Pollyanna wants to wish all her US friends and readers a happy Fourth of July and a happy Canada Day to those north of the border. Enjoy your holiday weekends. Drive carefully and avoid firecrackers.
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. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.
Pollyanna grieves for the 19 firefighters who lost their lives fighting the forest fire in Arizona.It is very sad that such people who devote their lives to serving the community and protecting people fall victim to the forces against which they are struggling. These "Hot Shots" are the bravest of the brave.
|Nineteen crosses and American flags adorn the fence outside of Station in Prescott, Arizona. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images|
Pollyanna also notes with sadness the death of Sarah Guyard-Guillot, who fell 15 meters to her death during a performance of Ka by the Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas.
|Sarah Guyard-Guillot, left, in a previous performance of Ka. Photograph: Leila Navidi/AP|
The circumstances are now under investigation, but it would appear that she accidentally slipped her safety wire while being lifted. She was a mother of two children. Guyard-Guillot had been with the original cast of Ka since 2006, and had been an acrobatic performer for more than 20 years. It is a most tragic event.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOUR HOLINESS
Pollyanna wishes His Holiness the Dalai Lama all the best on the occasion of his 78th birthday. He is one of the true holy people in this world. We had the privilege of meeting him and speaking to him on one of his visits to Israel. Truly he is a great man. May he be blessed with long life and success in helping his oppressed people in Tibet.
FREEDOM AT LAST
You will recall the story of the Christian girl in Pakistan who was falsely accused of desecrating a Koran and held in prison.
|Rimsha and her family received death threats and were forced into hiding|
LION CUB RESCUE
This incident in which a lioness rescued her cub from a life-threatening situation was sent to us by several sources and is booming around the Web. It is heartwarming and nice to see.
Stephen Fry gives us his take on snobbishness in language. We are not sure that we agree with him totally. Modern Hebrew as spoken on the street is sloppy and a pain to our pedantic ears. The English we see written and hear over the media is not much better if at all. As Pooh-Ba says "pardon us if we decline.." Maybe we are snobs or just old whatevers.
TIDBITS FROM SCIENCE
CENTENNIAL OF QUANTUM PHYSICS
Recently we celebrated the centennial of Pollyanna's arrival on Earth. This year also marks a century since Niels Bohr, the great Danish physicist, published his first papers on quantum theory. In the years that have passed since then quantum mechanics has made great strides and certainly the initial work of Bohr cannot be called the cutting edge. Even though the technical details of Bohr’s model turned out to be wrong, he had grasped the essential idea for understanding atoms: abandoning common sense in favor of the crazy rules of quantum theory. Bohr saw more deeply than others of his time that embracing quantum physics was the key to unlocking nature’s hidden truths. While quantum confusions drove other physicists to despair, Bohr pursued the path into the quantum world. He foresaw the role of entanglement and his famous debates with Einstein moved physics along towards the promised land. One of the most best-known exchanges of this discussion was Einstein's famous quote that "God does not play dice with the universe," to which Bohr is said to have replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do!" (The debate was cordial, if spirited. In a 1920 letter, Einstein said to Bohr, "Not often in life has a human being caused me such joy by his mere presence as you did.")
HOPE FOR DIABETICS
Pollyanna is happy to learn that a technique known as 'reverse vaccination' has passed some tests with humans and appears to be a means of curing type I diabetes. It suppresses the immune reaction that kills insulin producing cells. The researchers designed a molecule that contained the gene for making proinsulin, the precursor to insulin. The molecule also included instructions for triggering the killer cells' response and then shutting it down. It worked in mice and now has worked in humans. It looks promising indeed.
TRAFFIC ON MARS
The Opportunity rover on Mars has set a new record for travel off world. This is not in itself of major importance, but it is in general exciting that the robot vehicles on the surface of Mars, Opportunity and Curiosity, are providing precious scientific information.
The Holy Grail of course is to find evidence of past life on Mars. The vehicles also show, in our opinion, the great advantage of robots over human flight and activity in space. We refer you to the Curiosity page for fascinating images and results.
FARE FORWARD VOYAGER
Elsewhere in the Solar System our old Voyager friends (with whom we worked during the planetary phase of the mission) are moving onwards.. Both of the spacecraft are forging ahead to leave the Solar System as defined by the extent of the heliosphere and are moving on to be first man-made objects in interstellar space. All of us are thrilled by this prospect and the new scientific knowledge that will come our way. You might wish to track them with this real time odometer provided by NASA.
We have not had a book review for a while. One of our favorite authors, Ian McEwan
|Ian McEwan: 'tricksy'. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod|
What If? is as usual a good introduction to silly time. It asks what would happen if you dropped 3,000 bouncy balls from a seventh floor window onto a passerby. This reminds us of Avenue Q, a musical that we saw last year in New York. In the story, a penny is dropped from the top of the Empire State Building and causes grievous harm to a character in the play. Of course, because of the viscosity of air, a penny that has little mass and a relatively large surface area would not be going very fast at the surface, but for art we suspend our critical faculties.
3D TELEVISION CAME AND WENT
We were never offered the option of 3D television and frankly we never cared for movies that required special glasses. We note that it is now phasing out and the only fan left is our dear little Cynthia.
GRADUATE SCHOOL DAYS
There is a long-running Web comic called Ph.D for Piled Higher and Deeper that chronicles the trials and tribulations of graduate students. We enjoy it and indeed are nostalgic only for the youth of graduate school years and not for the stress and uncertainty in which we lived. Here is an example:
The site itself is worth a visit for anyone who has ever been a graduate student or who has ever supervised one. It is written and drawn by Jorge Cham.
For many years we were one of the faculty members charged with teaching graduate students at Tel Aviv University to write scientific papers in English. Since only people competent in English were accepted to our course (required of all whose dissertations were to be evaluated abroad), the problem was just inability to write in any language. We attribute that to the failure of the education system to impart such basic skills. The following saga tells the tale: