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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pollyanna has a centenary birthday!!

E. H. Porter circa 1890-1900
Born Eleanor Emily Hodgman
December 19, 1868
Littleton, New Hampshire
Died May 21, 1920 (aged 51)
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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
age 103.

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.


 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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


We think that our friend Clyde puts them right into perspective and we are always grateful when Grandpa can solve an issue:

Dilbert starts the New Year as might be expected.

Let us wind up with a flash mob of Ode to Joy.