Cluster Map

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pollyanna returns

Pollyanna has decided to say thank you to the author who gave birth to her in 1913, Eleanor H. Porter:
She might be credited (or blamed) for distorting reality for generations of girls, but Pollyanna appreciates being granted her existence.
Pollyanna has been frustrated all week because, although she has sworn off politics, the shenanigans of the two Katzenjammer kids
Hans and Fritz, inspired by Max and Moritz

who serve as PM and Defense Minister in this pathetic country are enough to wipe out the gladness game forever. She sincerely hopes that cooler heads will prevail and no one sends air crews out to bomb Iran with no hope of success and little chance of returning alive. We will let Titan rant next week about this and other things of that ilk, such as the attacks on democracy.

Today Pollyanna is giving the moons of Saturn a rest and is focusing on even smaller objects, in particular asteroids. (click for Asteroids 101. ) This solar system flotsam and jetsam is left over from the earliest days of planet formation and can provide knowledge of the primitive solar system.  They can also be dangerous if big enough.  Tuesday at 0130 or so our time we were  visited by an asteroid of substantial dimension, about 400 meters.  It flew by at about 85% of the distance to lunar orbit and astronomers, both professional and amateur, had a field day.

In the wake of the flyby, Nasa offered two places to take a closer look at the action - Asteroid and Comet Watch on the main NASA site, and Asteriod Watch on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website.  Both of them should be great fun.   Read more.

An answer to the Fermi paradox, i.e. if life exists elsewhere and there has been sufficient time for propagation through the galaxy, then where are they?  His friend, the physicist Leo Szilard had a different answer to the question of where the aliens are.  "Enrico, they are here amongst us and are known as Hungarians."  At least the US Government has no knowledge of their existence outside of Hungary.
Astronomers are listening to the cosmos; but no evidence exists yet for alien life

Norman Ramsey the 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physics died this week at age 96.
Norman F. Ramsey in 1989. AP

His research on the internal structure of atoms and molecules led him to the technology of super-accurate atomic clocks. He participated in the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb during WWII.
Dr. Ramsey signing off the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

He was possibly the last survivor of the giants of  the Golden Age of 20th century. physics.

Joe Frazier
the great heavyweight boxer died this week of liver cancer at the age of 67.  He is famous for his fights with Mohammed Ali and lived greatly in Ali's shadow, but was a person of worth in his own right.  I append an obituary from the New York Times.  RIP

 Andy Rooney

passed away this week at the age of 92. Recently we marked his retirement from the 60 Minutes show after over three decades of serving as the curmudgeon par excellence of humanity.  Titan, age 4.6 billion, Pollyanna,age 98 and I are all old enough to have empathy with curmudgeonry and feel that something has gone out of our culture. Rest in Peace Andy and tell the Management wherever you are now that things have gone downhill since whenever.  Harps with plastic strings should not be considered acceptable.... Titan claims to have fond memories of his childhood when a T Tauri Sun provided some entertainment and Pollyanna complains that it was easier to play the gladness game when we did not have digital information flow telling how bad things are all over the place. I on the other hand "love" the modern world especially the rise of superstition masquerading as religion and reincarnated Neanderthals masquerading as political leaders.

As you all know by now, Pollyanna forgets about gladness and goes ballistic over abuse of women and girls by anyone, governments, institutions or individuals. She is outraged about what is happening to lesbian women in Ecuador presumably a civilized, progressive First World country.  It is shocking that this is happening in 2011.   At 207 "clinics" across Ecuador, lesbians are held captive, raped, tortured, starved and beaten in an attempt to make them straight. Pollyanna is calling upon all of you to go to the petition site, to click on the petition, sign and pass it on via Facebook, Twitter, email and in general to everyone you know.

On the other hand she is happy about the results of the  referendum in Mississippi. Mississippi voters slapped down GOP attempts to define “personhood” as occurring at the moment of fertilization. They proved that conservative southerners can say no just as easily as voters in Colorado to a measure that critics say would imperil birth control pills and in vitro fertilization and restrict doctors from treating cancer patients who are pregnant.

The EU betrays women by preventing the release of a film on the abuse of women in Afghanistan. Women who complain about abuse are themselves imprisoned and rape victims are prosecuted for fornication and adultery, all this a decade after the fall of the Taliban. The  systematic violation of the human rights of women and girls  in Afghanistan is a major scandal and the world should be aware and proactive in putting an end to it.
Pollyanna also has very strong feelings about environmental issues. The actions and inactions of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world's largest and most profitable corporations, have devastated the lives of people living in the delta of the Niger River. There used to be life and hope in the Niger Delta town of Bodo, a village filled with thriving fish ponds and mangrove trees. Then in 2008, two oil spills changed everything -- twice, nearby Shell Oil pipelines spewed toxic oil for weeks before they were repaired.

"It killed all the mangrove trees, the ecosystem, everything we put there. Everything just died in a day." --Bodo resident Christian Lekoya Kpandei
Shell's oil spills in the Niger Delta (pictured) mean the region needs the world's largest clean-up, says the United Nations Environment Programme. Photograph: AP

It is time that Shell be called to account  for the damage that it caused.   Pollyanna asks you to join this action initiated by Amnesty International.

Two weeks ago Pollyanna reported to you on the extinction of the Javanese rhino in Vietnam. She is very upset about the news of the extinction of another breed of rhinoceros, the black rhinoceros,

which has been declared extinct in West Africa. This is a result of a superstitious belief in the medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties of rhinoceros horn and the venality of the poachers who are hunting these magnificent animals off the face of the planet. Indeed, poverty is terrible in the Third World, but it cannot be a justification for rhino hunting. It appears that for many  species on the brink, captivity offers the only chance of survival. 


 Prehistoric paintings such as this one from Pech-Merle show horses with spotted coats. It is nice that DNA evidence shows that the artists were not drawing fantasies, but actually saw the animals that they drew. Pollyanna likes this and is really glad about it.

Dreams have always fascinated people. ..We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.-Prospero in The Tempest.
Pollyanna is fascinated by the implications of lucid dreaming and its interaction with brain studies.   Lucid dreaming is the rare ability to direct behaviors while in a deep sleep. By all objective measures, the person is dead to the world, most muscles are paralyzed and the eyes are doing the quick jitters that characterize REM, the main dreaming phase of sleep. But at the same time, the lucid dreamer knows that he/she is dreaming and can control the scenes, says study coauthor Michael Czisch of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich. “The world is open to do everything.” 

A few blogs back we brought you the first part of an article by Saul Bellow in the New York Review of Books. Here is  Part II of his discussion of being a Jewish writer in America. We also would like to showcase another great writer, Romain Gary (1914-1980). We have just finished reading his autobiography (given to us by Yosefa) describing his life with his mother in Eastern Europe and Nice, his WWII experiences and his life up to 1960.  The book, Promise at Dawn, was a New York Times best seller in 1961.  Yosefa first introduced us to him via the novel The Life Before Us which won him a second Prix Goncourt (under an assumed name). His life is described in brief in The Telegraph by his biographer , David Bellos. He may have been a weird character, but he was a great writer and had a fascinating life.
Glamorous life, glamorous wife; but Gary and Seberg’s marriage went sour
Definitely worthy of our your attention.

As Titan told you a while back, our dog Chilik wandered off at the beach and has not been seen since. She was old and had a cancerous growth on her spleen and was dependent on steroids to stay alive, which she had been doing quite successfully. In any case, she is gone and we shall probably adopt another dog out of the pound as we did with her ten years ago. You will be told when it happens. We mention this now

because the Gene Weingarten tale for this week is of special interest and empathy for dog owners.

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