Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, March 3, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 16



Mountain Views-News Saturday, March 3, 2012 


Pulsars—fast-spinning, superdense neutron 
stars—are perhaps the most extraordinary 
physics laboratories in the universe. 
Research on these extreme and exotic objects 
already has produced two Nobel Prizes. 
Pulsar researchers now are poised to learn 
otherwise-unavailable details of nuclear 
physics, to test general relativity in conditions 
of extremely strong gravity, and to directly 
detect gravitational waves with a “telescope” 
nearly the size of our galaxy.

Neutron stars are the remnants of massive 
stars that exploded as supernovae. They pack 
more than the mass of the Sun into a sphere 
no larger than a medium-sized city, making 
them the densest objects in the universe—
except for black holes, for which the concept 
of density is theoretically irrelevant. Pulsars 
are neutron stars that emit beams of radio 
waves outward from the poles of their 
magnetic fields. When their rotation spins 
a beam across the Earth, radio telescopes 
detect that as a “pulse” of radio waves.

By precisely measuring the timing of such 
pulses, astronomers can use pulsars for 
unique “experiments” at the frontiers of 
modern physics. Three scientists presented 
the results of such work, and the promise 
of future discoveries, at the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science 
meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pulsars are at the forefront of research 
on gravity. Albert Einstein published his 
general theory of relativity in 1916, and his 
description of the nature of gravity has, so 
far, withstood numerous experimental tests. 
However, there are competing theories.

“Many of these alternate theories do just as 
good a job as general relativity of predicting 
behavior within our solar system. One area 
where they differ, though, is in the extremely 
dense environment of a neutron star,” said 
Ingrid Stairs, of the University of British 

In some of the alternate theories, gravity’s 
behavior should vary based on the internal 
structure of the neutron star.

“By carefully timing pulsar pulses, we can 
precisely measure the properties of the 
neutron stars. Several sets of observations 
have shown that pulsars’ motions are not 
dependent on their structure, so general 
relativity is safe so far,” Stairs explained.

Another prediction of general relativity is 
that motions of masses in the universe should 
cause disturbances of space-time in the form 
of gravitational waves. Such waves have yet 
to be directly detected, but studies of 
pulsars in binary-star systems have given 
indirect evidence for their existence. 
That work won a Nobel Prize in 1993.

Now, astronomers are using pulsars 
throughout our Milky Way Galaxy as 
a giant scientific instrument to directly 
detect gravitational waves.

“Pulsars are such extremely precise 
timepieces that we can use them to 
detect gravitational waves in a frequency 
range to which no other experiment will 
be sensitive,” said Benjamin Stappers, of 
the University of Manchester in the UK.

By carefully timing the pulses from 
pulsars widely scattered within our 
galaxy, the astronomers hope to measure 
slight variations caused by the passage of 
the gravitational waves. The scientists 
hope such pulsar timing arrays can 
detect gravitational waves caused by 
the motions of supermassive pairs of 
black holes in the early universe, cosmic 
strings, and possibly from other exotic 
events in the first few seconds after the 
Big Bang.

Pulsars were discovered in 1967, and that 
discovery earned the Nobel Prize in 1974.

You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

Imagine that you were on the verge of a professional and personal breakthrough that you had 
worked on for years and that all of your toil and determination were about to pay off in a way 
that you could’ve never imagined when you first began your journey. Imagine that you tended 
this manifestation of your vision for years with exacting care and diligence, successfully 
navigating the hazards that could derail or outright destroy your project. 

During this journey you’ve endured the highs and lows that come with the dedicated pursuit 
of a singular focus and now it looks as if your investment in sweat and sleepless nights is 
about to bear real fruit. And just then one of the “friends” that you picked up along the way 
decides to do something very ‘un-friendlike’. The thing your friend does strikes you as very 

Up until this point, the nature of your friendship had been one of mutual benefit and it may 
be very difficult for you to figure out exactly what it is you did to deserve this type of behavior 
from someone you once considered a friend. Whatever the real cause of this behavior may 
have been, you now are in the position of having to deal with the dual problems of a broken 
relationship and broken trust. For the sake of your own progress you’re going to have deal with 
this tender state of affairs quickly and dispassionately in order to continue moving forward. It 
may hurt you personally and it may be costly to fix what’s been damaged in your organization, 
but for your own survival this situation will have to be dealt with.

 After years of apparently positive relations, friendly blog posts and referral traffic with 
Yahoo, Facebook finds itself the target of a potential lawsuit by Yahoo that claims that the 
social media giant has infringed upon a number of its patents and is demanding a settlement 
for perceived wrongs. This action comes on the eve of an IPO by Facebook that could 
potentially be worth hundreds of billions of dollars to the company. To add further insult to 
injury, Facebook is reporting that it had only heard of the complaint after Yahoo had made 
their grievances to the New York Times in an effort to get publicity and positive PR for a 
potential legal action. 

 As cold as this move might seem, this isn’t the first time that Yahoo has charged a collaborating 
partner with infringing upon its intellectual property. In 2004, Google was coerced into giving 
Yahoo 2.7 million in a patent settlement before the search giant could move on with its 2004 
IPO. This type of maneuver might be called a good example of Leverage in an MBA class, if it 
happened maybe one time in response to a particular set of unforeseen circumstances. Two 
times might be justified if business conditions called for it as a survival measure. 

 I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Yahoo pulls this stunt again with a third pre-IPO internet 
company. Then we would definitely know that this is nothing more than a business plan. 





 As a youth, I was taught to treasure my native 
language, which happened to be English. I was 
encouraged at a very young age to learn as many 
words as I could, and to use those words as properly 
as I knew how. In retrospect, I realize how fortunate 
I was to have had parents and educators who 
instilled in me a strong appreciation for the value 
of the vernacular. This is most likely why I showed a 
higher aptitude for the language arts in elementary 
school and on through college, than I did for most 
other disciplines. English, reading, writing and 
literature were always among my favorite subjects. 
By the time I graduated college, it was quite clear 
that I would be more likely to succeed by applying 
my skills in communication, than by pursuing a 
career in a mathematic or scientific field of interest.

 In spite of the teachings I received as a child, 
to revere words and hone my grammatical skills, I 
recently realized how rarely I question the meanings 
or origins of numerous coined phrases that I’ve 
heard and used throughout my life. I’m referring 
to those metaphoric household sayings that mom 
and dad used to throw in the middle of a lecture, 
hoping to convince me to be more responsible 
for my actions. You know, those expressions that 
somehow snuck in while the elders were sharing a 
wanton word of warning about who, or who not to 
befriend, to avoid “getting in with the wrong crowd“. 
Somehow, without even asking what they meant by 
what they said, or even looking up the definitions 
of the phrases they used, I knew exactly what they 
were trying to convey. Their sayings were by no 
means conventional, in terms of the traditional use 
of the English language, but I understood what they 
meant, and it wasn‘t long before I found myself 
using the same phrases to make a similar point of 
my own.

 Among the culturally-connected coined phrases 
that were passed down from earlier generations, 
many have become commonly used components 
of our modern day dialogue. Those less-than-
conventional comments, whether comical or 
corrective, somehow wiggled their way into our 
vocabulary without so much as a smidgen of 
scrutiny, and I find that fact quite fascinating. My 
favorite currently used, ‘quip-quotes’ are those that 
involve animals. For example, who hasn’t heard the 
phrase, “Don‘t look a gift horse in the mouth.“? Or, 
“It’s raining cats and dogs!”? Or, how about, “A 
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”? The list 
goes on and on, of abstract adages that possess no 
true literal meaning, yet metaphorically, they offer 
a potential answer to just about every challenge in 

 I recently looked up the meanings of some 
of the culturally coined quips commonly used 
today that include animals, and my findings were 
quite enlightening. Thanks to a good group of 
“e-scholars” at , I found lots of 
interesting morsels about many metaphoric morals 
that had me mystified in the past. I’ll start with the 
“don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” expression, 
because even though most folks already know what 
it means, my guess is that few are aware of its origin. 
It made its first appearance in written English as 
part of John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng 
the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the 
Englishe tongue, where it read: “No man ought to 
looke a geuen hors in the mouth.” It is assumed 
that Heywood obtained the phrase from a Latin 
text of St. Jerome, The Letter to the Ephesians, circa 
AD 400. The intended message is, to not question 
a good thing when it happens, just as one should 
not check a horse’s teeth to determine its age, if it 
performs well.

 One of the more satirical sort of sayings that I 
never understood until I looked it up, is “A bird in 
the hand is worth two in the bush”. This one refers 
to medieval falconry where a bird in the hand (the 
predator) was a valuable asset and worth more than 
two birds in a bush (the prey). A citation of this 
phrase was first printed in 1670, in John Ray’s A 
Hand-book of Proverbs. The gist of this jocular jest 
is, it’s better to have a lesser but certain advantage 
than the possibility of a greater one that may come 
to nothing. Advice well taken by most, but not what 
a gambler wants to hear during a weekend in Vegas!

 One potentially patronizing proverb that had 
me puzzled before my research, is the old saying, 
“Don’t buy a pig in a poke”. Little did I know 
that this one is actually more literal than most. 
It’s a throwback from the days when pigs were 
commonly sold in town square farmer’s markets, 
and the advice offered is, don’t purchase a pig 
sight unseen. A poke was another word for a bag, 
and pigs were apparently bagged before going to 
market, so a smart buyer would ask the seller to 
expose the pig before making their purchase. The 
modern day message behind this strange yet savvy 
saying is, don’t buy into a deal before examining it 
closely first. Who can’t benefit from heeding this 
bountiful bit of advice?

 I could go on forever, talking about animal-
themed adages, but due to space restraints, I must 
limit my list to a select few, so here are just 3 more 
sayings, along with their origins and meanings. 

 “A leopard cannot change its spots.” - Jeremiah 13:23 
- a being cannot change its innate nature.

 “A fly in the ointment” - Ecclesiastes 10:1 - a small 
irritating flaw with the potential to spoil the whole.

 “A fish out of water” - Samuel Purchas’s Pilgrimage, 
1613 - Being in a situation that one is unsuited for.

 And last but not least, I will close with a cute 
but rather corny quip of my own, which came to 
mind while I was sweeping my kitchen floor the 
other day; “Oh the rugs that I could weave, with the 
hair I just retrieved!” It seems the warm weather 
has caused an early onset shedding process for my 
beloved bloodhound, bless her hairy little heart!

KATIE Tse..........This and That

Happy Tails

by Chris Leclerc.

Canyon Canine Dog 

Walking & Pet Sitting Services



 It’s the burning question on everyone’s lips --”So, have you started your 
taxes?” This is sort of the grown up version of the questions you’d ask 
in college, such as “Have you started your term paper yet?” Do they 
still do term papers? It’s been a while since I’ve been in school (Thank 
goodness!). You only ask this question of people you suspect are in the 
same boat as yourself, or perhaps in one that is sinking even faster. If the 
other person says they’ve started already, you bristle and make some lame excuse. “My 
computer crashed last week, so I’m waiting to get it fixed and then I’ll devote my time to 
TurboTax.” On the other hand, if they haven’t started, they’ll grasp your hand and say, 
“Oh, you haven’t either? I thought I was the only one!”

 In this tanked economy, everyone who has to file taxes should be thankful that 
they have an income to account for. 
However for most of us, there’s still 
a smoldering animosity at having to 
fork over a sizable chunk of your hard 
earned cash. This is especially true 
if you’re pretty sure your tax dollars 
aren’t going to worthy civic causes, 
like road maintenance or public parks. 
I might’ve included education among 
noble causes, but then I remembered 
my teacher friend’s district. They 
trashed a barely touched K-6 grade 
level reading program, for no good 
reason! I was helping her clean out 
her room when she retired, and we 
noticed a semi truck hauling away 
new, many unopened, text books on 
big wooden pallets. “They’re going to 
be recycled,” one of the crew members 
told us. “Oh, great! Other schools will 
be able to use them!” “No,” he said, 
“They’re being made into paper towels 
and toilet paper.” To say we nearly 
retched is putting it lightly. I felt like 
Michael Moore coming across the jack 
pot of civic injustice, Education-gate! Couldn’t the books be resold, or donated, or just 
given to the students? No one had a clear answer for me. That day I didn’t feel like my tax 
dollars for education were working for anyone’s benefit --except maybe “Charmin,” and 
I doubt even that. Just think, the next time you visit the loo you may be drying yourself 
with part of the California fourth grade literature anthology. But I digress...

 It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I’ve never figured out my own taxes. When 
I was young and living at home, my dad always did the tedious parts for me (and my 
mom). Now my husband handles my taxes, his parents’, sister’s, and her family. He’s a 
real trooper. And no, he’s not for hire. Although perhaps that wouldn’t be a bad idea...

 What continues to amaze me are the numbers of smart, successful professionals who 
still pay someone to do their taxes! I have an excuse. The math part of my brain has 
been undeveloped since conception. But why do my high powered colleagues have to 
seek outside help? One of them told me her tax guy said, “You need to buy a house, get 
married, and have a kid.” “You find me the man,” she answered. “Okay,” he said, “Just 
have a kid. That’ll help your refund enough.”

 Yes, it’s a sad, calculating world we live in. But there’s always something to be thankful 
for, and sometimes you even get a refund from the state or the Feds!