Cluster Map

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:

1 comment:

  1. Delightful - Such a nice way to start the week! full of things I didn't know. (eg, the Da Vinci - unfortunately I knew about the Irish well as, lehavdil, the doubts about the gravity waves.)