Cluster Map

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pollyanna congratulates the Nobel Laureates and salutes girls everywhere

Maya as little Pollyanna

Pollyanna is glad to be back with you. The holiday season is behind us and we can now get back to the real world, such as it is. As usual, for starters we call your attention to our Human Rights Action blog and ask you to click and help those who are in such great need of support.

Pollyanna calls your attention to the International Day of the Girl, October 11, 2012. For this occasion, the blog is coming out on Thursday instead of the usual Friday. She together with Titan and YandA invite you to the Because I Am a Girl site and ask you to join up and support the initiative to empower girls everywhere.  Abuse is rampant in far too many countries.
Please meet Urmila:

Urmila is a 22 year old former Kamlahari (a child servant) and a women’s activist from Nepal. Urmila comes from a family of bonded, landless farmers. Her family was so poor that they sold her to work as a Kamlahari for 40 dollars a year when she was 6 years old.

Like so many other girls of Urmila’s Tharu ethnic group, she was forced to leave her community and work in conditions of often extreme exploitation without any personal compensation in the house of a rich and prosperous family in the capital of Kathmandu. Urmila remained in the Kamlahari system of forced child servitude for 11 years.

In 2007, and at the age of 17, Urmila was finally freed. Then, with the help of international and local NGOs, Urmila’s dream finally came true: she was able to start school. Urmila is now attending ninth grade of a private English high school.

From the moment she gained freedom, Urmila decided she had to fight for the many Kamlahari girls, who still live in slavery. In December 2007, she was elected the first president of the Common Forum for Kamlahari Freedom (CFKF), an organization founded by girls and women to fight for their own rights. Urmila and a delegation of girls travelled several times to see the President, the Prime Minister and other important people in Kathmandu to claim financial support for the education of the ex-Kamlahari girls.

While Pollyanna usually leaves the rants and the raves to her brother Titan who is a highly skilled ranter, she is totally outraged over the attack on Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old campaigner for girls' rights, who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen. Surgeons have removed a bullet from her head and she is reported to be in stable condition.
Pakistani hospital workers carry injured Malala Yousafzai, 14, on a stretcher at a hospital following an attack by gunmen in Mingora on Oct. 9, 2012. (Mohammed Rehman - AFP/Getty Images)
  Malala Yousufzai rose to fame because of her innocent but courageous desire to attend school, which translated into a one-girl campaign of resistance when Taliban captured Swat valley in 2009 and ordered girls' schools closed. Several hundred in Swat and neighbouring Bajaur and Mohmand were destroyed. Only a few in urban areas have been rebuilt. Her blog came to the attention of BBC Urdu and she became known worldwide. She was just 11 when she started her diary, two years after the Taliban took over the Swat Valley and ordered girls' schools to close. Writing under the pen-name Gul Makai for BBC Urdu, she exposed the suffering caused by the militants. Her identity emerged after the Taliban were driven out of Swat. She later won a national award for bravery and was nominated for an international children's peace award.

There are protests in Pakistan, but this brave girl's life will remain in danger. The police arrested 40 suspects, but released them all on bail. Pollyanna weeps for such girls and calls for action by all enlightened people. If there is a Pakistani embassy in your country, you can start by calling them and making your opinion known to them.

Pollyanna is anything but glad that some idiot decided that he could improve a painting by Mark Rothko in the Tate Modern in London. We know that set of paintings, the Seagram Murals and sincerely hope that the restoration experts will succeed in undoing the damage.

Pollyanna is delighted to congratulate this year's Nobel Laureates in science:

PHYSICS: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche
Photo: © CNRS Photothèque/Christophe Lebedinsky

  and David J. Wineland
Photo: © NIST

 "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems".

CHEMISTRY: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 was awarded jointly to Robert J. Lefkowitz
Photo: Stewart Waller/PR Newswire. © HHMI

 and Brian K. Kobilka        
Photo: © Stanford University

"for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors".

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 was awarded jointly to Sir John B. Gurdon
Photo: Creative Commons Attr. 2.0 Generic license

and Shinya Yamanaka
Photo: Creative Commons Attr. 2.0 Generic license

 "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent".

Now let us go into these awards more deeply.

Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics in the 1990s by showing how to observe individual atoms and particles of light called photons while preserving their quantum properties. These results are seminal and will eventually lead to great technological advances, such as much faster computers. It is amazing to us that, as a physicist once said to Yakir Aharonov of Tel Aviv University, people can do quantum physics in vivo. . We like the quote on Yakir's Web page, "How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress", Niels Bohr
Brian K. Kobilka and Robert J. Lefkowitz won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday, receiving the honor for their work unveiling how an important group of signaling molecules works in the body.  The molecules, called G-protein-coupled-receptors, or GPCRs, are embedded in the membrane of cells and cause important chemical cascades when a target molecule attaches to them. That target could be anything from a hormone such as adrenaline to neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Read more in the Washington Post.
It is worthy of note that this is the first time that the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to  two medical doctors, which indicates that basic science and medicine are drawing closer to one another.
We add a quote courtesy of the Science Media Center from Mark Sansom, professor of molecular biophysics at Oxford University:
"G-protein coupled receptors have for a long time been the holy grail of membrane protein research. They are fundamental to regulation of many physiological processes, from the nervous system to taste and smell. They are also a major class of drug target and are incredibly important to the pharmaceutical industry. In particular Kobilka's work in determining the structure of G-protein coupled receptors has revolutionized our understanding of how they work as small 'molecular machines' and will lead to enormous advances in drug design."
In a testament to the revolutionary potential of the field of regenerative medicine, in which scientists are able to create and replace any cells that are at fault in disease, the Nobel Prize committee on Monday awarded the 2012 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine to two researchers whose discoveries have made such cellular alchemy possible.
The prize went to John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in England, who was among the first to
clone an animal, a frog, in 1962, and to Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan who in 2006 discovered the four genes necessary to reprogram an adult cell back to an embryonic state.
Read more:
The implications of this work are mind-boggling. There has been controversy over the use of embryonic stem cells in this research. It is encouraging that the courts in the USA have ruled that the use of stem cells is legal. The source of these cells is embryos that are left over in fertility clinics and would normally be trashed. These cells which have not yet made a job choice can be used to replace diseased or faulty tissues in the body. Pollyanna at 99 and Titan at 4.6 billion are both aware of the frailties of aging, in particular the loss of cartilage that causes osteoarthritis. It is thrilling to see that stem cell research is making major progress in replacing cartilage.
Glassy, resilient bone-capping cartilage has long eluded tissue engineers trying to grow it in the lab.
Biophoto Assoc./Getty Images
The blue sky version of the stem cell approach goes like this: Stem cells are extracted from a patient, geared up to become chondrocytes, wrapped in a favorable mix of compounds and then inserted into damaged joints. The cells take it from there. Voilà: neo-cartilage. This is not yet routine clinical practice, but it is on the way.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Chinese writer Mo Yan,  the first Chinese author ever to win the Nobel prize in literature.

China Daily, via Reuters

Mo Yan in Beijing in 2009.

“Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition,” the citation for the award declared, striking what seemed a careful balance after campaigns of vilification against other Chinese Nobel laureates.
 Pollyanna, Titan and YandA all applaud the new Nobel Laureates in science and literature.

Pollyanna, along with the rest of us,  wishes to to fire a blast at the Jerusalem Post.   This rag of a tabloid masquerading as a real newspaper hit a new low in provinciality and stupidity with its headline "NY Jewish doctor wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry."  The item appeared not as an item of science news, but as part of the Jewish World section, as if the fact that Lefkowitz happens to be Jewish has any relevance to the research and that his contribution to the research was more important than that of  Kobilka who is just a trivial goy from a small town in Minnesota. This sort of behavior shows up often in our country. In 2006 the Chemistry Laureate was Roger Kornberg of the USA, who is married to an Israeli woman. This led the local press to anoint him as an honorary Israeli and to claim the prize for all of us. We have ten perfectly legitimate Nobel Laureates in Israel, four of them in Chemistry and one in literature, and there is no need to hitchhike on the laurels and achievements of others.
Pollyanna strongly approves of the fact that at dozens of Conservative (Masorti) synagogues around Israel, congregants celebrating Simhat Torah carried the flag of egalitarianism and pluralism. Literally, that is to say.
One of Rabbi Graetz's daughters posing with new Masorti flag Photo by Courtesy of Tzvi Graetz
A brand new Simhat Torah flag conceived by the Israeli branch of the world Conservative movement offers a fresh take on the traditional scenes depicted on this popular holiday accessory (particularly when topped with an apple): Rather than bearded men dancing with Torah scrolls - the women standing in the background, if present at all - this flag has men and women dancing together with the Torah scrolls, joined by members of other marginalized groups of society. Reform movement, pick it up.

Last week Titan delivered the opinion of all of us on the stupid and harmful film made by an idiot of an
Islamophobe. We find it of interest, however, to note that Live Science has compiled a list of seven major religious hoaxes in history. Some, such as the nefarious Protocols of the Elders of Zion are purveyors of hate. We saw the Protocols for sale at book stalls on the streets of Cairo and we are told that when the new Alexandria Library was opened, the contributions of various faiths were marked by the Quran, the New Testament and the Protocols rather than the Old Testament. The latter were removed after an Israeli government protest and a worldwide Jewish outcry. Other hoaxes are funny or simply tricks to relieve the faithful of some of the burden of their worldly wealth for the benefit of holy men. There are modern hoaxes such as Scientology that are doing very well.
Many of us know the great American poem about Casey at the Bat.

We were reminded of it when we read that a well known English golfer named Paul Casey, on the green in two on a par five, had his ball stolen by a dog. After due restitution and some delay, he made his birdie.

What If is not really up to par this week. Apparently there were not any really good questions. Randall had to revive Schroedinger's cat or invoke his own cat to make it interesting. C'est la vie. On the other hand, Letitia shares a problem with many of us.

We recall a struggle to cancel an American Express card many years ago. Dilbert's company also has a successful business model:

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