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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Polllyanna says happy Valentine's Day


Pollyanna is back with you and wishes all a happy Valentine's day. This week a Tel Aviv taxi driver gave us a couple of heart-shaped chocolates wrapped in red cellophane. Nice that St. Valentine has become ecumenical and Jews love him as well. Pollyanna says cheers to the florists of Paris.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone and 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 is pointing you this week to the Malala Fund.

As you must remember, over one year ago, in October 2012, Malala was shot in the head on her way back from school. She was targeted for raising for her voice for the rights of all girls to go to school. "Who is Malala?" the terrorists said as they boarded her school bus and attempted to silence her forever. They succeeded in making her voice stronger. Please donate and support.


The lady who as a very small child was a cinema superstar died this week at age 85. She started her career at age 3 and hit the big time at age six.She immediately made an impression, bordering on the freakish, singing Baby Take a Bow, in Stand Up and Cheer (1934), among seven movies in which she appeared in the same year. Little Shirley became the darling of America and the world during the depression-ridden era of the 1930's. After only her first year in movies, she received a Special Oscar "in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934". She was marketed by the studio into a national institution: there were Shirley Temple dolls, toys and clothes (including a line in bathing suits). "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six," she recalled. "Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked me for my autograph." As an adult she became active in Republican party politics, for which we forgive her, even her support for the Vietnam war. She became US ambassador to Ghana (1974-76) and White House chief of protocol (1976-77), during Gerald Ford's presidency. She also served as foreign affairs officer with the state department under Reagan and ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989-92) under George H.W. Bush. There are many obituaries. We link you to the Guardian. Here is a sample of her art:


 See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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This week we mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of the man who is beyond a doubt the father of modern science. He built a telescope and pointed it at the sky, although the funding came from the Medici family who wanted their ship captains to spot the pirates before the pirates spotted them. He acknowledged the grant by naming the four moons of Jupiter that he discovered the "Medici stars." The mythological names were given by Cassini much later. Galileo found that the moon was not smooth but had mountains and valleys, that Venus had phases which proved that it went around the Sun and that Jupiter had moons that went around the planet. His proof of Copernican theory made him a heretic and he faced the Inquisition. He introduced the idea of proof by experiment and created the scientific mind set that shuns dogma and always looks for what is unknown and uncertain. For a concise biography go to this biography site. For a more detailed discussion of his life and career, Pollyanna refers you to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Pollyanna is furious over a change in the criminal code of Afghanistan that will allow men to attack their wives, children and sisters without fear of judicial punishment, undoing years of slow progress in tackling violence in a country blighted by so-called "honor" killings, forced marriage and vicious domestic abuse.

The small but significant change to Afghanistan's criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.

In Afghanistan, traditionally, extended families live in closed compounds. The only witness to an act of domestic violence will almost certainly be a family member. It means that fathers and brothers will have total impunity for so-called "honor killings" and  forced child marriages, abuse of women and girls and enslavement of young women. All these criminals  will be immune to prosecution. The countries that have been funding the Afghan regime are turning a blind eye to this and when the last foreign troops leave the country next year, the fate of women will be terrible.

In her famous book Eats, Shoots and Leaves (you all know the joke), Lynne Truss calls for the establishment of an Association for the Protection of the Apostrophe. We could not agree more. Judy sent us a horrible example of apostrophe abuse and what it can do to innocent people.
Displaying apostrophe's.jpg

We have long been involved in plasma physics and while we have primarily worked on space and planetary plasmas, we have watched with hope as our laboratory colleagues struggled over the decades with the problem of generating energy via nuclear reactions from stably  confined plasma. Every star does this with ease because of gravitational confinement, but keeping a laboratory plasma in place long enough to generate a viable system that will put out more energy than goes in is immensely difficult. We are, therefore, extremely delighted (Pollyanna is dancing in glee) that finally laser confinement has succeeded in passing this milestone. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have achieved a "fuel gain" of greater than one at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Using NIF's ultra-powerful laser to crush tiny pellets of deuterium–tritium fuel, they have produced more energy from fusion reactions than was deposited in the fuel. Although still far from the long-sought-after goal of "ignition", the latest results are nevertheless an important step on the road to realizing fusion energy, say researchers.

When finally clean fusion reactors replace fission reactors, which leave behind radioactive waste, and fossil fuels, which pollute the atmosphere, mankind will move into a totally new era of energy. The source is simply sea water deuterium and the residue is a tiny wisp of tritium. This has been a Holy Grail of plasma science for many decades and when it comes about, the social, economic and political implications will be tremendous. We are still far from igniting a viable reactor, but Dr. Omar Hurricane and his crew have made a major step forward in that direction.
Photograph of the fusion fuel capsule at the National Ignition Facility
Inside the hohlraum at NIF
Cheers to the LLNL crew!

While single electric charges are commonplace, no one has every observed a single pole magnet. They always have a north and south pole which, has mathematical implications that we shall not detail here. In 1931, the great physicist Paul Dirac published a paper in which he predicted, on the basis of quantum mechanical considerations that magnetic monopoles exist. Dirac showed that naturally occurring magnetic monopoles would require electric charge to come in discrete units. This discreteness is seen in nature but is not fully understood, and therefore the search for magnetic monopoles is an active field of research. In the last 83 years, all searches for magnetic monopoles have failed.

Now we are told that a group led by David Hall and colleagues at Amherst College in Massachusetts and collaborators at Aalto University in Finland is able to produce an analogue of what is known as a "Dirac monopole", the generalized quantum-mechanical form of a magnetic monopole put forward by Dirac. The result is very exciting to people, such as Pollyanna, who get excited and glad about this sort of thing.

Main Entry Image
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have used carbon dating to show that the first
camels were introduced into the region that is now  Israel in the ninth century BCE whereas the Patriarch stories, in which camels appear as pack animals,  refer to a much earlier era. The introduction of the camel as a pack animal had, of course, major implications for commerce at the time. The camel is capable of traversing deserts and other difficult types of terrain that would be impassable to donkeys or horses. If the stories of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and their dysfunctional families were written down in the eighth or seventh centuries, the anachronism is natural. Our religious friends might take some offense at this debunking of legends, but in the wake of the Super Bowl which Titan discussed last week, there is room for some skepticism. For background, Tebow is a former NFL quarterback who is an outspoken evangelical Christian and was discarded by the Broncos.

What If? asks If you made a beach using grains the proportionate size of the stars in the Milky Way, what would that beach look like? Jeff Wartes The answer is interesting.

The late Robert Benchley, grandfather of Peter Benchley of Jaws fame, wrote a column in the old days of print media that had many good insights on society, as it was then,and as it is, alas, today. We invite you to a diagnosis session in self-psychiatry.

All Aboard for Dementia Praecox
It is a little terrifying, with all that I have to do this week, to
discover that I have a dementia praecox into the bargain. "What
next?" I often ask myself.

There is no doubt about the dementia praecox. I've got it, all
right. The only question now is, can I swing the other things that
I have to face? A good case of dementia praecox is about enough for
one week.

I got my data from a report submitted at the American Psychiatric
Association. This report said that dementia praecox can be helped
by oxygen treatment. And, in passing, the report just happened to
mention the symptoms of dementia praecox. Not that any of its
readers would find it applicable to themselves—just in passing, you

Early stages: (1) "Defective judgment." Well, I could keep you here
all night giving examples of my defective judgment that would make
your blood curdle. I couldn't even judge a sack-race. On this count
I qualify hands down.

(2) "Retarded perception." I didn't even know that the fleet was in
until I read Time ten days later.

(3) "Restrictions in the field of attention." My attention can be
held only by strapping me down to a cot and sitting on my chest.
Even then my eyes wander.

(4) "Deficiency of ethical inhibitions." I took a course in ethics
once, but I didn't do very well in it. We didn't know about
"inhibitions" in my day. They came in with horn-rimmed glasses and
Freud. We just said "Yes, please," or "No, thanks," and let it go
at that. I don't know whether I've got "ethical inhibitions" or
not. Just try me once, that's all.

(5) "Silly laughter." I hold the Interscholastic (New England),
Intercollegiate, East Coast Amateur and Open Professional cups for
silly laughter. I laugh at anything except a French clown. You
can't be sillier than that.

We dedicate this strip to those who like electrifying puns(I disclaim responsibility for this says Pollyanna)

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