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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pollyanna is here again

Pollyanna is here again, trying to bring good news now and then.  It is not always easy.  Let me start this week by apologizing  and making amends. In the last Pollyanna blog I posted a link to a beautiful lecture by the Nobel Laureate astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar on beauty in art and science. I did not realize that the American Institute of Physics restricts access to its print subscribers. I now have it as a google doc and recommend it to you again.  The link should work.

Nativa Ben Yehuda died this week at age 83. She was one of the real characters of our society, a Palmach fighter, a writer of humor and satire, including collaboration with  Dan Ben-Amotz and a wonderful radio host whose program had a large and faithful family of listeners. Her death  marks the passing of an era. I append an obituary    She gave great enjoyment to a huge number of people.  May she rest in peace.

The tragedy of the New Zealand earthquake that devastated the city of Christchurch continues to unfold and it is a tale of grief for hundreds of families.  Hope for survivors has been abandoned.
Recovery of bodies from the collapsed tower of Christchurch Cathedral is now underway

 The first foreign victims to be identified are two tourists from Israel, Ofer Levy, 22, and Gabi Moshe Ingel, 23. The forces of nature indeed serve to impress upon us how puny we really are on this planet.  In this picture we see a historic structure, the Time Ball, which was used to tell ships the time, badly damaged.  It is now feared to be unstable and may have to be demollished.
The 135-year old Timeball Station in Lyttelton Harbour is at risk
The UN has created a new body to advance the cause of women's rights and equality. I am all for it and suggest you check it out.

This blog is supposed to be devoted to nice things, but I reserve the right to bring up issues that Pollyanna herself would have raised.  One such issue is the barbaric sport of bull fighting which still survives in Spain and its former colonies.  It is one with bear baiting which is now a thing of the past and  with other atavistic "sports" such as cock fighting and dog fighting which are still around, to the shame of all.    There are initiatives to ban bull fighting in the respective countries and you can take action against this ghastly activity.
In particular you can put in a call for the city council to outlaw bull fighting in Mexico City.  Please click on this link  and let the legislators know what you think of the issue.


The Sun gave us a pyrotechnic show with a monster flare last week. There was a  Class 3 flare on the limb which provided a great show for some solar telescopes and space-borne instruments. Here is a video

To compare it to Earth look at this.  Indeed we are puny creatures and it is good that nature can teach us humility without killing us.  BTW, there is no danger from this flare, it is not aimed at us.  If it were, it would at most have shaken up the magnetosphere and maybe interfered with some satellite communication, if at all. To read more  go to this link.

Here is some interesting information on new research on Lucy and her relatives.   It appears that these hominids had arched feet similar to ours.
OLDEN ARCHES The bones of a human foot curve upward to form arches, including a toe bone that corresponds in crucial ways to a 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis toe fossil (above foot). Researchers say that this shared toe trait indicates that early hominids walked much as people do today.Kimberly Congdon, C. Ward, Elizabeth Harman
A few years ago I happened to be in Houston. TX at a time when the Lucy fossil and other finds from Afar were on display at the local museum.  There was also a fascinating exhibition on the history and culture of Ethiopia.


One of the terrible ravages of aging is the loss of cognitive abilities caused by Alzheimer's disease. It has long been a subject of research since Alzheimer's pioneering studies over a century ago, but in fact little is known about the mechanisms. Even the main culprit A-amyloid appears to be only one of many agents involved. The brain is a complex system and there are far too many confounding variables Here is an update on recent research. .

Differences in a healthy brain (top) and a diseased one (bottom) clearly show the damage wrought by Alzheimer’s.©   Maggie Steber/National Geographic Society, Corbis
Bilingualism was an issue for us when our children were small.  I wanted to teach Zohar English as a small child but was constrained by elders who said that it was bad.  Perforce, she became bilingual when we went to the US for graduate school and for the others it was a default.   It has been found now that the old conventional wisdom was nonsense and that bilingual infants have a cognitive advantage in later life.  It is nice to know that my instincts were right.

As usual, we wind up with some deep(?) insights (into utter silliness) from Gene Weingarten in Below the Beltway.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Arkee. Great blog and the hard Science update very useful for a social scientist as myself....