Cluster Map

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pollyanna welcomes Spring

Pollyanna is back with you and hopes that in the name of social justice you all had an equal equinox. She would like to share with you a quote from an email we received from a colleague, Dr. Moshe Waxman, guru emeritus from the TAU Comp Center.
  “Only after the last tree has been cut down.
Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last
fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be

This is from a Cree Indian prophecy and it is very true. Someone should tell the Koch brothers. Someone should also tell the Japanese company that is marketing whale meat and elephant ivory. These two splendid and endangered species deserve better from humanity. Usually Pollyanna and Titan do not call for direct action and refer to the Miriam blog. In this case however, Pollyanna would really like you to send a rant to the Rakuten corporation calling on them to stop their despicable practice motivated by greed. There is a prepared rant at the link.
Stop Sale of Whale Meat and Elephant Ivory

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger HumanRights 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.

This week Pollyanna is sending you to help fight child illiteracy in the community of Cajul in an isolated region of Guatemala. GlobalGiving recommends this project and we join them. It may seem small, but teaching 900 poor children to read can turn a community around.

The tragic saga of MH370 has been unfolding before us for the past two weeks. It appears that the plane went down far from land and it is not at all clear what could have motivated this senseless act of terrorism, if indeed it was that. Nothing else makes any more sense.The families of the victims evoke great empathy and sorrow. On BBC-TV, the daughter of a Polish leader who perished in the 2010 crash near Smolensk was interviewed. When asked about closure for families of victims, she replied bluntly, "there is no such thing as closure." She expressed sympathy for the families of flight 370, especially for their fear and dragged out uncertainty. There are, of course, conspiracy theories floating around claiming that the plane was controlled remotely by the CIA, that the passengers were killed by oxygen cutoff at 45,000 feet and that the plane is hidden at Diego Garcia. The same theorists claim that the planes destroyed on 9/11 never hit the buildings and are flying somewhere in the world today. Let them babble.

For a change, instead of a specific rant about abuse of women, Pollyanna would like to call your attention to a document by the Central American Women's Network (CAWN) devoted to the topic " Women renegotiating power paradigms in Central America: their struggles in the second half of the 20th century." It is a bit long, nine pages, but worth the read for anyone interested in the process of achieving equality for women anywhere and everywhere. Pollyanna would also like to call your attention to the campaign Because I am a Girl run by Plan International, a charity for children's rights. We will get to Plan International in detail in a future post.

We are all shocked and dismayed at the news of the calamitous mud slide near Oso, WA, USA, which has taken so many lives and caused so much destruction. We are following the rescue and recovery efforts and hope that the final death toll does not increase further than it has. When we confront the forces of nature, we realize how puny we humans really are.

The scale of devastation
At the station where we fuel our cars there is a page from a local newspaper posted on the wall claiming that an explosion was caused at a gas station by a cell phone. This rank nonsense has been taken up by our idiot government and we see signs in gas stations warning not to use cell phones. It makes no sense that the radiation from a cell phone, all the 0.75 to 1 watt of microwave power, could ignite gas fumes. We checked it with Snopes and found complete refutation and documentation of the myth. We quote: "The claim that the batteries used in a cellular phone can ignite gasoline seems specious, since cellular phone batteries are the same voltage as automobile batteries (12V D.C.) but deliver far less current. Likewise, the claim that a "cellular phone ringer uses more than100 volts for excitation" is a curious artifact of the "regular" telephone era: cellular phones don't have ringers; they produce audio tones that simulate the sound of a ringing telephone." OTOH, static electricity, from whatever source, can be dangerous near fuel pumps, but that has nothing to do with cell phones, solar flares or fluctuations in the stock market. Randall gives us another example of how a myth can be created, albeit with a tongue deep in the cheek.

Induced Current

The First of April, the day devoted to folly is coming up. Pollyanna chooses to mark it with some music from the greatest of the sons of Johannes Sebastian Bach, OK, maybe she is exaggerating a bit. Pollyanna is happy to present the 1712 Overture by P.D.Q. Bach.
P.D.Q. Bach, 1807-1750
There is no requirement that you listen to the end. Give this music all the respect that it deserves, that is to say, none at all. Pollyanna will spare you the Unbegun Symphony and Erotica for Banned Instruments, but you can find them on YouTube.

While many scientific ideas are said to be half-baked, those associated with the Sicilian Space Program are from deep in the nutty oven. Thanks to Richard for calling our attention to the flight of the cannolo into the stratosphere. 
As described in several media, a group of amateur scientists launched a cannolo, a cream-stuffed pastry roll symbolic of the Italian island, into the stratosphere, capturing bizarre images of the dessert flying far above the earth. It reached a height of nearly 30 km and took some pictures as well, all for the princely cost of 350 Euros. We salute the imaginative guys from the town of Enna. Cheers says Pollyanna. We hope it raised the morale of poverty-stricken Sicily, long the neglected stepchild of the Italian republic.

OK, enough of tasty spacecraft, let us look at some real science.

You all know about Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Scientists have succeeded in getting light to go around an object and continue to  propagate, but only at long wavelengths. Visible light invisibility will depend on new materials. Time invisibility, i.e. causing an event to not have happened has been achieved. It involves creating a hole in a light beam or in space-time if you will in which anything that happens will not be seen. It is done by sending a light beam, the “probe beam,” through an optical fiber. The team then introduced additional rays through the time lens ( a device based on a special optical fiber that allows one light ray to interact with another light ray. ) and used them to split the probe beam so that the front section was blue and the rear section was red. The probe beam was then sent through another optical fiber in which blue light travels faster than red, thereby opening up a gap in the beam. Within this gap, an event can occur without the beam detecting it.
Schematics of the temporal cloak using a pair of STLs.
The STLs are used to create a temporal ‘hole’ in a probe beam such that any temporal or spectral changes caused by an event within this hole do not occur. The figure is oriented such that the probe light is described by horizontal line…

To close the hole, the probe beam was sent through another optical fiber in which blue light travels more slowly than red, enabling the rear section to catch up to the front. Finally, the beam was sent through another time lens to turn it back into a uniform ray with the same color and wavelength as the original. In this way, the very fact that the hole in time occurred was also concealed. This is like the Israeli judge who issued a gag order and then issued another one forbidding the publication of the existence of the first gag order. It took two days for all the information to come out on the bloggosphere. This erasure of information seems to be more effective, albeit on a much smaller scale.

An Israeli researcher, M. Friedman, fresh back from a post-doc at Cornell where he was involved in the research and was the first author on a Nature paper, is setting up to expand on this work at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. He plans on increasing the scale of the phenomenon by a factor of 10,000. Pollyanna thinks this is really cool.

embryo made from STAP cells
STEM CELL RESULTS QUESTIONED  A technique for making a type of stem cell called STAP cells (shown in green) that can reportedly transform into any cell type is now in question as multiple researchers have failed to replicate the results.
It sounds like a replay of the old cold fusion story. Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and colleagues first reported in two January 29 papers in Nature that they had reprogrammed newborn mouse cells by dunking them into acid or squeezing them. The cells took on stem cell–like qualities and were dubbed STAP cells for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. So far, no other researchers have been able to repeat the accomplishment. It now appears that the technique is not as simple as described in the original Nature paper. The paper is under fire for other reasons as well. Pollyanna hesitates to call this jiggery-pokery, but if it is an honest error as in the fast neutrino case, then let us have the truth as quickly as possible.

Two major discoveries in the outer Solar System were announced in the same recent Nature paper. One is a planet orbiting at 80 AU (1 AU or astronomical unit is the mean distance from the center of the Sun to the center of the Earth, 150,000,000 km or 8 light minutes).
Orbit diagram for the solar system, showing Sedna and 2013 VP<sub>113</sub>
The orbits of Sedna (orange) and dwarf planet 2012 VP113 (red). Also shown are the orbits of the giant planets (purple). The Kuiper belt is the dotted light blue region. Illustration: Scott S Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

The other is the discovery that the asteroid Chariklo has rings analogous to those of Saturn and the other giant planets.  The discovery was made by observing the passage of the asteroid in front of a star (occultation) and noting the decrease in the light of the star.
Light curve of the occultation by the Chariklo system.
 The rings show up in the absorption of the light of an occulted star

This is quite surprising since one would not have thought an asteroid to have sufficient gravitational attaction i.e. mass to hold and maintain a ring system. Pollyanna is thrilled.


 What If? asks How far would a tungsten countertop descend if I dropped it into the Sun?
Michael Leuchtenburg
Not very far.

You all know what Archimedes claimed he could do with a lever and a fulcrum. Randall can possibly do more:

Pollyanna would like to share a philosophical discussion between the genius brains of Dilbert, Wally and their boss:
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

 Pollyanna is very glad that the social services are really trying to help street people, such as Clyde and Dabney,  take control of their lives and deal with reality:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/25/2014
Pollyanna also would like to point out the hazards of the teaching profession when dealing with the other end of the socio-economic spectrum:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/28/2014

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