Cluster Map

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pollyanna wishes you a happy Midsummer Day

Pollyanna says hi and takes you to Stonehenge for Midsummer Day:

On Midsummer Day in 1999 our Ari came into the world. He had a medically rough early few years, but he is our delightful teenager today. Pollyanna, Titan and YandA join in wishing him a very happy birthday with much love.


For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has 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.

10 Days to Invest
This week Pollyanna refers you to Because I am a Girl, a charity sponsored by PlanUSA to help girls around the world. There are several projects for helping girls and Pollyanna and the rest of us here ask you to watch the video and then choose the project that fits you best.


The Washington DC team in the National Football league is known as the Redskins, which is certainly demeaning to Native Americans.
Pollyanna is pleased to pass on to you the news that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office,  has ruled that the name is disparaging and has stripped it of copyright protection. The fight will go on, but this is a step forward.

Pollyanna says cheers to Betsy Benjaminson, the Israeli-American translator who blew Toyota's cover on the lethal flaws in the accelerator system of its cars that cost the lives of many people.
Betsy Benjaminson with her lawyers Dor Heskia (left) and Amos Hacmun
Betsy Benjaminson flanked by her lawyers Dor Heskia (left) and Amos Hacmun. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Toyota has paid out billions to settle lawsuits. It gives you pause to think that a corporation will risk your life to enhance profits. The mass recall by General Motors is making news now. The flawed ignition switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt could easily slip into the “off” position—cutting power, stalling the engine, and disabling airbags just when they’re needed most. The part has been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes.
In 2006 the wreck of a 2005 Cobalt killed two and injured one
In 2006 the wreck of a 2005 Cobalt killed two and injured one

The whistleblower was silenced and pushed out of his job.The “Valukas Report,” named for former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who assembled it at GM’s request from interviews with 230 witnesses and 41 million documents, blamed a culture of complacency for the more than decade-long delay before the company recalled millions of faulty vehicles. Cheers also to the GM hero Courtland Kelley.

This week Pollyanna is ranting about infringement of a woman's right to choose in matters involving pregnancy and abortion. Her focus is on two countries in particular, Spain and Argentina. The law that guarantees women and girls access to safe and legal abortion services in Spain is at risk of being significantly amended, taking the country back decades to a precarious time. There are serious concerns for their health and lives if these changes are introduced. The government must withdraw the bill immediately. Pollyanna asks you to open the link and take action. She also calls your attention to the work of Socorristas En Red - Socorro Rosa: A Feminist Practice For The Right To Choose In Argentina. Abortion is illegal in Argentina, with three exceptions: when the pregnancy was the result of a rape, abuse against a woman with a mental disability and when the pregnant woman’s life or health are at risk. However, even these cases often end up before the Courts and women continue to undergo surgical clandestine abortions that put their lives at risk. AWID talked to feminist activist Dahiana Belfiori about the feminist collective that is implementing safe accompaniment for women opting for medical abortion.
Socorristas en Red - Socorro Rosa: A feminist practice for the right to choose in Argentina
Photo: La Revuelta Colectiva Feminista

Pollyanna would also like to remind you of her rant on a similar issue in El Salvador in her last blog posting.

Pollyanna is venturing into the minefield of the local conflict to express her protest over the kidnapping of three teenage yeshiva students by unknown Palestinian militants. She joins the protest of Amnesty International along with their call to refrain from collective punishment of the Palestinian population.
Israeli soldiers interrogate a Palestinian family.
Israeli soldiers interrogate a Palestinian family during a raid in the West Bank refugee camp of Jalazon, north of Ramallah, June 16, 2014. Photo by AFP
While Pollyanna understands the need for the victims' families to seek consolation in prayer, she agrees with Uri Misgav that the mass prayer meeting going on in the media and everywhere else is revolting and enhances the religious ideology that is eroding our national identify. We quote Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary: “Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.” She also agrees with Gideon Levi that it is hypocritical for us to cry foul over the hostage-taking in view of our actions in the past. It also would be helpful if we had a security establishment that was worth more than a "a bucket of warm piss" to paraphrase the late John Nance Garner's description of the vice-presidency of the US. The media tell us that the PM and the CoC are "evaluating the situation blah blah" while their  incompetence  screams to the high heavens.  Here are our great heroes in all their glory.
Netanyahu and senior defense officials during a security briefing on Saturday
Netanyahu and senior defense officials wanking off on camera
 One of the victims even managed to call the police to say that they had been kidnapped. The police brushed it off as a joke.

Picasso's The Blue Room was among the first paintings produced during the legendary artist's "blue period," a multi-year span that saw him focus on somber works using mostly shades of blue.

But this early work contains a fascinating mystery of its own: a hidden portrait of a man that art experts are hoping to identify.
Image AP/ Evan Vucci
The portrait of the mysterious man on the right was discovered under Picasso's 'The Blue Room.' (AP/ EVAN VUCCI)

Portrait of Alan Turing from archive of papers relating to the development of computing at the National Physical Laboratory between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. Includes material on Pilot ACE, ALGOL, Alan Turing etc. 74 boxes + 1 envelope. CREDIT: Science Museum, London/SSPL
Alan Turing from archive of papers relating to the development of computing at the National Physical Laboratory between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. (Science Museum, London/SSPL)
We are told that a computer program has passed the Turing test. Can a computer trick a human into thinking it is actually a fellow human? That question gave birth to the “Turing Test” 65 years ago. You might wonder if the humans that tested it were up to it...

OTOH, we also have a failure. Quantum computers have been long touted as the Holy Grail of computer speed and efficiency. Google spent $15 million on such a device and after rigorous tests it was found to be no faster than conventional computers. Read all about it in Science. Our hearts weep peanut butter for poor baby Google.

You all recall "Painless Pole" the dentist in M.A.S.H. with his hilarious sex problems. It now appears that painless dentistry will soon be with us. Scientists have developed a new pain-free filling that allows cavities to be repaired without drilling or injections. The tooth-rebuilding technique, developed at King's College London, does away with fillings and instead encourages teeth to repair themselves.
The new treatment, Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER), could be available within three years. Photograph: Hermes Morrison 2/Alamy
 Pollyanna is all in favor of it and is glad indeed.

A new food substitute has come out of the Silicon Valley and it seems to be gaining popularity. Rob Rhinehart was getting fed up on the hassle of food expenses and preparation. He is twenty five, studied electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, and he began to consider food as an engineering problem. “You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself,” he said. “You need carbohydrates, not bread.” Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but they’re “mostly water.” He began to think that food was an inefficient way of getting what he needed to survive. “It just seemed like a system that’s too complex and too expensive and too fragile,” he told, the New Yorker writer who interviewed him. If the New Yorker link does not open, you can read about it in the Guardian. The product known as Soylent is a drinkable mix of vegetable oil and nutrients.
Tasters have compared Soylent to Cream of Wheat and “my grandpa’s Metamucil.”
Tasters have compared Soylent to Cream of Wheat and “my grandpa’s Metamucil.” Photograph by Henry Hargreaves.
 It is open source on the Web and you can make your own if you wish. It is obviously not for everyone and the name evokes a disgusting movie, but who are we to judge?

When we were in school we suffered reprimands and hassle because of our bad handwriting. We seem to have passed this mild alexia on to our progeny.

Our handwriting did not lead us to medical school and our grades went up when we learned to type and started submitting typed (yes children, there once were machines called typewriters before computers and printers) homework. Now we are told that handwriting is good for our cognitive processes, which is quite interesting, although not everyone agrees.

Pollyanna is sure that you all have been losing sleep, as she has, over the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe. If at the time of the Big Bang equal amounts of matter and antimatter had come into being, they should have annihilated one another and there would have been no matter, no stars, no us, nothing. A major step towards understanding why this did not take place is the recent accurate measurement of the magnetic moment of the proton. The magnetic moment is one of the fundamental properties of protons, which combine with neutrons to form the nucleus of atoms. In principle, the method can also be used to measure the magnetic moment of an antiproton with a similarly high precision, making it possible to investigate matter/antimatter asymmetry. Pollyanna proposes a toast or antitoast to the researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) for their beautiful experimental work.
The oscillating proton (red) generates a tiny current which is recorded using highly sensitive electronic detectors. The red arrow represents the magnetic moment of the proton; the green lines indicate the magnetic field in the trap.
Credit: © Georg Schneider, JGU


What If? asks: As plastic is made from oil and oil is made from dead dinosaurs, how much actual real dinosaur is there in a plastic dinosaur? Steve Lydford

Interesting question and answer.

Randall has a good illustration of what is meant by global warming and this is not funny:

4.5 Degrees

 Poor Barney has a moral problem. Maybe he should turn atheist...
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jun/15/2014

 We should be careful in our use of words.
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jun/17/2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pollyanna greets you

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
NGC 2359: Thor's Helmet
Image Credit & Copyright: Bob and Janice Fera (Fera Photography)
Explanation: This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The sharp image, made using broadband and narrowband filters, captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures. It shows off a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

Pollyanna greets  you all again and would like to share something beautiful from the cosmos. Here is an image of a nebula known as Thor's Helmet because of its shape.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone 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 refers you to the Center for Biological Diversity. They have exciting good news that the State of  California has granted protected species status to wolves. The Center  announced the decision along with the news that the former lone wolf OR-7 has been seen with pups in southern Oregon.
OR-7's wolf pups

Wolves play an important ecological role, primarily in controlling the rodent population and are worthy of protection. They are also magnificent animals. Cheers and please send them a donation.

The grand lady of Israeli theater passed away this week at age 90. She had a long and most successful career despite setbacks that would have defeated a lesser person. In 1970, en route to London via Munich to audition for a part in the West End production of Fiddler on the Roof opposite fellow Israeli actor Chaim Topol, Maron was injured following a failed terrorist hijacking of her El Al flight and lost her left leg. After a hiatus, she returned to the stage and in the years to come became a vocal peace activist.
Hanna Maron - H 2014
Hanna Maron speaking at an anti-racism gathering in 2010.

She was born in Berlin where she appeared as a child actress at age 4 and in 1931 made her cinematic debut in Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang's thriller M. With the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933 her family emigrated to Palestine. She volunteered to entertain troops in WWII and after the war was among the founders of the Cameri theater in Tel Aviv. We have the DVD's of the 1980's sitcom Near Ones/Dear Ones in which she starred and find them still funny and the satire still relevant. She starred in numerous plays including Carlo Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, Arthur Miller's All My Sons, multiple Shakespearean plays and the musical Hello, Dolly.  

In 1973 she was awarded the annual Israel Prize, regarded as the state's highest honor. She was long upheld as one the country’s first ladies of theater and in 2011 was acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the actress with the longest theater career in history. She also took a major role in liberal and left wing politics. Pollyanna mourns the loss of a great person and actress.   A detailed obituary is in Haaretz.

The week's rant is about the intolerable situation of  women in El Salvador. Because of El Salvador’s absolute ban on all abortions, seventeen Salvadoran women who arrived at public health care facilities after suffering a miscarriage, stillbirth or other obstetric complication, often hemorrhaging and unconscious, were accused of provoking an abortion and turned over to police. They were prosecuted for aggravated homicide based on a constitutional amendment declaring that life begins at conception and now sit in prison, serving sentences of up to 40 years.

For the “crime” of having an obstetric complication while living in poverty, these women -- Alba, Carmen, Cintia, Ena, Evelyn, Guadalupe, Johana, Maria, Mariana, Marina, Maritza, Mirian, Mirna, Salvadora, Teodora, Teresa, and Veronica -- were vigorously prosecuted and harshly sentenced. Pollyanna calls upon all of you to join the call to the President of El Salvador to grant pardons to these most unfortunate women.

Pollyanna is also outraged over the discovery of 796 bodies of infants and small children in the septic tank of a convent in Ireland. If you saw the film Philomena you should be aware of the system of nun operated orphanages in which unwed mothers and their children were exploited and abused in Ireland. The orphanage in question in Tuam county, Galway, operated from 1926 until 1961. A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living in the Tuam orphanage alongside 61 unwed mothers. The local Archbishop is talking about getting the sisters of the order that ran the hell house to put up a memorial. Local people are talking about church accountability and a state-funded investigation and excavation of the site.
An Irish historian discovered this 1920s photo of children at an Irish orphanage in Galway county, along with a Connaught Tribune news story about potentially moving the children's orphanage to Tuam, where a researcher now believes nearly 800 dead infants were buried in a mass grave between the 1920s and '60s.
An Irish historian discovered this 1920s photo of children at an Irish orphanage in Galway county, along with a Connaught Tribune news story about potentially moving the children's orphanage to Tuam, where a researcher now believes nearly 800 dead infants were buried in a mass grave between the 1920s and '60s.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew recognition of the unions of the UN employees last year. Pollyanna is pleased to pass on to you the news that recognition has been restored. This is a result of the explosion of anger from unions and working people all over the world. The Secretary-General has agreed a new negotiating system that significantly improves on the UN Staff Management Committee (SMC) rules that applied previously.
Pollyanna is pleased to note that despite all the hysteria of the energy industry after President Obama's pollution cut announcement, ten states have implemented such cuts with no real economic damage. It should be clear that short term profits of special and well heeled interests need not impact the real public interest in saving our planet.  Pollyanna is right with you Mr. President.


You will recall that last March Titan told you about the great discovery of gravitational waves by the Biceps2 telescope. At the time, the phrase in the background was "if the results hold up to further scrutiny."

In the meantime, as happens in science, various people have been taking a hard look at the data and the claims are expressing severe doubts about the validity of the results. The question raised in a Nature blog was whether the foreground dust and the polarization it could have caused was accounted for properly. The answer to that question will only be out when the full Planck spacecraft data set is published in the fall.
Preliminary data from the Planck probe on how galactic dust scatters microwave radiation, presented at an April 2013 meeting, are now being used to evaluate the strength of signals from the primordial Universe.

In the meantime, the observers are standing by their results. They used partial Planck data from a slide, so called data scraping, which is legitimate practice to reach the conclusion that the observation is real. Brian Koberlein writing in Universe Today tends to support the observers. Stay tuned.


New techniques may make it possible to restore an old drawing about 500 years old by Leonardo da Vinci. The mysterious da Vinci portrait, widely considered to be a self-portrait of the artist, was drawn with red chalk on paper in the early 1500s and has since been fading.

A self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci done in red chalk.Leonardo da Vinci, ca. 1510-1515
If the restoration succeeds, it will be a great boon to art and history.

Not only painting, but sound recordings, especially old ones are subject to decay. A Berkeley physicist, Carl Haber, has been using techniques that were applied to the Higgs hunt at CERN to restore ancient sound recordings.
He was awarded a MacArthur genius grant to pursue this development and Pollyanna is most impressed. Read the link for fascinating details.

The late great physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) asked the question "if the time for a civilization to spread through the galaxy is short compared to the lifetime of the galaxy, then were are they, if they exist?"   Fermi's colleague  Leo Szilard, is said to have assured him that they are here among us and are known as Hungarians. Randall has revived the question in the light of the discovery of exosolar planets.


What If? asks: I was watching this video and was wondering: How
many birds there would need to be for gravity to take over and
force them into a gargantuan ball of birds?

—Justin Basinger

Relax, we are not going to be overwhelmed with starling clouds.

Have you ever wondered what drove Tom Lehrer to become an enemy of
Wizard of Id

We will even forgive Randall for this: