Sunday, June 26, 2011

space density

I have seen pictures of spiral galaxies, glistening whirlpools of stars, and I always took it for granted that (somehow) the matter in a spiral galaxy was concentrated in the very visible arms. Not so:

The spiral arms are delineated by a high space density of particularly luminous stars and luminous interstellar clouds. Elsewhere in the disc the space density of the stars and interstellar clouds is no less; it is just that they are not as bright.

I suppose someone has a guess why matter separates into luminous matter and less luminous matter (which is not “dark matter,” right?).

source: Pluto: sentinel of the outer solar system by Barrie W. Jones

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Go, Gay Nephews!!! Go, Gay Brothers!! (And you girlfriends, you're great, too!)

So I'm reading this morning's NY Times article about the tight campaign (mostly orchestrated by Governor Cuomo, the Times says) that finally brought marriage equality to New York State, and I come across a sentence that makes me do a double-take.

Let me set the scene. Senator Kruger is a Democrat. When a bill came up two years ago, he voted against marriage equality. According to the article, marriage advocates saw him as a lost cause, figuring it was more likely they could turn enough Republicans than that they could get Kruger. But there was something marriage advocates didn't know about Kruger. He was getting blowback for the anti-gay vote in his own home:

The gay nephew of the woman he lives with, Dorothy Turano, was so furious at Mr. Kruger for opposing same-sex marriage two years ago that he had cut off contact with both of them, devastating Ms. Turano.

You mean Senator Kruger, who is living in sin, gets to veto whether other people get married? Yet he's realized the error of his ways because he needs to repair the relationship between his unmarried partner and her gay nephew!

OK. So I'm remembering reading that Governor Cuomo's wife has a gay brother or sister, and wife has been pushing Cuomo to get gay marriage legal already. To clear up my fuzzy memory I reread the article looking for that part and find I am mistaken:

The pressure did not let up at home. Mr. Cuomo’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee, has a gay brother, and she frequently reminded the governor how much she wanted the law to change.

It's not Governor Cuomo's wife who is pushing for equality but his girlfriend.

Let me paraphrase. Straight legislators were lobbied to support marriage equality by their unmarried partners who were concerned about their gay relatives inability to marry. Yay!

Friday, June 10, 2011

“translate that estrangement”

Todd Ramon Ochoa:

The task of translating is not so much to transform the difference, which is to say the difference from Spanish to English, as much as it is to communicate the difference poetry generates in its own tongue. … Translation is not to … bring foreign language under control … Rather, I see translation as the turning of English into a foreign language unto itself, which is exactly what poetry is doing: it’s creating a foreign and strange turn in whatever language it is written in. It’s vital to also translate that estrangement.

source: an interview conducted by Hania Hussein in Berkeley Poetry Review #39

Thursday, June 09, 2011


A couple weekends ago we went to a matinee of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the new 3D movie of the Chauvet cave paintings. The paintings are more than 30,000 years old. And they are dramatic, fully realized, not at all primitive. Clearly the artists who created them had practice and were working in a tradition.

Although I found Werner Herzog, the filmmaker, an irritating presence (and Kent found the 3D nausea-making), I became intrigued by the paintings. When Gregory Curtis’ recent book on Ice Age era European cave paintings passed under my nose at the library I decided to give it a try.

After listing a number of similarities among paintings found in caves from France to Spain Curtis says:

The immutable similarity in themes, colors, and techniques shows that the cave paintings were the creation of artists working in a cultural tradition that survived for more than 20,000 years. … [A]s painting is both an art and a skill that must be learned, and as there was a single acceptable style to which the painters had to conform, the skills of painting must have been taught.

The paintings are the physical remains of a sophisticated culture? A civilization that lasted 20,000 years? Can one talk about civilization without cities? The paintings reveal a continuity that can’t be coincidence. These were people who knew how to transmit consistent and well-defined ideas across millennia. Today we have a hard time comprehending the mindsets of people a hundred years removed from us. A culture a thousand years old seems weird and foreign, even if we can trace our ancestry to the people. The painters decorating a cave in 10,000 B.C.E. were comfortably working in a style their brethren of 10,000 years prior would have known and approved.

sourceThe Cave Painters: probing the mysteries of the world’s first artists by Gregory Curtis