Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, March 10, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 14



Mountain Views-News Saturday, March 10, 2012 


By observing the Moon using the Very 
Large Telescope (VLT) at European Southern 
Observatory (ESO) in Chile, astronomers 
have found evidence of life in the 
universe—on Earth! 

Finding life on our home planet may sound 
like a trivial observation, but the novel approach 
of an international team may lead 
to future discoveries of life elsewhere in 
the universe. The work is described in a 
paper in the March 1 issue of the journal 

“We used a trick called earthshine observation 
to look at the Earth as if it were an 
exoplanet,” says Michael Sterzik (ESO), 
lead author of the paper. “The Sun shines 
on the Earth and this light is reflected back 
to the surface of the Moon. The lunar surface 
acts as a giant mirror and reflects the 
Earth’s light back to us—and this is what we have 
observed with the VLT.”

The astronomers analyze the faint earthshine light 
to look for indicators, such as certain combinations 
of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, which are 
the telltale signs of organic life. This method establishes 
the Earth as a benchmark for the search 
for life on planets beyond our solar system.

The fingerprints of life, or biosignatures, are hard 
to find with conventional methods, but the team 
has pioneered a new approach that is more sensitive. 
Rather than just looking at how bright the 
reflected light is in different colors, they also look 
at the polarization of the light, an approach called 
spectropolarimetry. By applying this technique 
to earthshine observed with the VLT, the biosignatures 
in the reflected light from Earth show up 
very strongly.

Co-author of the study Stefano Bagnulo (Armagh 
Observatory, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom) 
explains the advantages: “The light from a distant 
exoplanet is overwhelmed by the glare of the host 
star, so it’s very difficult to analyze—a bit like trying 
to study a grain of dust 
beside a powerful light bulb. But the light reflected 
by a planet is polarized, while the light from 
the host star is not. So, polarimetric techniques 
help us to pick out the faint reflected light of an 
exoplanet from the dazzling starlight.”

The team studied both the color and the degree of 
polarization of light from the Earth after reflection 
from the Moon, as if the light was coming from 
an exoplanet. They managed to deduce that the 
Earth’s atmosphere is partly cloudy, that part of its 
surface is covered by oceans and—crucially—that 
there is vegetation present. 

When light is polarized, its component electric 
and magnetic fields have a specific orientation. 
In unpolarized light the orientation 
of the fields is random and has no preferred 
direction. The trick used in some 3D cinemas 
involves polarized light: separate images made 
with differently polarized light are sent to our 
left and right eyes by polarizing filters in the 
glasses. The team measured the polarization 
using a special mode of the FORS2 instrument 
on the VLT.

Earthshine, sometimes called the old Moon in 
the new Moon’s arms, can easily be seen with 
the unaided eye and is spectacular in binoculars. 
It is best seen when the Moon is a thin 
crescent, about three days after new Moon. As 
well as the bright crescent the rest of the lunar 
disc is visible, dimly illuminated by the bright 
Earth in the lunar sky.

THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE a slim crescent 
Moon, look for that twice-reflected sunlight. Reflections 
can be wonderful—out in the Universe 
and here at home.

The Moon’s unlit side

Is glowing with light tonight—

The light we give off.

Someone’s gloomy side

Lights up because of your smile—

The light you give off.

You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@MtnViewsNews.

The crescent Moon and earthshine over ESO's Paranal Observatory

Like most IT pros I know, I occasionally have friends or 
family ask me to get them a job in IT. For some reason, a lot 
of the people who ask me this have a perception that everyone 
who works in IT is making great money or is on their way to 
becoming the next Bill Gates. Aside from having an incorrect 
perception about IT salaries, few people outside IT seem to 
understand just how tough working in IT really is.

 In order to clear up a few misconceptions I’ll share with you 
some of the inside info that only us IT pros know about our 
chosen career.

1. The hours are long. - There are all sorts of IT jobs, 
but most of them have one thing in common: They 
involve working long hours. If you want to work in IT, 
you better be prepared to work nights and weekends.

2. Your personal time will be interrupted - If 
you handle a critical support 
role within your organization, you 
will likely be tied to a cell phone. And 
that means you could be called 
upon to deal with an emergency at 
any given time. 

3. You have to deal with a lot 
of angry people - One of the worst 
things about working in IT (especially 
for helpdesk roles) is that you encounter 
a lot of angry people. Almost everyone 
who calls you is upset because they have 
a problem and they expect you to fix it 
right now. Often, there is a great deal of 
hostility behind these calls. Those who 
are calling are under pressure to get a job 
done — and the problem your system 
caused is preventing them from doing it.

4. People (friends, family and co-
workers) expect you to fix their home 
computers - …all the time.

5. You have to keep your education current – If you 
didn’t like school then this is not the field for you 
because the schooling never ends. 

6. Things don’t always work 
the way that they’re supposed 
to - Believe me when I say 
that there’s nothing worse than 
trying to complete a project 
by the deadline you have been 
given only to have things come 
to a grinding halt as a result of 
technical problems. Computer 
systems are complicated and 
sometimes in spite of your 
best efforts, things just do not 
work the way they’re supposed 
to. Something as simple as 
an inconsistent chip version 
on a series of system boards 
can derail an entire project. 
Naturally, it’s up to you to find 
the problem and fix it.

If you still have your heart set on 
a career in IT the plus side is that 
there’s never been a time quite like 
this to be in this field. There are probably more specialties 
than one can count to work in and overall IT has changed 
the face of the modern world in ways that geeks from earlier 
times could never have imagined. Plus One!


Who’s Whoof?

My Favorite Hollywood 
Canine Cast of 

I’ll never forget how embarrassed I was, when 
at age 7, I cried openly, while watching the 
movie, “Lassie Come Home”. I was spending 
the night at a friend’s house, and we were 
watching the last scene of the movie, where 
Lassie appears at the hilltop and runs down to 
meet Timmy, who takes her into his arms and 
begins crying his own tears of joy over having 
her back home. Well, there I was, centered 
between my friend and the rest of her entire 
family of 5, sobbing sloppily about a fictional 
dog who’d gone missing and ended up as the 
harrowed hero of the show. I was a basket case! 
The next morning at breakfast, I was ribbed by 
my friend’s two older brothers for my open 
display of emotions, after which I packed my 
bag and headed home. The hardest part was 
living it down at school the following week, 
when my girlfriend’s two brothers shared the 
ordeal with the rest of my class mates. At the 
time, I guess I considered myself to be a big 
baby, blubbering over Lassie, but now I give 
myself a break, and even a pat on the back for 
caring about the welfare of a dog, any dog, 
even an actor dog!

This recent nostalgic memory inspired me to 
look up some of my favorite famous canine 
characters, hoping to find as information 
much as I could about who they really were. 
I started my search with Lassie, since she was 
my first favorite dog in film and I found out 
that although the Lassie character was a female 
in the movie, the dog who played her part was 
actually a male Rough Collie named “Pal”! Pal 
was born on June 4, 1940 at Cherry Osborne’s 
Glamis Kennels in Hollywood, and had his 
first film debut in “Lassie Come Home” (1943) 
- the one that brought on my embarrassing 
blubbering ordeal. He went on to play the same 
part in 6 more MGM “Lassie” features, after 
which he starred in two pilots of the TV series, 
retired and finally died in 1958. During his life 
of 18 years, Pal must have touched the hearts 
of more youngsters than any other canine ever 
cast in film.

My second favorite famous dog was “Duke” 
on The Beverly Hillbillies. The part of Duke 
was played by a wrinkly purebred Bloodhound 
named “Stretch”. At 13 years of age, Stretch 
was replaced by a younger bloodhound who 
continued to play the part of Duke until the final 
episode. Following his 10 year career as Duke 
on The Beverly Hillbillies, Stretch appeared 
in the military comedy film entitled No Time 
for Sargents (1958), starring Andy Griffith as 
newly recruited army private Will Stockdale. 
I couldn’t find any information about who 
owned Stretch, or how he was discovered, but 
I will say he is the reason I fell in love with 
bloodhounds, and chose that breed as my own 
pet. My dog Tater is so much like Duke. The 
resemblance is undeniable, and like Duke, 
Tater would much rather lay around than take 
a walk or perform a service, such as hunting or 
searching, as bloodhounds are bred to do.

During my quest to identify the canines that 
were cast as Hollywood characters I grew up 
with, I remembered a show that featured a 
huge dog, but because I was about 5 when I 
watched the reruns with my parents, I couldn‘t 
remember the title. I finally figured out that 
the TV comedy series was Topper, and it was 
all about a couple who were buried in an 
avalanche with their guide dog, “Neil” while 
skiing in Switzerland. After the accident, they 
return as ghosts (including the dog) and carry 
out a plethora of shenanigans that keep the new 
home owner, “Topper“ on his toes. The part of 
Neil was played by a gorgeous Saint Bernard 
named “Buck”. Buck was raised by Beatrice 
Knight of the Sanctuary Kennels in Oregon. 
I couldn’t find much information about Buck, 
but I did learn that there was a feature film 
entitled Topper, based on the same novel, but 
in the movie the canine character is a Wire-
haired Terrier named “Mr. Atlas”, played by 
a dog named “Skippy”, and that Skippy later 
played the part of “Asta” in the TV series, The 
Thin Man.


Another Hollywood cast canine character that I 
really liked growing up, appeared in the movie 
series, Benji. To my delight, I found out that 
the dog first dog who played the part of Benji 
was a mixed-breed, rescue shelter dog named 
“Higgins”, who was trained by Frank Inn, and 
one of Higgins’ offspring, “Benjean” played 
the same part in subsequent films.

There are so many other doggie actors that I 
could include in this article, but unfortunately I 
don’t have the time or space, so I hope you’ve 
enjoyed the bits of information that I did share 
about the famous cast canines I treasured 
growing up. I am personally very impressed 
with the dog’s ability to be trained to entertain, 
and it means a lot to me have had so many 
canine characters who played an important part 
of entertaining me as a child.

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


 If you haven’t been in a 
doctor’s office in the last five 
or ten years, congratulations 
and keep up the good work! 
But if you have, you’ve 
probably seen your fair share of drug 
reps. How can you tell a pharmaceutical 
representative from a regular person? Let’s 
see how well you fare in our hypothetical 
situation. You’re in your 
doctor’s waiting room. 
Sitting beside you are an 
older couple, another elderly 
lady accompanied by her 
live-in assistant, and some 
more old people with or 
without their adult children. 
Suddenly a twenty year-old 
ex-cheerleader in a tailored 
miniskirt, rib-sucking 
plunge oxford top, and five 
inch stilettos strides toward 
the receptionist. She pulls 
a smart looking wheeled 
briefcase brimming with 
what looks like party favors. 

 Hmm... “One of these 
things is not like the others. 
One of these things just 
doesn’t belong.” So, which 
waiting room patron is the 
not-so-undercover drug 
rep? If you guessed the 
wrinkled comatose woman 
in the corner, sorry, you’re 
mistaken. Kudos to you if 
you pegged the blond sex 
kitten as the professional representative 
from Pfizer! Don’t let her age fool you. She’s 
actually a sage when it comes to serotonin 
re-uptake inhibitors and statin drugs. It 
may seem that she’s only dropping off 
goodie bags to the receptionist, but in fact 
she’s explaining the latest breakthrough in 
calcium carbonate absorption.

 I love my doctor, but I often wondered why 
everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in 
her office bears the logo of some recently 
released blood pressure pill or erectile 
dysfunction remedy. (Actually, the latter 
is probably related to the former. But I will 
leave that issue for more scholarly minds 
to discuss.) Her clocks, pens, clipboards, 
whiteboards, tissue holders, even her scale, 
is “donated” by AstraZeneca or some other 
company. The last time I checked, the 
toilet paper was still unembellished. But I 
wouldn’t be surprised if the next time I visit 
the individual squares say, “Are you unable 
to control the urge to GO?” “Does coughing 
or laughing make you loose bladder 
control?” “Gelnique may be able to help!”

 Being a product of this generation, I’m 
not as keenly aware of the blatant drug 
mongering that goes on in the media as 
my older counterparts are. I grew up with 
magazines featuring splashy ads for allergy 
relief, joint recovery, and antidepressants, 
followed by two or three pages 
of very small print indicating the 
possible side effects. Have you 
really listened to these ads? The 
commercials I find most hilarious 
are the ones that warn of symptoms 
the drug claims to alleviate, or 
the drug’s intended effect. For 
example, many antidepressants 
caution that users may experience 
“suicidal thoughts.” Well, if I 
wasn’t depressed already, I guess 
I’ll throw in a few notions of 
bumping myself off! Other great 
warnings include sleep aides that 
stipulate, “May cause drowsiness.” 
Bloody well better! Why else am 
I taking it?

 With all the hype surrounding 
hot new drugs, you may wonder 
what stellar job qualifications one 
must possess to earn the coveted 
title of “Drug Rep?” Admittedly, 
I didn’t thoroughly research this 
topic, but my superficial findings 
were humorous enough. Do you 
need to have a medical degree? 
Not according to Pharmaceutical-, which offers the convenient “30 
Days to Your First Pharmaceutical Sales 
Job!” kit. Do you need to have medical 
experience? No. Do you need to have a 
four-year college degree? It helps, but you 
might be able to squeeze by with a two-year, 
or just personal hypnotic charm. If you are 
so fortunate as to have a degree, need it be 
in medicine? Nope, folks from education, 
psychology, anthropology, and cultural 
dance do quite well. What is the main job 
qualification for becoming a drug rep? 
COMMUNICATION! Convince those 
office managers and their doctor bosses that 
you (or more accurately, your company) 
knows what you’re talking about. Besides 
that, a great physique, and a credit line at 
Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t hurt.

Happy Tails

by Chris Leclerc.

Canyon Canine Dog 

Walking & Pet Sitting Services