Saturday, May 17, 2014

Titan greets you with the usual rants

Illustris Simulation of the Universe
Video Credit: Illustris Collaboration, NASA, PRACE, XSEDE, MIT, Harvard CfA;
Music: The Poisoned Princess (Media Right Productions)
Explanation: How did we get here? Click play, sit back, and watch. A new computer simulation of the evolution of the universe -- the largest and most sophisticated yet produced -- provides new insight into how galaxies formed and new perspectives into humanity's place in the universe. The Illustris project -- the largest of its type yet -- exhausted 20 million CPU hours following 12 billion resolution elements spanning a cube 35 million light years on a side as it evolved over 13 billion years. The simulation is the first to track matter into the formation of a wide variety of galaxy types. As the virtual universe evolves, some of the matter expanding with the universe soon gravitationally condenses to form filaments, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The above video takes the perspective of a virtual camera circling part of this changing universe, first showing the evolution of dark matter, then hydrogen gas coded by temperature (0:45), then heavy elements such as helium and carbon (1:30), and then back to dark matter (2:07). On the lower left the time since the Big Bang is listed, while on the lower right the type of matter being shown is listed. Explosions (0:50) depict galaxy-center supermassive black holes expelling bubbles of hot gas. Interesting discrepancies between Illustris and the real universe do exist and are being studied, including why the simulation produces an overabundance of old stars.

Titan is back with you again and would like to share a video of a simulation of the history of the universe, courtesy of NASA. We hope you find it interesting.

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.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is the initiative of a group of Israeli women to take Palestinian children to the sea. Although they live not far from the Mediterranean, most Palestinian children have never seen it, since travel to Israel by Palestinians is severely restricted.

This project has taken wing and expanded. Please help take a kid to the beach. 

The great Canadian writer and environment defender died this week at the age of 92. We are great admirers of his writings and of the campaigns he waged through the years over environment issues. His delightful book "Never Cry Wolf" in which he describes living in the Arctic near a wolf den is a joyous read. We refer you to detailed obituaries in the NYTimes and in the Globe and Mail. The latter gives a more Canadian perspective on this wonderful man.
Mr. Mowat in 2010. Credit Paul Lapid/Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Titan would like to call your attention to his  April 4 blog, in which he  commented on the fact that the Israeli police had hired a spy general to snoop on the Israeli public, a la NSA. We are now told that the NSA works very hard  for Israel and supplies Israel with raw data on US citizens. You may easily guess the ethnicity of these citizens many of whom are denied entry to Israel. That is something to consider when evaluating the request by Israel for visa waiver status. Titan would like to pass on a quote from a comment on NSA activities that gives food for thought.

"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most
honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."
17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.
Not the nicest guy in history
A Christian woman in Sudan who is married to a Christian man has been sentenced to death by a court for the "crime" of practicing the religion in which she was brought up by her Christian mother while her Muslim father was absent from the home. She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery since her marriage to a Christian man is not recognized. This is totally outrageous and we all sincerely hope that a higher court will overturn this draconian sentence. The woman is pregnant and the hanging will be postponed for a few years after the birth. The lashes will be applied when she recovers from the birth.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag pictured on her wedding day with her husband
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy"
Sudan is the country that carried out genocide in Darfur and evaded sanctions because of Chinese investment in its oil resources. For shame all around!

The recent kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria has raised the question of the right of girls to equal education. Boko Haram has launched a war against education of girls and claims, as in its name, that Western education is sinful. It is no accident that a school for girls was targeted. Nicholas Kristof writing in the NYTimes asks why education of girls is anathema to Muslim fanatics.
A classroom in Mali. Credit Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos (2007)

Indeed, education of girls is key to the liberation of any country from backwardness and in terms of its own distorted logic Boko Haram was consistent with its aims. We can only hope that a concentrated world effort, as initiated by European countries and the US will lead to the rescue of these poor girls.
French President Francois Hollande, center, welcomed Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, right, upon his arrival to an African security summit at the Elysee palace in Paris to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. Getty Images
While not violent, the objection of Israeli orthodox rabbis to the introduction of a curriculum leading to a high school diploma (Hebrew bagrut) in the Bais-Yaakov school system under their control was consistent with the goal of keeping women subordinate to men and on the fringes of society. To quote the rabbis  "There is no place for studies in Bais Yaakov that lead to the exams of the bagrut,as there is an inherent contradiction in the education of Bais Yaakov that aspires to yiras shamayaim (fear of heaven) and the educational system that leads to the bagrut exams." The methods might be vastly different, but the ideology of the Rabbis and Boko Haram is the same, keep the girls uneducated and they will continue to be the slaves of men.

One might think that in our enlightened secular Western world, all these considerations have gone by the board. It is, therefore, a rude shock to see the female executive editor of the NYTimes fired for having the impudence to demand that her salary be at least as great as that of her male predecessor. The publisher considered her "pushy" which tells you where our culture is stalled.


Olmert, prior to hearing his sentence, in the Tel Aviv court. May 13, 2014.
Olmert, prior to hearing his sentence, in the Tel Aviv court. May 13, 2014. Photo by Yotam Ronen
The big news in Israel this week is the tough sentences handed out to former PM Ehud Olmert and his partners in crime. The case involved major bribery and corruption around the building of a monstrous housing project in Jerusalem when Olmert was the mayor. He was given six years and a hefty fine. Titan thinks that he was punished for the wrong offense. His conduct of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when he was PM, that cost so many lives in unnecessary and bungled operations, went unpunished. It always strikes us how arrogant people in power can be and how they think that they can get away with anything. Hubris indeed eventually angers the gods.

Suspected 'price tag' attack in Abu Gosh.
Anti-Arab graffiti, reading 'Arabs out,' sprayed in Abu Ghosh on June 19, 2013. Photo by Emil Salman
There is a wave of anti-Arab hate crimes in Israel, most of them committed by a group of 100 or more right wing, religious activists. The so-called price tag policy involves an attack against Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and left-wing organizations. The police and army have turned a blind eye towards the burning of mosques, defacing of churches and monasteries and violence against liberals. Now that the violence has turned against the Army itself, the establishment has woken up. These crimes are terror pure and simple, but the government has refused so far to apply that definition. The hypocrisy involved is huge but typical. We entertain the hope that the government will get tough about settler violence, but we are not holding our breath.

Pope Francis is coming to visit Israel, the Palestine Authority and Jordan this month and it is a real security headache for both Israel and the Vatican. There are complaints that the stringent security measures will block the Pope's access to Christians who want to interact with him. Nonetheless the fear that some crazy Orthodox Jew will try to assassinate him is very real and in Titan's opinion the security measures are justified. Even if the Pope himself is protected, the possibility of a massive hate crime against a Christian institution is certainly on the agenda and the security forces of the state must do whatever is necessary to prevent it. We are dealing here with settlers, religious fanatics and lunatic messianic nuts who are capable of anything. Churches are a very easy target.


What If raises the question of a lawsuit for $2x10**36 or $2 undecillion against the Au Bon Pain restaurant chain and others. This is the new record in civil and punitive damages although there have been quite a few dillies in the past.

Those of us who commute by train have something to learn from Randall about our favorite mode of transportation.

How real are we?

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Cynthia has something on human intelligence
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for May/16/2014

When did you last fantasize about civil rights and lawyers

Wizard of Id Cartoon for May/08/2014

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