Pollyanna is back after a foray to a bat mitzva in Winnipeg
and some relaxation with Titan and YandA in New York. She wishes all her Jewish readers a happy Hannuka. This holiday celebrates a victory over Hellenistic overlords in 168-165 BCE and a miracle involving a self-filling amphora of oil. A car with such a gas tank would sell very well.
For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and 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.
CHARITY CORNERThis week Pollyanna refers you to the charity AFYA. We had the opportunity to visit their facility in Yonkers NY last week and came away most impressed. We quote their mission statement:"Our mission is to recover targeted surplus medical supplies, hospital equipment and humanitarian provisions from the New York healthcare, corporate and private communities in order to establish categorized inventory to support ongoing health initiatives in Africa and the Caribbean." Please open the link and make a donation to this most worthy cause.
IN MEMORIAM RALPH J. BAER 1922-2014The man who invented electronic gaming died last week at the age of 92. In the summer of 1966 he had a vision that led to the first television game and eventually spawned the vast computer game industry of today.
In March 1971, Mr. Baer and his employer, Sanders Associates in Nashua, N.H., filed for the first video game patent, which was granted in April 1973 as Patent No. 3,728,480. It made an extraordinarily large claim to a legal monopoly for any product that included a domestic television with circuits capable of producing and controlling dots on a screen.
Sanders Associates licensed its system to Magnavox, which began selling it as Odyssey in the summer of 1972 as the first home video game console. It sold 130,000 units the first year. The rest is history. A detailed obituary can be found in the NYTimes at the above link. It tells a fascinating story.
RANT AND RAVEPollyanna ranted last time about senseless killing of worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue. Now it is a school in Peshewar, Pakistan. This city is burying its dead after a Taliban attack at a school killed at least 132 children and nine staff. Details are given by the BBC online. AVAAZ has started up a petition to keep children in school. In too many places children, especially girls, are out of school because of fear.
Please sign asks Pollyanna.
Pollyanna is equally upset with the latest news from Nigeria about an attack, apparently by Boko Haram, which brought about the death of at least 33 people and resulted in the kidnapping of more than 100 others.
|Members of the Abuja "Bring Back Our Girls" protest group sit during a march in continuation of the Global October movement. Once again, Boko Haram militants are implicated in killings and mass kidnapping in northeastern Nigeria.|
WHOOPING COUGH AND VACCINATIONA major peeve of Pollyanna is the anti vaxxer group who refrain from vaccinating their children. As a result, infection diseases may break out and wreak havoc especially among babies who are too young to be vaccinated, for example against whooping cough. Now a major epidemic of whooping cough has hit the Latino community in California. One cause may be fear of detection on the part of illegal immigrants. The highest rates of whooping cough are found in the Bay Area counties of Sonoma, Napa and Marin, which also have some of the highest rates of parents who opt out of vaccinating their children.
|Nurse Julietta Losoyo gives Derek Lucero a whooping cough vaccination at the San Diego Public Health Center on Dec. 10.|
Doctors believe these kids are the root of the current and recent epidemics.
"We had a lot of unvaccinated children that acted as the kindling to start an outbreak," said Dr. Paul Katz, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael. "Those children were able to infect all the other children who were vaccinated but were too early for a booster –- they became the rest of the wood to start the fire."
The fact that the effectiveness of current vaccines wears off means that booster shots are important. Another factor may be cultural and linguistic difficulties caused by lack of communication in the language of the immigrant population. Pollyanna thinks that the establishment of a firewall between the health and immigration authorities would help, if the illegal immigrants could be persuaded to believe it.
FEEDING THE HOMELESS IS ILLEGALThis may sound like Sodom and Gomorrah redux, but it is true that a growing number of cities in the United States have passed laws making it illegal to feed homeless people.
Gene Weingarten puts it in perspective with Barney and Clyde.
They also execute people there and have no real national health service or even national maternity leave. Yuck!
ARROW FAILUREThis week Pollyanna heard on the news that the latest test of the Arrow 3 antimissile rocket was a success. Pollyanna really dislikes being taken for an idiot. In fact, the test was a dismal failure as reported in the international media. She is reminded of the three strictures of Abraham Lincoln
a. you can fool some of the people all of the time
b. you can fool all of the people some of the time
c. you cannot fool all of the people all of the time
TALKING TO DOGS
New research has found that dogs pay attention to the meanings of words and that they process that information in a different part of the brain from where they process emotional cues in speech. The research is fascinating and anyone who lives with a dog will certainly find it relevant. Murphy says that this should have been obvious to us all the time.
RESUMPTION OF MERS RESEARCH
|A transmission electron micrograph shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles (colorized yellow).|
METHANE ON MARS--LIFE? MAYBE
The Curiosity robot explorer has come up with a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes. The other is that it is geological. The Curiosity results show that the gas is present at about 1 part per billion in the Martian atmosphere, or 4,000 times less than in Earth’s air. We should beware of jumping to conclusions since there are many chemical processes, such as the reaction of the common mineral olivine with water, that can produce methane without life. One must keep the caveats in minds and investigate further.
WATER FROM WHERE?The source of terrestrial water has long been thought to be comet impacts when the solar system was young enough to be full of comets and the Earth cool enough to retain the water. Now results from Rosetta, in orbit around Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko show that the water on the comet has an isotopic composition different from that on the Earth.
|Ice spewing off the surface of Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko Photo credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/ INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA|
So far, the deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) ratio, i.e. the fraction of heavy water, in which the hydrogen has been replaced by deuterium (nucleus contains one proton, one neutron), in the total water molecule population, has been measured on 11 different comets, covering both types, but only one has matched up with Earth: the Jupiter-family Comet 103P/Hartley 2. However, as reported in Science, Rosetta found that the D/H ratio was more than three times higher than the values found in Earth’s oceans and on Hartley 2.The task of providing us with our oceans now devolves to the asteroids. Meteoroids from asteroids have a water isotope ratio similar to that of Earth. Nonetheless, the conclusion requires further confirmation since the D/H ratio was measured in vapor exuded by the comet and may have been altered in space. Stay tuned.
FAST RADIO BURSTS-A COSMIC MYSTERYBursts of radio noise lasting only a few milliseconds have been detected since 2001 by a radio telescope in Australia. Since all were from one observatory, it was not clear that these blasts were astrophysical or some local glitch in the electronics or whatever (remember fast neutrinos). In 2014, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico found such a burst, thus authenticating the five events found in Australia. No one has the vaguest idea what might be causing them which poses a challenge to theory. Science thrives on such discoveries. Some theories have suggested that so-called FRBs originate from an evaporating black hole, or perhaps solar flares from nearby stars, or — and this is coming from one of the astronomers who first recorded the FRBs — they could even be “signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations.” Pollyanna is delighted to hear of such things--it shows how much fun science can be, although you may be sure that much drudgery went into the data analysis that led to these findings.
What If? What if I made a lava lamp out of real lava? What could I use as a clear medium? How close could I stand to watch it?
Kathy Johnstone, 6th Grade Teacher (via a student)
Interesting answer, but I would not like to have my kid in her class.
Our Minister of Defense, a nonredeemable jerk, has a strategic adviser, who is, in Pollyanna's humble opinion, someone who gives idiots a bad name. We think that the Minister would do better to hire Wally:
Then we all have financial advisers...