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.
This week Pollyanna refers you to Orr Shalom (Light of Peace) Israel’s largest non-profit organization providing residential and therapeutic services to children who have been removed from their homes because of severe abuse and neglect. It has a high rating for transparency from the Israel Gives charity watchdog. We quote its vision statement: "Orr Shalom's vision is to enable all of Israel's children-at-risk to realize their potential and their right to grow up loved, protected and respected, individual and special, in a positive family setting. Since 1980, our organization has steadily expanded its network of care to ease the plight of Israeli children at risk, helping them break the cycle of violence and become productive, independent adults. Orr Shalom currently cares for 1,300 children from birth through 18+ years of age in a wide range of multifaceted programs that provide caring, professional, one-on-one treatment. Orr Shalom maintains the highest quality of expert care, with a high staff-child ratio. This ensures that at Orr Shalom, each child receives the attention, therapy, and enrichment s/he needs to thrive. At the core of our approach is the small family community based setting which has proved itself over the decades." Please help out.
IN MEMORIAM RICHARD H. TOWNES 1915-2015Whenever you use a DVD, check out quickly at a store or have eye surgery, you are benefiting from the life and work of this great scientist who died this week at age 99. He invented first the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and then its light descendant, the laser. The laser is ubiquitous in our modern life, in consumer electronics, astronomy and medicine to name a few, yet its development was motivated by a military need. Towards the end of the second world war, the US Pentagon funded research aimed at improving the reach and accuracy of communications and radar systems. Townes, who had worked on radar during the war, conceived the idea of trapping molecules. In the spring of 1951 when, seated on a park bench among blooming azaleas in Washington, D.C., he was struck by the solution to a longstanding problem, how to create a pure beam of short-wavelength, high-frequency light. That revelation – not much different from a religious revelation, Townes believed – eventually led to the first laser. Albert Einstein proposed in 1917 that the right wavelength of light can stimulate an excited atom to emit light of the same wavelength, essentially amplifying it, but Townes was stymied by how to corral a gas of excited atoms without them flying apart.
His revelatory solution allowed him to separate excited from non-excited molecules and store them in a resonant cavity, so that when a microwave traveled through the gas, the molecules were stimulated to emit microwaves in step with one another: a coherent burst. He and his students built such a device using ammonia gas in 1954 and dubbed it a maser, for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.
|Charles H. Townes (left) and James P. Gordon shown with the second of two microwave amplifiers, or masers, that they built in 1955 with H. J. Zeiger (not shown). Townes shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the maser and the description of the laser, which was first built in 1960. (Courtesy the American Physical Society)|
For this he shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with two Russians, Aleksandr M. Prokhorov and Nicolai G. Basov, who independently came up with the idea for a maser. He and his brother-in-law, and future Nobelist Arthur Schawlow conceived the idea of doing the same thing with optical light, but using mirrors at the ends of a gas tube to amplify the light to get an “optical maser.” The rest is history.
He is eulogized by the University of California, Berkeley and in an obituary in the Guardian, inter alia. His life and work impacted us all. Rest in Peace Professor Townes.
GOOD NEWS COMES BEFORE THE RANTS
We have a few things to cheer about this week.One of them is the granting of a pardon to a woman in El Salvador. She had a miscarriage, but was accused of having aborted the fetus and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. She was granted a pardon by a very narrow vote of the paliamentary body that deals with pardons. El Salvador has the most draconian laws in all of Latin America. Abortion is forbidden in all cases including rape, incest and danger to the mother. The pardon was certainly associated with the world wide outcry and we hope that it will help the 17 other women in a similar situation. Pollyanna also hopes that the laws will be changed.
Pollyanna cheers the legislative initiative in the UK to require plain packaging of tobacco products.
|Cigarettes on sale in London. MPs are to be given a free vote on whether to enforce plain packaging for tobacco products. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images|
NOW THE RANTS1) Pollyanna, Titan and a host of bloggers have shouted long and hard against the anti-vaxxers, the people who refuse for whatever silly reason to vaccinate their kids. In many places, these unvaccinated children come to school and constitute a threat to any child who is immune compromised. It is indeed criminal. Pollyanna calls your attention to a most egregious case in California, where a father is taking steps to protect his child. A six year old had chemotherapy for leukemia which succeeded, but left him with an suppressed immune system that precludes vaccination against a variety of diseases. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what is known as herd immunity.
2) We are informed that the medical staff of Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have closed down their activities in Sudan. The Brussels-based section of MSF was focusing on three conflict-affected parts of Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and in need of assistance. Total denial of access to Blue Nile State, forced closure of activities in East Darfur State, and administrative obstacles and blockages in South Darfur State have made it impossible for MSF to respond to medical emergencies in these areas. The Sudanese air force even bombed a hospital run by MSF. Pollyanna regards this inhumane treatment of the population by the Sudanese government as an unspeakable atrocity.
|On January 20, this hospital run by MSF was attacked by Sudanese bombers|
3)Pollyanna is outraged by the poaching of wildlife and the trafficking in animal parts that supports it. Asian superstitions about healing or aphrodisiac qualities of rhino horn or the ego trip of owning elephant parts are driving these magnificent beasts to extinction. In the US, the National Wildlife Property Repository on the outskirts of Denver is full of the remains of 1.5 million animals, whole and in parts.
To give you an idea of the extent of the trade, in 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered, and last year the repository crushed 6 tons of confiscated ivory. Obviously international action has to be taken to put a stop to this scandal.
WEIRD LAWS INDEEDThose who bother to read our blogs know that last week Titan told a Pyramus and Thisbe story about porcupines in the Israeli Safari zoo, with a wild suitor outside a fenced enclosure, a captive female inside and love aka estrus foiled. He also mentioned the story of the German tourists in Florida who, having heard of the state law prohibiting people from have sex with porcupines, went out, presumably well fortified with alcohol, to violate the law for the principle of individual freedom. You may let your imaginations fill in the rest of this prickly (double entendre intended) story. After giggling a bit, Pollyanna decided to share with you the 10 weirdest laws concerning sex now existing in various states of the leader of the free world. Pollyanna is now blushing, especially that now she knows that in Bakersfield, California, anyone having intercourse with Satan must use a condom..
ANCIENT JAWBONE SHAKES UP PALEONTOLOGYAn ancient mandible was found recently in the deep ocean near Taiwan and dated to 190 to 15 thousand years ago. It indicates that hominids evolved in multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region. “During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China,” Live Science reports on the discovery. A scientific paper was published in Nature Communications. Pollyanna finds the implications fascinating. If Samson could defeat the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, imagine what the jawbone of a hominem will do to science. (Pollyanna disclaims the last sentence)
What If? asks Would it be possible for two teams in a tug-o-war to overcome the ultimate tensile strength of an iron rod and pull it apart? How big would the teams have to be?
—Markus Andersen You will be surprised what a dangerous game this can be.
GRAPHICS If you have ever given or sat through a PP presentation, you will identify with the speaker and audience in this WuMo.
whereas our friend Wally knows how to avoid being invited to meetings:
In China, the use of puns in public media has been prohibited. We have mentioned this in the past, but now find further support for the idea:
This is somewhat belated, but it was only published this month in the Washington Post. Gene apparently cannot give up Below the Beltway blows and he indeed got invited to the White House to celebrate Hannukah.