Cluster Map

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pollyanna says Happy Pesach

Pollyanna is gearing up for Pesach (Passover) and is all set to regale you with sources of gladness and fun things.  For starters here is an introduction to the girl spring fashions of 2012
and now she would like to show you the giant asteroid Vesta that, since last summer, has been surveyed up close by the the Dawn spacecraft .  At 530 km mean radius, Vesta is the second largest object in the asteroid belt after the dwarf planet Ceres (recently promoted ).
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has revealed unexpected details on the surface of   Vesta. New images and data highlight the diversity of Vesta's surface and reveal unusual geologic features, some of which were never previously seen on asteroids.  Vesta is one of the brightest objects in the solar system and the only asteroid in the so-called main belt between Mars and Jupiter visible to the naked eye from Earth. Dawn found that some areas on Vesta can be nearly twice as bright as others, revealing clues about the asteroid's history.  In many ways Vesta is more like a planet than an asteroid.  For example, the interior is differentiated, i.e. divided into layers of different mass and composition, as is the Earth, and there appear to be indications of an ancient magnetic field.  It is very bright and is the only asteroid that can be seen from Earth with the naked eye.  Data from Dawn were presented last week at the Lunar and Planetary Conference in Texas. 
Read more in the blog by Jason Major, Lights in the Dark.

Before we go on to the nice things, Pollyanna wants to explode again over another case of institutionalized misogyny.  Brother Titan showed up the state of Texas last week by means of a series of Doonesbury strips.  Pollyanna wants to call your attention to a report from Human Rights Watch, released in Kabul on Wednesday, entitled  I  Had to Run Away.  It is  about the status of women in Afghanistan eleven years after the fall of the Taliban.  A summary of the detailed report is given by the BBC online.  In the report, it said that women were punished for fleeing domestic abuse and violence while some rape victims were also imprisoned, since sex outside marriage - even when the woman is forced - is considered adultery, another "moral crime".  The report also stated that the government of President Hamid Karzai had failed to fulfill its obligations under international human rights laws.
The lack of women's rights under the Taliban helped to justify western military intervention in Afghanistan
Improving the lot of Afghani women was one of the justifications of the intervention in the country and after the fall of the Taliban many professional women returned from abroad in the hope for a decent life in their home country.  It is understandably hard to change attitudes and ideologies in a decade of war. A BBC report  on the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh - disguising girls as boys- exemplifies the challenges inherent to the ideological underpinnings of oppression against Afghan women.
This child has been temporarily transformed from Mehrnoush the girl to Mehran the boy
 Some Afghans, persuaded by economics and social positioning, prefer boys over girls. "When you have a good position in Afghanistan and are well off, people look at you differently. They say your life becomes complete only if you have a son," one Afghan mother is reported to have explained. In Afghan society, sons are a symbol of prestige and honor.  It is a centuries old tradition that has defied the best-intentioned Western efforts to bring enlightenment and democratic values to a deeply fractured Afghan society.  An Afghani woman was recently murdered for the sin of having given birth to a third daughter.

The reality of Afghan women belies the more noble justifications for this war. In a statement released on International Women’s Day earlier this month, RAWA, an Afghan organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of women, blames the US and NATO, as well as the legacy of the Taliban for the lot of women in the war ravaged country:. “According to figures from the UN, almost 5,000 cases of violence against women were recorded last year, though the actual figure is several time higher than this,” they say. “The last 10 years of US and NATO occupied Afghanistan has been a burning hell for women and young girls who have been raped or gang-raped. According to a report of the European Union there are tens of women in jails who are rape victims but are imprisoned for being a ‘criminal’; rapists are high-ranked government officials or people related to them and Afghanistan’s corrupt judiciary made up of a number of stone-aged clerics can’t deal with or prosecute them.”

We are used to thinking that abuse of children and exploitation of their labor are phenomena that happen in the Third World.  We are now informed that the cannabis industry in the UK is under fire for more than simply cultivation of an illegal drug.  Cannabis farmers are exploiting Vietnamese children for their own profit.  Young children from Vietnam are trafficked into the UK and pressured to repay their families' debts by working in these operations.
Cannabis cultivation requires strenuous manual labor. The kids, some as young as 13, face appalling working conditions and are all but held hostage for debts their families in Vietnam may owe. Even worse, when authorities discover the growing operations, many of the children are prosecuted for drug crimes rather than sent home to their families.  Children should absolutely never be used for slave labor, but even more, shouldn't face prosecution for it.  Please send a demand to Prime Minister Cameron to put a stop to this practice which is unworthy of the UK.

We are pleased to report that the speeding tickets issued to neutrinos that were supposed to have exceeded the speed of light have been rescinded.  The ICARUS experiment also at Gran Sasso has shown that the neutrinos from CERN are moving at about the speed of light, but no faster.“Our results are in agreement with what Einstein would like to have,” says Carlo Rubbia, the spokesperson for ICARUS and a Nobel prizewinning physicist at CERN.  Neutrinos measured by the experiment arrived within just 4 nanoseconds of the time that light traveling through a vacuum would take to cover the distance, well within the experimental margin of error.
The ICARUS detector in Gran Sasso, Italy, has confirmed that neutrinos travel no faster than the speed of light.
INFN Gran Sasso National Laboratory
We can relax and go on with the business of physics.

A year before he mysteriously disappeared at sea, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana posed a puzzle for future researchers.
:Ettore Majorana predicted non-Dirac antiparticles.
 Quantum pioneer Paul Dirac had in 1928 predicted the existence of antimatter — mirror particles that annihilate with their matter counterparts. All known fermions — particles with half-integer spin, such as electrons — obey Dirac’s rules, but in 1937 Majorana varied Dirac’s equation to predict a class of particle that is its own antiparticle: the Majorana fermion.  For 75 years physicists have speculated about the particle, but now experimental evidence is surfacing that indicates that it may well exist. In fact, three possible sightings  were announced in February at the New York meeting of the American Physical Society, from Stanford, the Netherlands and China.   We find it most exciting.   Read more.

The Institute of Physics in Britain is offering a free pdf download of a special issue of Physics World that deals with the physics of the Earth.  We recommend the click, the download and the read.
Berlin-based visual artist Julius von Bismarck has just been named the artist-in-residence at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. If more of the world's research labs followed suit, maybe we'd have a better understanding of their work.  It is an interesting idea and we think a good one.  As pointed out in the article, the residency will obviously be a fertile one for von Bismarck, but what does the world’s foremost particle physics laboratory get out of the deal? Well, it turns out CERN’s more artistically bent than your average particle-accelerator operator – for a few years now, the Collide@CERN program has been sponsoring and promoting science-themed work in many different artistic fields.  It will indeed be a way to bring the physics closer to the public.  Read more.

It is well known that rejected would-be lovers often find consolation in the depths of a whiskey bottle.   This would appear to be something provided by evolution for it has been found that fruit flies do the same, in a manner appropriate to their species, of course.
Rejected, male fruit flies turn to alcohol, a new study finds.

 Poets through the centuries have made much of this connection and even Omar Khayyam
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
  who was a great mathematician and rationalist could write:
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

Of course Shakespeare understood well what every fruit fly knows
"Give me a bowl of wine,
In this I bury all unkindness."

William Shakespeare, (Julius Caesar)

as did St. Thomas the wise, (poor chap was a monk...)
"Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of good wine."
St. Thomas Aquinas
Pollyanna is getting bored with this and is telling me to stop blathering...

Copernicus and Tycho had much in common, but Tycho held to the Ptolemy version of the Solar System.  In this orrery, you can chose between the Copernican view and the Tychoian and you will see at once the problem of the epicycles.  This is something that came from a site called stumbleupon where I have signed up for history and astronomy.  Most of what comes through is tripe, but sometimes something worthwhile appears.

Some of you may recall our delight a few years ago when we discovered that high cacao content chocolate is a cardiac medicine and is good for us.  Years of guilt were swept away at once for the chocoholics of this world.  Some of us also have a weakness for popcorn especially at the movies or while watching a football game at home, whatever.  Now we are told that popcorn is good for us,  indeed a superfood.  Of course, this says nothing about the butter and the salt and the beer needed to slake the induced thirst.  Researchers, you know your task, onward!

We would like to call your attention to a few interesting writer profiles that we have come across.  In a New York Review of Books that Shaul Katzir gave us we found an interesting article about Milan Kundera whose writing we have admired for a very  long time. It was a  review of his latest writing  on the art of the novel.  He now writes only in French.  His description of the collapse of his world when the Prague Spring ended made me think of my friends in the Czech Republic.  He contrasts himself with Havel who held to optimism all through the repression while he, Kundera, sank into despair and fled.  Something to think about.
Earlier this year we expressed our satisfaction that Julian Barnes was awarded the Man Booker Prize.  Others obviously thought differently and the the book trade has spoken and named Alan Hollinghurst its "author of the year" for his novel The Stranger's Child.
Michael Lionstar
Alan Hollinghurst
An academy of 750 book industry experts voted for Hollinghurst as their writer of the year, ahead of Booker winner Julian Barnes and his short novel A Sense of An Ending and Carol Birch's Booker-shortlisted Jamrach's Menagerie. Hollinghurst, who failed to make the final Booker cut for his novel about two families, ranging from 1913 to 2008, also beat poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy's new collection The Bees.  Hollinghurst won the Man Booker prize in 2004 for his novel The Line of Beauty.
So many wonderful books to read and so little time!!

The playwright Eugene O'Neill (Nobel 1936)

destroyed every copy that he could find of his one-act autobiographical play The Exorcism and it was long considered a lost masterpiece.  It is indeed good news that a copy was found among the papers of someone who had received a copy from O'Neill's second wife after their divorce.   The play is due to be performed soon after over 90 years of oblivion.  The text was published in  The New Yorker  (access needed) and we liked it, for whatever our opinion is worth.  The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale purchased the manuscript for an undisclosed amount and the volume, with a foreward by Edward Albee and an introduction by longtime Beinecke curator Louise Bernard, is in print.

Those who recall the hilarious Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan film of 2006 will guffaw at the latest resurfacing of the national anthem of Kazakhstan.  Click, we will not spoil it for you by telling you about it!
The original Borat movie offended the Kazakh authorities
When the Kazakhtan government took issue with the film Baron Cohen had a lovely response:
In response to Mr. Ashykbayev's comments, I'd like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my government's decision to sue this Jew. Since the 2003 Tuleyakiv reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats, and age of consent has been raised to eight years old. Please, captain of industry; I invite you to come to Kazakhstan where we have incredible natural resources, hardworking labour, and some of the cleanest prostitutes in whole of Central Asia. Goodbye! Dzienkuje!
Pollyanna and I think this is wonderful.
Outside of the rants, this has been a rather light posting so we will just share some Saba wisdom with you:

along with a disinterested comment on health care

 from Andy Borowitz and also a Sunday Dilbert to help you feel superior to your boss.


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