Cluster Map

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pollyanna and Shavuot week

Pollyanna is back after enjoying the Shavuot holiday, the holiday of the giving of the Torah and of the first fruits of the harvest season.
Here is Pollyanna bringing in the first fruits.  Of course, these days we go to the supermarket, buy fruit, put a floral wreath on the kid's head and send him/her with his/her basket to school.  Alas, the modern world.  Shavuot also marks the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments, but I am not sure everyone appreciates that.
with thanks to the Dry Bones cartoonist.  In synagogue this week we read the Book of Ruth, which describes how a convert immigrant woman became the great-grandmother of King David.  The Israel Religious Action Committee (IRAC), the legal arm of the Reform movement, published the attached simulated correspondence with Eli Yishai, our ultra Orthodox Interior Minister.  . We strongly suspect that if Ruth were to come to Israel today. she would be deported.

This week I read the haftara (reading from the prophets) from Ezekiel I, in which a vision is seen by the prophet that some have interpreted as a low-latitude  aurora.   Allow me to quote from a paper.  
" Perhaps the earliest detailed description of a low-latitude aurora is that found in Chapter 1 of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, analyzed in detail by Siscoe et al. (2002) (see also Silverman, 2006b)"  .
One must ask whether the north magnetic pole had indeed been in a favorable position at the end of the seventh century BCE.  Pollyanna and I think it is an interesting speculation.  If you have never seen a real aurora, this is what Ezekiel might have seen:

An Eskimo tale tells us that the lights are spirits in the sky playing catch with a walrus skull. Another legend describes the lights as flaming torches carried by travelers to the afterlife.  Galileo thought that they were reflections of solar light from the polar caps.  Today we understand the emissions to be the result of collisions of solar particles accelerated in the terrestrial magnetic field with atmospheric atoms.  All magnetic planets have them.  Here is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the aurora of Jupiter:

 The bright spot to the left is the "footprint" of the magnetic flux tube threading  the active satellite Io..

Since Pollyanna is a modest and well brought up girl, there will be no discussion in this blog of the underwear of Rep. Weiner  In fact, Pollyanna thinks that Andy Borowitz has overworked the silly subject as have the pundits of the Washington Post and the NYTimes.  We are tired of it and would prefer to deal with real issues.

There are things to be glad about in the realm of science and Pollyanna is delighted to share them with you.  In general she loves science because it is beautiful and it works:
For the scientifically challenged, this is the Planck black body radiation function that helped lay the foundations of Quantum Mechanics.
Of course, she is a bit sentimental about this issue: 

We start with a possible breakthrough in mitigating the risk of breast cancer. A study funded by the Pfizer drug company (proper disclosure) indicates that certain drugs can have a prophylactic effect on breast cancer. Let us hope that it works out.

Physicists have long wondered why our universe is made up almost totally of matter and antimatter is almost completely absent. When matter meets antimatter the result is mutual annihilation. When the universe came into being, there should have been equal amounts of   matter and antimatter and the fact that we are here to ask the question indicates that somehow matter won. How and why are unanswered questions. Maybe our predecessors were not so lucky...

In any case,the people at CERN, the home of the LHC,  have taken a major step toward elucidating the mystery and Pollyanna is very glad about it as she is about all advances in science.  They have managed to confine antihydrogen for about sixteen minutes whereas in the past confinement times of fractions of a second were the longest achieved.  Here is a video from CERN

You are invited to read more.
Let us hope that no one from the future comes back to sabotage the LHC before it finds what it was designed and built to look for.  We are already seeing threats.  Some people do not like the Higgs for some reason.

Dark matter, the stuff that is supposed to make the galaxies move as they do, is another Holy Grail of science.  It is extremely difficult to detect and major efforts are under way.  It is supposed to consist of Weakly Interacting  Massive Partices or WIMP's.  There is also speculation about Super Wimps which sounds a bit oxymoronic, but physicists have a certain style.  There are now indications that it might have been observed in a Minnesota mine and a cave in Italy., but the jury is still out. There is also a possibility that a galactic collision observed by our old friend Chandra might indicate the existence of dark matter.
Galaxy collision:  x-rays (pink) are emitted when the interstellar gas clouds collide, while the dark matter (blue) remains aligned with distant stars because it is unreactive .
Wednesday was not only Shavuot, but also World Ocean Day.  Pollyanna and I would like to share some watery impressions with you courtesy of Mother Jones.

Usually Pollyanna leaves the human rights ranting to her brother Titan, but she is very glad to share the good news of the release of a political prisoner in Azerbaijan. Here is his thank you letter to all the Amnesty International people who worked for his release.
 This week Pollyanna is presenting books dealing with the charismatic figure of Malcolm X.  For the younger readers, he was a militant leader of the civil rights movement and the right hand of Elijah Mohammed, the founder of the Nation of Islam in the US.  He later split with the Nation of Islam and was assassinated by them in February, 1965. Recently a new  biography of Malcolm X entitled “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” by a Columbia University professor Manning Marable has come out.  The author sadly died on April 1, 2011 at age 60 just a few days before publication of the book. The book challenges both popular and  scholarly portrayals of Malcolm X, describing a man often subject to doubts about theology, politics and other matters, quite different from the figure of unswerving moral certitude that became an enduring symbol of African-American pride. He is particularly critical of the celebrated Autobiography of Malcolm X  now a staple of college reading lists, which was written with Alex Haley and which Mr. Marable described as “fictive.”  A detailed discussion by David Remnick of books about Malcolm X appeared in The New Yorker of April 25, 2011.   I hope you can open it.

As we said, Andy Borowitz is obsessed with the congressional underpants but  Gene Weingarten is sharing his tribulations with us and wondering whether public speaking is not worse than death.
Pollyanna wants to wish all the new graduates success in their endeavors in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment