Cluster Map

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pollyanna congratulates the President

Pollyanna Forster - CEO, owner and wine director

Pollyanna is back and is lifting a glass of wine in honor of the victory of President Obama in his campaign for reelection. (she has many incarnations under the same name and herself is underage for drinking...)Normally she abjures politics, but this is just too good to pass over.  Congratulations, mazal tov dear Mr. President and we look forward to the next four years with the firm belief that you will do great things.

Before we get on with the blog, we first refer you to our Human Rights action blog.  Please click and act on behalf of people whose human rights are being violated.

Eighteenth birthday party

Our granddaughter Ella is going off to her military service this week and we wish her all the best.  We even give her a musical send off straight from Mozart:

Ella's enlistment into the army resolves a security lacuna that has existed since our grandson Joey got out a few weeks ago.

One of the exciting results of the US  election that makes Pollyanna very glad is the role played by women and the achievements of women.  The results show more women in more important elective positions than ever before. Check out this impressive list of victories for women.

There are many other exciting results of the election, but Pollyanna will leave them to her dear brother Titan who handles the political matters of the family.

Pollyanna is pleased to note two major religious appointments made this week.  Bishop Tawadros has been chosen as the new pope of Egypt's Coptic Christians, becoming leader of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
Blindfolded boy takes a name from a bowl to chose the new pope

Justin Welby has been named as next Archbishop of Canterbury the Head of the Anglican Church.
The Rt Rev Justin Welby: ''To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting.''

Pollyanna, together with Titan and YandA, wishes both of them success in their new and challenging tasks.

Pollyanna would like to commend the Cleveland OH judge who ordered a woman who drove on a sidewalk to avoid a loading schoolbus to stand on a corner with a sign warning about idiots!!  Right on, Your Honor.

This is something that Pollyanna has always regarded as troubling, the unwillingness of many people, possibly a majority, to accept the findings of modern science with respect to cosmology and biological evolution.  This obscurantism is  common in the US, but can be found worldwide, a rejection of rational thought and discussion and a grasping at mystic ideas that have no basis in any objective evidence.

Bill Nye discusses this and indeed is worried that there will not be a generation of rational people in the future to run the world.  Here is a discussion that you might find to be interesting.

No one claims that science has all the answers, but it is an ongoing process of finding reasonable answers to questions in nature.  Many antiscience advocates point to the changes in paradigm as a failure of science compared to the "eternal truths" offered by religion. The truth is just the opposite.  The replacement of the Ptolemaic model of the solar system by the Copernican is an example of the success of the scientific method. Similarly, a model of matter called SuperSymmetry or SUSY to its friends is awaiting the judgement of experiments in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  SUSY, is now a critical part of theoretical physics. It resolves many inconsistencies in other theories and holds them together in a neat and beautiful mathematical framework. Yet SUSY has no experimental evidence so far.
Large Hadron Collider

Physicists were hoping that the LHC would throw up particles that would validate supersymmetry, but it hasn't happened so far. People have also worked for decades developing string theory that is supposed to provide the link between quantum mechanics and gravity.  They include some of the greatest mathematical minds on the planet.  Nonetheless, if string theory fails experiment, then away it goes.  In all these cases, we wait and see and have no difficulty changing the paradigm if that is called for.

A new theory in paleontology posits that the growth of the brain of our ancestor Homo Erectus derived from the fact that H.Erectus knew how to cook. Cooked meat provides more energy at a lower cost in digestion than raw meat and thus the growth of the brain that passed on to H. Sapiens was phenomenal. The theory is neat, but the confirmation by hearth relics at the time of H. Erectus is missing and so the discussion goes back and forth.  It is certainly an interesting idea, although some say that the time of H. Erectus 1.6 million years ago was too early for fire.  Hearths date from 250,000 years ago whereas  burnt seeds etc. indicate that about 800,000 years ago is the earliest date for first controlled use of fire. While we are with paleontology, we note that a new and quite convincing explanation  for the existence of the rear wings in four-wing flying dinosaurs attributes their use to fine tuned navigation around tree branches and other obstacles.

The huge storm that both devastated the east coast of North America and claimed 69 lives  along with causing untold damage in the Caribbean was not an immigrant from the West Coast of Africa.  It appears that Sandy herself was born in the Caribbean .  On the evening of October 19, a trough of low air pressure drifted slowly in the Caribbean Sea, east of Costa Rica and south of Haiti. The U.S. National Hurricane Center gave this tropical wave only a 20 percent chance of strengthening into a named storm. As it happened, however, a combination of meteorological circumstances that rarely come together gave birth to Sandy and drove her to major hurricane status.
What's left of Hurricane Sandy exits over the Great Lakes in this image taken in the wee hours of October 31. To better predict any future superstorms, scientists are working to understand exactly how Sandy was born, grew and died. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

For those of us who are interested in these things, the sequence of events creates a fascinating story. It should be noted that the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts predicted Sandy’s sharp westward turn days before the U.S. equivalent did. The European model uses higher-resolution data, farther in advance, than the leading American model does, which indicates greater computing power. Our Yankee friends sometimes tend to be penny wise and pound foolish.

A blogging period never seems to go by without a new planet popping up in someone's telescope.  We are now informed of a super-Earth orbiting the star HD 40307 that was known to host three planets, all of them too near to support liquid water. Now a Super-Earth that may support liquid water has been found.  Read all about it.!

We have long been considered pests for our unwillingness to tolerate smoke injected to our lungs without our consent. We have one relative who claims he is preventing lung cancer by drinking copious amounts of orange juice.  Yes, he has a responsible job and manages to cross the street without being run over.  In any case, it is nice to get further confirmation that preventing smoking in the public arena has positive effects. 

We call your attention to
On Politics
A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present

Alan Ryan (Author, New College, Oxford University)
Book One:
A History of Political Thought:
Herodotus to Machiavelli

Book Two:
A History of Political Thought:
Hobbes to the Present
First the publisher's blurb:
Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century.  Both a history and an examination of human thought and behavior spanning three thousand years, On Politics thrillingly traces the origins of political philosophy from the ancient Greeks to Machiavelli in Book I and from Hobbes to the present age in Book II. Whether examining Lord Acton’s dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” or explicating John Stuart Mill’s contention that it is “better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” Alan Ryan evokes the lives and minds of our greatest thinkers in a way that makes reading about them a transcendent experience. Whether writing about Plato or Augustine, de Toqueville or Thomas Jefferson, Ryan brings a wisdom to his text that illuminates John Dewey’s belief that the role of philosophy is less to see truth than to enhance experience. With this unparalleled tour de force, Ryan emerges in his own right as one of the most influential political philosophers of our time

OK, what do the reviewers say? The New Yorker review is for subscribers, but we can quote: "Ryan shows how the assumptions behind many theories of politics are as much metaphysical as they are political: in most cases, a thinker’s views of politics are indecipherable without his views of man, nature, and God. Among the dangers facing democracies today, he focuses on the likelihood that individuality will shrink before the onslaught of mediocrity and conformity, and on the possibility that we will settle for a “Persian” prosperity instead of demanding a “Greek” politics of active participation. One of the valuable functions of a history like “On Politics” is to show how narrow a slice of the intellectual spectrum American politics currently fights over."

Read more if you can open it.

We also link you  to an excellent review in the Los Angeles Times.  Ryan deals with problems of the evolution of democracy. He draws the dichotomy of Greece and Persia very well. The Persian subject lived under a competent government, as noted by Herodotus, but had few if any individual rights. The Greek had both rights and the responsibilities that came with them, but lived under the rule of Law rather than the whim of a King. This reminds us of a conversation with the Chinese ambassador in Tel Aviv who assured us that the Chinese people were happy and that people do not really want democracy. They would rather be looked after by a strong and competent leadership. The speech delivered this week by the outgoing leader Mr. Hu Jintao at the Communist Party congress in Beijing tells us what the problem of that is.

Pollyanna thanks Yosefa for calling to her attention to this gross but funny commercial exploitation of women. Imagine a pink laptop, presumably all dumbed down for the weak female brain.  Take a look and join the laughter.  Seriously it is sad that women are still regarded as weak-minded silly creatures.

WHAT IF? This question was asked two days before the US election.  We like the answer.


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