Monday, December 5, 2016

Titan is back with you again

Titan is back and as usual has something interesting to tell you about himself. A bit of egomania can last for 4.6 billion years:
Mysterious Changing feature on Titan
Image Credit: Cassini Radar Mapper, Cornell, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: What is that changing object in a cold hydrocarbon sea of Titan? Radar images from the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn have been recording the surface of the cloud-engulfed moon Titan for years. When imaging the flat -- and hence radar dark -- surface of the methane and ethane lake called Ligeia Mare, an object appeared in 2013 just was not there in 2007. Subsequent observations in 2014 found the object remained -- but had changed! The featured image shows how the 20-km long object has appeared and evolved. Current origin speculative explanations include bubbling foam and floating solids, but no one is sure. Future observations may either resolve the enigma or open up more speculation.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

Pollyanna, Titan and Yanda note passing of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and hope all their friends enjoyed it. The winter holiday season is now with us with Christmas, Hannuka and Kwanzaa awaiting to give us joy.


Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in
1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on
Friday. He was 90. He did many good things for the Cuban people, increased literacy, improved health services and helped the economy. He also deprived them of their rights and ruled with an iron hand. History will judge him. The NYTimes has an obituary as does the Guardian.



This month Titan wishes to express his outrage  at the wanton killing of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the Myanmar army and Buddhist militias. The Rohingya are fleeing a policy of collective punishment in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine state, where security forces are mounting indiscriminate reprisal attacks in response to a 9 October assault on three border posts that killed nine members of the border police.
Rohingya Muslim children stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state.
Rohingya Muslim children stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state.

On Myanmar’s coast the villages of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims keep going up in flames, displacing 30,000.
A satellite image from Nov. 10 shows a Rohingya Muslim village burned down in an arson spree by Myanmar’s army. According to Human Rights Watch, 400 buildings have been destroyed. Recent reports indicate 130 people have been killed.
The army has shut out aid workers and independent observers, and plans to arm a local Buddhist militia,composed of ethnic Arakanese, a “recipe for disaster,” according to the International Commission of Jurists. But the Arakan National Party (ANP), which hailed Donald Trump’s election and favors “inhuman acts” to cleanse Myanmar of Muslims, endorsed it. Those who have fled to Bangladesh are being abused badly and pushed back. The situation is intolerable and must be dealt with at an international level. Please join the call to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to go to Myanmar at once. The voice of Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen silent on this vital human rights issue. Why?


Al Capone predicted that the US would have a woman president when the Cubs won the World Series. He got as far as the candidacy, but flunked the election. H.K. Mencken in 1920 hit the nail on the head perfectly.


Mike Luckovich has it right
Titan and his friends are very concerned about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. We only hope that he does not deliver on his outrageous promises, such as building walls, deporting immigrants and enhancing torture. We understand that he cannot revive coal mining or really bring back jobs from China. The experience in Scotland might serve as a warning. We link you to a discussion between Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee that shows where hope might lie.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee. (photo: Christopher Lane/Guardian UK)
Senator Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee. (photo: Christopher Lane/Guardian UK)

We also link you to an article on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who point the way the Democratic party must go to renew itself. Warren laid out the principles she believes should govern Democrats during the Trump era: Standing up to bigotry, pushing for economic equality and combating the influence of Wall Street. Titan thinks that the way forward will begin with the election of Keith Ellison as DNC chair despite the negative reaction of some Jewish groups.. It is also important to confront the extreme right movements who raised their hands in a Nazi salute to Trump.


Titan, Pollyanna and YandA salute the 2,000 veterans of military service who are showing up to be a human shield at Standing Rock. They are there to protect the activists who are supporting the local Sioux Tribe in their battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Water protectors on horseback at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
We have great empathy for we have human shield experience, standing between Israeli police on horseback and young Palestinian activists outside Orient House in Jerusalem. We also feel for the young activist who is still in danger of losing an arm after being struck with by what witnesses described as a concussion grenade thrown directly at her by police in riot gear. We had a concussion grenade thrown at us in Bil'in by an officer of the "most moral army in the world" who laughed with glee as he threw it at a 78 year old unarmed civilian.



Start with a German corporation that builds submarines, but has a marketing problem. Add an Israeli lawyer who is the private attorney of the Prime Minister and also represents the German corporation. You find Israel about to buy submarines from Germany that the Navy neither needs nor wants. An email from a Defense Ministry official purportedly shows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron personally intervened on behalf of a German shipyard concerning a sale of missile boats to the Israel Navy. The email was divulged Tuesday night by Channel 10. The affair of the acquisitions by the Israel Navy – which has already caused problems for the prime minister’s attorney David Shimron and led to the opening of a police investigation that is liable to involve Benjamin Netanyahu himself – is divided into two parts: the controversy surrounding the purchase of three new submarines for the navy and the story of the tender for supplying four new Saar 6 ships. In both cases, the manufacturer that won the tenders is the German company ThyssenKrupp whose Israeli mediator, Michael Ganor, is represented by Shimron.

Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in Haifa port January 12, 2016 REUTERS/Baz Ratner
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According to the TV report, the legal adviser to the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben-Ari, said in a 2014 email to the ministry’s director general, Dan Harel, that Shimron had contacted him and asked that he act for the benefit of the shipyard, ThyssenKrupp, as per Netanyahu’s request. Shimron denies Ben-Ari’s account.   As a result the attorney-general had no option but to open an inquiry Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit made the required decision on Wednesday to open a police inquiry into Israel’s acquisition of submarines and gunboats. This development comes after new material was uncovered while investigating former deputy National Security Council head Avriel Bar Yosef on suspicion of taking bribes. The information was handed to the head of the investigations and intelligence department Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki on Wednesday afternoon, and he immediately updated the attorney general.  Nice to know that our security is in the hands of corrupt idiots. We do not salute our revolting army and its disgusting commanders. The chief of staff just appointed a Chief Rabbi who is on record as saying that it is permitted to rape the enemy's women. Cheers!!!


A few weeks ago we had a spate of forest fires which drove 60,000 people from their homes. We had fires six years ago in which 44 people died, in the wake of which we were told that Israel is prepared for future fires. All that went up in smoke. Yossi Verter writing in Haaretz tells the sad tale of how Netanyahu blew it again. Of course, they can blame terrorism, but in fact the police discount that claim. 
What is certain is that future fires will be worse as global warming progresses.  Amira Haas in Haaretz raises the political side of the behavior of the government during the fire crisis.
Israel fires: Fires burn in the horizon as firefighters battle to control a fire that broke out in Nataf, west of Abu Ghosh, along the border with the West Bank on November 25, 2016.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP
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The Supreme Court has ruled that the illegal settlement of Amona was built on privately owned
Palestinian land that was simply stolen by the settlers. For a few years the government has tried to find a way to circumvent this decision without actually violating the laws since the settlers have powerful connections in the governing coalition. The brilliant legal minds came up with something called the Regulation Law that would have legalized the land theft. Again we refer you to Yossi Verter for the details.
 Illustration: Bennett in the role of the dj making a club full of politicians dance to his tune.

We note that Benny Begin a member of the Likud has called the bill the "plunder bill" and has said that he will vote against it. Netanyahu has expressed fears that the bill will bring him to the dock in the ICC in the Hague, but still supports it. The vote has been postponed, but our Education Minister says there is no moral problem involved. Yuck!!


Let us leave all the above garbage behind and look at some good things.


Weight from massive deposits of frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, built up billions of years ago, could have carved out the left half of the dwarf planet’s heart-shaped landscape, researchers report online November 30 in Nature. Researchers have generally assumed that the heart's left "lobe" — a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) plain called Sputnik Planitia (formerly Sputnik Planum) — is an enormous impact crater that subsequently filled with frozen nitrogen and other exotic ices. A new study, however, suggests that the ice buildup came first and the accumulated material eventually pushed the underlying landscape down, much as Greenland's enormous ice sheet has done here on

The left "lobe" of Pluto's heart-shaped feature is a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) ice plain known as Sputnik Planitia.
Earth. We refer you to an interview with an old colleague and friend Doug Hamilton, a professor at our Ph.D. alma mater, the University of Maryland. Cheers to Doug and team!


Normally a vacuum is thought of as completely empty, and light can travel through it without being
changed. But in quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory describing the interaction between photons and charged particles such as electrons, space is full of virtual particles that appear
and vanish all the time. Very strong magnetic fields can modify this space so that it affects the polarization of light passing through it. This effect was predicted 80 years ago but was observed only recently in the visible light emitted by a neutron star. It was detected by a team of astronomers who used used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to observe the neutron star RX J1856.5-3754, about 400 light-years from Earth.
This artist's illustration shows how light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). This phenomenon suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, which was first predicted in 1930s but never observed.

This artist's illustration shows how light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). This phenomenon suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, which was first predicted in 1930s but never observed.
Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Despite being amongst the closest neutron stars, its extreme dimness meant the astronomers could only observe the star with visible light using the FORS2 instrument on the VLT, at the limits of current telescope technology. As the head of the team, Roberto Mignani explains: “According to QED, a highly magnetized vacuum behaves as a prism for the propagation of light, an effect known as vacuum birefringence.”

This may sound esoteric to some, but it is big news in geekdom and we expect exciting new discoveries as telescope technology improves.


The Tribe of Dan, one of the 12 "Israelite tribes," may have started as no such thing. New archaeological evidence suggests that the Danites originated with mercenaries hired from the Aegean and Syria by the Egyptian overlords of Canaan to keep order. Recent excavations have uncovered a large neighborhood from the 12-11th century B.C.E. that shows compelling Aegean influences in  their city in the north of the country.

Cypriot-style pithoi found at Dan Nelson
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What percentage of the Sun's heat (per day) does the population of Earth eat in calories per year? What changes could be made to our diets for the amount of calories to equal the energy of the Sun?

—James Mitchell
The answer 0.000000000065%. The details are indeed interesting. 



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