of the Israel Parks and Nature Authority. Cheers! Later she will also have some things to be upset about.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has 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.

Last week we saw a beautiful documentary film about Louis Sarno, the musicologist who lives among his Bayaka friends and family in the Central African Republic.
 Donate to Global Voice

He spends much of his time and energy supporting the Bayaka in various ways, most significantly by distributing medication and food to those in need. But the current civic war in the CAR means that tourism – the most important source of income for Louis in recent years – has more or less stopped. Through "Global Voice“ you can help Louis and the Bayaka of Yandoumbé to survive even in these difficult times. If the link works for you, you can donate via PayPal. If not, as happened to Pollyanna, send a check to Global Voice Foundation 133 East De La Guerra Street #160 Santa Barbara CA 93101 USA Here is a trailer of the film.

Pope Francis adjusts his skullcap during the weekly general audience at St Peter's square.
It would better be to lower expectations ahead of next week's Mideast visit by Pope Francis. Photo by AFP
Pollyanna is delighted to welcome Pope Francis I on the occasion of his visit to Israel. She hopes that the visit will go off well and that no major hate crimes by Orthodox Jews sully the occasion. She agrees that the visit is primarily religious and no one should expect any great political or diplomatic effects. Already the anti-Christian graffiti have appeared, but let us hope that nothing worse happens.
Graffiti on the wall of a Be'er Sheva church. Quote:"Jesus is an SOB." Photo by Israel Police
Cheers to the Pontiff and enjoy your visit.

Pollyanna would like to call your attention to a Web site launched early this year as a cooperative effort of AWID, Mama Cash and the Guardian newspaper. The founders regard this collaboration as an opportunity to achieve these goals:

  •     bring a rights based analysis to a broad and powerful audience
  •     increase the visibility of women’s rights organizing and make the case for more and better resources for women’s rights advocates, organizations and movements
  •     influence key global policy processes and debates related to the post-2015 agenda
  •     raise the visibility of women human rights defenders at risk
  •     support more diverse voices to frame debates and set priorities about women’s, girls and trans* people’s rights and the changes that are needed at global, regional and national levels

Pollyanna recommends that you all take a look at the site as well as at the links to AWID and Mama Cash, a major funder for women's rights activity.
Transgender and Intersex Africa

Also, last week Titan promoted the initiative of a group of Israeli women to take Palestinian children to the sea. Although they live not far from the Mediterranean, most Palestinian children have never seen it. This project has taken wing and expanded. Please help take a kid to the beach. Pollyanna joins the call.

This week's rant is about the tragic coal mine accident in Turkey that claimed over 300 lives. It could have been prevented and serves as a reminder that privatization of an industry can lead to a lack of regulation and relaxing of safety standards. The BP massive oil leak catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago was, as stated explicitly by President Obama, a result of the cozy relationship between corporations and regulators. The privatization of British Rail in the 1990's led to an increase in accidents and the eventual renationalization of the main rail operating entity. The disastrous chemical spill in West Virginia is certainly related to the cutbacks in environmental control and supervision of the coal and chemical industries, as noted in the New Yorker. This quote tells it all:  
"The state has become a standard-bearer for pro-business, limited-government conservatism. The day before the chemical spill, the governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, delivered his State of the State address, criticizing federal environmental regulators and vowing, “I will never back down from the E.P.A., because of its misguided policies on coal.” Tomblin, a conservative Democrat elected in 2011, cut corporate taxes and denounced the federal government for overstepping its authority. To balance the budget, he tapped other government funds and called for broad cuts, including reducing agency spending by seventy million dollars. For the second consecutive year, West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection would take a 7.5-per-cent cut in state funds, dropping to its lowest level since 2008."
To Pollyanna, it is clear that the rush for short term profits and the corruption entailed by the government-industry cohabitation leads to an inevitable devaluation of human life and basic rights. The public needs to be more aware and to stand up to the bad guys.

BTW, Pollyanna notes that protesters were abused when PM  Erdogan visited the disaster site at Soma.
Yusuf Yerkel, left, adviser to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, kicking a protestor as Special Forces police officers detain him during a protest against Erdogan's visit to Soma, May 14, 2014. Photo by Reuters

It is also typical that the a newspaper supportive of Erdogan blames the Turkish mine disaster on Jews. 

Last March a science fair of sorts was held in Tel Aviv. It was designed to tout the achievements of the hi-tech industry and of course to expose children to rockets and
weapon systems in the style of North Korea.  It might have been more appropriate to focus on medical research or even astronomy, but in militaristic Israel, this is what you get.
Daniel Bar On
The Israel Science Day at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. March 26, 2014. Photo by Daniel Bar On
In one of the exhibits, set up to demonstrate rocket launching, an accident took place, three children were burned and there was no ambulance on hand. The children were burned badly and the mother asks about accountability for the lack of safety precautions at the site. As Haaretz wrote at the time, "Israel may have incredible technological accomplishments in weapons and defense systems. But when it comes to taking care of its own people, this country is as incompetent as an ambulance driver with a burned child." Her op-ed piece in Haaretz was unfortunately not translated. Pollyanna wonders why.

Israel's Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv basketball team defeated Real Madrid 98-86, in overtime, and won the Euroleague championship  in Milan on Sunday evening. This is the club's sixth European championship title. Thousands turned out at Rabin Square to cheer the champions. Pollyanna watched the game and is glad to extend her congratulations.

We have long been admirers of the literary work of John Updike.
‘A priapic male gaze? John Updike in the mid-1960s.
A priapic male gaze? John Updike in the mid-1960s. Photograph: Susan Wood/Getty Images

Pollyanna, therefore, welcomes the new biography of Updike which provides much insight into the life and work of the writer.  The book by Adam Begley  is reviewed in the Guardian/Observer. It is well worth your attention


The concept of a black hole as a one way road to oblivion has been called into question by no less than Stephen Hawking. Much attention is now being paid to the question of what happens at the so-called event horizon.  Imagine a poor astronaut arriving there.

Astronomers know that virtually every galaxy harbors a giant black hole at its center, shaping the formation of millions of stars and even neighboring galaxies with its immense gravitational influence. Galaxies also contain millions of small- and medium-sized black holes, each with an event horizon past which light is never seen again. The idea that if a black hole evaporates eventually all the information that has gone into is lost is in conflict with quantum mechanics. What is happening?  Read on to see details of this mystery. Pollyanna thinks it is cool that physics is facing one crisis after another. As the great Neils Bohr said: "How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress."
In her March 14 blog this year Pollyanna expressed her delight and hopes for new cancer therapies based on harnessing the human immune system. This week she wants to tout an alternative approach, a silver bullet particle irradiation therapy evolving out of research at the Large Hadron Collider where scientists are developing a new and more effective alternative to radiotherapy which treats tumors with high-powered beams of positively charged particles at a greater accuracy than current radiotherapy techniques. Proton beam therapy enables doctors to target precisely tumors with a focused beam of protons, leaving the nearby tissue undamaged which minimizes the risk of unpleasant side effects. We underwent gamma ray therapy in 2002 for prostate cancer which in turn, because of poor focusing, led to a bout of bladder cancer in 2008.  Pollyanna and her family wish all success to all who toil in the vineyard of medical research and the improvement of means of healing.

The Ice Saints is a name given to St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius in much European folklore. They are so named because their feast days fall on the days of May 11, May 12, and May 13 respectively which , as discussed in the Guardian, are supposed to be days of cold snaps in May.
Young rabbit frosty May morning
It can get cold in May as this young Scottish rabbit discovered one frosty morning in 2009. Photograph: Duncan Shaw/Alamy
In the early 20th century, statisticians claimed to have debunked this as myth, but the so-called blackthorn winter belief persists and gardeners in many countries wait with spring planting until the cold saints have passed. While this indeed may be folklore, a climatological study carried out in the 1960's, using a century of meteorological data,  produced phenomena that showed preference for particular calendar days such as the breakdown of the stratospheric night polar vortex and intrusions of cold air in springtime into Europe.

What if?  asks:
What if you were to somehow ignite the pollen that floats around in the air in spring? Other than being a really bad idea, what effect would it have?
Jessica Thornburg
The answer is not reassuring to people with hay fever, but  otherwise it would not raise the temperature much unless you decided to concentrate it.

Finally the truth about the horny head boss:
 Dilbert Cartoon for May/22/2014

As mosquito season moves in, we swear by our blue light zapper. Fortunately, none of us hear well:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for May/18/2014 

In Israel the Army is again demanding more money to pay its inflated salaries and buy more useless toys:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for May/14/2014