Cluster Map

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pollyanna and Titan are with you again.



 

Pollyanna and Titan have decided to pay you a visit again, this time on Pollyanna's site for the sake of equality, under the nom de plume of P_T. This is best represented by an image of an inverted teepee..
inverted teepee...


Pollyanna, Titan and YandA, the amanuensis and imaginary playmates, would like to wish a Happy Purim
 Image result for purim 2016
and a Happy Easter
Image result for happy easter 2014

to those who celebrate them. They also congratulate those born in the Year of the Monkey Monkey
 which began on February 8, 2016 (called the Lunar Chinese New Year or Chinese Spring Festival) and will last to January 27, 2017. They also note that Daylight Saving Time begins in Israel next Friday and would like to remind everyone to move his/her clock forward,
well almost everyone.
Doomsday Clock

CHARITY

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Pollyanna hopes that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations. We also invite you to go there for the sake of indigenous peoples and enslaved persons.

IN MEMORIAM 

Harper Lee April 28, 1926-February 19, 2016


Writer Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. In 1959, she finished the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird.
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harper Lee during a ceremony on November 5, 2007, in the East Room of the White House. "'To Kill a Mockingbird' has influenced the character of our country for the better,” said President Bush. “It's been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever.” (Photo: Eric Draper, via The White House)
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harper Lee during a ceremony on November 5, 2007, in the East Room of the White House. "'To Kill a Mockingbird' has influenced the character of our country for the better,” said President Bush. “It's been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever.” (Photo: Eric Draper, via The White House)
Soon after, she helped fellow-writer and friend Truman Capote write an article for The New Yorker which would later evolve into his nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. In July 2015, Lee published her second novel Go Set a Watchman, which was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and portrays the later lives of the characters from her first novel. Lee died on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89. A detailed obituary can be found in the Guardian.

SCIENCE, FRAUD AND TRAGEDY 

Pollyanna is linking you to a New Yorker article about a scientific breakthrough that fizzled and came down to allegations of fraud and a suicide. A group of scientists in Japan and the US came up with the idea of STAP, for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. The idea was so simple as to be heretical: ordinary cells could be turned into stem cells by subjecting them to profound stress.
A group of researchers believed that subjecting tissues to trauma could give ordinary cells stem-cell-like properties.





 Few cells could survive the abuse, but those which did emerged transformed, apparently able to make any cell in the body. Alas, it turned out to be wrong and terrible things happened. It would have provided an infinite source of stem cells free of the ethical issues involved today in harvesting of embryonic cells. There is a  message here for all scientists. We have also posted it to Facebook.

THE RANT 

Pollyanna and Titan always have a rant. This time they are outraged over a few things including the brutal murder of Berta Cáceres, leader and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), who was shot dead in her home on 3 March in the town of La Esperanza, in the province of Intibuc?, west Honduras.
 Image result for berta Cáceres
Her murder sends a chilling message to all human rights defenders in Honduras. If the perpetrators are not found and brought to justice, the Honduran government will have blood on its hands.

We also wish to call your attention to the widespread trafficking in human beings that has become a plague on humanity. Please lend your support to Stop the Traffik who are fighting the slave trade worldwide.

US POLITICS 

Pollyanna et al. are for Bernie, but of course will line up with whomever the party nominates. Otherwise...

GRAVITATIONAL WAVES OBSERVED!! 

For the first time ever, a gravitational wave has been observed. A team of global researchers announced the finding on Thursday, February 11. The discovery comes 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his theory of general relativity. This is a most exciting finding.

A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of moving ripples in space and time.




 If the New Yorker link does not open for you, there are other  descriptions. Pollyanna has long regarded this as the Holy Grail of all science and is delighted. We recall our old professor at Maryland, Joseph Weber, who devoted his career to the search and our late colleague in Tel Aviv, Dror Sadeh, who thought he had nailed the waves in seismic observations. Imagine two monster black holes spinning down on each other in space. One has a mass which is about 35 times that of our Sun, the other roughly 30. At the moment just before they coalesce, they are turning around each other several tens of times a second. And then, their event horizons merge and they become one - like two soap bubbles in a bath. The amount of energy released was so huge that it was detectable at a distance about 1.3 billion light-years from Earth. Cheers to science done properly says Pollyanna.

THE BIGGIE IS COMING. 

Many people think that the San Andreas fault will be the source of the next major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. Wrong, the Cascadia subduction zone will provide something much worse. The New Yorker gives us a detailed description of this calamity waiting to happen.
The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.





WHIG HISTORY OF SCIENCE 

You might find the essay on this topic by the Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg in the New York Review of Books interesting as well as the comment and exchange that followed. Whig history is a form of liberalism, putting its faith in the power of human reason to reshape society for the better, regardless of past history and tradition. It proposes the inevitable progress of mankind.

‘Scenography of the Copernican World System’; engraving from Andreas Cellarius’s Harmonia macrocosmica, 1660
‘Scenography of the Copernican World System’; engraving from Andreas Cellarius’s Harmonia macrocosmica, 1660
Pollyanna posted it to Facebook for those who might have difficulty in opening NYRB. P_T certainly agree with this attitude and pin their hopes for the future on the ability of human beings to be rational. Of course, a look at a newspaper paints a different picture. It may be rational in some perverted sense for the Koch brothers to deny climate change for the sake of their short term profits. What is depressing is that there are countless people who deny climate change out of contrariness or simple ignorance. We cannot but be reminded of the famous quote attributed to Giordano Bruno:"Ignorance is the most delightful science in the world because it is acquired without labor or pains and keeps the mind from melancholy."  Pollyanna will risk being sued by WUMO in order to get this point across.



In this context, P_T tell you of something that would be funny if it were not so tragic. It is hard to believe, but a town in the U.S., Woodland, North Carolina, has just blocked construction of a solar farm, in part due to fears it would drain the Sun’s energy, Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald reports. By a vote of 3-1, council members approved the rejection of the planned rezoning on the grounds of concerns that had been raised by the public. For instance, Woodland resident Jane Mann, a retired science teacher, feared that vegetation in the area would suffer through a lack of photosynthesis, an energy-making process that requires sunlight. Her anecdotal evidence comes in the form of dead plants she has observed around solar panels. Disappointingly, she is not alone in her beliefs: another resident also said that the farm would suck up the Sun’s energy. Obviously science education leaves much to be desired, Lord help us!

BOOK REVIEW 

The Irish-language writer Máirtín Ó Cadhain published a novel in 1950 entitled  “Cré na Cille” (“Churchyard Clay”). It is considered one of the great masterpieces of Irish language literature, but languished without an English translation for nearly seventy years, mainly because no one dared to take on the task lest its place in the canon could be damaged. Now we have two translations, The first one, published under the title “The Dirty Dust,” appeared last March; the second one, more literally titled “Graveyard Clay,” is out this month. These two translations—different from one another in ways large and small—lay to rest the fable of the “perfect” translation. The New Yorker reviews both and a review of "The Dirty Dust" is in the Guardian. It is a novel in which all the characters are dead. They are buried in a graveyard in Connemara and continue with venom the disputes that sustained them in their previous lives.

'Ó Cadhain achieves a perfect synthesis of style and subject' … a graveyard in Ireland.
‘Ó Cadhain achieves a perfect synthesis of style and subject’ … a graveyard in Ireland. Photograph: Design Pics/Gareth McCormack/Getty Images/Perspectives
 Their only sustenance is when a new corpse arrives to tell them about the latest tittle-tattle, scandals, suppositions, rumors and even occasionally the truth about what is happening “up there”. A film, in Irish,  has also been made of the story.
.

SILLY TIME

What IF? 

What percentage of the Sun's heat (per day) does the population of Earth eat in calories per year? What changes could be made to our diets for the amount of calories to equal the energy of the Sun?

—James Mitchell The answer is interesting as usual.


SIDE EFFECTS 

Anyone who has gone through any form of therapy for nasty diseases in which the
the side effects are not much better than the disease will appreciate this.





Friday, January 1, 2016

T_P bring you a wigwam.

Algonquin wigwam
 
Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves  as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. This week, however, we are witnessing the end of a year and the usual hopeful thoughts for the New Year. In the light of this,T_P have decided to bring out an end of year wigwam. In general, they will show up together whenever the urge hits them.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

IN MEMORIAM KURT MASUR 1927-2015.

The great conductor Kurt Masur died this month. He was well known to us in Israel for he visited often from 1986 on.  He was given credit for the rehabilitation of the NY Philharmonic after the tenures of Boulez and Mehta. He will certainly be missed. There are detailed obituaries in both the NYTimes and the Guardian.







Kurt Masur leading the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in 1998 as it played compositions by George Gershwin, including “An American in Paris.” Credit Chris Lee

RANT AROUND A ROSIE, A POCKET FULL OF...


There is, as usual, much to rant about, but since this a joint effort we shall try to be a bit more gentle than Titan on his own. We start with something positive, the concept of "basic income."
This is defined as: A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. It is a form of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various European countries in three important ways:

 1.   It is being paid to individuals rather than households;
  2.  It is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
  3.  It is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.

It is a guarantee by society of a minimum standard of living and  is now being implemented in the Dutch city Utrecht. This is an idea that goes back to Thomas Paine who wrote his last pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, in 1795. In this pamphlet Paine advocated the creation of a social insurance scheme for the aged and for young people just starting out in life. The benefits were to be paid from a national fund accumulated for this purpose. The fund was to be financed by a 10% tax on inherited property. A tax on inherited property was used because of Paine's general philosophy of property rights. Although he based his social insurance scheme on a line of argument that might sound quaint in the present era, in other respects his plan was quite modern, recognizing the problem of income security for the elderly, and the desirability of creating a national fund for this purpose. The idea is being promoted by a worldwide network that started in Europe, but has expanded greatly. Common to all is the belief that some sort of economic right based upon citizenship – rather than upon one’s relationship to the production process or one’s family status – is called for as part of the just solution to social problems in advanced societies.

Basic Income, conceived as a universal and unconditional, if modest, continuous stream of income granted throughout life to all members of a political community is just the simplest and most striking element in an expanding set of social policy proposals inspired by this belief and currently debated, if not already implemented.

The most famous implementation of this idea in modern times was in the city of Dauphine, in the Canadian province of Manitoba. It was called Mincome and between the years 1972 to 1979 checks were issued to the working poor of the town. In 1971, at a federal-provincial conference held in Victoria, Manitoba expressed interest in being the testing ground for a guaranteed income project. The Schreyer government applied for funding. In June, 1974, Mincome was approved.

The program quickly grew from modest origins. The NDP thought it would cost slightly more than $500,000 and involve somewhere between 300 and 500 families. It was perceived that teenagers stayed in school longer because they didn't have to get jobs to support their families. People could afford medical and dental care. Stress was down because people didn't have to worry about providing for their families.

The project ultimately cost more than $17 million and helped 1,000 families. When Conservatives came to power in Winnipeg and Ottawa, the program came to an end. The Utrecht program differs in that it is limited to people on welfare. It will be interesting to see how it works and whether if spreads to other cities and countries.

ON ISLAMOPHOBIA 

Despite constituting a significant minority in western countries, Muslims around the world are subject to disproportionate, unjustifiable bias. Such attitudes distance them from their most fundamental social rights by portraying them as extremists and fanatics. The group is represented as able to endanger the interests of Europe and America. Overall, what is clear is that Muslims in the West are treated as second-class citizens; their social rights and freedom seem to be abrogated.
Western mainstream media regularly associate terrorism with Islam and attribute terrorist activities to Muslims. The European governments overtly express their disdain for Islam and the Muslims, allowing the enactment of laws which limit and restrain social liberties of Muslims.

The integration of the tens of millions of Muslims living in the Western world should be a matter of prime importance both to the governments and societies and to the leadership of the Muslim communities. Haroon Moghul writing in Quartz, puts forward a road map for the Muslim communities in the West. It is worth reading since it is a voice of reason in a sphere which is full of bigotry and ranting. T_P believe firmly that the pathways of blind hatred can only lead to greater disasters.
No turning back now. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

COMFORT WOMEN

Protestors sit next to a statue (C) of a South Korean teenage girl in traditional costume called the 'peace monument' for former 'comfort women' who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War Two, during a weekly anti-Japanese demonstration near the Japanese embassy in Seoul on 11 November 2015.
Activists for comfort women erected a statue of a girl which they call a 'peace monument' outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011
 In WWII over 200,000 Korean women were kidnapped to be sex slaves ("comfort women") for Japanese soldiers. Japan has at last apologized deeply for this crime against and will pay 1bn yen ($8.3m, £5.6m) - the amount South Korea asked for - to fund victims. Over 70 years have passed and only a few of them are still alive. Let us wish the survivors some comfort in these last years of their lives.

JUSTICE FOR RANA PLAZA VICTIMS 

Murder indictments have been handed down against those alleged to be responsible for the disaster. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, on the outskirts of Dhaka on 24 April 2013, is widely thought to be one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.At least 1,135 people died in the tragedy and more than 2,000 people were injured. Let us hope for justice to be done.
rana plaza
Rescue workers and volunteers search for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in April 2013

HOME SWEET HOME

FASCISM ANYONE? 

Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University.
Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University. credit Oren Ziv
For years we, especially Titan, have raved and ranted about the erosion of democracy in Israel. More and more anti-democratic legislation is being passed, the latest aimed at NGO's that criticize the government or heaven forbid,the army. Bradley Burston, writing in Haaretz, points out that we on the liberal side have to do something before it is too late. "I'm sick to death of the Zionism of horseshit, of the incitement which prides itself on hatred and, yes, that 'beautiful face' of fascism. It's up to every one of us.We can stand up now, or be put down later. Like dogs."

What used to be regarded as shameful has become mainstream. The glorification of the Dawabsha family murder at a wedding is a symptom of what we have become.
Screenshot from a video showing extremist Israeli Jewish wedding-goers celebrating the killings of the Dawabsha family. (screen capture: Channel 10)
Screenshot from a video showing extremist Israeli Jewish wedding-goers celebrating the killings of the Dawabsha family. (screen capture: Channel 10)


A few years ago Titan evaluated us by the Britt scale of fascism and found that we were only part way to the full fledged version. T_P suggest we look again at the 14 criteria and note how we have devolved. Note that the law being pushed through the Knesset against NGO's who support human rights is another facet of the rise of fascism in Israel.

We now have something new-Dorit Rabinyan’s new novel, “Borderlife” (Gader Haya, Am Oved Publishers, 344 pages; in Hebrew)  has been removed from the high school advanced literature curriculum on the grounds that it might encourage assimilation, Lord help us. The novel itself received a less than rave review from Itzhak Laor, but that may have been colored by Laor's politics. We noted, on Facebook, that Rabinyan is in good company. The state of New Hampshire banned Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on the grounds that it encourages homosexuality. It is scant comfort to know that other education systems are administered by the same brand of idiots.  In New Hampshire the idiots backed down and now it appears that their counterparts in Israel are trying to climb down the proverbial tree as well. The novel, "Borderlife," by Dorit Rabinyan, can be studied in advanced literature studies classes, but not as part of the regular school curriculum, the ministry announced.

Copy of "Borderlife," by Dorit Rabinyan, at Israeli book store.
Copy of "Borderlife," by Dorit Rabinyan, at Israeli book store. credit Ofer Vaknin

BREAKING THE SILENCE 

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
This is an NGO of soldiers who have been forced to commit war crimes or have witnessed them and want the truth to be known about the "most moral army in the world." Recently fascist groups such as Im Tirzu (google it yourself, T_P will not contaminate their blog with their link), have launched nasty attacks to the point of questioning the loyalty of the people involved. Haggai Matar writing in +972 provides an analysis of why these soldiers are so hated by the right and by extension by the public. T_P love them.

SILLY TIME

Randal provides us with questions for the New Year






Your kid has a science project...

 



Have you raised a kid...



or are you unclear on the concept of something



We too went to see Star Wars...






Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pollyanna is back for a visit

Remember Pollyanna?
Pollyanna has become jealous of Titan, who has had a chance to blather at you.  She would like to celebrate Succot with you.
Image result for succoth

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Pollyanna  hopes that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

IN MEMORIAM 

Yogi Berra (1925-2015) , one of baseball’s greatest catchers and characters, who as a player was a mainstay of 10 Yankees championship teams and as a manager led both the Yankees and the Mets to the World Series —but who may be more widely known as an ungainly but lovable cultural figure, inspiring a cartoon character and issuing a seemingly limitless supply of unwittingly witty epigrams known as Yogi-isms — died on Tuesday. He was 90.
 
He may or may not have said all the things attributed to him and he certainly was no fool or dummy.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. An 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

He was also an astute businessman and a supporter of many causes. He supported the Yogi Berra learning center with the idea to teach children important values such as sportsmanship and dedication, both on and off the baseball diamond.

He is famous for many malapropisms most of which are apocryphal. He himself said "I never said the things I said." We link you  to a collection of quotes or non quotes. RIP Yogi, you exemplified worthy values both on and off the field. Mike Luckavich puts it well:


THE POPE IN THE US

The Pope is doing a good job of rattling the cages in the US and making people look at themselves.

Cheers Your Holiness! says Pollyanna.
 


 POT FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH 

Thanks to Judy who posted this article on Facebook. It appears that Israel is a major focus of research on the medicinal use of cannabis. Researchers come from other countries to work in the relaxed atmosphere. Israel's approach to cannabis is more liberal than those of most countries, but it is far from a free-for-all. The drug remains illegal for recreational use (although there are signs that this may be changing). Israel also refuses to export cannabis to other countries, despite plenty of interest.
Many researchers consider that this kind of balanced approach may be an important factor in why cannabis research in Israel is taken seriously; the herb is treated as a drug that needs to be studied in order to be safely used, just like any other.  We cannot but be reminded of the cancer patient who was told by his oncologist that he could get cannabis to alleviate the effects of the chemotherapy. His reply-"Doctor, I am 56 years old. Where were you 40 years ago when I really needed you?" Titan recently discussed cannabis and Shakespeare.

THE RANT 

Of course, we cannot go without a rant. Pollyanna  chooses to rant about the status of women and girls in Burkina Faso. Imagine not knowing that sex could make you pregnant. Imagine finding out how to prevent a pregnancy only after you’d had your third or fourth child. Now imagine being refused contraception – the pill or condoms – just because you don’t have your partner’s or in-law’s permission. This is the reality for many women and girls in Burkina Faso today. Even if they have permission, they may not have enough money to pay for it: emergency contraception can cost as much as one-fifth of your monthly income if you are earning minimum wage. The consequences of these barriers to contraception are unwanted, unplanned and sometimes risky pregnancies. In the end, women and girls are denied the right to make crucial choices that belong to them – an abuse of their sexual and reproductive rights. Pollyanna asks you to open the link and to take action to end this sorry state of affairs. She also would like to link you to an interview on gender equality with  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the  UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN  Women.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women

IN PRAISE OF TEACHING IGNORANCE

Far too often, students and the public, fall into the trap of believing that the conventional wisdom at any time on any subject is the full extent of knowledge about that subject. The truth is that the gaps in our knowledge, be they in medicine or in physics or whatever, are the engine that drives our curiosity and motivates our efforts to carry out research in order to learn more. In a NYTimes article, Jamie Holmes makes the case, with ample references, for the need to emphasize the interface between the unknown and the known. In our experience, the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini spacecraft projects confounded our expectations and the old received wisdom in an wonderful way. Yes, Titan, we hear you chuckling out there...

 FILM REVIEW 

Pollyanna brings you reviews of the film Ex Machina by Alex Garland. This is a challenging sci-fi that we intend to see.  The Guardian gives us a discussion by Mark Kermode and Metacritic  sums up the reviews of 42 critics, most of them positive.

BOOK REVIEW 

Tim Parks reviews the latest translation to English of a collection of stories by Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012) in the NY Review of Books. In the process, as a translator of Tabucchi, he draws on several other books to fill in the background on this interesting writer. Tabucchi was a major figure in the anti-Berlusconi camp. He also would have no truck with the attempts to rehabilitate Italy's Fascist past. Interviewed in La Stampa he declared that: "This correction of history which is frequently produced by a rich, cynical society, totally insensitive to moral questions, is repellent to me … I think that fascism is a great historical wound which is not yet healed." Pollyanna says a great Amen to that.
parks_1-060415.jpg
David Clifford/4SEE/Redux Antonio Tabucchi, Lisbon, Portugal, November 2011

SILLY TIME

What IF? What if the Earth were made entirely of protons, and the
Moon were made entirely of electrons?

—Noah Williams WOW! Nothing like this has ever come up in What If?
and it is about as destructive as you can imagine, but fun to think
about.

CEREBRAL PROSTITUTION

Woody Allen, writing in the New Yorker over 40 years ago, introduces us to a different kind of call girl, with a university degree  and the kind of stimulation that you never find elsewhere.


 DANGERS OF TIME TRAVEL
 

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD BE TEACHERS, THERE IS A CYNTHIA IN YOUR FUTURE













Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pollyanna goes to Canada and the USA



 
Pollyanna has gone through an election campaign and its aftermath and now would like to get on with her life and yours. We shall presumably get a right wing government based on 67 out of 120 members and we shall see how well these idiots can really run a country. Maybe. if the public gets a good look at them not hiding behind some scapegoat such as Lapid, we can hope for an awakening. Pollyanna also announces that she, Titan and YandA are going to Canada in order to come out of Egypt and there will be no blogs until late April. Enjoy your respite. All four of them wish all their readers a happy and kosher Pesach. We wish all our Christian friends and readers a Happy Easter.

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

Pollyanna refers you this week to  the African Wildfife Foundation. Their mission:The African Wildlife Foundation, together with the people of Africa, works "to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever." In addition to the link given above to the Foundation Web site, Pollyanna offers you also a link to the Charity Watch analysis of the society. We think this charity is  worthy of your support.
Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros


IN MEMORIAM

FIRE IN BROOKLYN

Pollyanna mourns terrible and unnecessary loss of life. Seven children of one family died in a fire  in their home in Brooklyn a week ago  Friday. The mother and one daughter who managed to escape are in critical condition in the hospital. The children were taken to Jerusalem for burial. The  father is naturally distraught and no one can blame him. Yet, one must ask why there were no smoke detectors in the living quarters of the home and why a defective hot plate was left on overnight. He was away from his family for a Talmud study retreat. The poor man must be racked with guilt.. This is not the first fire in Brooklyn connected with observance of the Shabbat. It is wonderful to trust in the Lord, but one also needs to be competent. The tragedy has sparked a lively discussion of Shabbath safety. J.J. Goldberg in the Forward points out the dangers in observance. Certainly this is not a time for bashing the Orthodox, but more care should be taken with Sabbath observance.

AIR DISASTER

An Airbus 320 of Germanwings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) collided with a mountain in  the French Alps on Tuesday while en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona. All 150 people on board perished. It is one of the worst air disasters in recent history and initially was inexplicable. The aircraft was flying in perfect weather and there were no distress calls from the crew. The plane crashed after an eight-minute descent from 38,000 feet.When French air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:53 a.m., it was flying at just 6,000 feet and it flew into the mountainside shortly afterward. The terrain in that region reaches heights well over 6,000 feet.

A rescue helicopter over the French Alps near the crash site of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
Among the passengers there was a class of 16 German high school students and two teachers, who were returning from a study program near Barcelona. It has now come out that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked the captain out of the cockpit and crashed the plane deliberately. It is hard to imagine why and it is doubtful if we shall ever know.

Loss of life is terrible and the loss of young life is the worst. Pollyanna weeps.

REST IN PEACE KING RICHARD 


British Army pallbearers carried a coffin containing the exhumed remains of King Richard III to his final resting place: a marble tomb next to the altar in Leicester Cathedral. Credit Matt Short/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The skeletal remains of Richard III were reburied this week in Leicester Cathedral. He was killed at Bosworth Field in 1485 in the battle that led to the Tudor dynasty founded by Henry VII. He is still a controversial historic figure and the question of his guilt in the murder of his two nephews has never been fully resolved. In the meantime, we see him laid to rest with the final words of the Archbishop of Canterbury. “We have entrusted our brother Richard to God’s mercy,” he said, “and we now commit his human remains to the ground, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

CHEATING IN EXAMS 

Exams that can determine a future for a person are far too often the motivation for massive cheating. Academic and educational institutions try to fight against it,but often the scale is too great. In India a new level of cheating has caused a major scandal to erupt. Family members scaled the walls of buildings in which the exams were held and over 300 people were arrested in Bihar province. Near riots took place as police were forced to evacuate the area by firing in the air. It is obviously a societal issue of massive scale and the government will have to address it, if they really want to preserve the integrity of the education system.
View image on Twitter
India Today         @IndiaToday
300 arrested in anti-cheating operations in http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/bihar-anti-cheating-operations-nitish-kumar-matriculation-examination/1/425045.html 


RAPE WITH IMPUNITY 

Former star NFL safety Darren Sharper has pleaded (or plans to plead) guilty or no contest to rape and sexual assault charges involving nine women in four states. But thanks to his plea agreements and parole laws, it appears that he will end up serving only 10 years in prison for all those crimes.
Pollyanna thinks that this is outrageous as do many other progressives including one of his former teammates.
rtr4ujnu
Sharper with attorney Leonard Levine.
One year per rape--give us a break.

BIRTHDAY PAUL ERDOS March 26 1913-September 20, 1996. 

Erdos and Terence Tao
In this 1985 photo taken at the University of Adelaide, Erdős explains a problem to young mathematician Terence Tao — who was 10 years old at the time. Photo by Wikipedia
He was one of the great mathematicians of the last century. During his stay in Israel in the 1950's, we actually heard a lecture from him. He was in many ways an eccentric, but his genius was beyond dispute.

SCIENCE GOODIES

LIFE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM?

We have promised to keep you up to date on the Dawn-Ceres news.

 

It appears that Ceres may be spewing water from a geyser as do Europa and Enceladus. If this works out, Ceres will join the club of objects in the solar system that may harbor life or have done so in the past.  Curiosity, the rover on Mars, has come up with more indications that, in the past, Mars may well have supported life. Stay tuned.
Curiosity rover on Mars
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, shown at the John Klein drill site, has found signs of nitrates, compounds that could have provided essential nutrients to living things, if they ever existed on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Pollyanna likes this stuff.

THE PORCUPINE AS ARCHAEOLOGIST

Ruth Schuster, writing in Haaretz, tells us that a porcupine, innocently making a burrow in an archeological site, came up with a perfectly preserved oil lamp from the Roman-Byzantine period, about 1,400 years ago. Alas, it was confiscated by human archaeologists before the poor critter could sell it to a collector. Read all about it.
The Byzantine-era lamp found by a porcupine at Horbat Siv (IAA)
The Byzantine-era lamp found by a porcupine at Horbat Siv. Photo by Israel Antiquities Authority


EINSTEIN CONFIRMED AGAIN 

Over the last century various challenges have been raised against Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and they have all failed. The problem is that the theory is not consistent with Quantum Mechanics and one or both will have to be modified. The Grand Unified Theory is the Holy Grail of physics. A new study, led by Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University, a former student of ours, has provided another buttress for General Relativity in that it shows that photons in a vacuum have the same speed, regardless of their energy. One of the models that tries to reconcile General Relativity and Quantum Theory postulates a "foamy" structure of space-time. The result obtained by Piran and his team shows that if such foam exists it is on an impossibly small scale and the larger bubbles predicted do not exist. Cheers Tsvi!
Photo credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The different energies of light from a gamma ray burst arrived


SILLY TIME

There is no new What If? this week, so we will go with the latest Solar System prediction by Randall. Indeed, the Mars Rovers are wonderful.
Opportunity

Squirrel astrophysics is also of interest.

Squirrel Plan

POOR NEWTON 

We know people who blame Isaac Newton whenever something falls inconveniently. It apparently held in his lifetime as well:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/25/2015

Below the Beltway used to be a feature of the Washington Post and Pollyanna loved it. Gene Weingarten still writes it now and again and here is the latest with which we identify strongly.

WuMo do a great job of making Shakespeare relevant to our times, both with Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet..