Cluster Map

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pollyanna prepares for Yom Kippur

Ashkenazi Jews at Yom Kippur in 19th century Central Europe from a painting by Gottlieb.

Yom Kippur is coming up and traditionally Jews go to synagogue, vid. this image and think about their actions during the past year.  This shows a 19th synagogue in Europe.  There is another tradition that has grown up in Israel amongst those who do not participate in the religious aspects of the holiday.  Since no one drives on this day except for ambulance and fire truck drivers, the highways are empty and are filled with bicycle riders.  Here is a shot of the Ayalon Freeway in Tel Aviv near the crossing of the Yarkon River.
This is also a form of introspection.
Thanks to Hadass for a very appropriate Rosh Hashana card:

OK, that is as much as I am going to copy from the nasty blog.  You may read my comments on my personal Yom Kippur   there if you wish.



As most of you know, my daughter Zohar is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Haifa University where she researches brain function and cognition.  A few years ago she did some work on the cognitive burden of learning to read Arabic and the research has now generated a major splash.  As you may imagine, I am extremely proud of her. For details of the research, I refer you to Science Daily  which is one of the many media outlets that picked up on the story.  You can find the original articles by means of Google Scholar.

Have you ever walked in the woods in the Northland with a partner and wondered why the mosquitoes prefer you to her?  Of course DEET puts them off and if both of you are sprayed then it should not put you off one another.  Now our friendly folks of biology have delved into the issue and have come up with what the little critters do to make their choice of whom to bite.   It appears that they have olfactory sensors that enable them to spot the potential victim. as described in this somewhat humorous but quite informative article.   For the record, I am a very tasty host and when I am around Yosefa gets off.  Sexism?

Before heading off to the world of astronomy, here again is something new of biological interest.  It appears that one of the well established theories of how evolution works, kin selection,
Honeybees, a big happy family
has come under attack and the community is in a furor, which is of course good for science.  As a biology layman, I would not care to comment one way or the other, but the issue is most interesting.

These days many strange things come up in physics and established concepts are challenged very often.  One concept with which we have all grown up is that radioactive decay rates are constant.  Now some data have come up that would, if validated, indicate otherwise and possibly involve previously unknown particles from the Sun.  One of the people connected with the strange story is an old colleague of mine, Peter Sturrock a solar physicist  from Stanford, also an emeritus now.
Peter came into this story by accident, but is now quite engrossed.  It has to do with radioactive dating by  anthropologists and it may lead to a revolution in physics.  It also may lead nowhere if the results turn out to be an artifact of data analysis.  Stay tuned!

While we are into the possible lack of constancy of the constants of physics,  we must consider the fate of another pillar--the fine structure constant.  It is essential that it be constant if physics is to be the same in the entire universe.  Now there are some results that appear to indicate otherwise.
Naturally the result is controversial and also may be related to errors in data analysis.  Much more study is required before the community will accept this phenomenon as real.

  We are told that diamonds are forever, which is probably true since the theory of proton decay has not been verified.
   Now a star has been discovered with  a mass of a bit less than that of the Sun and it is just one huge chunk of compressed carbon, i.e. a diamond of about 10^33 carats.  Astronomers have decided to call the star "Lucy" after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
  The BBC has details of the discovery.

We have been having company.  Two small asteroids flew between the Earth and the Moon within hours of each other on September 8.  It may sound a bit uncomfortable, but this happens all the time.
and there are dedicated telescopes and cameras on asteroid patrol.  The media made more of it than the asteroid research community did.


I find the new images of Dione, a satellite of Saturn that has undergone eons of meteorite and asteroid bombardment, to be more interesting.  In the stellar world, we have something quite surprising to the professionals, gamma rays from a garden variety nova, i.e. a small exploding star.  These highly energetic rays have always been associated with supernovae, the big guys that really whack the galaxy. A recent discovery has shown that nature can always surprise us.  It is also a sign of our times that new discoveries of this type, which are impossible from the ground, are made by telescopes in space and we regard that as commonplace.
I hope I have not bored anyone with this stuff which is what helps to keep me happy and full of hope in this non-Pollyanna world.  Let us wind up with Andy Borowitz and Gene Weingarten to introduce a lighter element

No comments:

Post a Comment