Pollyanna greets the New Year with the news of her centenary birthday. It was in 1913 that the book Pollyanna first began to distort reality for young girl readers and it has been doing so ever since. Pollyanna is as usual quite glad about this. She is grateful to Eleanor H. Porter for bringing her into the world.
For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human
Rights action blog. As the weeks and months go by without
Miriam, we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us
into the human rights struggle.
Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012) died this week at
She was the oldest living Nobel Laureate and had an unbelievable life. Prof. Levi-Montalcini was an outstanding scientist who overcame both sexism and antisemitism to reach a pinnacle of scientific achievement. She shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1986 for her groundbreaking work on nerve growth factor (NGF), which she used in eye drops. It is speculated that this enabled her to maintain her mental acuity to an advanced age. Her biography is so fascinating that we are linking you to two versions of it, one in the Guardian and the other in Kuriositas (a beautiful blog about art, science and in between). Pollyanna, Titan and YandA all salute this great lady. Rest in Peace Dr. Rita.
WISHES FOR GOOD HEALTH
Malala: We wish to share the delight of all decent people around the world at the release of Malala Yousafzai from Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for promoting education for girls. She will require further treatment and rehabilitation, but is said to have made a remarkable recovery. We wish her a rapid return to health.
Hilary Clinton: Pollyanna and her friends send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Hilary Clinton. Please take care of yourself Hilary, we shall need you in 1916.
A POLLYANNA RANT
As you know, Pollyanna confines her ranting to matters involving abuse of women and children. This time she is not only ranting, she is apoplectic. What do the Catholic Church and Jewish ultra-orthodox sects have in common? The answer is sexual abuse of young people and effective coverups by the establishment. The story of the Church is common knowledge. The report on the Archdiocese of Dublin alone came to 700 pages and to his credit, the Pope finally came down on them like an ecclesiastical ton of bricks. Last month, a scoundrel named Nechamia Weberman of the Satmar Hasidic sect in New York was convicted of 59 counts of abuse of a young woman who had been placed in his care. The New York District Attorney won these convictions not because of his investigations, but because this courageous young woman stood up and spoke. Countless others in such communities, not only Satmar, have been bought off, cowed into silence or crushed to the point of impotence. In this Sodom, there are a few righteous souls who having been trying to break this wall of silence for years. Their leader,Rabbi Nahum Rosenberg, gave an interview to the NYTimes that is chilling. He described young children trembling as they told him of these acts by the people they should have trusted the most, their teachers. The children told of heinous sexual acts, in classrooms and in the ritual baths. Rabbi Rosenberg recorded hundreds of these stories, and sent the accounts around to rabbis in Brooklyn and overseas. Finally, he says, one rabbi told him: "Why do you bother? You think we don’t know this? We know much worse but it will never get out". For his pains, Rabbi Rosenberg was doused with bleach. Nice people indeed. In this case, the chief rabbi of the sect, Rabbi Teitelbaun called the young woman, who had the courage to speak up, a "zona" i.e. a whore. Frankly, we think that the rabbi is the whore in the scene. We cannot expect much from the orthodox rabbinical establishment, what with a former Chief Rabbi of Israel being prosecuted for selling ordinations which caused the purchasers to get salary increases. It is up to the public to force the governments everywhere to pull down these walls of secrecy and to bring these criminals to justice.
FIRED FOR BEAUTY?
Pollyanna is outraged and not glad at all that a court in Iowa allowed a man to fire a female employee because she was too pretty and he was aroused by her presence. This is simply unacceptable and we can only hope that this will be reversed by a higher level court.
BAN ON FUR FARMING IN THE NETHERLANDS
On December 18, the Dutch senate passed a historic ban on mink farming in the Netherlands, which is currently the third-largest producer of fur in the world after Denmark and China.
The ban will be phased in over a decade because of the economic adjustments involved, but it constitutes a major step forward. Pollyanna applauds the Dutch parliament. Read more.
GOD PROTECTS FOOLS
שומר פתאים השם
is what we are told in Psalm CXVI and it appears to hold. A young woman drove 18 miles in the wrong direction on a freeway and survived with no mishap. We are also told in the Talmud that we should not rely on miracles (Ta'anit). In fact, if you get a miracle, it is charged against your heavenly account, so this lady should be careful in future.
TIDBITS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE
The Herschel Space Telescope has been looking at fascinating phenomena around the universe. We would like to share with you the drama of the forming of a super massive star.
It is beginning to be understood how stars of mass greater than about eight times the mass of the Sun can form. The observations of space telescopes such as Herschel are useful for solving such questions.
DARK MATTER ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY
Most of the mass of the universe is invisible to us and the search for the mysterious particles that make up dark matter is a Holy Grail of science.
As the solar system moves along a spiral arm of the Milky Way toward the constellation Cygnus, it may pass through a halo of dark matter particles. The resulting “WIMP wind” will appear strongest in June, as the Earth and sun travel together toward Cygnus.
Geoatlas/Graphi-Ogre, adapted by T. Dubé
Experiments designed to detect weakly interacting massive particles, aka WIMP's have given contradictory results. New experiments indicate that instead of being as heavy as 60 proton masses, the dark matter particles might be much lighter, in the vicinity of only five to 10 proton masses. If this is true, then the WIMP is not the superpartner of an ordinary particle, as described by a theoretical framework known as supersymmetry (affectionately called SUSY for short). When accelerator experiments failed to find low-mass superpartners, dark matter hunters jumped to the conclusion that WIMPs must have higher masses. But WIMPs do not have to be superpartners. Any particle that interacts weakly with ordinary matter would do. It will be cruel, the law of the jungle, if the discovery of a light dark matter particle deals a death blow to the aesthetically appealing theory of SUSY, which has already been put in doubt by the LHC, but things like that happen in science. In the meantime, the exciting search goes on. Stay tuned.
ON LIGHT SCATTERING IN TURBID MEDIA
Physicists from the universities of Zurich and Konstanz have now experimentally proven Nobel Prize winner Philip Anderson’s theory that waves do not spread in a disordered medium if there is less than one wavelength between two defects. This is a most interesting result and is certain to have many practical applications in many types of wave propagation situations.
|Diffusion of light in a disordered, cloudy medium at intervals of 1 ns. After about 4 ns, the light stops spreading any further. (Images: Univ. of Zurich)|
Hadass, does this have any relevance to phonons in murky fluid?
Anyone who has read any of the writings of Oliver Sacks will be delighted to learn that he has brought out a new book on seeing what is not there. The book, entitled Hallucinations, is reviewed in the Guardian by Will Self and briefly in Science News by Allison Bohac.
BOOK AND FILM
Cloud Atlas is a difficult and complex novel written by David Mitchell several years ago. It had mixed reviews, one of which, by Tom Bissell in the New York Times is linked for your consideration. Now the film making team of Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer have come up with a movie that by and large is being panned. We link you to the New Yorker review by Richard Brody.
As Bissel describes it ''Cloud Atlas'' imposes a dizzying series of milieus, characters and conflicts upon us: a ship sailing amid some islands around New Zealand during the mid-19th century, wherein an American notary named Adam Ewing befriends, at risk to himself, a stowaway Moriori named Autua; a Belgian estate called Zedelghem in the 1930's, wherein a sexually indecisive aspiring composer named Robert Frobisher serves as amanuensis to an older, more accomplished composer; California during the 1970's, wherein a plucky journalist named Luisa Rey attempts to disclose an ''Erin Brockovich''-style industrial conspiracy; London during the here and now, wherein a 60-ish book editor named Tim Cavendish finds himself accidentally imprisoned in a home for the elderly; Korea in the (just) foreseeable future, wherein a genetically engineered ''fabricant'' named Sonmi-451 is interrogated for her crime of wanting to be fully human; and Hawaii in some distant and thoroughly annihilated future, wherein a young goatherd named Zachry bears unknowing witness to the final fall of humanity into superstition andviolence and war."
Bissel gives the book a bit of praise and a bit of a lashing, whereas the film is given a total hatchet job by Brody. We may someday try to read the book, but definitely will take a pass on the film.
WHAT IF is interesting this week. It deals with the need for leap seconds to keep time tracking accurate.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
Dilbert starts the New Year as might be expected.
Let us wind up with a flash mob of Ode to Joy.