Cluster Map

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pollyanna is here despite SOPA & PIPA

Pollyanna is back, cheerful as ever, independent of whether there is much to be glad about.  Still we will give you some relief from brother Titan's rants.  She is pleased that a movie actress has taken her name and is helping to make her famous.  Thank you, Pollyanna Woodward--you give her an idea what to anticipate when she grows up.
Steve Rawlings, a well known British astrophysicist and Oxford professor,

died this week in circumstances that led to suspicion being directed against his long time colleague and collaborator the Oxford mathematician Devinder Sivia at whose home he was found dead.  In the meantime, the evidence against Prof. Sivia has been found to be flimsy and he has been released from custody.  Prof. Rawlings played a major role in the design and planning of the Square Kilometre Array – a next-generation radio telescope that will be built in Australia or Southern Africa – and played a prominent role in the redevelopment of the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall as a radio-astronomy facility.  The world astrophysics community is in deep shock.
We also note the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Robert F. Scott and his party at the South Pole where they found that Roald Amundsen and his group had arrived earlier.  Scott and his companions perished en route back to the coast of Antarctica.
Happier times in Antarctica: British explorer Robert Falcon Scott stands alone in the glittering white wilderness, months before he began his final push to the South Pole, in an image taken by expedition photographer Herbert Ponting.
CREDIT: © 2011 Richard Kossow.

 Pollyanna wants to be a bit didactic today and give you a scale picture to show you the relative sizes of solar system objects, this time Earth, Titan and our Moon.

Earth, Titan, and Earth's Moon compared

Titan may be larger than the planet Mercury--and (the dwarf planet) Pluto-- but it is still considerably smaller than the Earth. Despite Titan's  diminutive size, its atmosphere is dense enough that the barometric pressure at Titan's surface is one-and-a-half times greater than that of the Earth's at sea level.
 She also would like to point a finger at crackpot "science" blather and to show how careful we must all be in making statements that can be picked up by UFO nuts and posted on the Web as fact.  In this case, atmospheric chemistry of Titan has been twisted to show that "life has been discovered" there.  Indeed, there are hydrocarbons in the atmosphere and oceans of Titan, derivatives of methane, and you could speculate that if there were life there it would have to metabolize methane as an energy source. (The field of psychoceramics deals with cracked pots...)

Pollyanna is very sensitive to environmental matters and is delighted to learn that President Obama is standing up to Big Oil and denying permission to lay a pipeline from Alberta across the United States.    Read more.
Protesters marching in Washington against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, 11/06/11. (photo: Daniel Lippman/MCT)
As you all know, Pollyanna is very happy to see women advancing to greater equality in all areas.  She is delighted to tell you about the election of the first Native American openly lesbian woman
In a special election, Susan Allen won a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

to the legislature of our native state of Minnesota.  Another woman won election to the state Senate, thus enhancing the representation of women in Minnesota state politics.

In Israel, Pollyanna commends the Israel Medical Association for refusing to take part in a conference on gynecology at which women speakers were banned.  Please join her in thanking our doctors.
The argument that religious leaders would walk out if women spoke is specious and unacceptable. We have nothing against religion per se but when organized and established religion starts to push its views on society as a whole, as we are seeing now in Israel, in every aspect of life, we cannot but agree with James Madison the author of the First Amendment, in which establishment of religion is forbidden, and the fourth president of the United States:
 "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." –James Madison-"A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785

We would like to share with you a video that Yosefa brought to our attention.  It is a discussion by Riccardo Muti of the art of conducting.  It is lovely and amusing as well

In the past week we have seen the 39th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the legal holiday of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King.  In synagogue, we read as the weekly portion the opening chapters of the book of Exodus. Last Saturday, we gave a sermon connecting the prophetic mission of Moses and Aaron in the Bible with the 20th century mission of Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King who stood side by side in two  titanic struggles, for the civil rights of the African-American population of the US and in particular in the South and against the war in Vietnam.  Pollyanna and I have written up an expanded version of the sermon and it is available on Googledocs for those who read Hebrew.  For the Hebrew-challenged, we recommend the Web site of Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia who discusses the conjunction of these dates every year.  We also refer you to a posting by Bradley Burston who writes about the dreams of Dr. King and what we can all learn from his life and mission.

Pollyanna would like to share with you an interview with the scientist Tom Statler from Ohio University who specializes in galactic astronomy.

Recently the greatest cluster of galaxies ever seen was discovered and dubbed El Giordo, the fat one.
STARS BRIGHT: A composite image shows El Gordo in X-ray light from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, along with optical data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in red, green, and blue. (Photo: NASA, ESO)
 On the same day at the same conference another group announced the observation of the farthest, i.e. the oldest  galaxy cluster ever seen.
The composite image, taken in visible and near-infrared light, reveals the location of five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. The circles pinpoint the galaxies.
CREDIT: NASA, ESA, M. Trenti (University of Colorado, Boulder, and Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK), L. Bradley (STScI), and the BoRG team

Both announcements were made at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin TX on January 10.  We are living in a very exciting time for galactic astronomy and Pollyanna is very glad about it
Apropos astronomy, it is worthy of note that a major international debate is going on over the leap second.  The leap year, needed to account for the slight inaccuracy of the year as a measure of the period of revolution of the Earth around the Sun (yes, you Copernicus skeptics, that is what happens) which involves adding a day every four years except for end of century years (x000) that do not divide by 400, is easily accepted, unless you are apprenticed to a pirate.  The leap second is added every few years to keep the rotation of the Earth in synch with atomic clocks and vice versa.  The US would like to abolish it, other countries want to keep it, but I doubt if anyone will go to war and you will not really need to reset your watch when the next event comes up on June 30.  Stay tuned.

WALKING THROUGH DOORS can make you forget things.  A recent Scientific American article explains why we forget things when we go from one room to the other.

Turn the handle and leave the past behind. Image: iStock/Robert Vautour
We are reminded of the elderly lady who complained about her memory problems to her vicar who told her that she should be thinking about the hereafter.  She replied that indeed that is what she does, i.e. goes from one room to another and then asks herself, "what am I here after?"

Recently, whenever we are online with Skype, a mysterious person named Faustina has tried several times to contact us.  We have consistently declined since contact attempts by women have always turned out to be either harassment or pathetic attempts at enticement.  We tried to look her up and in light of what we found, apparently she only had good intentions.  She had been granted the  Cook's Tour of Hell and just wanted to warn us.
The Apostle of Divine Mercy
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska
of the
Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy

Alas, she lacks the poetic talent of Dante Alighieri.

We were thinking of skipping this week as a protest against SOPA.  Instead we will let XKCD express our opinion.

As we have told you, Gene Weingarten who used to be the funny man of the Washington Post has moved on to the world of comics.  It has not really been a step up as you can see from this:

No comments:

Post a Comment