Cluster Map

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pollyanna greets the Holiday Season

Pollyanna, Titan and YandA want to wish all of our readers a happy Succot holiday season. We are supposed to build little huts with tree branches for roofs to remind us of the sojourn in the wilderness. Some say it is to challenge God to rain on us in our flimsy tabernacles.  We also wave palm, myrtle and willow  branches around with citrons and everyone has fun.  This is the time of year when Israel mostly folds up and everyone awaits that messianic time, "after the holidays." In fact, people start to become a bit fed up with holidays.  The Lord certainly takes note of this in that He commands us to rejoice in these holidays, whether we like it or not:

: "ושמחת בחגיך אתה ובנך ובתך ועבדך ואמתך והלוי והגר והיתום והאלמנה אשר בשעריך" דברים טז

14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.

15 Seven days shalt thou keep a feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose; because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the work of thy hands, and thou shalt be altogether joyful.
 Then from Leviticus XXIII

40 And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.

41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month.

42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths;

43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

God help you if you do not enjoy all this...

OK, on with the Pollyanna fun:
As usual we start by calling your attention to our Human Rights Action Update blog.  Please check it out and act for people whose human rights are being abused and whose lives are anything but enjoyment.

Pollyanna does not wish to get into the fray involving insults to this prophet or that.  She would like to point out that there exist traditions that run counter to firmly held beliefs of countless people and nonetheless no one is being attacked or killed.  We call your attention to an interesting scholarly analysis of an ancient Coptic scroll that refers to the wife of Jesus.   Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.

The discussion is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church, where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of the model set by Jesus.
Photograph Karen L. King
 Translated  legible text:
not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe]
The disciples said to Jesus
deny. Mary is worthy
of it
Jesus said to them,
“My wife
she will be able to
be my disciple
Let wicked people
swell up
As for me, I dwell with her in order to
an image
The document was presented at an international meeting on Coptic studies that took place in Rome.  Pollyanna is pleased that the Pope did not send the Swiss Guards to behead the presenter, Dr. Karen L. King of Harvard Divinity School.

 While dealing with ancient history, we note the  discovery of a huge Roman mosaic in southern Turkey in a part of the Roman Empire that has traditionally been considered marginal.  The mosaic, which once decorated the floor of a bath complex, abuts a 25-foot (7-meter)-long pool, which would have been open to the air, said Michael Hoff, a University of Nebraska, Lincoln art historian and director of the mosaic excavation.
Each section of the mosaic features its own geometric design.
CREDIT: University of Nebraska, Lincoln

The find likely dates to the third or fourth century, Hoff said. The mosaic itself is an astonishing 1,600 square feet (149 square meters) — the size of a modest family home. The city of Antiochia ad Cragum, founded in the first century, has a number of Roman features, including bathhouses and markets.

We sometimes joke about the post office using bottles cast into the sea as a means of transporting our mail.  The idea brings to mind castaways on islands hoping for rescue etc.  In the real world, it turns out that bottles at sea have some use.  A fisherman pulled up a bottle from the sea near Scotland that had been floating well below the surface for nearly a century. It will find its place in The Guiness Book of Recordsds.  The bottle was released in 1914 to track deep sea currents.

We travel around in unfamiliar places with the aid of a GPS system called WAZE (it is free so we can give them the plug) in our Blackberry.  We are guided by a charming female voice whom we have named Mabel, after the love interest in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance.  In the first act, Mabel sings a coloratura aria that reminds us of our Mabel, as you may note:

While we require satellites in orbit and computers to find our way, the humble bumblebee navigates beautifully with its own little brain and solves the famous or infamous  Traveling Salesman's Problem with great skill. 
PIT STOP: Bumblebees don’t need a map to know where they’re going. A large-scale experiment that outfitted the insects with radar antennas (shown) revealed that bumblebees are adept at figuring out the optimal route among several flowers, a tough computational problem. Andrew Martin
 We salute the little guys.

One does not usually think of the sex life of plants as being full of triangles, competition and intrigue.  New findings indicate that female plants exercise choice and that male flowers compete for the ladies' favors.  It is in someway analogous to the peacocks tail and other phenomena in male animals that decrease survival probability and  consume energy, but provide a higher probability of mating success and propagation of genes, which is what fights in bars are all about.  This is definitely worth a read.
MALE FIGHTS Pollen grains from the Scots pine (bottom image) may compete to fertilize a female sex cell. When pitted against another strain, pollen dubbed P595 faced a 46 percentage point drop in germination rate (left graph). That wimpy showing may explain why a third strain, E88, held its own against P595 (right graph).Steve McWilliam/Shutterstock

The Nikon camera company conducts an annual competition in which photographers vie to show the most beautiful pictures taken through a light microscope.  We show an example, but suggest that you click on the link and take a walk through a fascinating slide show.

Generations of physicists have grown up on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which says that one cannot achieve arbitrary accuracy in a given quantum measurement and that it is  possible at a given moment to know either the position or momentum of a particle, but not both. While the Principle itself is still solid, new research indicates that there are subtleties  that Heisenberg did not envisage.  The new results may well have importance in the domain of  quantum information and also present a profound philosophical problem.  Food for thought.
In many fields of human endeavor, we see generations of parent-child continuation of excellence.  The Braggs, father and son, shared the 1915 Nobel Prize for their work on x-rays and crystallography. The Curie family took five such prizes, Marie getting two.  In general, there has been a clustering of Nobel prizes in extended families:
Here is the clustering by families: 
Married couples
Marie Curie Pierre Curie    
Irène Joliot-Curie Frédéric Joliot    
Gerty Cori Carl Cori
Alva Myrdal Gunnar Myrdal          
Mother & daughter
Marie Curie
Irène Joliot-Curie          
Father & daughter
Pierre Curie
Irène Joliot-Curie          
Father & son
William Bragg Lawrence Bragg    
Niels Bohr Aage N. Bohr    
Hans von Euler-Chelpin Ulf von Euler
Arthur Kornberg Roger D. Kornberg    
Manne Siegbahn Kai M. Siegbahn    
J. J. Thomson George Paget Thomson
Jan Tinbergen Nikolaas Tinbergen

We are aware that there are dynasties in music and art as well.  Johann Sebastian Bach was a descendant of a long line of talented musicians. In an article in the Guardian a few years ago, Ian Sansom wrote about the Bach family.  This article leads us to this week's book review.  The late Edward Said discussed in 2001, in the London  Review of Books, the scholarly magnum opus:
Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff
Oxford, 599 pp, £25.00, March 2000, ISBN 0 19 816534 X

The review is a bit of a heavy read, but we found it well worth the effort and when we retire will find time to get the great book itself.
WHAT IF?    XKCD's readers provide good questions and Randall spares no effort in answering them.  He also has a nice try at modernizing the traditional mnemonics that people use to remember series of words.

 On color coding, he obviously does not like to use the chauvinistic mnemonic that we were  taught in undergraduate physics lab for resistors and  capacitors.  At the risk of being non PC, here it is: Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly. OK, Pollyanna is piqued at the moment, but there is hope she will forgive.
He also has a horrible example to warn us all from getting too deep into Google.

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