Cluster Map

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pollyanna is back from the holidays

The family of satellites around Saturn
Pollyanna is back, albeit a fortnight late. In case you missed
Titan's explanation last week, she and Titan were hosting the
Jewish satellites and ring components of Saturn at their
synagogue on the shore of the methane lake and had no time to
blog. We are pleased to note that the ladies such as Dione, Rhea, Phoebe and Pandora came modestly attired in contrast to their usual appearance in art musea around Terra and on ancient Greek coins.
Pyrrhus Tetradrachm, Zeus Dodonaios, Dione with a stephanos on a throne, Basileos Pyrrou Greek Text produced probably in Italy

The succah was constructed and decorated in a cooperative effort led by Prometheus looking forward and Epithemeus looking backward with Enceladus helping by blowing off steam..
The shul is on the fjord at center right..Cassini photo

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.

This week it is Pollyanna's turn to promote a charity. Her choice is SACH for Save A Child's Heart,  This organization supports heart surgery for children in developing countries and is most worthy of your support. You might like to watch a few videos about their activities

Before we get on to the nice stuff about which Pollyanna is glad, she has a few things on her mind to rant about. No one should be glad about abuse of women and girls. You may recall the case of the brave girl from the Satmar sect in Brooklyn who mustered up enough courage to accuse Nechemya Weberman, 54, of sexually abusing her after she was sent to him for counseling as a 12-year-old. He was given a stiff prison sentence, but she, now 18 and married, and her husband, have since been suffering harassment. The head of the sect called her a "zonah" or whore and this last Rosh Hashana she was driven from her synagogue in Williamsburg. This is part of the consistent pattern in which Orthodox rabbis and their minions abuse girls and then use their power to cover up. It is of a piece with the vile record of the Catholic Church and its pedophilic priests. In Israel a well known rabbi was convicted of sexual abuse and is now awaiting sentencing. It took years to get an indictment against him. It must come as a side effect of the odor of sanctity. Pollyanna despises these people and their holier than thou posing. Pollyanna also calls for support for Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who has gone on hunger strike because of conditions at the prison camp where she is being held for the "crime" of ridiculing Putin in a church.
Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova attends court in 2012. Photograph: Aleshkovsky Mitya/ Aleshkovsky Mitya/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

There has recently been a rush to pillory neuroscientists as charlatans and their field as smoke and mirrors. Pollyanna is pleased to see that qualified people have come to the defense of the discipline. Good scientists are doing good work and if there are a few snake oil salespeople out there overtouting fMRI, the same can be said for other fields of scientific endeavor. In the 1980's the outer planets lined up in the sky in such a way that enabled the Voyager or Grand Tour mission to all four of them. A few shrewd planetary scientists, writing under pseudonyms, put out a book called The Jupiter Effect in which they "warned" that there would be huge tides, earthquakes and Zeus knows what else on Earth as a result of the combined gravity of these giant planets. Rank nonsense of course and we all had a good laugh except that they laughed all the way to the bank since the book sold like hotcakes to the combined morons of the world. No one thought of discrediting planetary science because of this, so please lay off brain research. Books on the subject are reviewed by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker

Pollyanna calls your attention to the banning of books by benighted authorities. The Catholic Church maintains an Index of books that the faithful must not read lest false doctrine permeate their vulnerable minds. For example, books about the motion of the Earth around the Sun were in the Index until 1822, 180 years after the death of Galileo. Here is a short list of ten banned books.

We might add that the play Twelfth Night by Shakespeare was banned from the schools of New Hampshire because of the transvestite motif. Cheers for the Enlightenment!

Popular Science  is an excellent magazine that has been around for over 140 years and provides good reports on scientific developments. Pollyanna is sad that the editors have  found it necessary to close down the comment section because of spam and trolls. It is also a result of the antiscience attitude in the US that interferes to the point of destruction with constructive scientific discussion. We can blame the religious right and the corporate interests that are trying to cast doubt on the reality of climate change. Sad indeed that a great nation is falling into decay because of these and other factors. Let us look at the comparison between science and pseudoscience from the Daily Kos:

Battushig Myanganbayar from Mongolia is a 17 year old freshman at MIT. He is indeed very bright, maybe a genius and he was discovered by getting top grades in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from MIT. Cheers to you Battushig and we all wish you success in your studies and in your goal to bring your home country into the modern world.

We will take the privilege of boasting about our own talented teenager. Our grandson, Rafi, also age 17, has just won a prize for an essay by a teenager about the relevance of the Holocaust to the Jewish generation of today, i.e. his generation.We invite you to read it.

The ice cream shop staff, as they engage in ritualistic displays of courtship.
Many researchers have studied the mating rituals of various animals and indeed it is a riveting topic. The Onion reports a study carried out at a zoo of the mating rituals of the employees of the ice cream kiosk and the results are most  interesting. We are sure that you will find that these creatures differ very little  from peacocks and moose in their rutting display behaviors, which shows the universality of Nature.

As is well known, the Earth and Moon are the only planet-satellite pair in the solar system that can actually have an exact eclipse, i.e. the moon covers 100% of the Sun. We know a scientist of some renown who has claimed in print that we were created to observe perfect eclipses and that this is proof of the existence of God. We will let that rest. On the other hand, Pollyanna is glad to show you what an eclipse of the Sun by the tiny moon Phobos looks like from the surface of Mars.
Martian Eclipse
These three images show Mars' moon Phobos passing in front of the sun from the perspective of NASA's rover Curiosity.
JPL-Caltech/NASA, Malin Space Science Systems, Texas A&M Univ.
We came across a silly blog posting in the Jewish Journal webzine in which it is claimed that it is offensive in Israel to thank anyone, be it a host/hostess, a taxi driver or any random encountered person. We wonder where this could have come from since we, who have lived almost our entire lives in Israel and socialize with Israelis,. thank and are thanked as much as we would in the US, UK or wherever. We put in a joking comment on the blog, but in all seriousness, we think this lady must be living in a country other than our homeland. Yes, drivers are rude on the road, but so are drivers in Boston (maybe not fair for Boston drivers are considered exceptional). When we drop a 10 shekel coin to a busker playing a saxophone badly on the street, he will skip a note to say "toda." The bum was right, the lady is a cheapskate and should have thrown him a 10.

It is sometimes fun to read novels cast in the past in which language of the period is used. The writer Kate Manning has some interesting comments on this topic and against the overuse of the artifice. Our Hebrew Nobel Laureate S.I.Agnon would deliberately salt a story about 19th century life in Jewish Eastern Europe with archaic expressions from the Hebrew of the Mishna, i.e. 2nd century CE. It added something to his writing especially if he used half an expression and left it to the reader to complete the association. This trick of course makes much of his writing unintelligible to high school students upon whom it is inflicted and their teachers are usually not better off. It is criminal in our opinion to create antagonism towards a great writer by making his work a school topic, but then we are guilty of much heresy.

Tombs where the First Dynasty kings of Egypt are buried (Michael Dee)
Archaeological digs in Egypt reveal where the First Dynasty kings of Egypt are buried - but until now a timeline has been difficult to establish
Sophisticated dating techniques have been used by British archaeologists to revise the chronology of early Egypt. The transformation from independent farmers to a functioning monarchy took only a few centuries early in the fourth millennium which is amazing in view of the major societal changes that had to have taken place. In other regions such a state of organization came about only millennia after the rise of agriculture.

Sergiu Celibidache, (1912-1996) was a famous but eccentric conductor. He was known for his demands of orchestras and his acerbic tongue which spared no one, even or especially his famous colleagues. He was quoted in the NYTimes in 1984 as saying  that Riccardo Muti was an “ignorant” and that Ormandy was incompetent. He did have reasonably good things to say about Stokowski. Remember, this is the man who when asked his opinion on big Herbie (as James Galway used to call him) went into a litany of insults, and when the interviewer reminded him that Herbert von Karajan was a household word, Celibidache replied: “And so is Coca-Cola…"

Robert Fitzpatrick who was Dean of the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia for over 20 years gives us an interesting tale of Celibidache in the US. Since he criticized almost everyone in the field, it was no surprise when Toscanini sent him a telex from heaven that you might find amusing. We present a translation of the telex that was published in Der Spiegel in German in 1989 "relayed” by the otherwise extremely publicity-shy Conductor Carlos Kleiber. Pollyanna got a kick out of it. Enjoy--we see that there is almost as much back-biting and stabbing among musicians as there is among astronomers. We believe that it was Kissinger who said that academic politics are so virulent because the stakes are so small.
In SPIEGEL No. 16 reported SPIEGEL-Editor Klaus Umbach about the conductor Sergiu Celibidache, who after the Second World War stepped in for a few years for Wilhelm Furtwangler as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s chief conductor, also known for some time as a follower of Zen-Buddhism. In the article was also a selection of the infamous attacks on dead and living colleagues such as: “Karajan? Terrible. ” “Either he’s a good businessman, or he can not hear,” “Hans Knappertsbusch – a scandal”, “non-music to the end.” “Arturo Toscanini – a sole note factory. ‘” . “Karl Böhm – a potato sack,” “.. has not conducted a single bar of music in his life,”
Now reached us from heaven a telex in (heavenly appropriate) English by Arturo Toscanini, “relayed” by the otherwise extremely publicity-shy Conductor Carlos Kleiber.

Telex from Toscanini (Heaven) to Celibidache (Munich)
Dear Sergiu!
We read in Der Spiegel about you. You are annoying, but we forgive you.
We have no choice: forgiveness is considered good manners up here. Potato sack – Karli * raised some objections, but as the boys’ and I have persuaded him and assured him that he was musically talented, he stopped lamenting.
Wilhelm suddenly insists firmly that he never heard your name before. Papa Joseph, Wolfgang Amadeus, Ludwig, Johannes and Anton said that they prefer the second violins on the right side and that your tempi are all wrong. But actually they don’t give shit. Up here one shouldn’t care for shit anyway. The boss does not want it.
An old master of Zen, who lives next door, says that you have understood the Zen Buddhism in a totally wrong way. Bruno almost got sick from too much laughing about your comments. I suspect that he shares your opinion on me and Karli secretly. Maybe you could for once also say something mean about him, he feels otherwise a bit excluded.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but up here everybody is fanatic about Herbert, yes, the conductors are even a little bit jealous of him. We can not wait to welcome him in about fifteen to twenty years up here. [the letter was written in spring 1989]Too bad you can not be here then. But they say that where you will go, the service is much better, and that the orchestras down there rehearse indefinitely. They even make small mistakes on purpose so you can correct them for all eternity.
I’m sure you will like it, Sergiu. Up here, the angels read everything directly from the eyes of the composers, we conductors just need to listen. Only God knows how I got here.
Have fun and with love, Arturo.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"A carnal man and very loving of his flesh and blood": Pope Alexander VI, circa 1485.
At the moment we are reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the second volume of her three volume biography of Thomas Cromwell, the prime administrator at the court of Henry VIII. We have discussed her work in the past. It is worthy of note that Sarah Dunant is following a similar path with her new book, Blood and Beauty, a history of the Borgia family. It is reviewed by Liesl Schillinger in the NYTimes.

BLOOD AND BEAUTY The Borgias By Sarah Dunant 506 pp. Random House. $27.

Pollyanna also would like to call your attention to the first volume of the autobiography of Richard Dawkins, the noted scientist, philosopher and dean of atheists. It is reviewed also in the NYTimes by Janet Maslin. We  all have great respect for Dawkins and his life indeed has been interesting.
Lalla Ward

Richard Dawkins
AN APPETITE FOR WONDER The Making of a Scientist By Richard Dawkins
Illustrated. 308 pages. Ecco. $27.99.

What If? asks how long it would take a person to die if he/she rose continuously at 1 foot/second. Not very encouraging nor even very interesting this time.

In there a worse nudnik than a teeniebopper?
 Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/27/2013
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/26/2013