Cluster Map

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moadim L'Simcha, Happy Holidays and some fun

We are reaching the end of the fall Jewish Holiday season with  Succot and Simhat Torah
Succot  is a holiday on which we are commanded by God to be happy and
we do our best. We eat in tabernacles, little huts designed to
remind us of how our ancestors in our mythic history lived in
huts in the desert.

This week is marked by people traveling
around, camping, enjoying nature, all very nice. Thursday we
have the holiday of the Eighth Day, which here in Israel
coincides with Simhat Torah, the rejoicing of the completion of
the annual cycle of reading the Torah in the synagogue.
Actually in our little Reform synagogue we read the Torah in
three years, a third of each weekly portion each week. In any
case, people will dance with the scrolls and children will wave

The flags have pictures of little boys carrying Torah
scrolls. My granddaughter Maya asked a rabbi why there are no girls carrying scrolls. I doubt that she got a satisfactory answer.

The strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal to which Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy introduced me has a posting  starring him on how to debate with creationists, i.e. do not even try. One should never give them the legitimacy of sharing a platform. I get calls occasionally from local community TV stations to appear with Gaists, astrologers or creationists and I always refuse. This is why:
you should never appear with them

If any of you worry that our atheist friends are left out of all
the fun,  rest assured.   The strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal to which Phil Plait
of Bad Astronomy introduced me has good news about their faith.
The strip in general is funny and to the point, such as this
comment on how scientists can raise money to fund their labs.
It is more or less how we write proposals.

OK, enough fooling around and let us get on to the serious
stuff that Polyanna likes such as science and good news. Of
course, science can provide disturbing news as well such as the
forthcoming solar maximum in 2012-13 that should provide us
with some space pyrotechnics that will be beautiful but also
destructive. The Sun has an eleven year cycle in its activity
and during most of this decade we have been going through a
deep minimum which has been a bounty for solar physicists who
are busy learning more and more about our local star. The next
maximum will have fewer than usual sunspots, but they will be
more intense than usual and the flares caused by their merging
(they come in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity) will be
Active Sun
ferocious. Such events have happened in the past, in 1859 when
telegraphy was knocked out and 1921 when radio communications
were affected,
Now we have much more sensitive electronic and
digital infrastructure and things will be tough. For detail
look at this report

and a bit more from NASA


It appears that a magazine called Urban Realm that deals with
architecture awards a prize called the Carbuncle Award to a
town designated as the most dismal place to live in all of
Scotland. This year's "winner" was John o'Groats which declined
the Plook on the Plinth, but the runner up Denny claimed it
with eagerness.  I wonder at the
inertia that causes people to stay in such places, but on the
other hand, all the nice places would be overcrowded if all
fled the plooks. I wonder what Pollyanna would have said about
these places. BTW, I recommend a google search for plook.


The existence of water on the primordial Earth has been
attributed to comets that bombarded it. Not astronomers have
found the minerals that form in the presence of liquid water in
the dusty disks surrounding young stars. This can provide a
clue as to how the phyllosilcates came to Earth. Science News
also gave the article a catchy title.
In two weeks, I shall participate on my other blog in the WATER DAY of the world blogger
community whose subject this year is water.
 In WWII near the end the Germans came close to putting up an
 aircraft that might have changed the course of the war.  It is
 both frightening and  fascinating to read about it now.
 They also had a jet fighter and bomber of conventional design,
 but by the time there were ready to go into production Germany
 had run out of pilots to fly them and could not train them
 fast enough.  In general, fuel and other resources ran out and
 the Reich collapsed, thank God.  Thanks to Yoav for calling
 this story to my attention.

In the last blog I complained, with documentation, about the
prevalence of smoking in public places in Israel. It appears
that the prohibition if enforced properly can have major
positive public health effects. In Scotland the incidence of
asthma among children has decreased in the wake of the 
smoking ban

A MAGIC HAND Some of us were at some stage in our lives faithful readers of a little magazine called
MAD. It features great political satire and a character called Alfred E. Neuman--of course, just like
the samizdat, but in America out in the open, it was a mostly Jewish send up of the establishment of the
day. One of the greatest cartoonists of MAD was Al Jaffee, still around at 90. A  biography of his mad
mad life has just been published. I append a review  from Forward. I intend to get the

JUPITER IS NEAR or relatively so. We are having an opposition and since the orbits of both Earth and
Jupiter are slightly eccentric, the distances can vary.. This is as close as we have been since 1951 or
will be until 2022; Read all about it and go outside after sunset and gaze at the eastern sky. With
binoculars you might get a glimpse of Uranus as well.


Each blog I try to dig up something in science that challenges
conventional and received wisdom. Today it is the barium  that
is located in a star that has no business containing it because
the star is too old. I admire the people who do the analysis to
come up with results that that make scientists scratch their
heads and go back to the proverbial drawing board. Indeed, the
issues of the fine structure constant and radioactive decay
rate variation are still up in the air and confirmation is
still pending. On the other hand, careful isotope analysis with a
very sophisticated instrument
of an old star gives a solid result that has to be explained and
indeed some explanations are coming up.

It is great news that the genome of
chocolate has been mapped and we addicts can feel at home. It
is indeed not a trivial matter and it is hoped that the
information gleaned will be useful for protection of the cacao
trees and helpful to the economic well being of the farmers in
the Third World who produce it.

This blog has become too long and perhaps I should go back to
weekly posting. Comments are invited. In the meantime, join a
political protest that Pollyanna would have liked--Andy
 Borowitz has the details. Gene
Weingarten has some sad words on the demise of English. He
should come to Israel where Hebrew after being a dead language
for 2,000 years was resurrected for a while and has died again,
Let us close with a 130 year old picture, the first taken
of the Orion Nebula.

1 comment:

  1. I liked John O'Groats! I was there on my way to the Orkneys, but I could see living there if you're into wild views of nature and if you have a good heating system in your house.