Prometheus and Pandora VIII

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

NOBEL PRIZES 2017(note featured image…)



and Pandora,


from their orbits around Saturn, send heartfelt congratulations to the 2017 Nobel Laureates.

Nobel Prize in Physics

The physics prize was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss (MIT),


the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish(Caltech)



and Kip S. Thorne (Caltech)


“for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.

They received the prize for the discovery of gravitational waves released into the world by violent events in the universe such as the mergers of black holes. Weiss, professor emeritus of physics at MIT, along with Thorne and Barish, California Institute of Technology physicists, pioneered LIGO, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, the scientific project that made gravitational wave detection possible.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Chemistry prize was awarded to Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne),


Richard Henderson (Cambridge University)



and Joachim Frank (Columbia University)



“for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”.

Cryo-electron microscopy is a technique that takes accurate and detailed pictures of living things at atomic scales. This is assisting scientists make high-resolution, 3D images that can help in cancer drug research and better understanding of the Zika virus.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The 2017 prize was awarded jointly to  Jeffrey C. Hall (University of Maine),


Michael Rosbash (Brandeis University)

Michael Rosbash

and Michael W. Young (Rockefeller University)


“for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”.

The award celebrates the study of the tiny biological clocks in every living thing. The three American scientists “were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings,” the Nobel Prize Committee said. “Their discoveries explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.”

Nobel Prize in Economics


The US economist Richard Thaler was awarded the $1.1 million Nobel Economics Prize for his contributions in the field of behavioral economics.

The award-giving body said that Thaler’s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making.

Nobel Prize in Literature

The Literature prize was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro


“who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

The author of seven novels, a short-story collection and screenplays, Ishiguro was born in bomb-hit Nagasaki in 1954, and moved to England at the age of 5.


Nobel Peace Prize

The Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)


Akira Kawasaki, an ICAN International Steering Group member and a co-chair of Japanese nongovernmental organization Peace Boat, speaks to a group of 20 hibakusha during a meeting in Tokyo on Monday. | KYODO

“for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

The group formed by Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists is behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms.


Lies emanating from high places.

One of the major factors in the deterioration of the ability of people to make rational political decisions has been the decay of professional standards in journalism. It has reached the point of justifying barefaced lies that are presented by the likes of Kellyanne Conway who reckons that lies from the Trump White House are merely ‘alternative facts’. The Guardian presents an example of how this works.

Mike Luckovich also shows the technique:

In truth, real truth, there is nothing really new. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III left us a stele in which he described a great “victory”at Qarqar, Syria,  in the year 853 BCE. The king was pursuing an old objective of both Assyria and Babylon, access to the Mediterranean. He claimed to have fought against 12 kings although only 11 are listed (Twelve Kings is an Akkadian term meant to symbolize any kind of alliance.)
The coalition consisted of:

  • King Hadadezer himself commanded 1,200 chariots, 1,200 horsemen and 20,000 soldiers;
  • King Irhuleni of Hamath commanded 700 chariots, 700 horsemen and 10,000 soldiers;
  • King Ahab of Israel sent 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
  • The Kingdom of KUR Gu-a-a identified as Que – Cilicia sent 500 soldiers;
  • The land of KUR Mu-us-ra- identified as Masura, which is the outlet of the Düden River[5] sent 1,000 soldiers;
  • The land of Irqanata (Tell Arqa) sent 10 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
  • King Matinu Baal of Arwad sent 200 soldiers;
  • The land of Usannata sent 200 soldiers;
  • King Adunu Baal of Shianu – figures lost
  • King Gindibu of Arabia sent 1000 camelry;
  • King Ba’asa, son of Ruhubi, of the land of Ammon sent 100 soldiers.

Fake news in cuneiform on limestone

Shalmaneser boasts that his troops inflicted 14,000 casualties upon the allied army, capturing countless chariots and horses, and describes the damage he inflicted on his opponents in savage detail. However, the royal inscriptions from this period are notoriously unreliable. They never directly acknowledge defeats and sometimes claim victories that were actually won by ancestors or predecessors. If Shalmaneser had won a clear victory at Qarqar, it did not immediately lead to further Assyrian conquests in Syria to say nothing of advancing to the sea.  Assyrian records make it clear that he campaigned in the region several more times in the following decade, engaging Hadadezer six times, who was supported by Irhuleni of Hamath at least twice.
Shalmaneser’s opponents held on to their thrones after this battle, though Ahab of Israel died shortly afterwards in an unrelated battle.  Hadadezer was king of Damascus until at least 841 BC. Also note the inflated numbers such as Ahab’s 2000 chariots and 10,000 men. Chop off a few zeroes and you might be near the truth. The goal of reaching the Mediterranean, the Levant and Egypt was attained by a Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, nearly 200 years later.

In the 1950’s the CIA  did a similar set of manipulative tricks with US public opinion as disclosed now in an story in the NYTimes. It was done by raising donations from the public for Radio Free Europe which was a propaganda station broadcasting to the Soviet bloc. The NYTimes story is edifying, to say the least.


A billboard in Denver, Colo., in 1954, encouraged contributions to Radio Free Europe. Credit Floyd H. McCall/The Denver Post, via Getty Images

Cheers Kellyanne,  you are part of a long tradition.

You also have a worthy colleague in Israel known as the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office.  An incident took  place in which a group of human rights activists attempted to protect shepherds who were being driven from their grazing grounds by settler thugs.  The activists were led by Rabbi Arik Ascherman, cofounder of Rabbis for Human Rights. 

Rabbi Ascherman described the incident in detail in Haaretz.

Needless to say the report put out by the Army could easily have been written by Kellyanne Conway, a scribe in the service of Shalmaneser III, a CIA flunky or any of the countless purveyors of “alternative facts” in the 30 century gap between them.  Amira Hass writing in Haaretz describes the creation of alternate facts by the Army. She details the lies of the Army Spokesperson’s Office and quotes the official version:

“Contrary to what has been claimed, the vehicle was damaged following an attempt by the driver to pass by. The officer at the site did not move the spikes in order to damage the vehicle.”

As Ms Hass notes, “the IDF should check the effectiveness of those spikes. If the car ran over them deliberately with all four wheels yet only one rear tire was blown, the army has a serious problem with its equipment. “

It has an even greater problem with its veracity, but fortunately for the army, it has a brainwashed neo-fascist public that will swallow any cock and bull story it chooses to present. Shalmaneser, rest in peace, your legacy is in good hands.


The depth  and extent of the role played by Facebook in the 2016 elections in the US is now coming to light and a shoddy story it is indeed.  It is reported in the NYTimes that Facebook has disclosed  that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.

Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a post on Facebook by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down. Facebook has turned the ads over to Congress for investigation.

The African-American community has a special bone to pick with Facebook over the racism in the ads. They were designed to inflame and exploit racial, political and economic rifts in the United States. Russian-backed Facebook pages promoted anti-immigrant rallies, targeted the Black Lives Matter movement and focused attentions on critical election swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Facebook is now heavily engaged in damage control, apologizing in all directions and promising to do better in the future. None of this can undo the damage caused by the greed that led them to take the ads in the first place.


Chemi Shalev writing in Haaretz describes Trump as  a disaster waiting to happen, a calamity set to occur, an explosive device primed to go off. Like people paralyzed in the middle of a nightmare, the world looks at Trump today with trepidation and frustration, awaiting a catastrophe it feels helpless to avoid. As David Leonhardt writes in the NYTimes, “The blizzard of lies — to quote a Dave Frishberg song — can be overwhelming. The president is willing to lie whenever it suits his purpose. Summoning outrage about each new lie is exhausting, and I understand why people sometimes tune out.”
While in Israel Netanyahu has decided to flatter Trump almost obsessively as a brave leader with a coherent view of the Middle East, the rest of the world – with the exception of Israel and Trump’s white base, which view any leader, from Trump and Putin to Mussolini and Franco as preferable to leftist/liberal government – regards Trump as an irresponsible juvenile delinquent who can’t control his urges, is clueless about the world surrounding him and is close to causing global catastrophe.
Prometheus and Pandora agree totally and sometimes wonder whether it was a good idea to steal fire from the gods and give it to man. Let us all fervently hope that somehow the world will survive this presidency and that the American people will come to their senses. This is problematic since,  as Yehuda Bauer points out in Haaretz,  at heart, the United States is a violent society that is founded on the blood of others. According to data which are hard to verify, between 1968 and 2017 some 1.6 million Americans were murdered by other Americans – almost all of them with the use of firearms (which every American has the right to carry). In 2015 alone, about 33,000 citizens were murdered by their neighbors. In comparison, 1.2 million were killed in all the wars in US history.




Our dear friend and colleague Margaret Kivelson, professor emerita at UCLA was the recipient of the 2017 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to planetary science by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. This is a most prestigious award and Prometheus and Pandora are delighted to see it go to our beloved Margy. Cheers for a great scientist and wonderful person.



A comet has been discovered at an unprecedented distance from the sun (23 AU,  beyond the orbit of Saturn) and is moving inwards. The observations showing inbound long-period comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) to be active at a record heliocentric distance. Nucleus temperatures are too low (60–70 K) either for water ice to sublimate or for amorphous ice to crystallize, requiring another source for the observed activity.
This is exciting news in astronomy geekdom and Pandora and Prometheus are full of enthusiasm about it. The scientific report is out in ApJ. Letters and we note that the work of colleagues at Tel Aviv University, led by our late friend Akiva Bar Nun is referenced.


Figure 1. Left: prediscovery CFHT image of C/2017 K2 (arrow) from UT 2013 May 12 at 23.765 au. Right: HST image from UT 2017 June 27 at 15.874 au. The antisolar (-⊙) and negative velocity () vectors are marked. Both images have north to the top and east to the left).


In past postings we have shared some of these conversations from the New York Review of Books.. This week we have a new discussion, number 12 in the series.
We hope you will find it interesting. We note that the Never Not Here blog has provided us with a link to all the discussions up to now.

The present discussion #12  asks: What is “an object” in the end? And what is “the world” that these objects make up?


Giorgio Morandi: Metaphysical Still Life, 1918 Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan/Scala/Art Resource, NY/ARS, NY

When we talk about consciousness, we rarely discuss ordinary physics, which we assume science has long since understood: objects are composed of atoms; they exist entirely separate from ourselves, and can be measured and manipulated in all kind of ways. It’s also clear, however, that this idea of the physical world works only if we suppose that consciousness—our experience of that world—is distinct and apart from it; objects exist first outside us, then in a secondary, shadowy way as representations inside our brains. This is the so-called internalist view. Yet, in these discussions, Riccardo Manzotti has frequently insisted that there are no representations in our brains. Rather, he has suggested that experience and object are one. But in that case, what do we mean by an object?

—Tim Parks


Prometheus and Pandora recommend that you read this discussion and think about the ideas involved.




Elizabeth Hardwick in Castine, Maine in the 1980s. Photograph: Susan Wood/ Getty Images

Pandora and Prometheus would like to share with you a profile of the late Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) who was one of the cofounders of the New York Review of Books. Her life story can be found in the Guardian obituary, but in this article Darryl Pinkney gives us a much more personal few of his former teacher. He is the editor of The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick. (2010) which is reviewed in the Guardian, but Pandora and Prometheus think you might find the NYRB profile interesting as well.



What If? asks

Can you use a magnifying glass and moonlight to light a fire?

—Rogier Spoor

The answer is that you cannot as Randall explains with a bit of thermodynamics and physics.

You can’t start a fire with moonlight[1] no matter how big your magnifying glass is. The reason is kind of subtle. It involves a lot of arguments that sound wrong but aren’t, and generally takes you down a rabbit hole of optics.

Nothing like a resourceful kid when a cop pulls you over:



WUMO do not like their cartoons reproduced and we will respect this. Just go here.

Our friend the Wizard has some environmental advice:



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