Cluster Map

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pollyanna assures you that this is not the last blog

NASA / JPL / SSI / color composite by Emily Lakdawalla
Rhea on the rings with Prometheus and Janus
Cassini was nearly two million kilometers away from Rhea on March 28, 2010 when it captured this approximately natural color view of the moon sitting in front of Saturn's rings. In the background are two much smaller moons, Prometheus (sitting in front of the F ring on the left) and Janus (above the rings to the right).

Pollyanna again wishes all a happy holiday.  This week we mark the 340th anniversary of the discovery of Rhea, a large satellite of Saturn.  The discovery was made by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the founder of a dynasty of French astronomers who served for four  generations as directors of the Paris Observatory.
Giovanni Domenico Cassini

The spacecraft in orbit around Saturn is named for him. Pollyanna is displaying both Rhea and its discoverer with links to information about both. For the mythology buffs, RHEA was the Titanis mother of the gods, and a goddess of female fertility, motherhood, and generation. Her name means "flow" and "ease." As the wife of Kronos (time), she represented the eternal flow of time and generations ; as the great Mother (Meter Megale), the "flow" was menstrual blood, birth waters, and milk. She was also a goddess of comfort and ease, a blessing reflected in the common Homeric phrase "the gods who live at their ease (rhea)."
Rhea riding lion, Athenian red-figure vase,
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As usual, we link you to our Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action blog.  Please take a minute to act on behalf of people whose rights are being infringed.

Before doing anything else, Pollyanna would like to deal with a few feminist issues, first religious freedom for women in Israel. Again we have arrests for the wearing of a talit (prayer shawl) in Jerusalem, along with major crimes such as singing out loud etc.
A policewoman leading away Laura Wharton from the Women of the Wall prayer service in Nov. 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
The time has come for liberal Jews everywhere to make it clear to the Israeli political establishment that this situation is unacceptable.

The second is the killing of innocents by a gunman in the US. Pollyanna, along with everyone, mourns the death of 20 children and 6 teachers of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT who were gunned down by a monster with an assault weapon. There is no limit to the grief and outrage we all feel as we contemplate this disaster. You may want to sign a condolence card. We are reminded of the lines of Bialik in his poem about a massacre of Jews in Tsarist Russia:

On the Slaughter

Translated by A.Z. Foreman

And cursed be he that shall say: avenge this!
Such vengeance for blood of babe and maiden
Hath yet to be wrought by Satan.

There is no talk of revenge, but laws must be changed and the purveyors and supporters of a gun-ridden society must be held to account.  An anachronistic amendment from the early 19th century based on the idea that the new republic had no need for a standing army, but must be prepared to defend itself has been twisted to create a monster of a rapacious industry and a powerful group of people who profit from gun dealing.  We are told that there are 35,000 food markets in the US and 51,000 gun dealerships.  Just think. Let us hope that President Obama will put politics aside and stand up for the safety and security of the people.

Pollyanna totally agrees with Robin Morgan that the use of arms in the perpetration of violence is a gender issue   It has to do with men and boys shooting at women and girls.  Her comments are worth reading.  You can also hear the panel discussion of Women's Media Center online at 1300 UT or 1500 IST on Saturday. Note an ad for the Bush assault rifle of the type used by Lanza.
Can you imagine going deer or duck hunting with this gun? It is intended for killing and the ad equates manliness with owning this killing machine. Pollyanna wants to puke.

Pollyanna is glad that the governments of South Africa and Vietnam have signed an agreement to curb the poaching of rhinos in South Africa.  The poaching is driven by a superstitious belief in the Far East that attributes medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities to the horn of the animal. As a result, this wonderful species is in danger of extinction.
At least 618 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in 2012, nearly double the number killed in 2010

She sincerely hopes that this first international agreement on the rhino will make a difference.

Pollyanna salutes the five people chosen by Care2 as the outstanding human rights defenders of 2012. 
Anthony Shadid, Journalist, died in Syria

Chut Wutty, environmental activist

Li Wangyang, human rights activist

Nabeel Rajab, human rights activist

Malala Yousafzai, human rights and women’s rights activist

In particular, We like the idea of nominating Malala Yousufzai for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Already as a result of her wounding and struggle, the president of Pakistan has committed $3,000,000 to the education of girls. To our mind, the man who shot Malala is a true colleague of Adam Lanza--there is something particularly despicable about anyone who would harm a child. The late Christopher Hitchens made this point in his revision of the Ten Commandments for our modern secular world.

We have long contended that science is a place of sanctuary from the evils of the world. Let us look at some goodies from the world of science to raise our morale and give Pollyanna and the rest of us something to be glad about. Before we do that, let us put to rest the fear that this year's northern winter solstice is going to mark the end of the world.  The Mayans got a bum rap here.
Tortuguero Monument Six, supposedly predicting the "end of the world" in December, actually tells the life and battles of a ruler.
 The nuts running around looking for refuge or just stocking up on vodka are completely off their collective rocker.  Andy Borowitz tells us that the good folks at Google have been taking the matter seriously and have come up with a marvelous terminal home page for the world.
Anyone who has read The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the second part of the famous trilogy in five parts, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, will appreciate the effort made by our friends at Google.

Unrivalled control of a robotic arm has been achieved using a paralysed woman's thoughts, a US study says.
We are delighted at the report that Jan Scheuermann, who is 53 and paralyzed from the neck down, was able deftly to grasp and move a variety of objects just as we would with a normal arm, by means of a robot arm controlled by an implant in her brain.  This is a marvelous achievement and promises a ray of hope for paralyzed people.  Her first action, bless her, was to pick up a piece of chocolate.  We agree.

Science progresses best when existing paradigms are attacked and broken.  Two new ideas on the origin of life constitute such attacks.  One is the claim that the search for the origin of life is barking up the wrong tree and that instead of looking for the right chemistry, we should be looking for the key differences in the way that living creatures store and process information.  The concept is thought-provoking and should not be dismissed out of hand.
Historically, scientists have defined living creatures by the presence of DNA, but how living creatures process information may be a better hallmark of life, a new study argues

 The second new idea is the claim that instead of land animals evolving out of creature that came out of the sea, the direction was the opposite. A geologist at the University of Oregon claims that fossil studies show that life evolved on land and then made its way into the ocean.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons) A new study proposes that land-based life, as shown by this Ediacaran fossil, may not have evolved from ocean animals.

Other paleontologists have severe doubts about this theory and it is certain to generate fruitful debate in the scientific community.

In addition to the Rhea discovery anniversary mentioned above, we are happy to tell you that our neighboring star Tau Ceti, only twelve light years away and the closest, single, solar-type star has a family of five planets. One of them is in the "habitable zone" i.e at a range from the star in which liquid water can exist. Wherever we look in the sky, we find stars with planets, which is most exciting.

What If is amusing--what path would the Wise Men have followed if they left Jerusalem and followed a star?  Pollyanna, a true feminist asks what would have happened if they had been Three Wise Women?
This content may be offensive to devout Christians and we hope no one starts a Jihad.

We join Andy Borowitz in congratulating Mitt Romney on his being chosen Man of the Year by Time for 1912. You might also go to Andy's Twitter account to see Mitt's response.

There is Science and there is Science as Gene Weingarten can tell you.  We are all committed to the principles of William Occam(1287-1347) who laid down the rule that explanations should be as simple as possible.

We agree that Letitia is the real brain behind Barney.

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