August 27, 2006

The girl who named Pluto

















At eleven, Venetia Burney had a
keen interest in astronomy and myths.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4596246.stm

Venetia Burney´s Tears

They used to be a bunch of nine
Orbiting ´round the sun,
Though one of them was rather small
And fire, it had none,
Instead an icy, freezing shell
And an eccentric run.

“Why don´t you name it Pluto?”
I suggested to grandpa,
And after some discussion
On the planetary bar
They seemed to fancy what I said
So that was set so far.

Henceforth dear Pluto was an honorable
Member of the club,
Like Venus, Mars and Jupiter,
And it was never snobbed.
Those giants liked its funny ways
And all three moons it brought.

But then sly astronomers met
From hundred different nations
About the Kuiper Belt they tried
Some serious conversations
That ended in a hue and cry
Of all those delegations.

“Count Pluto out!”, screamed one of them,
“He is too wee to stay,
And Charon, Ceres, Xena; oh!

Those we must keep away,
To open floodgates to them all
We firmly must say `nay´!”

“Pluto has always been a planet”,
Yelled another one,
“How dare you change our history,
Traditions all-time long?
By sentiment and public meaning
Pluto´s myth grew strong!”

“Enough!”, said Doctor Jocelyn Bell,
Solution we must find,
Stop all this hassle and get back
To acuteness of mind!”
And finally `dwarf planet´ was
The grade that they did find.

That is the story how my fast friend
Made of rock and ice
Lost all its planetary status
In a game of dice,
Now when snow falls watch me shed tears
For Pluto´s fall and rise.


August 21, 2006

Analysis Paralysis

What is he really thinking?
What is he working on?
Coming for me unhoped for
Or going it alone?

Why is he not affected?
Why isn´t he in need
For everything we shared?
Hasn´t loss made him bleed?

Where are our hopes and trust?
Where is our unity?
His acts dilute our happiness
Like sandstones in the sea.

Will I ever see through this,
Will I yet truly know?
Turning around in circles
I´m wondering where to go.

When will I stop to hope?
When will I stop to wait
For movement and decision,
For him to get it straight?

Who can I call for remedy?
Who offers me protection
From reverie and mirages,
From waste and alienation?

How can I find my strength again?
How can I ressurrect
From torment and exclusion,
Find dignity to act?

Extinction and oblivion,
Is this the only way?
Am I supposed to take it
Or wait another day?


This was written some time ago; re-edited recently: thanks Farkas and Luke for support:-)

August 16, 2006

At Some Hotel

Compulsive glass doors open and close
And wide-open their mouth once again
To suck me into some crowded stills,
A course that I cannot prevent.

Familiar formation of welcome words,
Bare void must be covered or filled.
Bustling activity, babble of voices,
Lips showing meaningless grins.

I enter the lift that climbs up to the cell,
Is there sanctuary for a while?
A click-clack and yet another door snaps,
Yellow light and a telly that whirrs.

Rectangular forms, built up and arranged
To fit ever revolving schemes,
Still no rapport is there, no homelike feel,
Instead yearning and loneliness sneer.

Looking out of the window I seek for a clue
Or a possible hint of fate,
But Warsaw´s front remains cold and hostile
For my keen lucky streak has passed by.

August 13, 2006

Circular Polarizer by PiccoloNamek


Polarization (final_August 21, 2006)

- “Hello, Eric!”

- “Alice? Is it really you, Alice McDuff??

- “Yes, it´s me. Hi, how are you?”

- “Good, thanks. Christ, I can´t believe it… how long has it been since we last talked?”

- “Umm, I don´t know … about a year, I guess…”

- “Right, exactly! We met at London-Heathrow, I was coming back from that Norwegian research mission, and you were just leaving for the continent..”

- “Oh yes, that was… curious, really. A curious meeting on a dreadful Airport.”

- “Haha, yeah. I remember very well… you had just split up with that fellow you had been so much in love with… and I told you that from my point of view, he was a coward and that you deserved better… what was his name again??


- "Aww no, Eric, please don´t....."

- "Anyway… you were pretty sad at that time, beautifully sad if I may say…. I hope you got over him by now… you do have, have you??

- "Hmmmm.
Listen, Eric. I need your help.”

- “Anytime, baby. What can I do for you? Another emotional rescue needed, or..???”

- “What do you know about *Polarization*?"

- “Polarization”? You mean, as in “plane polarization”?

- "I don´t know, you tell me, you´re the scientist! But yeah, I guess… You know, last Friday when I drove back from work in my car, I heard on the radio that birds use polarization for their orientation… I thought that this is a very interesting phenomenom… and a good thread for a write. So I´d like to know more about it. I remembered that you have been doing some research on that stuff last year.. so, what can you tell me about it?”

- “Well, okay. You asked for it. So let´s start with some basics:

Polarization: The simplest manifestation of polarization to visualize is that of a plane wave
, which is a good approximation to most light waves (a plane wave is a wave with infinitely long and wide wavefronts). All electromagnetic waves propagating in free space or in a uniform material of infinite extent have electric and magnetic perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Conventionally, when considering polarization, the electric field vector described and the magnetic field is ignored since it is perpendicular to the electric field and proportional to it. The electric field vector may be arbitrarily divided into two perpendicular components labelled x and y (with z indicating the direction of travel). For a simple harmonic wave, where the amplitude of the electric vector varies in a sinusoidal manner, the two components have exactly the same frequency. However, these components have two other defining characteristics that can differ. First, the two components may not have the same amplitude. Second, the two components may not have the same phase, that is they may not reach their maxima and minima at the same time. The shape traced out in a fixed plane by the electric vector as such a plane wave passes over it (a Lissajous figure)... Can you follow, Alice?"

- “Sure, go on. I particularly fancy the part about the frequency and the presence or lack of synchronicity of amplitudes and phases… but please, continue.”

- "Okay. In nature, electromagnetic radiation is often produced by a large number of individual radiators, producing waves independently of each other. This type of light is described as incoherent
. In general there is no single frequency but rather a spectrum of different frequencies present, and even if filtered to an arbitrarily narrow frequency range, there may not be a consistent state of polarization. However, this does not mean that polarization is only a feature of coherent radiation. Incoherent radiation may show statistical correlation between the components of the electric field, which can be interpreted as partial polarization. In general it is possible to describe an observed wave field as the sum of a completely incoherent part (no correlations) and a completely polarized part. One may then describe the light in terms of the degree of polarization, and the parameters of the polarization ellipse…”

- “…Incoherent radiation may show statistical correlation between the components of the electric field – partial polarization... Wow! This is complex and still so absolutely plausible. So in fact, there is a wide range of possible external circumstances for polarization to take place, but nevertheless the phenomenom is real and ever existing and revolving!”

- “Haha, yeah... kind of, if you wanna put it that way. But you particularily wanted to know about polarization in nature, didn´t you.”

-
“That’s right. I want to know what it does to birds and bees and so on, what effects it has in everyday life.. but I also like it when you digress, Eric...”

- “Okay, Alice. Please listen and don´t interrupt me umteen times!
Polarization in nature, science, and technology: Light reflected by shiny transparent materials is partly or fully polarized, except when the light is normal
to the surface. A polarizing filter, such as a pair of polarizing sunglasses, can be used to observe this by rotating the filter while looking through. At certain angles, the reflected light will be reduced or eliminated. Polarizing filters remove light polarized at 90° to the filter's polarization axis. If two polarizers are placed atop one another at 90° angles to one another, no light passes through..."

- "...no light passes through."

- "Exactly. And then, there´s polarization by scattering. It is observed as light passes through the atmosphere. The scattered light produces the brightness and color in clear skies. This partial polarization of scattered light can be used to darken the sky in photographs, increasing the contrast. This effect is easiest to observe at sunset, on the horizon at a 90° angle from the setting sun. Another easily observed effect is the drastic reduction in brightness of images of the sky and clouds reflected from horizontal surfaces, which is the main reason why polarizing filters are often used in sunglasses. Also frequently visible through polarizing sunglasses are rainbow-like patterns caused by color-dependent birefringent effects, for example in toughened glass (e.g. car windows) or items made from transparent plastics. The role played by polarization in the operation of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) is also frequently apparent to the wearer of polarizing sunglasses, which may reduce the contrast or even make the display unreadable…”

- “Oh Eric, do you think that people who wear these incredibly expensive, ugly sun-glasses are even aware of what´s happen
ing to them when they look through those glasses? Maybe that´s a major but yet unconscious reason why so many people wear sunglasses, even when there´s no sunlight around…

But how about animals? They can perceive polarization of light without any aid, right?”

- "Don´t run out of patience, Alice! I can see you haven´t changed a bit. Concentrate!! And as I said: don´t interrupt me, please?!”

- “Aye, aye, Sir! »

- “OK, I´ll tell you in a second... listen to me... Many animals
are apparently capable of perceiving the polarization of light, which is generally used for navigational purposes, since the linear polarization of sky light is always perpendicular to the direction of the sun. This ability is very common among the insects, including bees, which use this information to orient their communicative dances..."

- "Dance, little bee,
please dance for me..."

-" ...Polarization sensitivity has also been observed in species of octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and mantis shrimp. The rapidly changing, vividly colored skin patterns of cuttlefish, used for communication, also incorporate polarization patterns, and mantis shrimp are known to have polarization selective reflective tissue. Sky polarization can also be perceived by some vertebrates, including pigeons, for which the ability is but one of many aids to homing…”

- “An aid to homing…!!! Aw, this is stunning, really. But Eric… what about humans? I mean… do you think that humans are somehow influenced or guided by Polarization??"

- “Well, as far as we know, generally they are not. Some of us may be, though. The naked human eye
is weakly sensitive to polarization, without the need for intervening filters. Polarized light creates a very faint pattern near the center of the visual field, called "Haidinger´s brush". This pattern is very difficult to see, but with practice one can learn to detect polarized light with the naked eye.”

- “Oh. I see. It needs continuous practice and perseverance. Things that most people never get ´round to.”

- “Right, you got it! Well, do you need to know more, or is it enough for a start.”

- “It is enough for today. Thank you so much! I have to digest and think about all this. I might also gather some further information on this on my own and ding you again for explanation in case I don´t manage to cope with it.”

- “You´re always welcome, Alice. I´m glad if I was helpful. But tell me… will you let me know about your write when you´ve finished it?"

- “Of course! You´ll be the first to read it, Eric.”

- “That´s almost all I wanted to hear, honey. Tho... Alice?"


-"Hmm?"

- "You still love that bastard, don´t you?"


(to be continued...)


Special thanks to: Wikipedia, the one in a million!

August 11, 2006

August 02, 2006

Pleased To Meet You, Mr Freud!

Ok, here are some typical "morning pages"... and they go like this:

I dreamt that I stepped out on the balcony of our flat at the break of dawn to catch a glimpse of the dampness of late summer. My little son Dave was at my side, the man I share my everyday life with was still asleep in our marriage-bed.

Instead of the usual balcony setting, I saw a huge aquarium with various fish of all sizes standing on the left side of the balcony, and a big brown bear on the right. A bear? Yes, a bear! Not one of those John Irving bears, though (and no: I hadn´t read any Irving novel at eve!). It was a dishevelled, messy and alarmingly meagre bear obviously looking for food. At first I wondered why I hadn´t taken any notice of those fish and that bear before, and how both species had survived without getting fed by us. Apparently, the bear hadn´t lived on the fish.Both - fish and bear - looked very ancient, as if they had been out there for donkey´s years. But whereas the fish looked well nurtured and contented, the bear seemed to be disoriented, ahungered and about to go - but not for the fishes...




Instinctively, I pulled my little son to myself and tried to close the heavy glassy French window that had been open all night, but it was already too late... The animal saw us, turned in our direction and started to jump on us. Appalled, I grabbed my son and rushed towards the entrance door, thinking that if I managed to get out before the bear and to double-lock the flat door firmly from outside, Dave would be safe. I felt that it was possible that we might never be able to come back, but there seemed to be no other way.

But what about my husband still sleeping in the bedroom, innocent and oblivious to the imminent danger? Should I warn him, or should I rather push our luck and keep quiet in order not to draw the bear´s attention to this easy prey that it hadn´t detected so far, albeit the open balcony window in the past? How could he flee or fight the bear if it discovered him, with a double-locked entry door?

There was no time for further consideration as the terrifying animal came nearer. So I decided to warn my man and yelled: "Beware!! There´s a greedy angry bear in our flat, chivvying us around! I´m trying to get Dave out, and then I´ll instantly call the police and the fire brigade so they will get you out as well! Run and try to go up to the maisonnette, the stairs are too tiny for the bear to follow you up there, if you manage you´ll be safe!!!" And then, not knowing whether he had heard me at all, Dave and I had a narrow escape through the entrance door, which I locked firmly. Running down the stairs, we could hear the bear howling and bashing furiously against the door, but it didn´t break.

As soon as we had left the stairway and stepped outside, I alternately tried to call the police and the fire brigade on my mobile, which I had by chance taken along. (OK, I admit this sounds absurd, but remember that we´re in a dream and that this is the year 2006!) But oh! None of those urgency numbers worked! I tried again and again, becoming more and more hectic and desperate... nowt! In horror and with images of the bear and my husband struggling in my mind´s eye, I changed my strategy and tried to call any of my close friends for help, but it didn´t work either. Some of them wouldn´t believe my story, others were simply non-accessible.

Instead, something very weird happened: Out of the blue, I got one, then another, then a third texto from my far-away lover who had been absent for ages! "What?" I wondered, momentarily getting distracted from the main plot. In a short flare-up of hope, I thought that maybe he could be a help to me. I quickly checked my lover´s messages, but it was one of life´s many ironies that they were all self-centred or lacking in content. Meaningless word formations, none of them offering any alternative or help to me. Then I got a fourth texto. It was from my husband, saying: "Where are you? I am with the bear."

Exhausted and enraged in the face of adversities and confusion, I threw my mobile away, ordered my child to wait for me in the garden and climbed up the stairs to the flat again to come to my husband´s assistence, or to go for whatever may happen...

That was the very moment when I awoke from this nightmare, all trembling and drowned in tears. I looked over to my man, sleeping quietly and peacefully. A wave of relief pervaded me. Following a strong stirring of emotion, I clasped him in my arms, attempting to wake him up and tell him about my strange dream. But my husband said: "Dave, you go back to bed immediately, this is the middle of the night and we want to sleep!"

BOOM!