Cluster Map

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pollyanna will try to be nice this week


Last week brother Titan was particularly nasty and he promises to be even worse next week because of the stuff that keeps coming up. Pollyanna sympathizes with him, but will try to do her bit to show that the world is not all bad things.

For example, we had a visitor from the universe
At its closest, the asteroid  passed within a distance of about 6 million kilometres
that flew by at a respectable distance but helped to remind us  that there are dangerous things out there and we should watch them carefully. This one was big., 2.7 km in dimension. It is even massive enough to trap and hold a moon.

We also went to a concert with our grandkids and heard the William Tell Overture which certainly shows that one should have faith, as WT's kid did. 

Of course, some  of us associate the overture with the Lone Ranger radio and TV adventure stories, but it really means being an American of a certain age, not young at all.

OK, enough of being silly and on to serious stuff,

Pollyanna also asks you to click on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog and to do your bit for human rights.

Consider the five great mathematicians who made the greatest difference to our lives. Pollyanna knows that to many of you math is anathema and invokes traumatic memories of old school days. Nonetheless, the cell phone you use, the car you drive and the medicine that cures your ills, all are available because of mathematics. In addition, it has a beauty of its own and would be a worthy subject of  research even without its myriad applications in the real world. In a blog post, Suburban Lion proposes introducing advanced  mathematical concepts into school curricula. The idea makes sense.

Something that math and physics can do for us is to give us an idea of the galaxy in which we live. Phil  Plait in Bad Astronomy tells us about new research that explains how our Milky Way galaxy developed its spiral arms and maintains them. It is nice that although we are inside the galaxy, modern observing techniques and powerful computer simulations tell us what the galaxy is like. Pollyanna says we should want to know because we do live here.
A map of our galaxy, including the new measurements of the Local Arm. Click to galactinate.
Illustration by Robert Hurt, IPAC; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

The Hula Painted Frog, long considered extinct, has been discovered living in the Hula bog. Since it is the sole living member of a family Latonia, which went extinct 15,000 years ago, is has been classified as a living fossil. Its habitat had been nearly destroyed when some idiot decided to drain the Hula swamp in Northern Israel. Reflooding of part of it seems to have helped these tough little survivors.

The Hula painted frog was last seen in Israel the 1950s - until it was found again in 2011 by a park ranger

While we have long regarded our Murphy as the epitome of canine wisdom, it appears that a border collie bitch seems to have figured out grammar, whereas Murphy just knows a few simple commands and is trying to understand why picking up tortoises is not a means of gaining popularity. The collie, Chaser, owned by psychologist John Pilley of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. can understand nouns and verbs She demonstrated her grasp of the basic elements of grammar by responding correctly to commands such as “to ball take Frisbee” and its reverse, “to Frisbee take ball.” for example. Murphy is most impressed as are we.

A border collie named Chaser participates in an experiment testing her ability to understand commands given before she can see any of the objects named in those directives. After hearing a four-word command, Chaser consistently turned around and carried the correct item from the head of the bed to the living room, where she placed it next the appropriate object. Credit: Courtesy of J. Pilley

We love crunchy peanut butter and our lady Yosefa makes it for us at home. We are, however, somewhat surprised and quite pleased to learn that the yummy brown stuff has several non-food uses. We call your attention to the list of ten uses of peanut butter provided by our friends at Care2.

Throughout the world governments and NGO's have been doing their best to remove the scourge of tobacco smoking that causes untold deaths and illnesses. Now Russia has come on board with a new law banning smoking in public places. In the coming years, the law will be expanded further. In Russia, 400,000 people die each year from tobacco-related diseases and President Putin is be to applauded for his efforts to improve public health. The measure has not been received well by the smoking community, who make up 40% of the

If we judge by experience in Israel, real enforcement will take years. Here, the fining of cafe owners for smoking by guests has been effective. It has, however, taken nearly two decades for the public space to become relatively smoke-free. We wish the Russian clean air addicts good luck in their struggle to breathe again. It will require a major increase in taxes on tobacco products if it is to work. In the US, Starbucks has announced a smoking ban within 25 feet (7.6m) of the entrance of any Starbucks cafe. When the ban on smoking in public went into effect in the EU, an Italian interviewed on BBC radio claimed that this would mark the demise of all intellectual activity in Italy. . He seems to have exaggerated just a bit.

.  WHAT IF is a bit fanciful this week, but amusing.

In winter, we like to check the weather radar to see what is coming our way. It is not, according to XKCD, a good idea to be obsessive about it.Weather Radar  
Pollyanna has great respect and admiration for the building trades. We all wonder how they function high up, as we see at lunch time during the building of the Empire State Building in New York in 1930.

Sometimes, however, when things get complicated up there on top, the need for the artistic touch becomes apparent:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jun/05/2013

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