Cluster Map

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pollyanna thinks, therefore she is..

Pollyanna is back and is very glad that our celestial visitor 2012 DA14, an asteroid about 45 m in size and about 130,000 tons in mass, passed by on Feb. 15 but did not drop in.
On Feb. 15, the small asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass the Earth, similar to this artwork (which uses a real image of both Earth and the asteroid Matilde).
Image credits: Earth: ESA/Rosetta; asteroid Mathilde: NASA/NEAR

It flew past inside the belt of communication satellites that occupy the synchronous or stationary orbit. (A geostationary orbit (GEO) is a circular geosynchronous orbit in the plane of the Earth's equator with a radius of approximately 42,164 km (26,199 mi) (measured from the center of the Earth). A satellite in such an orbit is at an altitude of approximately 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above mean sea level.) Our asteroid friend came in at about 27,000 km from the surface.
Credit: Guardian graphics

There is enough to worry about without having to consider an asteroid impact, even if you are not a dinosaur. Pollyanna  was also pleased with President Obama's State of the Union speech which had some good news  for us liberal types.

This just in--a large meteor has exploded over Russia and hundreds of people were injured. This is not connected with the asteroid just described. It was apparently a bolide, an extraterrestrial body ranging in size from 0.6 to 6 miles, or 1-10 km across that hits Earth at velocities faster than a speeding bullet. It may have been caused by the breakup of a small asteroid.
As usual, we refer you to our Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action blog. Please open it and help the people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.


As you know, both Titan and Pollyanna rant about the war on women and about what is happening to women around the world whether or not you get tired of it. If it really bores you, then go out and do something about it in your environment. This week, we return the focus to Latin America and call your attention to the plight of women in Mexico and Colombia.
Women demonstrating in Colombia
We note that the 204th birthday of Charles Darwin took place on February 12. By coincidence, Abraham Lincoln was born on the same day. It seems that 1809 was a bumper year for great babies since Felix Mendelssohn was also born during that year. In 2009, the inaugural Darwin Day was established, celebrating the bicentennial of the naturalist’s birth, and the sesquicentennial (150 year anniversary) of the publication of his landmark treatise, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

For those who would like a less dumbed-down biography of Darwin, click here.


 If anyone is looking for a job, one has become vacant in Rome with the resignation of  Pope Benedict XVI .
Pope Benedict XVI delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on December 25, 2012. UPI/Stefano Spaziani
Pope Benedict XVI delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on December 25, 2012. UPI/Stefano Spaziani

The job includes luxurious housing, but entails celibacy which might not sit (or lie) well with some possible applicants. 
Of course, the food is good as well.  The resignation of a pope is rare, but not unprecedented. In fact, it has happened  nine times in the past   The last instance was that of Pope Gregory XII who abdicated in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism.

The fortune cookie provided at the end of a meal in Chinese restaurants was supposed, among other things, to be a predictor of getting laid after dinner. No longer-the fortune cookie has been cleaned up and will no longer contain sexually suggestive messages. This is a result of complaints of parents who thought the messages their children were getting to be inappropriate. We recall that our Maya, at age two, got a cookie that told her the truth, "you are surrounded by those who love you." The comedian Alan King claims to have found the message, "help, I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery."

The question is raised what is the longest word in English and Clyde thinks he has the answer.

Unfortunately, we are told by Michael Quinion that a longer word has popped up in the meantime. We quote, for those too lazy or busy to follow the link: "The word’s main function is to be trotted out as an example of a long word (it was the longest in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary but was edged out in the second by pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis). " Take a deep breath before starting to say it...

Several years ago vandals in Winnipeg smeared tar on the sign outside a Jewish day care center. The teacher dissolved it easily with Coca Cola which tells you something about that stuff. We wonder why there was any at hand in a day care center, but that is another issue We note  that a coroner's jury in New Zealand has held the drink responsible for the death of a 30-year old woman. Of course, the lady drank 10 liters per day of the junk.  We think that  much can be said for water and fruit juice.
The coroner called on soft drinks firms to carry more warnings about the risks of sugar and caffeine

 The company of course claims that there is no real proof of the complicity of their product in the death.

You might  find it interesting to read about a little parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii that can invade the brain of a human being and subtly influence the personality of the host.

T. gondii parasites hunkered down in a brain cyst (shown in a mouse) can keep an infection alive.
 It can be lethal for mice since it causes them to lose their fear of cats.

Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica. On January 28, a U.S. research team retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface. The water hosted a surprising bounty of living cells. These cells join a large panoply of living entities in extreme environments such as the organisms discovered deep under the sea floor. One day, analyzing the deep biosphere may help NASA and other space agencies in their hunt for life elsewhere in the solar system. At North Pond, (a region in the Pacific about 22 degrees north of the equator) expedition scientists have tested out a new tool that, once lowered into a borehole, illuminates the hole’s walls using ultraviolet light. Because living cells turn fluorescent at specific wavelengths, the light can be used to spot films of organic matter coating the hole. This probe, or some elaboration on it, could end up flying on future space missions. And then the intraterrestrials could help scientists find extraterrestrials.

Genetic evidence shows that there must have been some interbreeding between us and our Neanderthal predecessors.

The length of time modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) overlapped in Europe has been a keenly debated topic in recent times. When did you last date a Neanderthal? (Fifth amendment protection is not provided.) A long overlap raises important questions about the extent to which we might have interbred with them, and possibly even contributed to their eventual demise. Analysis of the Neanderthal genome indicates that as much as 4% of our genetic makeup can be attributed to them.
Gibraltar Neanderthal skull
DNA studies confirm there was some mixing between Neanderthals and modern humans

The lowly neutrino, long considered a mere curio of particle physics, has been making a spectacular return to center stage. New data appear to indicate that it played a significant role in the early universe and may provide the answer to one of the most vexing questions in science, namely why are we here? If the early universe consisted of roughly equal portions of matter and antimatter, one might have expected them to annihilate one another and leave a sterile world of radiation. Obviously this did not happen and the neutrino may hold the key to the victory of matter over antimatter.
View larger image | One of the surprising properties of neutrinos is their ability to switch identities, or oscillate, over time. Antimatter versions also oscillate.

  This lovely animated video was sent to us by Yosefa, thank you very much.

What If? asks: If the Hubble telescope were aimed at the Earth, how detailed would the images be? The answer is not very good. Military spy satellites view the Earth much better.

 How many of us spend too much time at the computer, doing things like writing blogs as Pollyanna and Titan dictate etc. It is a fairly common problem.
 Dilbert for 2/10/2013

We suspect that Gene Weingarten must have raised a daughter up to her teens at least. We dedicate this sequence to all such fathers:

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