Archive for the Science Category

Oasis

Posted in Science on January 21, 2016 by Hevel Cava

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Our responsibility for others is the foundation of all human communities. This afirmation could implay a real oasis for building humanity in today’s chaotic world. The very possibility of living in a meaningful human world is based on our ability to give what we can to others. And since welcoming and sharing are the foundation upon which all communities are formed, no amount of inhospitable nationalism can be consistently defended when confronted with the suffering of other human beings. In the relationship between same and other, my welcoming of the other is, the ultimate fact. It is the hospitality of humanity, or a peace prior to all hostility. And in this primary peace, in this basic welcoming of refugees, things figure not as what one builds but as what one gives.

Doubting…

Posted in Science on January 21, 2016 by Hevel Cava

drawings (14)

Ich möchte, wann ich sterbe, wie die lichten

Gestirne schnell und unbewußt erbleichen,

Erliegen möcht’ ich einst des Todes Streichen,

Wie Sagen uns vom Pindaros berichten.

 

Ich will ja nicht im Leben oder Dichten

Den großen Unerreichlichen erreichen,

Ich möcht’, o Freund, ihm nur im Tode gleichen;

Doch höre nun die schönste der Geschichten!

 

Er saß im Schauspiel, vom Gesang beweget,

Und hatte, der ermüdet war, die Wangen

Auf seines Lieblings schönes Knie geleget:

 

Als nun der Chöre Melodien verklangen,

Will wecken ihn, der ihn so sanft geheget,

Doch zu den Göttern war er heimgegangen.

The First Snowfall

Posted in Science on January 20, 2016 by Hevel Cava

THE FIRST SNOWFALL

The first snow of winter here in central Vermont has now fallen. It came late this year, late by several months, according to the TV weather watchers. I’m glad it took so long; it gave us a few more weeks to work in the yard, to putter in the garage, aimlessly shifting the junk to different corners, trying to be serious and practical while the trees shed their leaves and the chipmunks and squirrels slowly ease out of sight. Now it’s here, a ruffled cotton quilt of snow that makes a fragile cover, a puffy one, curled up over the ruts and ditches, and parting its satiny texture to make way for a still-running creek.

We’re used to the dark emerald world of pasture grass and the heavy branches of the maples and oaks hanging over a fast-running stream. Almost any road in this part of the state runs along a river, since all the settling that took place two centuries before occurred when someone built a mill and supplied cheap energy for cutting wood, pounding grain, running saws and forge hammers before the age of steam. Towns grew up soon after, and the lumbermen came in from other states to work the thick, untouched hardwood forests that abounded back then. Cutting them down, or clearing them, made way for pastureland and the dairy industry, still a mainstay of the state’s stagnant economy. So the roads gave the interior little fissures in the deep forest shade through which to travel, trade, or simply wander. They curl and sidle up hillsides following the whims of the black water tumbling over the rocks. There is a kind of dance between these blue roads and the foaming, reckless water that surges down the slopes.

The trees frame us in a complicated black and white world. The branches enmesh the gray sky, and fan out like spider webs, or like the bars of a prison. The prison image is the more likely, since we are now house-bound, driven indoors for the months ahead by the stark, frigid air, the stillness that suddenly hardens like glass around one’s house. Beneath us, great slabs of granite spread out and merge into equally thick masses of marble. They hold up the world, these stone floors. The loamy earth, so soft and crumbly in the warm months, is now frosted over with a grainy sand-like ice, as remote from summer as childhood is to the elderly. Here and there, a fallen acorn has missed the eye of a squirrel; empty seed husks lie around like the debris of an old battle field. The great season of plenty has wasted its power and squandered all the fertility that was released out of the forces of spring. You gaze upon the ruins of wild grass and tall, broken-necked weeds and wonder what all the urgency was about a few months before.

Lamps are turned on by mid-day; fires are lit in the grate, to help along a furnace in the cellar, which tends sometimes to find pushing heat up into the upper floors a hard task. The smell of wood smoke in the yard, while you get more wood into the wheelbarrow, is like some old forgotten uncle’s tobacco smoke, a pleasant smell full of yearning for other days. Love is like some unopened letter sent years before, misplaced on a shelf. To open it now would fill you with the same emptiness that you see in the hazy hilltops to the east of us. Something has left the world and its absence is crucial, a pain that has no particular name or verb to define it. “A certain slant of winter light,” as Emily Dickinson described it, “heavenly hurt,” a sign of mortality suddenly visible, even palpable in the world as you pull your sweater tight and sit down heavily in a chair, your back to the glare of winter, to read a book you’ve been promising yourself to open for years and years.

The only relief one can find after the snow has fallen and the roads are scraped clear by the snowplows, is to go into town to shop. Suddenly the bright produce in the bins is a source of vague joy; so are the cans of beans and bottles of hot sauce. The cooler is piled high with range-free hens’ eggs. There’s bacon, if you want it; and pancake mix, cream cheese, and jugs of maple syrup. Eating is more than a luxury, it’s a way of celebrating that you are alive, and that your kitchen is warm and misty with the bubbling of an omelet, the aroma of coffee rising out of the drip machine. Toast pops up and shows its golden, almost saffron-yellow sides, as if some message suddenly appeared in your inbox full of warmth and joy from an Indian friend sitting by his open window in Calcutta. You eat with others, if they’re around, and push back an empty plate to look again, to let the eyes walk out into the pearl-colored afternoon, up the icy hills and into the foggy distance, only to retract your stare and realize you are cocooned, your feet snug in fleece-lined slippers, your arms comforted by a wool cardigan.

This is the weather that induces a kind of Norwegian state of reverie, the moody, somber thoughts of an Ibsen, or an Edward Munch, or the dark, ponderous music of Edvard Grieg. A black and white world shades off into an infinite gradation of grays and ambiguities. The eye is lost among the myriad shades of meaning winter introduces after the flowers are gone. What it all means baffles the best minds; nothing is clear about winter but that it has halted nature’s cycles; here the earth is frozen, rock-hard, a brittle, silent, landscape of blackened monuments in a park more like a cemetery than a hinterland, a rural landscape. And what one thinks about is eternity, the unknown, the triviality of most events, the fragility of life. I think about my childhood, but in doing so, I am like a man standing on a cliff looking out at the sea, where a small boat drifts to the horizon with my boyhood self waving back at me with a forgiving smile.

Teenage Bloodsport: 15 Tragic Stories Of High-School Athletes Who Died Playing Football

Posted in Science on January 20, 2016 by Hevel Cava

High-school football is one of the deadliest sports in America.

Source: Teenage Bloodsport: 15 Tragic Stories Of High-School Athletes Who Died Playing Football

The Things We Forget When We’re Going Through A Difficult Time

Posted in Science on January 19, 2016 by Hevel Cava

We forget that we are not alone.

Source: The Things We Forget When We’re Going Through A Difficult Time

An Unlikely Encounter

Posted in Science on October 9, 2014 by Hevel Cava

😉

Tea, Books & Thoughts

This post is written in response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: That’s Absurd. The challenge asks us us to incorporate something absurd or surreal into our post. 

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I hurry along the street, shopping bags bouncing off the sides of my legs. I only need one last thing for tomorrow’s party, and I cannot afford to miss the closing time of the shop. If my 7 year-old-to-be asked for Hello Kitty tableware for the big celebration, there is no way I am showing up at home with Disney Princess tableware. I would tumble far down on the scale of successfull motherhood in my children’s minds. And those are the minds that really matter.

Around me the crowds are thinning as shops close for the day. Cars and buses throw dirty water onto the sidewalk as they bounce through potholes filled by an afternoon shower. By now the grey clouds are dispersing…

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A study shows how pests are moving north…

Posted in Research, Science, כתובים with tags , , on September 2, 2013 by Hevel Cava

cricket

Hundreds of crop pests are advancing away from the tropics at a rate of nearly two miles a year, research has shown.

The mostly likely explanation for the trend is said to be climate change as rising temperatures make new habitats more inviting.

Pest invasions driven by global warming have serious implications for agriculture and food security, according to scientists.

Already, between 10% and 16% of global crop production is lost to pests such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects and worms.

Losses caused by fungi and fungi-like micro-organisms alone amount to enough to feed 8.5% of the global population.

Agricultural pests are mainly spread by being carried on transported farm products. But the second most important factor in disseminating pests is weather.

To investigate the likely effect of climate change, British scientists studied data on the distribution of 612 crop pests collected over the past 50 years. They found an average shift towards the north and south poles of around 1.7 miles (2.7km) per year.

Pests whose traditional homes were warmer regions near the equator were branching out to new locations they would have previously found too cold.

Dan Bebber, from University of Exeter, who led the research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said: “If crop pests continue to march polewards as the Earth warms, the combined effects of a growing world population and the increased loss of crops to pests will pose a serious threat to global food security.”

One example of a serious weather-sensitive pest was the mountain pine beetle, Denroctonus ponderosae. Warmer weather had driven the beetle northward to destroy large areas of pine forest in the US Pacific north-west.

Another was rice blast fungus, a devastating pest affecting more than 80 countries which was now attacking wheat. Considered a new disease, “wheat blast” is having a severe impact in Brazil and there are fears of it spreading further north to the US.

The scientists wrote: “Observed changes in pest distributions accord with observations of wild species, direct responses of pests to warming, and with expectations for expanding pest ranges under climate change.”

Co-author Professor Sarah Gurr, also from University of Exeter, said: “Renewed efforts are required to monitor the spread of crop pests and to control their movement from region to region if we are to halt the relentless destruction of crops across the world in the face of climate change.”

Underwater astonishments

Posted in Research, Science with tags , , on June 21, 2013 by Hevel Cava

David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square’s worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.

A pioneer in ocean exploration, David Gallo is an enthusiastic ambassador between the sea and those of us on dry land. He explains that “today we’ve only explored about 3 percent of what’s out there in the ocean. Already we’ve found the world’s highest mountains, the world’s deepest valleys, underwater lakes, underwater waterfalls … . There’s still 97 percent, and either that 97 percent is empty or just full of surprises.”

David Gallo works to push the bounds of oceanic discovery. Active in undersea exploration (sometimes in partnership with legendary Titanic-hunter Robert Ballard), he was one of the first oceanographers to use a combination of manned submersibles and robots to map the ocean world with unprecedented clarity and detail.

How to reduce poverty?

Posted in Philosophy, Science, Wisdom with tags , , , on June 20, 2013 by Hevel Cava

“Change comes slowly,” says architect Paul Pholeros. He should know; he has spent the last 30 years working on urban, rural, and remote architectural projects throughout his native Australia and beyond. In particular, he is focused on improving the living environments of the poor, understanding that environment plays a key and often overlooked role in health.

An architect himself, Pholeros met his two co-directors in the organization Healthabitat in 1985, when the three were challenged by Yami Lester, the director of a Aboriginal-controlled health service in the Anangu Pitjatjantjara Lands in northwest South Australia, to “stop people getting sick.” The findings from that project have guided their thinking ever since, as Pholeros and his partners work to improve sanitation, connect electricity, and provide washing and water facilities to indigenous communities. Above all, the teams focus on engaging these local communities to help themselves–and to pass on their skills to others. In this way, a virtuous circle of fighting poverty is born.

Since 2007, Healthabitat has expanded its work beyond Australia, working on similar projects in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. In 2011, the firm was awarded the international UN Habitat and Building and Social Housing Foundation’s World Habitat Award, and a Leadership in Sustainability prize from the Australian Institute of Architects. In 2012, Healthabitat was one of the six Australian representatives at the Venice International Architectural Biennale.

Stephen Hawking and the Israel Boycott

Posted in Physics, Science with tags , , on May 9, 2013 by Hevel Cava

Professor HawkingThere’s an old joke about the definition of chutzpa. A boy murders his parents and pleas to the judge: “Have pity on me – I’m an orphan!”

Sadly, that comic story can be applied this week to Stephen Hawking, the brilliant Cambridge physicist who announced he was pulling out of the “Facing Tomorrow” conference in Israel next month, “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott” of Israel. For such a clever man, his recent actions are shockingly foolish and short-sighted.

Short-sighted because, given Israel’s central position in scientific and technological fields, to boycott the Jewish state would mean giving up on some of the most important advancements of recent years.

  • Stephen Hawking himself, who has suffered from motor neuron disease for most of his 71 years, communicates using a mechanical voice system run by the Intel Core i7 Processor developed by the Israeli division of Intel.
  • As a partical physicist, he is intimately involved in the most significant development in modern times: the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, found last year using Israel-developed particle detectors.
  • Last year, Hawking accepted a prestigious physics award worth $3 million – awarded by Yuri Milner, a major investor in Israeli high-tech.

Clearly, Prof. Hawking is not about to take out his Intel voice chip, return $3 million, and cease engaging in scientific debate. With so many areas of his life impacted and improved by Israeli dynamism, his refusal to visit the Jewish state comes across as a whole lotta chutzpa.

Double Standard

If Hawking wants to boycott a nation for perceived human rights outrages, he is targeting the wrong country.

In a week when the world’s newspapers were filled with gruesome descriptions of profound human rights violations, it’s ironic that Prof. Hawking would choose to target Israel for approbation:

  • Civil war is raging in Syria, with the Assad regime using chemical weapons against civilians
  • Nigeria is massacring Islamist opponents of the government
  • China is enforcing its brutal one-child policy through forced abortions
  • Saudi Arabia is executing political prisoners and homosexuals

Of course, Israel is not be above criticism, but to single it out for special treatment is to hold it to a biased double-standard that is required of no other country in the world. To single out Israel, a liberal democracy with an open press, transparent judiciary, universal suffrage, and enshrined equal rights for all – as a country not only to be criticized, but utterly avoided – is total chutzpa.

Dr. Hawking, whose academic research is world-class, must also realize the key to bettering the world lies in fostering communication, not in shutting it down. By turning his back on all of Israel, he’s sending a reactionary and hate-filled message at odds with the extensive academic collaboration that’s marked his entire career. Chutzpa!

Indeed, serious academics, such as Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian President of Al-Quds University, deplore academic boycotts. Dr. Nusseibeh has pioneered joint projects with Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Brandeis University near Boston.

Hawking’s cancellation was such an embarrassment to his employer, Cambridge University, that the school spokesman tried to claim it was due to “health reasons” and not as a boycott of Israel. The university was then forced to backtrack, after Hawking’s office made perfectly clear that the decision was due to the boycott.

Wrong Side of History

Amazingly, the conference that Hawking is boycotting is designed to promote the very sort of tolerant, open world for which he surely yearns.

Held under the auspices of Israeli President Shimon Peres, the annual Facing Tomorrow conference brings together a diverse group of 5,000 world leaders and intellectuals for discussions on an array of pressing world – including geopolitics, economics, environment and culture. Peres, a Nobel Prize laureate and Israel’s elder statesman, is using his considerable political capital to address some of the planet’s most pressing issues. To boycott this effort is not reasoned criticism but rather pure chutzpa – an attempt to destroy an Israeli initiative not on its merits, but simply because it originates in the Jewish state.

As a theoretical physicist, Hawking surely knows that his field was shaped by unsuccessful attempts to silence Jews in the past.

In the 1930s, Jewish scientists in Germany – including Albert Einstein – found themselves edged out of traditional academic fields and into burgeoning scientific areas such as particle physics. Einstein and Enrico Fermi (who left Europe to save his Jewish wife) came to the United States, and built much of the foundation of modern theoretical physics.

This latest boycott attempt to silence Jews has a long and infamous history. Hawking’s synergy with this movement to delegitimize the existence of the Jewish state is destined to prove on the wrong side of history.

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