Cluster Map

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pollyanna is here again

Agnes Marin, raped and murdered, age 13, credit AFP
 Pollyanna is back and before she gets into the nice stuff that you expect from her she is going to rant.  In fact, she is going to give her brother Titan the ranter a lesson in ranting, foaming at the mouth and infinite outrage.  In this, she is joined of course by Titan and YandA.  We are ranting about the rape and murder of this 13 year old girl,  Agnes Marin in France.   She was raped and killed by a 17 year old schoolmate who is awaiting trial for the rape of a 15 year old who at least survived.  Despite this, he was admitted to a boarding school and it appears that no one told the principal that this young man constituted a danger to his schoolmates.  You can read the details and rage with us at the utter incompetence of the juvenile justice system in France.  Excuses abound, but the bottom line is that parents are entitled to assume that their children are protected in school against marauders and killers.  It is incomprehensible that the unnamed 17-year old was granted admission to the private boarding school in Chambon-sur-Lignon, central-southeastern France, given that he had spent four months in prison last year over the rape of another fellow pupil in another region.

Pollyanna and Titan are joining YandA for a trip to the West Coast of the USA.  You may get a Titan next week, but Pollyanna is sparing you until December 23.  We will attend the Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco and then visit colleagues and friends in Los Angeles.  We will be back for Hannuka.


Iapetus is an oddball moon of Saturn.
Two-Faced Moon
Two faced Iapetus  NASA

Iapetus has extreme topography and one of the most ancient surfaces in the solar system. It also has a tall mountain range running exactly around its equator.

Iapetus ridge NASA
Size: 1,460 km - 3rd largest moon of Saturn
Orbital radius: 3,561,000 kilometers - 59.1 Saturn radii - far outside Saturn's ring system
Orbital period: 79.33 days - 5 times Titan's
Discovery: 1671 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini

Iapetus [pronounced eye-APP-eh-tuss; adjective form: Iapetian] has been called the yin and yang of the Saturn moons because its leading hemisphere has a reflectivity (or albedo) as dark as coal (albedo 0.03-0.05 with a slight reddish tinge) and its trailing hemisphere is much brighter at 0.5-0.6. Giovanni Cassini observed the dark-light difference when he discovered Iapetus in 1671. He noted that he could only see Iapetus on the west side of Saturn. He correctly concluded that Iapetus had one side much darker than the other side, and that Iapetus was tidally locked with Saturn.  Since Cassini's time, the spacecraft named for him has taken much better views of Iapetus including an encounter on September 10, 2007 a few samples of which are shown above.

In mythology Iapetus was the father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menoetius, and Atlas by Clymene.   He was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the father of the human race.
This week Anne Mccaffrey the famous fantasy and science fiction author died at age 85.
Camera Press
Anne McCaffrey in 1981.
She will be remembered as the author of the Perm novels for young adults in which it became possible for girls as well as boys to ride dragons.  We append an obituary by the New York Times.

Lynn Margulis whose ideas turned evolution theory on its head, died this week at age 73.  Her work on evolution at the microorganism level challenged conventional wisdom in the 1960's and was initially rejected.  She stood by her guns and her ideas of symbiotic evolution have now become the standard theory.
Paul Hosefos/The New York Times
Lynn Margulis, wearing her National Medal of Science Award.
 Her first husband was the noted late astronomer Carl Sagan, but she did not need his reflected light and become a distinguished scientist on her own.  

GOOD NEWS from Oregon--the  governor of Oregon has announced that he will not permit any executions to take place in the state as long as he holds the position.
( Don Ryan / Associated Press ) - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber  announcing in Salem, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, that the execution of convicted killer Gary Haugen will not go on as scheduled next month and no more executions will happen while he is in office
An execution was due to take place very soon but Governor John Kitzhaber announced on 22 November that he was issuing a reprieve in the case of Gary Haugen, a 49-year-old man scheduled for execution on 6 December after waiving his appeals. We, together with Amnesty International welcome the decision by the Governor and hope that it will eventually lead to abolition.

You may recall that a while back we reported on a preprint by Cohen and Glashow in which they pointed out that if the Gran Sasso neutrinos had exceeded the speed of light they would have emitted Cherenkov radiation.  This is radiation emitted when the passage of photons through a medium is impeded and falls below the speed of light in vacuum.  In such a case, particles can move through the medium faster than the local light speed.  If that happens, then the particles emit a characteristic radiation and lose energy.  The ICARUS group at Gran Sasso reports that its search for Cherenkov emission yielded no positive findings.
Bubble chamber tracks like this one display the motions of electrically-charged particles as they move through a superheated liquid. The ICARUS team used a bubble chamber to study radiation (or lack thereof) from a beam of neutrinos at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.
CREDIT: Fermi National Laboratory
This may be a crucial blow to the overfast neutrino results.  Stay tuned.

A new rover named  Curiosity is on its way to Mars where its predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity have been gathering in data for years.
Meet Curiosity who is off on a long journey
 Among other things it will look for methane, which can be interpreted as an indicator of life.  Life on Earth can be detected from space  by the methane emitted by cattle and sheep in Texas and Australia.  We note the daintiness of the New York Times science team who tell us that cows "burp" methane.  The question of whether life ever existed on Mars is not in the agenda of Curiosity, but it is indeed an interesting question and should be looked at someday, when scientific funding is less tight.  We are proud to tell you that the name of our grandson Maayan will be on a chip carried on board Curiosity.  He even has a certificate to prove it.
There are several mysteries floating around in physics such as  retrocausality, entanglement and other weird things.  One of the most challenging has been the question of why the universe is here at all.  Matter and antimatter mutually annihilate and since at the time of the Big Bang more or less equal amounts of matter and antimatter came into being, not much if anything should have been left.  It now appears, albeit not at a compellingly conclusive level yet, that the Large Hadron Collider beauty group  may have found an answer to this question.  If so, we may have to revise the Standard Model of physics and go in new directions.  Indeed, that was the reason for building this very expensive machine.  Maybe supersymmetry, who knows what the future holds for physics?  Meet an LHC group:
The LHCb team stands in front of their experiment, the LHCb detecor, at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
CREDIT: CERN/Maximilien Brice, Rachel Barbier
CANCER VACCINE There is a claim by an Israeli biomed firm Vaxil that it has developed a vaccine against cancer.  This is a huge claim and since the link that we just gave you connects to a blog of an Israel promotion propaganda site, we are a little skeptical.  We ran a search and came up with some reservations that tend to cast doubt upon the claim.  In fact, we are told that the claim contains some untrue statements.  Judge for yourself, but we share the doubt caused by the fact that the company officer quoted is not the Chief Scientist or a laboratory scientist, but the the Chief Financial Officer Julian Levy and one might wonder about his qualifications.  We checked him out and he has a law degree from Cambridge University and a resume of business administration in the biomed field.  Indeed Hadassah is doing the clinical trials and it may well be important.  Nonetheless, we find the bombast to be a bit exaggerated.  Again, stay tuned.

LUNAR MAGNETISM Our Moon has long been considered an inert body, but it had a wild past and maintained a magnetic field for 400 million years, much longer than might have been expected.  Now there are interesting theories coming to explain the phenomenon, mainly by the effects of asteroid bombardment that shook things up in the interior and possibly the influence of the Earth and its gravitational field.  The subject is interesting in itself and we coauthored a paper on the detection of vestiges of fossil magnetism by an orbiting spacecraft, long ago, certainly before the authors of the new paper were born.  The popular report is free, but you might require library access for the  new Nature paper and the  old Science paper..

BOOK REVIEW This week Pollyanna calls your attention to a review in the NYTimes (Published: October 21, 2011) of Jose Saramago's last novel Cain (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa, 159 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $24.) by Robert  Pinsky.   Some people like Saramago more than others.  You might like to give him a try.

FUND RAISING APPEAL We are sure that many of you make use of Wikipedia.  The folks there are putting out a call for some financial support from the user community.  Please consider donating to support this most useful Web utility.
Click to donate online.

Support Wikipedia

It is interesting to note that many people, including some very close to me, boggle at moving big files around.  Nothing is simpler than an ftp server or just plain  ftp or Dropbox that synchs files.    XKCD  makes the point very well. 

We wind up with a comment on Black Friday from Andy Borowitz which would be funny if it were not so tragic.  People go out of their minds in shopping and consumer madness.   Of course, we could not let you off without a new chapter in the ongoing saga of Gene Weingarten and his interaction with the canine world

No comments:

Post a Comment