Cluster Map

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pollyanna post holidays

Pollyanna has survived the holiday season and welcomes all to the normal world, such as it is in our place.  

There are some things to be glad about this week.  Last week, Titan had the privilege of welcoming Gilad Shalit home and we wish to join in the good wishes.

As you can see from the image Pollyanna is in nursery school mode and will introduce you to some really tiny moons of Saturn. These are moons that orbit inside the main ring system and were first discovered by the gravitational effects that they have in the surrounding ring matter.  They orbit inside gaps in the rings, Pan in the large Encke gap and Daphnis in the narrow Keeler gap.   We start with Daphnis (S/2005 S1)
Source Credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute Range about 853,000 km

 Note the wavelets casting shadows on the ring.  This blows Pollyanna's mind and she enjoys sharing it with you.  
Stats for Daphnis:  
Size: Roughly 7 kilometers
Orbital radius: 136,500 kilometers - 2.26 Saturn radii - within the Keeler gap in the A ring
Orbital period: 0.594 days - about 1/27 of Titan’s
Discovery: 2005 by C. Porco et al

PAN (S/1981 S13)
The Encke Gap Moon 

+ Play Quicktime (2Mb)
Saturn's small, walnut-shaped moon, Pan, embedded in the planet’s rings, coasts along in this movie clip from the Cassini spacecraft.
Size: Roughly 20 kilometers
Orbital radius: 133,583 kilometers - 2.22 Saturn radii - within the Encke gap in the A ring
Orbital period: 0.575 days - about 1/28 of Titan’s
Discovery: 1990 by Mark R. Showalter
In mythology Pan is the shepherd god who played on the pipes and Daphnis is a young man who is beloved by Pan and many others.  Homosexuality was a norm among the ancient Greeks and thus was a practice of the gods as well.
Pan and Daphnis
For those who prefer a straight version there is also the legend of Daphnis and Chloe.  Take your choice.

Daphnis and Chloe

Pollyanna  would like to share a beautiful picture of the rings of Saturn serving as a sundial of the seasons. This was a NASA picture of the day some time ago.
Saturn: Shadows of a Seasonal Sundial
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Saturn's rings form one of the larger sundials known. This sundial, however, determines only the season of Saturn, not the time of day. In 2009, during Saturn's last equinox, Saturn's thin rings threw almost no shadows onto Saturn, since the ring plane pointed directly toward the Sun. As Saturn continued in its orbit around the Sun, however, the ring shadows become increasingly wider and cast further south. These shadows are not easily visible from the Earth because from our vantage point near the Sun, the rings always block the shadows. The above image was taken in August by the robotic Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. The rings themselves appear as a vertical bar on the image right. The Sun, far to the upper right, shines through the rings and casts captivatingly complex shadows on south Saturn, on the image left. 

Pollyanna has several things to be glad about this week.  She is glad over the progress made in developing a  vaccine for malaria and has high hopes that this scourge can soon be eliminated.  She is also pleased that the silly talk on risk of brain cancer from cell phone use has been laid to rest, as our colleague Bob Park  has been shouting about for years.  She believes that the danger to the brain from cell phones is from the content of the typical cell phone conversation.  We reached this conclusion from riding trains between Natanya and Tel Aviv and being a captive audience to the cell phone talk around us.  In Germany, there are cell phone cars and quiet cars on trains and we think that it would be an excellent idea to adopt something like that here.

Pollyanna is also very glad the the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico has undergone major upgrades and is ready to probe even deeper into the mysteries of the universe.  Click for details and participate in the naming of the new complex. 

Pollyanna, Titan and YandA are all pleased to hear of the release of three Prisoners of Conscience in Myanmar.   We join Amnesty International in calling for continuation of the releases and amnesties of political prisoners and congratulate Zarganar, Su Su Nway and Zaw Htet Ko Ko on their freedom.  Human rights activists have campaigned for the people arrested after the great cyclone and the "Saffron Revolution" for years and we all  hope to see more positive results.

Pollyanna is delighted that one of her favorite writers, Julian Barnes has been awarded the   Booker prize for 2011 for his novel The Sense of an Ending.  We have read many of his books over the years and think not only that the Booker was overdue, but that some thought should be given to the Nobel.
Write stuff: Julian Barnes has won this year's Booker Prize with The Sense of an Ending, with judges taking just 31 minutes to make their decision

One thing that Pollyanna is not glad about is the absence of rational thinking from public discourse.  In fact, there is far too much fantasy and superstition masquerading as belief and religion floating around and the degree of ignorance caused by the failure of education systems is appalling.  The rejection of science as a means of evaluating phenomena is used by unscrupulous politicians and corporations as a way of justifying just about anything.  We now have  definite proof of climate change, ironically from a study funded by the Koch brothers, the oil tycoons.  The study was conducted by Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight. We also have  unequivocal confimation of the predictions and analysis of evolution in biological systems.  Yet the right wingers prefer to have people believe in the Biblical narrative.  Too much thinking is bad for you, right?

It is not confined to Christian fundamentalists.  I recently received an email from a respected member of my Reform congregation with a story of how Rabbi Gamliel in the 2nd century knew the exact period of the Moon.  How did he know this?  First because Jews are smarter than anyone else and second the wisdom was handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai along with the rest of the Torah and all human knowledge.  This from a woman who drives a car and knows how to manage her bank account, presumably!  I referred her to Babylonian and Greek astronomy and  in particular to  Thales of Miletus who correctly predicted the year of a solar eclipse that took place on May 28, 585 BCE and thus saved the town from panic.  He formulated the mantra of modern science that every phenomenon in nature has a natural cause.  The Chinese and Koreans were doing similar calculations and studies centuries before Rabbi Gamliel without even hearing that Moses had gone up a mountain.
Pollyanna apologizes for ranting and sounding like her brother Titan, but sometimes even she can lose her cool.  She definitely loses it when it comes to the rights of women and girls and their abuse by established power.  She refers you to a blog describing a UN Report on abuse of women and girls..  Read it and fume!  She is also upset  about what happens to  women in Norway , where 10%  experience rape and spousal rape is not a crime.  For the record, the Talmud forbade spousal rape 2000 years ago.  The punishment was 40 lashes.  Women are not property.
Pollyanna, Titan and YandA all plan on attending the social protest rally in Tel Aviv Saturday night.  This rally is of extreme importance.  The social protest that began this summer must not be allowed to fade away. Let Gideon Levy lay it right on the line.

We are sorry to hear that Andy Rooney is in serious condition at a hospital.  “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” wrapped up the 60 Minutes news magazine for decades and his comments were always interesting and to the point.  He retired from the show recently and will be missed sorely.  We wish him a full and speedy recovery  Fortunately, a replacement is being offered,   Gene Weingarten is applying for the job.  I wonder if Gene, a lad of 60,  is not too young for this--you need a grumpy crotchety old man, such as myself.  Pollyanna agrees, impudent little twerp that she is.

Pollyanna is certainly not glad that the Javan rhinoceros has been hunted to extinction  in Vietnam because of the ridiculous demand for rhino horn based on quack medical superstition.  This kind of poaching is connected to the extreme levels of poverty in the Third World.
Okay, says Pollyanna, let us get on to more fun things.  Speculations about the original language spoken by humans have long dealt with the question of how our ancestors formulated their thoughts.  Now it appears that they spoke more or less like Yoda, the little Jedi in Star Wars who had a unique style and word order in his speech. In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Merritt Ruhlen and Murray Gell-Mann, co-directors of the Santa Fe Institute Program on the Evolution of Human Languages, argue that the original language used Subject Object Verb ordering ("I you like") instead of the Subject Verb Object order we use in English.

We reported in the past of the finding that neutrinos had been caught exceeding the speed of light which is a big no-no in physics.  It is nice to report that the experiment is to be repeated  in light of the speeding tickets issued by many eminent physicists.

Recently a famous American jazz harpist Park Stickney visited Israel for the Jaffa Harp Festival organized by our friend the famous Israeli  harpist  Sunita Staneslow.  She and her spouse Fred Schlomka arranged a visit for him to the West Bank where he had a  workshop with music students at the Salem village Music Center near Nablus.   Pollyanna is glad and thinks this was really cool.
Workshop in Salem Music Center

The work of Leonardo Da Vinci has long captivated Pollyanna and most of us--he was a genius of incredible ability.  We hope to see an exhibit of his work in San Francisco in December including the analysis of the Mona Lisa.

Images of the Mona Lisa reveal hidden details in infrared and visible light.
CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/RYP Australia.

It may be that a painting of his was  sold for a piddling sum because of lack of proper attribution, but the matter is still under debate.
A recreation of what La Bella Principessa would have looked like as a page in the Sforziad.
CREDIT: Martin Kemp, Pascal Cotte and Lumiere Technologies

A few years ago I saw an exhibit of his "failed" works in Atlanta.  I suspect that many active artists would be quite happy to have such failures in their portfolio.

Our  book review for this week  is of the book Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives, by Dean Buonomano.  This  review also contains an NPR interview with the author which is worthy of your time.

Let us wind up with some comments from XKCD for those of us who own or are owned by smartphones,

and some quotes from  famous authors by Andy Borowitz.


  1. I'd like to point out how clever the neutrino people are. They didn't run the original experiment to find out about speed, and then when the results were so strange they have retailored the experiment with what seems to me wonderful cleverness to look more precisely at the speed in particular.

  2. That particular Da Vinci exhibit is currently in Winnipeg, and David and I went to see it. I found the Mona Lisa stuff quite boring, actually, but what is really nice is that they have recreated all those gadgets he imagined, and some of them you can even play with! So much fun. Enjoy!