Cluster Map

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pollyanna and the New Year

Mary Pickford as Pollyanna
Pollyanna is taking her turn to wish all of you a very Happy New Year.  Let us hope that 2012 will be a better year than its predecessor which was marked by disasters both natural and man made.  The natural disaster of earthquake plus tsunami in Japan was exacerbated by human failures such as the inability to prevent the radiation catastrophe at  the Fukashima nuclear power plant.

This week we present nature's version of the Death Star from Star Wars, the Kronian moon Mimas.  It apparently was hit hard in the past by an asteroid or comet and came near to disintegration.

Size: Sub-spherical, 418 x 392 x 382 kilometers - 7th largest moon of Saturn
Orbital radius: 185,520 kilometers - 3.08 Saturn radii - within the E ring
Orbital period: 0.9424 days - about 1/17 of Titan’s
Discovery: 1789 by William Herschel
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Cassini Image

Mimas is the first of Saturn's medium-sized moons, lying outside the main ring system but within the tenuous E ring. Its surface is completely saturated with craters, indicating that it has not changed much in billions of years. The largest crater, Herschel, is named for Mimas’ discoverer. All of the other craters are named after characters from the Keith Baines translation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur legends of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The life of William Herschel is also a fascinating story, about which you can read here. 
The mythological Mimas was a giant who was killed by Mars in the war between the Titans and the gods of Olympus. Even after his death, Mimas' legs -- which were serpents -- hissed vengeance and sought to attack his killer.  
Mimas was named by John Herschel, the son of discoverer William Herschel, who explained his choice of names for the first seven of Saturn's moons to be discovered by writing, "As Saturn devoured his children, his family could not be assembled round him, so that the choice lay among his brothers and sisters, the Titans and Titanesses."

Normally Pollyanna deals with things to be glad about or otherwise worthy of note and leaves ranting about human rights, social justice and political malfeasance to her brother Titan.  There is, however, one notable exception to this rule and that is matters connected to the abuse, rights violations and marginalization of women and girls.  Unfortunately these constitute a far too common phenomenon and Pollyanna does not contain her anger when she discusses such matters.  Today she is calling your attention to a blog posting on Women's Media Center concerning the way women, who were instrumental in starting the social protest and Occupy movement have been pushed to the side as the revolt developed.  While women do indeed start movements, anything that seems successful becomes a guy thing.  This goes back to the French Revolution and even before.  Robin Morgan puts things in focus, loud and clear.
Mexico city collective, from
As Titan told you last week, we have added a new canine member to our menage.  We took him to the beach for the first time.  Since he is half Labrador and half Australian Cattle Dog, we expected  him to take to the sea.  We are in the aftermath of a fairly major storm and the surf is still quite heavy.  In fact, Murphy was totally spooked by the waves rolling in and wanted no part of them.  He did get in a good run and expended some of his great supply of energy.  Indeed Murphy is a mixed breed dog, what some would call a mutt, but there are several good reasons to love mutts.   Here he is looking over his domain.
The beach is a great place
Friday we took him to the vet to be registered and weighed him while there. 34.4 kg is a lot of dog  especially when he indulges in puppyish behavior or has to be hoisted into the car.

Yaffa Yarkoni (1925-2012) died this week.

She was a famous Israeli singer whose voice is associated with the heroic period in the history of Israel.  She was famous for going to all places to entertain the troops even at the front.  To many she will always be associated with her signature song Bab el Wad, about the narrow valley on the road to Jerusalem where the convoys to the besieged city encountered ambushes during the 1948 war.  Despite her intense patriotism or more likely to our mind because of it, she parted company with the military establishment in 2002 and strongly criticized the brutal actions of the Army in the West Bank in the wake of the second Intifada.  Because of this many of her admirers turned against her, but she stuck by her guns.  We append an obituary from the New York Times.


No we are not talking about the Holy Grail but rather about a pair of spacecraft called Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory that achieved orbit about the Moon and will be used for the most detailed study ever of our nearest neighbor in Space.  Read more.

While browsing through the JPL pages for Mimas images I came across a profile of my friend,  Bonnie Buratti whom we visited a few weeks ago in Pasadena.  She is profiled as one of the Senior Scientists of JPL and has some good advice for anyone, particularly young women, who might be contemplating a career in space science.

As any young driver knows, his/her parents disapprove of speeding.  The same seems  to hold for neutrinos who have received many citations for exceeding their speed limit, the speed of light.  Now it seems that their  parent pions are getting into the act and are casting doubt on the reported result.  As more and more evidence against the speeding neutrinos piles up, we can hope to have the matter resolved, certainly when the replication experiments report in.  It will be a relief for everyone, including the OPERA people to have the doubts about Special Relativity allayed.

Hubble Space Telescope photograph of the nebula (Credit: M. Bobrowsky and NASA)
One of the most exciting discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope was the death of a star and the birth of a planetary nebula, in this case the Stingray Nebula , named because of its shape.  This is a poorly understood process in astrophysics and the observation of the rapid evolution of the system
as observed by Hubble  was a great piece of good fortune for science.  IKCD gives it a unique perspective.

The Mother Nature Network has come up with a list of the most most anticipated space launches of 2012.  Many of them are trivial billionaires' games, others are nonsensical efforts  involving a huge investment of public resources in manned spaceflight which achieves nothing of significance and finally we have the wonderful robotic missions  that truly advance the cause of science and expand human knowledge and understanding of our universe.  The manned flights, such as the ISS, which does nothing and consumes much, are of the genus "Panem et Circensus", literally "bread and circuses",which was the formula for the control of the  population in Rome by the regime in power (a term invented by Juvenal )*.  We are told that unless we have  some clown in space wasting  both money  and time we would not have funding for the real science done by robots such as Cassini, Voyager, Pioneer and the others.
*(The full quote is:  The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for just two things - bread and circuses!
        Juvenal, Satires
        Roman poet & satirist (55 AD - 127 AD))

Gene Weingarten was rather gross and unfunny to us this week, so we are giving you a pair of cartoons  from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  The first  will enhance your knowledge of history and the other a comment on our species, homo sapiens.

No comments:

Post a Comment