Cluster Map

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pollyanna comes to brighten your day (almost)
Correggio, Jupiter and Io, 1532-33, oil on canvas 163.5 x 70.5 cm (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Pollyanna is back with all sorts of goodies for you. First she would like to wish a happy 440th birthday to Simon Marius (Latinized from German Simon Mayr; January 10, 1573 – December 26, 1624) who was a German astronomer. He was born in Gunzenhausen, near Nuremberg, but he spent most of his life in the city of Ansbach.

As we all know the large moons of Jupiter were discovered by Galileo in 1610. He named them after the Medici family, but Simon Marius gave them their mythological names, all lovers of Zeus/Jupiter. Marius was quite an astronomer in his own right as you may have noted in his biography. Pollyanna acknowledges the help of a certain professor of planetary physics whose Web site contains the above corrupt painting by Correggio. To protect his reputation, such as it is, she keeps her source anonymous.

Photo: A collage of Jupiter's four largest moons (clockwise from top left: Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede). You probably know that Galileo discovered them, but what astronomer, born 440 years ago this week, gave them their names?  Leave a guess below and then check your answer at And get the free weekly Year In Space newsletter with lots more information at
The four moons discovered by Galileo and named by Marius-name them and Pollyanna will send you to the head of the class and reward you with an oatmeal cookie Since Jupiter is now in opposition, the moons should be visible to anyone with strong binoculars

 Pollyanna calls your attention to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action update blog. Please click and write as called upon for people whose basic rights are being denied and violated.

When Pollyanna and Titan started blogging it was agreed that Pollyanna would do the nice stuff and Titan would rant about the outrageous things that happen in this lovely world of ours. Soon Pollyanna found out that she had to make an exception for matters involving women and girls who somehow are always at the bottom of the food chain. It appears that there is really a war on women going on, either by right wing politicians or by religious potentates, all male and all worried that women might actually start demanding some rights. Both Titan and Pollyanna have ranted about this war in the past and they will continue to do so. A sample of their rants is linked here. The violence against women never seems to end, even in India where so much public outrage exploded recently. A tiny step forward has happened in Israel where the government has outlawed the employment of models whose body mass index is below a certain number, 18.5 if our memory does not fail us. For a woman of average height, say 1.6 m, this comes to a weight of 47.4 kg, which is still very  thin. It is hoped that this will discourage anorexia of young women striving to join the profession.  

A treasure trove of documents dating from a thousand years ago has been discovered in Afghanistan and tells much about a Jewish community that lived in the outer reaches of the Persian empire. Some of the documents are at the National Library in Jerusalem.  Members of the community engaged in commercial activities along the Silk Road that connected Europe to the Far East during medieval times.
Silk Road extending from Europe through Egypt, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia,Sri Lanka Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Java-Indonesia, and Vietnam until it reaches China. The land routes are red, and the water routes are blue.

 The cache of documents includes some in the obscure Persian-Jewish dialect that was written in Hebrew letters, an analogue to Yiddish and Ladino in the West. Most were written, however, in Arabic script as seen below:
This undated Handout photo made available by the National Library of Israel shows an ancient manuscript discovered inside caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan - the first physical evidence of a vibrant Jewish community that thrived in that region a thousand years ago. (AP Photo/The National Library of Israel, HO) 

We are all familiar with the little mermaid who sits at the harbor in Copenhagen. She now has a brother in Elsinore, opposite the castle where Hamlet is set. London and Berlin based artists Michael Elmgreen (born 1961; Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (born 1969; Trondheim, Norway), who have worked together as an artist duo since 1995, have installed Han, a thoroughly modern and controversially male interpretation of the Danish national icon and occasional Disney wannabee.

We have heard of the Munchausen syndrome to say nothing of the silly Baron himself. We now are informed (why?) about the Munchausen number. This is a number that has the characteristic that if you raise each of its digits to the power of itself and sum up the resulting powers you get back the original number. It is true trivially for the number 1. Then
1 ... 1^1 = 1
2 ... 2^2 = 4 (2 out)
3 ... 3^3 = 27 (24 out, oh dear)
4 ... 4^4 = 256 (start sweating)

If you have nothing better to do you may read the piece about it.

The most accurate means of measuring time today is an atomic clock which measures the rate of energy level change of an electron held by an atom, i.e. a two particle system.
NIST-F1, the US primary time and frequency standard, is among the most accurate clocks in the world.

In principle it should be possible to make a one atom clock by exploiting the duality of matter which can either be wave-like or material-like. Jurgen Mueller at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues have devised such a clock.
The new clock based on a single cesium atom links time to the mass of that atom. As such, not only could atoms be used to measure time, but also time could be used to help define mass.
CREDIT: Image courtesy of Pei-Chen Kuan

The achievement, important unto itself, may have a practical application in determining the mass of the standard kilogram to a much higher accuracy than is possible today. We are most impressed.
The meteorite from Mars known as Northwest Africa 7034 is the first of its kind, containing large amounts of water and signs of volcanic Arian crust.
C. Agee/Univ. of New Mexico
A meteorite of Arian origin has been found in the Moroccan desert and contains much more water than other such objects. It appears to be chemically different from other meteorites from Mars that have been found elsewhere and is more similar to terrain observed by the rovers on Mars. It is about 2.1 billion years old and may have been emitted during a volcanic eruption during the early days of the planet.

Archaeology tries to reconstruct the past from material objects found in ancient habitations. In modern times various "time capsules" have been deposited in various places at different times with the idea of helping future archeologists and historians. Most of them will probably turn out to be quite useless. The records placed on the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft are intended to announce our existence to denizens of other stellar systems. Next year a space capsule named KEO will be launched into orbit by the European Space Agency. Its destination is the planet Earth, 50,000 years from now. Consider it an upgrade to the message-in-a-bottle Golden Record that Carl Sagan strapped to the Voyager spacecraft: on board will be a smorgasboard of humanity: a drop of human blood encased in a diamond, a compendium of human knowledge, photographs of people from “all cultures,” and other vestiges of our civilization. Also on board: a specially-engineered, durable DVD, with pictographic instructions for building a DVD reader.

 Every member of humanity is invited to imprint a message on this DVD. One might think this idea to be hare-brained, but, as noted in the linked writeup, the caves of the Stone Age peoples are unintended time capsules for us.
Ancient ostrich eggshell beads
Food for thought.

The recent disclosures of sports corruption ranging from drugging in the Tour de France to rigging of matches in competitive sports by gambling interests are most distressing. We all know what a major sin gambling is, in this world or that (credit Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal).

The scandalous degree of fixing in worldwide soccer has reached the level of the revenue of an international corporation. FIFA is attempting to crack down on it, but it will be most difficult. We cannot help but be reminded of the story of the three Jewish mothers boasting about their sons.

What If deals with a unique way to broil a steak.

and so on to outer space.

Dilbert shows us how to deal with your genius boss:

Cynthia and her friend along with Letitia have a comment on gun control:

and XKCD tells you more than you want to know about the hand sanitizer that we trust.

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