Cluster Map

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pollyanna is back with you

Pollyanna would like to share with you something from the Syrian children in the refugee camps. While she shares the general distress over what is happening, here and around the world, she would like to find a ray of hope in the basic optimism that these children show.

“It’s a very small drawing but it has a big meaning. This tree represents me. The wind, the lines to the right of the tree, represent the things that keep me from who I want to become in life. While this wind can blow the leaves from my branches, you see them here falling to the ground, it cannot knock me over. The soil and the roots of the tree keep me from being knocked over.”

Pollyanna is back and hopes that all our Muslim friends had an Eid Mubarak despite the dreadful times. She  is extremely distressed by the ongoing war.  The Hamas are firing rockets from sites near and in civilian facilities and homes   and we are forced to respond by bombing and shelling. The Hamas are also infiltrating through a system of tunnels which our army failed to deal with over the years.
IDF soldier in Gaza tunnel, July 25, 2014
An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour, Friday, July 25, 2014, of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border. Photo by AP

 The result is a ferocious spilling of blood on both sides of the border and a firming of the attitudes that will diminish any hope for a peaceful settlement. In addition, there is in Israel a wave of suppression of dissent.
Left wing protest in Tel Aviv against the military operation in Gaza (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Left wing protest in Tel Aviv against the military operation in Gaza (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

 Joe McCarthy is alive and well in Israel. A professor who expressed humanistic sentiments in a message to students was reprimanded. In the wake of a recent demonstration in Tel Aviv in which left/liberal people called for a cessation of hostilities, participants were set upon in the street by right wing thugs. Indeed it is becoming difficult to be a liberal Zionist and it has become more difficult in the wake of the war.   Nonetheless, we have no choice but to stand up for the ideals in which we believe and which we regard as essential for Israel to have a positive future.   As Gideon Levy says so well, we are on our way to a society that sings in unison, a Red Army choir of a public.  We seem to think that we are able  "to conquer Gaza, bomb Iran, piss on international law, throw out the Arab members of Knesset, all the Arabs of Israel, all the left-wingers. " Indeed, as long as the big money from Jewish  casino  operators and worse is available to bribe the members of the US Congress, it might even be true.  Have a nice day everyone. Gideon himself is not going back to Ashkelon soon.

Pollyanna points you at something that we can do. She refers 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 it is Pollyanna's turn to choose a charity. Her choice is the Ebola relief fund set up by GlobalGiving.
 Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund
There is no cure and little treatment for the deadly virus, which has killed at least 660 people in several African countries. Please open the link and open your heart to the suffering people of West Africa. The virus is spreading and will wreak havoc if not stopped.

In many places in the world the killing of women is regarded as a norm in patriarchal societies. In Mexico the sheriff of Juarez, when reproached about the lack of prosecutions for murder of women, replied that there is no reason to punish a man for destroying his own property. This week Pollyanna asks you to join the outcry of women in Turkey who are calling on their parliament to address the impunity granted to femicide by the government and male-dominated society. AWID calls upon all to support the demands of Turkish women.  We quote from the petition:"Women are killed by men every day as they attempt to make decisions regarding their own lives. The persistence of these killings is evidence of the patriarchal nature of the state, as the latter fails to take the necessary precautions to prevent them. Meanwhile, the existing legal system legitimizes and in fact encourages these acts of femicide. While the male violence we are subjected to goes unpunished, and new policies condemn us to remain increasingly at the mercy of the institution of the family, we women are being killed each and every day. If six men had been killed by women within the span of two days, the state would have sprung into action, meeting expectations that it take emergency measures.Yet women are being killed in Turkey every single day." Please support these women, it is only a single instance of what is happening in too many places around the world.


More than one million Syrian children have been forced to flee their war-torn country. Of these young refugees, one in every three is between the ages of 12 and 18. This is the generation that will be tasked with rebuilding Syria. And yet, they are consistently missing out on critical life milestones like building social skills, developing confidence and getting an education.

In order to develop effective support strategies for this vulnerable group, the Mercy Corps conducted a research study in host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. The new report of the findings, Advancing Adolescence, describes the obstacles facing Syrian refugee youth and ways to prevent their becoming a lost generation. The art of these children and youths show in the post speaks for itself.
“I wish I could go back to my house and the place I lived in, so I drew a mountain, trees and a house.”
Pollyanna calls your attention to a petition to the Spanish government against oil drilling near the Canary Islands and for the establishment of a cetacean sanctuary in the region. Please join the call.


New evidence has been discovered that shows that the asteroid impact that knocked out the dinosaurs, thus creating a viable niche for mammals (here we are), just happened to arrive at a time when the creatures were particularly vulnerable to extinction because of a fall in biodiversity. If the impact had taken place a few million years earlier or later they might well have survived. In that case, we would not be and maybe the planet would have been better off.

A few years ago, July 23, 2012, the Sun emitted a huge Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that fortunately missed the Earth.

A less threatening solar storm on the Sun
A less threatening storm on the Sun. Photograph: Nasa/AP
If it had hit, it would have caused huge damage to our society and  civilization. It was detected and observed in detail by the two Stereo spacecraft that monitor the Sun and the solar wind environment. Here is a short film from NASA that gives you an idea of what happened and what might have happened.

Again we were lucky. An event of even greater magnitude in 1859 caused some damage, but nothing compared to our present degree of vulnerability.

Science is full of ups and downs and what seems like an exciting discovery can evaporate when further observations are made. Such is the case for the two planets around the star Gliese 581. One of them was thought to be in the so-called Goldilocks zone where water can exist in liquid form. New observation indicate that the fluctuations that were originally interpreted as evidence of two planets are intrinsic to the star itself and the planets do not exist. C'est la vie. Astronomers will continue to search for possible abodes of life as we know it.

We have not presented a book review in a while. Pollyanna calls your attention to a study by Mary Beard of humor in ancient Rome.
Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (Sather Classical Lectures) Hardcover – University of California Press, 319 pp., $29.95 June 25, 2014
by Mary Beard. 
It is reviewed in the New York Review of Books by Gregory Hays. If the NYRB does not open for you, there is an equally good review in the New Statesman. Humor was a serious business back then.
Illustration by John Leech from The Comic History of Rome, 1852

What If? asks What’s the fastest way to get a hand-written letter from my place in Chicago to my mother in New Jersey? —Tim. The answer is fun.

Snake Facts


Dilbert Cartoon for Jul/29/2014


Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/27/2014

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/29/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jul/25/2014

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: