No me buscarías si no me hubieras encontrado

October 02, 2007

Misterio 10: El Acantilado de Kuiper

Cuando una computadora se rompe, no hay mucho que hacer, sólo esperar; pero terminemos con los misterios:

The Kuiper Cliff:

If you travel out to the far edge of the solar system, into the frigid wastes beyond Pluto, you'll see something strange. Suddenly, after passing through the Kuiper belt, a region of space teeming with icy rocks, there's nothing.

Astronomers call this boundary the Kuiper cliff, because the density of space rocks drops off so steeply. What caused it? The only answer seems to be a 10th planet. We're not talking about Quaoar or Sedna: this is a massive object, as big as Earth or Mars, that has swept the area clean of debris.

The evidence for the existence of "Planet X" is compelling, says Alan Stern, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. But although calculations show that such a body could account for the Kuiper cliff (Icarus, vol 160, p 32), no one has ever seen this fabled 10th planet.

There's a good reason for that. The Kuiper belt is just too far away for us to get a decent view. We need to get out there and have a look before we can say anything about the region. And that won't be possible for another decade, at least. NASA's New Horizons probe, which will head out to Pluto and the Kuiper belt, is scheduled for launch in January 2006. It won't reach Pluto until 2015, so if you are looking for an explanation of the vast, empty gulf of the Kuiper cliff, watch this space.


September 06, 2007


Please visit this AWESOME site:

nyctaper is the weblog and archival location for a New York live recordist.

This blog is the first of its kind on the web. An actual live recording engineer will discuss the live concerts he records, and offer free downloads of those recordings in “lossless” CD-quality formats. This is not a concert fan’s diary, this is a not a blogger downloading music from other sites and uploading mp3s. This is the real deal. nyctaper records the concerts, and posts the high quality recordings himself.


I have two favorite programs to play flacs:

Foobar - For Windows

VLC - For the Mac <3

I will keep it posted in my links. I hope you enjoy it.

Flac > MP3

Flac FTW!

Thank you Dan for your outstanding job!

September 05, 2007


Buscando como desesperada la razón por la cual Steve Jobs decidió hacer el iPod Touch de sólo 16 GB, me encontré con esta joya:

Misterio 9: La energía oscura

No se debe confundir la energía oscura con la materia oscura, ya que aunque ambas forman la mayor parte de la masa del universo, la materia oscura es una forma de materia, mientras que la energía oscura es un campo que llena todo el espacio.

De nuestro ya bien conocido artículo:

It is one of the most famous, and most embarrassing, problems in physics. In 1998, astronomers discovered that the universe is expanding at ever faster speeds. It's an effect still searching for a cause - until then, everyone thought the universe's expansion was slowing down after the big bang. "Theorists are still floundering around, looking for a sensible explanation," says cosmologist Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "We're all hoping that upcoming observations of supernovae, of clusters of galaxies and so on will give us more clues."

One suggestion is that some property of empty space is responsible - cosmologists call it dark energy. But all attempts to pin it down have fallen woefully short. It's also possible that Einstein's theory of general relativity may need to be tweaked when applied to the very largest scales of the universe. "The field is still wide open," Freese says.

Dark energy: Seeking the heart of darkness

Every now and again cosmologists decide that the universe needs redecorating. Sometimes they declutter, as when Copernicus and Kepler shuffled the sun and the Earth to get rid of all those epicycles and make the planets move in straightforward orbits. Sometimes they embellish, as when Einstein decided that there's more to space than good old-fashioned nothingness, and introduced the concept of a deformable space-time.

They are at it again, but this time it's different. Like the decorator who strips away a layer of wallpaper to reveal a crumbling wall, cosmologists are realising that their findings point to serious problems with their models of the structure of the universe. This discovery is forcing them to contemplate bold changes to fix the damage.

When they are done, chances are we will hardly recognise the old place. "It will repaint not only our picture of the universe but perhaps particle physics, gravitational physics and string theory too," says Rocky Kolb, a cosmologist at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois.

The problem giving cosmologists their big headache goes under the name of "dark energy". This enigmatic entity - which could be some kind of a substance, or a field, or maybe something else entirely - forced itself into cosmologists' consciousness in 1998, when astronomers discovered that something is speeding up the expansion of the universe. Almost a decade later, it is beginning to sink in that there is no easy way to understand what dark energy might be. The problem has become so intractable that many now see it as the greatest challenge facing physics.

The scale of the problem has galvanised astronomers into urgent action. Scanning the skies in ever greater detail, their observations could soon lead us to the origin and nature of what could, according to some theories, make up almost three-quarters of the cosmos, and which will ultimately dictate its fate. "Dark energy is more of a challenge for physicists than it is for astronomers," says Kolb. "Astronomers just measure the acceleration of the universe but physicists have to explain what dark energy actually is."

There is no way to detect dark energy directly, so we have to measure its effects. The most obvious of these is the one that gave it away in the first place: the way it forces the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

Cosmic cure-all

Its discovery came about like this. Two independent teams of astronomers were using the Hubble Space Telescope and a host of large ground-based telescopes to track down supernovae in the distant universe. By measuring the wavelength and intensity of the light from these exploding stars it is possible to look back through cosmic history and calculate how fast the universe has been expanding during the past few billion years. What everyone expected was that the expansion that started with the big bang would be slowing down, as the outward rush of individual galaxies gets pulled back by the gravitational attraction of the rest of the universe. To their surprise, both teams' calculations showed that the opposite was happening: the rate of expansion was actually increasing.

Though this went against everything we thought we knew about the universe, the results were beyond dispute. "The fact that two independent teams came to the same conclusion certainly boosted everyone's confidence," says Adam Reiss of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, who led one of the teams.

Even before these astonishing results, cosmologists had been getting uncomfortable hints that something was wrong with their models of how the universe works. One of these came from detailed observations of the radiation released by the big bang. The only way to fit the observations to existing cosmological models was to slightly warp the fabric of space-time. Such warping is impossible to explain unless there is something in addition to all the normal matter, neutrinos, dark matter and radiation that we know about. Dark energy now seems to fit the bill.

For a while, cosmologists could dream that dark energy would solve various other problems too. It explained why certain stars seemed to be older than the universe itself; it provided possible clues about the nature of the dark matter that seems to be holding individual galaxies together; and maybe it could explain "inflation", the sudden acceleration in the expansion of the universe that happened within a blink of the big bang.

Dark energy on trial

That honeymoon period is now well and truly over. Although dark energy is a ubiquitous term in cosmological conversations, no one actually knows what it is. As Kolb says: "Naming is not explaining."

Although there are plenty of tentative explanations, each one seems to suffer from some fatal flaw. The simplest of the solutions on offer is the so-called cosmological constant. This is an energy associated with space-time that was originally invoked by Einstein in his equations of general relativity. It represents a cosmic repulsion that Einstein fine-tuned to prevent the universe - which he did not at the time realise was expanding - from collapsing in on itself as a result of all the gravity generated by the various celestial objects.

When Einstein learned of Edwin Hubble's discovery that space is indeed expanding, he realised that the cosmological constant was superfluous and famously called it his "biggest blunder". Now the accelerating expansion of the universe is making astronomers wonder whether there might be a cosmological constant after all, driving the universe's acceleration (see "1: a new form of energy").

Unfortunately, physicists are having trouble finding a way to fit a cosmological constant into their best existing theories. "A small non-zero dark energy is more difficult to explain than zero," says Sean Carroll, a cosmologist from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "So we are driven to wilder ideas."

One of those wild ideas is quintessence, which postulates the existence of a hitherto unsuspected quantum field permeating the universe (see "2: a new force of nature"). Because this implies that there would also be a new fundamental force of nature, the idea set some physicists thinking: instead of adding a new force, why not modify an old one? Perhaps there are unexpected properties of gravity that appear over gargantuan distances that Einstein's general relativity does not predict (see "3: modify an old force").

Defenders of general relativity point out that the problem is not with general relativity, but with an even more fundamental aspect of our universe. They point out that it has been assumed for almost a century that the universe is the same in every direction you look. Let go of that assumption and the more complicated solutions of general relativity that result could lead to acceleration without the need for dark energy (see "4: introduce complexity").

Faced with these disparate approaches, not to mention the several variations that exist within each one, it is no wonder that cosmologists are scratching their heads wondering what to do for the best. Last year, two independent committees of leading cosmologists were convened to answer this question. Kolb chaired the Dark Energy Task Force, which reported to the US Department of Energy, NASA and the National Science Foundation. Its recommendation is for an "aggressive program to explore dark energy as fully as possible, since it challenges our understanding of fundamental physical laws and the nature of the cosmos". In Europe, John Peacock of the University of Edinburgh, UK, convened a committee under the auspices of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory. It came to a similar conclusion. Of all the challenges in cosmology, the discovery of dark energy "poses the greatest challenge for physics" because there is no "plausible or natural" explanation for it, says Peacock's committee.

How do they propose to tackle this? It's simple: with the biggest ever survey of the universe, to see whether dark energy changes with time and, if it does, how fast it changes. If dark energy is a manifestation of the cosmological constant, it will be unchanging. By contrast, quintessence is variable and could change over time, or from place to place in the universe. Modified gravity has similar, though not identical, characteristics.

Astronomical surveys will show the distorting effects that dark energy has on the distribution of galaxies across the universe. The more galaxies astronomers examine, the more marked these effects will be; and the further the survey reaches into the universe, the easier it will become to see if dark energy has changed with time.

The most comprehensive study is due to start in 2012, when the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope begins operating from Cerro Pachón in Chile. With its whopping 8.4-metre mirror and wide-field camera, the LSST is a monster that will devour the sky. It will see 400 times the area of the full moon in a single glance, and take an image every 15 seconds. In just three days it will be able to record the entire visible night sky.

Eventually the search will move into space for even greater accuracy and sensitivity. NASA and the US Department of Energy are funding three design studies for the Joint Dark Energy Mission, which they hope will launch sometime between 2011 and 2017. Peacock recommends that ESA should also investigate a project.

Even before these mega-projects begin, we may start to get answers. Astronomers already have most of the equipment to hand to start their grand survey, as observatories around the world are littered with outmoded telescopes. About 15 years ago, 4-metre telescopes were at the cutting edge of research, but now they are floundering in the wake of a new generation of larger instruments. "The 4-metre telescopes have been eclipsed by 8-metre telescopes," says Peacock, who is now pushing for them to be used for surveys.

The most ambitious map of the sky to date is the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Using a 2.5-metre telescope at Apache Point, New Mexico, it has over the past five years collected light from 675,000 galaxies. A 4-metre telescope could not only work faster than this, but also reach further back into the universe's history. All that is required to begin the survey is a wide-angle camera to take pictures of large areas of the sky simultaneously.

Ofer Lahav of University College London has a plan to do just this. He leads a consortium of astronomers who are planning to build the kind of wide-field camera necessary for survey work. "Our survey could see 500 million galaxies," says Lahav. These would be spread throughout three-quarters of the visible universe. To cope with the flood of data, Lahav's team has used existing images of the sky to train a neural network to recognise galaxies and estimate their distances. The team also has permission to use its camera in conjunction with the 4-metre Blanco telescope in Cerro Tololo, Chile, and is now looking for the $20 to $30 million that will be needed to build the highly sophisticated optics and run the telescope.

Peacock would lik e to see many more such efforts - and soon. "We have to start now," he says. It's a big sky and there are plenty of telescopes to do the job, he points out. The more of them that can be brought to bear, the bigger and better the eventual survey will be.

Gone are the days when astronomical surveys like this were viewed as mundane, speculative chores. By giving us detailed measurements of the acceleration of different parts of the universe, the next generation of surveys could reveal the nature of the dominant component of the universe. Whatever it turns out to be, it will be big news. "Dark energy could be the ether of the 21st century," says Carroll. Even if we explain it away, we will learn something profound about the universe.

It is a viewpoint shared by cosmologists everywhere. "We are definitely seeing something extra in the universe, we just do not know how to interpret it yet," says Lahav. And that has given cosmologists a new sense of purpose. A seismic shift in our understanding of the universe is coming. How soon it will arrive and from what direction it will come - that's still anyone's guess.

1 a new form of energy

Einstein himself flirted with a weird form of energy that might just fit the bill. He called it the cosmological constant. These days physicists prefer the name vacuum energy, and like to think of it as the "cost" of free space. By that they mean that every cubic metre of space, no matter how cold or empty, contains a certain amount of energy. According to the equations of general relativity, this energy drives the expansion of the universe.

"Had everyone been happy with the cosmological constant there would be no need to continue," says cosmologist Rocky Kolb of Fermilab in Illinois. The trouble is, no one really is happy with it. One reason for this is that quantum theory predicts a vacuum energy that is 120 orders of magnitude larger than what is needed to cause the observed acceleration in the universe's expansion. This colossal discrepancy is one reason why physicists formulated supersymmetry theory, which cancels out vacuum energy completely.

The trouble is, the universe has other ideas: if the dark energy pushing it apart really is vacuum energy, the small amount that exists is infuriatingly difficult to explain. It certainly defeats any existing model.

"If dark energy is the cosmological constant then we will just have to wait for the theorists to catch up," says Adam Reiss of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

2 a new force of nature

"When physicists don't understand something, they invent a new field to explain it," says cosmologist Rocky Kolb of Fermilab. "Now astronomers have also learned that trick."

In the case of the dark energy mystery, the result is a quantum field called quintessence. Like the cosmological constant, quintessence is said to pervade the universe, but one of its key differences from the cosmological constant is that it can vary depending on the time and the place. Various versions have sprung up depending on how fast they vary. One version, called phantom energy, builds with time, forcing the expansion faster and faster until eventually the universe rips itself to pieces.

In November 2006, a team led by astronomer Adam Reiss of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, announced that they had detected dark energy's influence on the universe as it existed 9 billion years ago ( Reiss says his team's discovery rules out quintessence models that change rapidly. "It is narrowing our room to play a little," agrees cosmologist Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. As more dark energy surveys get under way, he hopes they will narrow the field even more, eventually forcing everyone to converge on a single solution.

There are also some more fundamental problems that any solution involving quintessence will have to overcome. In the more familiar quantum fields, fluctuations in the field manifest themselves as particles. In the electromagnetic field, for instance, such fluctuations appear as photons.

Does this mean the same should happen for quintessence? Absolutely, says Carroll. Fluctuations in its field should lead to particles that can carry a quintessence force over large distances. This force would act between individual objects and be distinct from the general acceleration of the universe caused by the overall quintessence field.

The trouble is, no such quintessence force has shown itself. It should be apparent as a measurable deviation in the motion of celestial objects. "By all rights we should have detected it by now," Carroll says. This is forcing theorists to try to fine-tune their expectations to reduce the force of quintessence between individual objects while retaining its dominant character across the universe. Tricky.

3 modify an old force

Despite the slew of observations that make it look as though dark energy of one form or another is operating in the universe, astronomer Adam Reiss remains cautious. The common assumption, he points out, is that gravity operates the same way on large scales as it does on small scales. But what if it doesn't? If there were some unexpected gravitational effect that has remained undetected until now, dark energy might not be needed at all.

This idea that there might be some modification to gravity caught the attention of Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll for a while, but he soon found it was not a short cut to a solution. "It turns out to be much harder than you imagine to find a modification that works," he says.

That's because modifying gravity to give large-scale acceleration also results in unwanted small-scale alterations, such as deviations to the way the planets orbit in the solar system. Carroll says he is now moving away from modified theories of gravity to explain away dark energy.

Not everyone is giving up. "No one promised it would be easy," says Gia Dvali, a theorist at New York University. He has developed a modified theory of gravity in which space-time is not as formless as we tend to think. According to the theory, which he developed with his colleagues Gregory Gabadadze and Massimo Porrati, space-time has a limited underlying shape that makes it look as if a weird form of energy is warping it.

The warping happens because gravitons - the as yet undiscovered particles that are presumed to carry gravity - have a small mass, and decay into other dimensions with half-lives of 15 billion years. This is strikingly similar to the age of the universe. "We don't know whether this is just a remarkable coincidence or the result of something more fundamental," says Dvali.

According to Dvali's calculations, such a modification of gravity would explain the acceleration of the universe's expansion. It would also alter the moon's orbit by about a millimetre away from the expectations of general relativity. A team of astronomers from Harvard University and the University of Washington in Seattle are planning to attempt this measurement using the mirrors left behind on the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts.

4 introduce complexity

Perhaps the most outrageous - and yet paradoxically the most conservative - solution is to alter an assumption so ingrained in cosmology that most cosmologists have forgotten it is there. Called the cosmological principle it states, in essence, that viewed on sufficiently large scales the universe has no preferred directions or preferred places. "We have unquestioningly lived with this assumption for 85 years," says cosmologist Rocky Kolb.

It was introduced in the 1920s by Alexander Friedman to make the equations of general relativity tractable. It meant Friedman could think of the galaxies as particles in a uniform fluid that fills space. Cosmologists have stuck with Friedman's idea ever since, despite finding ever larger density variations across the universe. It might be time to ditch that assumption, suggests Kolb.

If the universe is no longer the same everywhere, effects of general relativity that are negligible in a uniform cosmos might become increasingly important. "It is just an idea at the moment, but sooner or later we are going to have to do the calculations and make a prediction," says Kolb.

That's where it gets tough, because to do that will require us finding a way to somehow meld general relativity with complexity theory. "We cannot do it yet, but one day a clever graduate student will see how to do the calculation," Kolb says. "I just hope he or she will be working for me.

Del número 2591 de New Scientist; Febrero 16, 2007. 28-33 pp.

September 02, 2007

Misterio 8: La anomalía de las Pioneer

This is a tale of two spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

That's because something has been pulling - or pushing - on them, causing them to speed up. The resulting acceleration is tiny, less than a nanometre per second per second. That's equivalent to just one ten-billionth of the gravity at Earth's surface, but it is enough to have shifted Pioneer 10 some 400,000 kilometres off track. NASA lost touch with Pioneer 11 in 1995, but up to that point it was experiencing exactly the same deviation as its sister probe. So what is causing it?

Nobody knows. Some possible explanations have already been ruled out, including software errors, the solar wind or a fuel leak. If the cause is some gravitational effect, it is not one we know anything about. In fact, physicists are so completely at a loss that some have resorted to linking this mystery with other inexplicable phenomena.

Bruce Bassett of the University of Portsmouth, UK, has suggested that the Pioneer conundrum might have something to do with variations in alpha, the fine structure constant. Others have talked about it as arising from dark matter - but since we don't know what dark matter is, that doesn't help much either. "This is all so maddeningly intriguing," says Michael Martin Nieto of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. "We only have proposals, none of which has been demonstrated."

Nieto has called for a new analysis of the early trajectory data from the craft, which he says might yield fresh clues. But to get to the bottom of the problem what scientists really need is a mission designed specifically to test unusual gravitational effects in the outer reaches of the solar system. Such a probe would cost between $300 million and $500 million and could piggyback on a future mission to the outer reaches of the solar system.

"An explanation will be found eventually," Nieto says. "Of course I hope it is due to new physics - how stupendous that would be. But once a physicist starts working on the basis of hope he is heading for a fall." Disappointing as it may seem, Nieto thinks the explanation for the Pioneer anomaly will eventually be found in some mundane effect, such as an unnoticed source of heat on board the craft.

Para leer el artículo completo: Click aquí.

Para un update de los estudios recientes de las Pioneer: Aquí.

September 01, 2007

Misterio 7: Tetraneutrones

Four years ago, a particle accelerator in France detected six particles that should not exist. They are called tetraneutrons: four neutrons that are bound together in a way that defies the laws of physics.

Francisco Miguel Marquès and colleagues at the Ganil accelerator in Caen are now gearing up to do it again. If they succeed, these clusters may oblige us to rethink the forces that hold atomic nuclei together.

The team fired beryllium nuclei at a small carbon target and analysed the debris that shot into surrounding particle detectors. They expected to see evidence for four separate neutrons hitting their detectors. Instead the Ganil team found just one flash of light in one detector. And the energy of this flash suggested that four neutrons were arriving together at the detector. Of course, their finding could have been an accident: four neutrons might just have arrived in the same place at the same time by coincidence. But that's ridiculously improbable.

Not as improbable as tetraneutrons, some might say, because in the standard model of particle physics tetraneutrons simply can't exist. According to the Pauli exclusion principle, not even two protons or neutrons in the same system can have identical quantum properties. In fact, the strong nuclear force that would hold them together is tuned in such a way that it can't even hold two lone neutrons together, let alone four. Marquès and his team were so bemused by their result that they buried the data in a research paper that was ostensibly about the possibility of finding tetraneutrons in the future (Physical Review C, vol 65, p 44006).

And there are still more compelling reasons to doubt the existence of tetraneutrons. If you tweak the laws of physics to allow four neutrons to bind together, all kinds of chaos ensues (Journal of Physics G, vol 29, L9). It would mean that the mix of elements formed after the big bang was inconsistent with what we now observe and, even worse, the elements formed would have quickly become far too heavy for the cosmos to cope. "Maybe the universe would have collapsed before it had any chance to expand," says Natalia Timofeyuk, a theorist at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK.

There are, however, a couple of holes in this reasoning. Established theory does allow the tetraneutron to exist - though only as a ridiculously short-lived particle. "This could be a reason for four neutrons hitting the Ganil detectors simultaneously," Timofeyuk says. And there is other evidence that supports the idea of matter composed of multiple neutrons: neutron stars. These bodies, which contain an enormous number of bound neutrons, suggest that as yet unexplained forces come into play when neutrons gather en masse.

Artículo original

August 31, 2007

Misterio 6: El metano de las Viking


July 20, 1976. Gilbert Levin is on the edge of his seat. Millions of kilometres away on Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars.

Viking reports a positive result. Something is ingesting the nutrients, metabolising them, and then belching out gas laced with carbon-14.

So why no party?

Because another instrument, designed to identify organic molecules considered essential signs of life, found nothing. Almost all the mission scientists erred on the side of caution and declared Viking's discovery a false positive. But was it?

The arguments continue to rage, but results from NASA's latest rovers show that the surface of Mars was almost certainly wet in the past and therefore hospitable to life. And there is plenty more evidence where that came from, Levin says. "Every mission to Mars has produced evidence supporting my conclusion. None has contradicted it."

Levin stands by his claim, and he is no longer alone. Joe Miller, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has re-analysed the data and he thinks that the emissions show evidence of a circadian cycle. That is highly suggestive of life.

Levin is petitioning ESA and NASA to fly a modified version of his mission to look for "chiral" molecules. These come in left or right-handed versions: they are mirror images of each other. While biological processes tend to produce molecules that favour one chirality over the other, non-living processes create left and right-handed versions in equal numbers. If a future mission to Mars were to find that Martian "metabolism" also prefers one chiral form of a molecule to the other, that would be the best indication yet of life on Mars.

Aquí para el artículo original.

August 30, 2007


Pues escuchando un podcast me enteré de la existencia de una de las cosas más increíbles del mundo: el interrobang:

The invention of the interrobang

American Martin K. Speckter concocted the interrobang in 1962. As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark. He proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks. Speckter solicited possible names for the new character from readers. Contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination"; bang is printers' slang for the exclamation point. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.

In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued the Americana typeface and included the interrobang as one of the characters. In 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. During the 1970s, it was possible to buy replacement interrobang keycaps and strikers for some Smith-Corona typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, with the word 'interrobang' appearing in some dictionaries and the mark itself being featured in magazine and newspaper articles.

The interrobang failed to amount to much more than a fad, however. It has not become a standard punctuation mark. Although most fonts do not include the interrobang, it has not disappeared: Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set ( on the }/] and the ~/` keys) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in the fonts Lucida Sans Unicode and Arial Unicode MS, among others.

En francés se le dice Point exclarrogatif. Si alguien sabe cómo se le dice en español, por favor dígame. Y bueno, traten de usar este signo de puntuación, que es hermoso.

August 29, 2007

Misterio 5: La materia oscura

Take our best understanding of gravity, apply it to the way galaxies spin, and you'll quickly see the problem: the galaxies should be falling apart. Galactic matter orbits around a central point because its mutual gravitational attraction creates centripetal forces. But there is not enough mass in the galaxies to produce the observed spin.

Vera Rubin, an astronomer working at the Carnegie Institution's department of terrestrial magnetism in Washington DC, spotted this anomaly in the late 1970s. The best response from physicists was to suggest there is more stuff out there than we can see. The trouble was, nobody could explain what this "dark matter" was.

And they still can't. Although researchers have made many suggestions about what kind of particles might make up dark matter, there is no consensus. It's an embarrassing hole in our understanding. Astronomical observations suggest that dark matter must make up about 90 per cent of the mass in the universe, yet we are astonishingly ignorant what that 90 per cent is.

Maybe we can't work out what dark matter is because it doesn't actually exist. That's certainly the way Rubin would like it to turn out. "If I could have my pick, I would like to learn that Newton's laws must be modified in order to correctly describe gravitational interactions at large distances," she says. "That's more appealing than a universe filled with a new kind of sub-nuclear particle."

¡No olviden checar la página fuente!

August 28, 2007

Misterio 4: Los resultados homeopáticos de Belfast

MADELEINE Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum.

In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These "basophils" release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions - so dilute that they probably didn't contain a single histamine molecule - worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths' claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out.

So how could it happen? Homeopaths prepare their remedies by dissolving things like charcoal, deadly nightshade or spider venom in ethanol, and then diluting this "mother tincture" in water again and again. No matter what the level of dilution, homeopaths claim, the original remedy leaves some kind of imprint on the water molecules. Thus, however dilute the solution becomes, it is still imbued with the properties of the remedy.

You can understand why Ennis remains sceptical. And it remains true that no homeopathic remedy has ever been shown to work in a large randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial. But the Belfast study (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) suggests that something is going on. "We are," Ennis says in her paper, "unable to explain our findings and are reporting them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon." If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.

Artículo original

August 27, 2007

An 80-Year-Old Poet for the MTV Generation

MtvU, the subsidiary of MTV Networks that is broadcast only on college campuses, will announce today that it has selected its first poet laureate. No, he doesn’t rap. And it’s not Bob Dylan, or even Justin Timberlake.

It is John Ashbery, the prolific 80-year-old poet and frequent award winner known for his dense, postmodern style and playful language. One of the most celebrated living poets, Mr. Ashbery has won MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.”

Excerpts of his poems will appear in 18 short promotional spots — like commercials for verse — on the channel and its Web site (, which will also feature the full text of the poems). In another first, mtvU will help sponsor a poetry contest for college students. The winner, chosen by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, will have a book published next year by HarperCollins as part of the National Poetry Series.

“We hope that we’ll help discover the next great poet that we’ll be talking about for years to come,” said Stephen K. Friedman, the general manager of mtvU, which broadcasts at 750 campuses nationwide.

The idea of the laureate program was not to create more English majors, but simply to whet an appetite, said Mr. Friedman, a poetry aficionado since he majored in literature, philosophy and history at Wesleyan. Mr. Ashbery, he added, was the No. 1 choice to inaugurate the position. “He resonates with college students that we’ve talked with,” he said.

And Mr. Ashbery, who was the poet laureate of New York State from 2001 to 2003, was immediately receptive. “It seemed like it would be a chance to broaden the audience for poetry,” he said.

The poems used in the campaign span his career, and the spots are simple: on a white background, black text floats in to a sound like a crashing wave, appears on the screen for a minute, then floats away. From “Retro” (2005): “It’s really quite a thrill/When the moon rises over the hill/and you’ve gotten over someone/salty and mercurial, the only person you’ve ever loved.” From “Soonest Mended” (2000): “Barely tolerated, living on the margin/In our technological society, we are always having to be rescued.”

The excerpts were chosen by David Kermani, Mr. Ashbery’s business manager, and two interns and an employee, all in their early 20s, in his office.

“We were just trying to pick lines that were catchy and sort of meaningful in some way, something that would appeal to what we thought younger people would be interested in,” Mr. Kermani said. These young people picked “things that had sort of raunchy references,” he added. “They thought it was sort of a hoot.”

Mr. Ashbery too was pleased by their choices, particularly because they reminded him of what was in his own canon. “I have a lot poems, so there are a lot of them that I don’t really think of very much,” he said. (Mr. Ashbery published “A Worldly Country: New Poems” in February, and an anthology, “Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems,” is due out in November.)

But will droves of young people respond?

“It’s our hope that we will interest college kids in poetry in a new way, make it hip for them,” said Daniel Halpern, the publisher of Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins that has published Mr. Ashbery’s work. But, Mr. Halpern admitted, “it’s very hard to tell what exactly is going to come of all this.”

Though his roots are in 1950s bohemia, Mr. Ashbery is perhaps not the most obvious choice for the iPod generation. He works on a typewriter and doesn’t listen to popular music, with the exception of a chance encounter with the Peaches & Herb song “Reunited” in a cab in the 1980s; it inspired his poem “The Songs We Know Best.” (“Just like a shadow in an empty room/Like a breeze that’s pointed from beyond the tomb/Just like a project of which no one tells-/Or didja really think that I was somebody else?”)

But Mr. Friedman is optimistic that verse will find its new audience, and mtvU plans to continue the program with other laureates after Mr. Ashbery’s one-year tenure is up.

“I don’t think there’s such a big leap from the artists we’re playing to the poetry that John is creating,” Mr. Friedman said. “Some of the music we play, Bright Eyes and the Decemberists, they’re phenomenal poets. I feel like there’s a connection there.”

Though he has not been offered the job, Mr. Ashbery has said that he wouldn’t necessarily be interested in being the United States poet laureate.

“There is a great deal of responsibility that comes with it,” he said. “You have to spend part of the time in Washington. It’s really a public post.”

But the mtvU gig — which is unpaid — came with few strings attached, and was not very demanding of his time, he said.

“I don’t have any specific duties,” he said. “They’re going to publicize my poetry and maybe people will get interested in it and other poets will benefit. That’s about as much work or responsibility as I would want.”

After a 50-year career and nearly as many published volumes, is Mr. Ashbery finally slacking off? He laughed. No, he said. “I’d rather keep the effort for writing poetry.”

Source: NYT

Misterio 3: Rayos cósmicos ultra energéticos

For more than a decade, physicists in Japan have been seeing cosmic rays that should not exist. Cosmic rays are particles - mostly protons but sometimes heavy atomic nuclei - that travel through the universe at close to the speed of light. Some cosmic rays detected on Earth are produced in violent events such as supernovae, but we still don't know the origins of the highest-energy particles, which are the most energetic particles ever seen in nature. But that's not the real mystery.

As cosmic-ray particles travel through space, they lose energy in collisions with the low-energy photons that pervade the universe, such as those of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Einstein's special theory of relativity dictates that any cosmic rays reaching Earth from a source outside our galaxy will have suffered so many energy-shedding collisions that their maximum possible energy is 5 × 1019 electronvolts. This is known as the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit.

Over the past decade, however, the University of Tokyo's Akeno Giant Air Shower Array - 111 particle detectors spread out over 100 square kilometres - has detected several cosmic rays above the GZK limit. In theory, they can only have come from within our galaxy, avoiding an energy-sapping journey across the cosmos. However, astronomers can find no source for these cosmic rays in our galaxy. So what is going on?

One possibility is that there is something wrong with the Akeno results. Another is that Einstein was wrong. His special theory of relativity says that space is the same in all directions, but what if particles found it easier to move in certain directions? Then the cosmic rays could retain more of their energy, allowing them to beat the GZK limit.

Physicists at the Pierre Auger experiment in Mendoza, Argentina, are now working on this problem. Using 1600 detectors spread over 3000 square kilometres, Auger should be able to determine the energies of incoming cosmic rays and shed more light on the Akeno results.

Alan Watson, an astronomer at the University of Leeds, UK, and spokesman for the Pierre Auger project, is already convinced there is something worth following up here. "I have no doubts that events above 1020 electronvolts exist. There are sufficient examples to convince me," he says. The question now is, what are they? How many of these particles are coming in, and what direction are they coming from? Until we get that information, there's no telling how exotic the true explanation could be.

No olviden checar NewScientist

Y por si a alguien le interesa continuar: esto

August 18, 2007

Misterio 2: El problema del horizonte

Our universe appears to be unfathomably uniform. Look across space from one edge of the visible universe to the other, and you'll see that the microwave background radiation filling the cosmos is at the same temperature everywhere. That may not seem surprising until you consider that the two edges are nearly 28 billion light years apart and our universe is only 14 billion years old.

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, so there is no way heat radiation could have traveled between the two horizons to even out the hot and cold spots created in the big bang and leave the thermal equilibrium we see now.

This "horizon problem" is a big headache for cosmologists, so big that they have come up with some pretty wild solutions. "Inflation", for example.

You can solve the horizon problem by having the universe expand ultra-fast for a time, just after the big bang, blowing up by a factor of 1050 in 10-33 seconds. But is that just wishful thinking? "Inflation would be an explanation if it occurred," says University of Cambridge astronomer Martin Rees. The trouble is that no one knows what could have made that happen, but see Inside inflation: after the big bang.

So, in effect, inflation solves one mystery only to invoke another. A variation in the speed of light could also solve the horizon problem - but this too is impotent in the face of the question "why?" In scientific terms, the uniform temperature of the background radiation remains an anomaly.

Recuerden visitar la página de New Scientist

August 17, 2007

Compact disc hits 25th birthday

Exactly 25 years ago the world's first compact disc was produced at a Philips factory in Germany, sparking a global music revolution.

More than 200 billion CDs have been sold worldwide since then and it remains the dominant format despite the growth in digital downloads.

The CD was jointly developed by Philips and Sony and the disc has also become a key storage method for computer users.

The first CD produced was The Visitors by Abba.

Piet Kramer, who was a member of the optical group at Philips during the disc's development, said: "When Philips teamed up with Sony to develop the CD, our first target was to win over the world for the CD.

"We did this by collaborating openly to agree on a new standard. For Philips, this open innovation was a new approach and it paid off."

He said the companies had never imagined that the computing and entertainment industries would also opt for the CD as a storage system for content.

Jacques Heemskerk, who was one of the senior engineers involved with the optical side of CD players, said the team knew they were building a revolutionary product.

"It was revolutionary in many fields - the optics were new, the disc was new. At the start of development there wasn't even a laser that would work well enough for our needs.

"The most advanced laser at the time had a lifespan of only 100 hours."

He said the company had always planned on the format lasting at least 20 to 25 years.

"That was the model we had in mind although it seems that CD is going to last a lot longer than that. For many people the CD is still the original format, with others being derivative or back-ups."

The two companies began work on the format in 1979 and targetted a disc which could hold an hour of audio. The capacity was extended to 74 minutes, however, to accommodate a complete performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, forcing the disk to be made slightly larger."

"I always wish we had stuck with the original plan for an 11cm disc; it would have been more suited to the on-the-go age," said Mr Heemskerk.

He said that it had been a big culture shock for Philips when they had allied with Sony.

"The world was not as globalised as it is today. Our management had told us to be as open as possible and to share everything because that was the only way to have success.

"But we were suspicious and so were their engineers. But after a few days it became clear we could work together."

He added: "There were other companies working on similar technologies, so there was pressure.

"We always knew we could make the product but it was always about making it for the right cost and at scale."

The first CDs went on sale in November 1982 and were mainly classical recordings.

Classical music lovers were believed to be more affluent than pop and rock music fans, and Philips thought they would be more inclined to pay the price for the more expensive CDs and the very expensive CD-players,

The first models cost 2,000 Dutch guilders, about £1,000 at today's rate, taking into account inflation.

"When Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau recorded one of the first CDs for Polygram we discovered that he was grunting and panting while playing. Before on vinyl you didn't hear that but on CD it was crystal clear," said Frank van den Berg, a former member of the Polygram CD development task force.

In the last 10 years CD sales have been dropping worldwide while digital download sales are rising rapidly.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), digital sales will account for a quarter of all worldwide music sales by 2010.

CD sales in the UK have dropped 10% in the first half of this year, while download purchases have increased by 50%.

Richard Gooch, head of technology at IFPI, said: "CDs remain a very popular format for buying music in the digital era - indeed as CDs are a digital format they actually kick-started the digital age.

""The CD remained the most popular Christmas present in Britain last year. Despite the rise of downloading we expect that the CD will be here for many years to come."

Mr Heemskerk said CDs remained his format of choice.

"I don't have an iPod, although my youngest son uses one. But CDs are still his preferred format and he copies them on to his MP3 player."

August 16, 2007

Misterio 1: El efecto placebo

Michael Brooks, en New Scientist, hizo una lista de los trece fenómenos que no pueden ser explicados con la ciencia actual. El primero:

1 The placebo effect

Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it's not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don't know.

Benedetti has since shown that a saline placebo can also reduce tremors and muscle stiffness in people with Parkinson's disease. He and his team measured the activity of neurons in the patients' brains as they administered the saline. They found that individual neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (a common target for surgical attempts to relieve Parkinson's symptoms) began to fire less often when the saline was given, and with fewer "bursts" of firing - another feature associated with Parkinson's. The neuron activity decreased at the same time as the symptoms improved: the saline was definitely doing something.

We have a lot to learn about what is happening here, Benedetti says, but one thing is clear: the mind can affect the body's biochemistry. "The relationship between expectation and therapeutic outcome is a wonderful model to understand mind-body interaction," he says. Researchers now need to identify when and where placebo works. There may be diseases in which it has no effect. There may be a common mechanism in different illnesses. As yet, we just don't know.

August 15, 2007

A 30 años de "WOW!"

Hoy hace 30 años, por primera y única vez se recibió una señal del espacio exterior que aún se considera un problema no resuelto por la ciencia.

Aquí la historia de El País:

Treinta años sin oír 'guau'

El 15 de agosto de 1977 una antena para buscar vida extraterrestre captó una intrigante señal


El cosmos, por norma general, emite una señal monótona y aburrida, el eco del Big Bang. Hace 30 años, una señal rompió bruscamente esa monotonía. El 15 de agosto de 1977, a las 11:15 de la noche, la radioantena Big Ear (Gran Oído) de la Universidad de Ohio captó una señal de 72 segundos y una intensidad que superó en algún momento 30 veces al aburrido ruido de fondo. Algo así como un chillido retumbando sobre el leve murmullo del cosmos.

El astrónomo Jerry Ehman había sido despedido de Big Ear cinco años antes. El Congreso de EE UU retiraba su ayuda económica al programa SETI de investigación de vida extraterrestre. Pero Ehman estaba convencido de que la antena podía dar mucho de sí y seguía trabajando como voluntario. Unos días después de aquel 15 de agosto, se dispuso a revisar el montón de papel continuo que había ido escupiendo la impresora con los resultados del rastreo.

Todos los registros entraban en la norma, hasta que topó con un código, 6EQUJ5, que venía a decir que la señal a la que se refería, en comparación a la de los objetos celestes, era extraordinariamente intensa y concreta y procedía de un único punto en el espacio. Es decir, muy parecida a las emisiones que se emplean en las comunicaciones humanas. Alguien o algo parecía haberla emitido intencionadamente desde el espacio. Ehman agarró un lápiz rojo y anotó al lado del código la exclamación "wow!" ("¡guau!"). La señal quedaba bautizada.

Desde entonces, el astrónomo, que firma sus mensajes electrónicos como Jerry Wow Ehman, se ha dedicado a descartar desde las explicaciones más obvias a las más estrafalarias. Entre las primeras, que aquella señal viniera de una galaxia, planeta o asteroide. Negativo. Otros fenómenos cósmicos más complejos, como las lentes gravitatorias o el centelleo interestelar, quedaron descartados.

Aquel grito cósmico ponía a prueba el escepticismo de cualquier científico, pero admitir directamente que viniera de una inteligencia extraterrestre resultaba osado. Había que ampliar el círculo de sospechosos, y Ehman incluyó las emisiones humanas. Como la de los satélites. Pero la señal se había emitido en la banda de los 1.420 megahercios, prohibida para todo tipo de transmisiones en la Tierra. Un avión o vehículo espacial tampoco podían ser su origen. En 72 segundos, la duración de la señal, una aeronave habría descrito una amplia línea en el cielo. Y Wow procedía de un único punto.

Cabría la posibilidad de que la señal hubiera salido desde Tierra y se reflejara en un trozo de chatarra espacial. Ehman piensa que esa posibilidad existe, aunque es demasiado remota. El trozo tendría que haberse quedado quieto. Pero además de orbitar en torno al planeta, suelen rotar sobre sí.

¿Qué explicación queda? Ehman refiere en el análisis que ha publicado con motivo del aniversario: "Ya que todas las posibilidades de un origen terrestre han sido descartadas o parecen improbables, y ya que no se ha podido descartar la posibilidad de un origen extraterrestre, debo concluir que una inteligencia extraterrestre podría haber enviado la señal que nosotros recibimos como la fuente de Wow. Estoy a la espera de recibir otras señales como la de Wow que puedan captar y analizar muchos observatorios", afirma. Pero con Big Ear será ya imposible. Se desmontó en 1998 para construir en su lugar un campo de golf de 18 hoyos y 400 viviendas.

Cómo puede ser que el golf sea más importante y rentable que la ciencia; vamos, más allá, que la curiosidad misma. . .

August 08, 2007

Who's next now?

Rare river dolphin 'now extinct'

A freshwater dolphin found only in China is now "likely to be extinct", a team of scientists has concluded.

The researchers failed to spot any Yangtze river dolphins, also known as baijis, during an extensive six-week survey of the mammals' habitat.

The team, writing in the Royal Society Biology Letters journals, blamed unregulated fishing as the main reason behind the dolphins' demise.

But the WWF campaign group said the research was not conclusive.

"WWF does not think that the baiji dolphin can be declared extinct or 'effectively extinct' because the search was conducted within a short period of time over a limited area of the river," said a spokesman.

He said a species cannot be formally classed as extinct until no animal has been found in the wild for 50 years - but the last report of a wild baiji dolphin was verified in 2004.

The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threaten Species currently classifies the creature as "critically endangered".

Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), one of the paper's co-authors, described the findings as a "shocking tragedy".

"The Yangtze river dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over 20 million years ago," Dr Turvey explained.

"This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet."

If confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years.

'Incidental impact'

The species (Lipotes vexillifer) was the only remaining member of the Lipotidae, an ancient mammal family that is understood to have separated from other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, about 40-20 million years ago.

The white, freshwater dolphin had a long, narrow beak and low dorsal fin; lived in groups of three or four and fed on fish.

The team carried out six-week visual and acoustic survey, using two research vessels, in November and December 2006.

"While it is conceivable that a couple of surviving individuals were missed by the survey teams," the team wrote, "our inability to detect any baiji despite this intensive search effort indicates that the prospect of finding and translocating them to a [reserve] has all but vanished."

The scientists added that there were a number of human activities that caused baiji numbers to decline, including construction of dams and boat collisions.

"However, the primary factor was probably unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries, which used rolling hooks, nets and electrofishing," they suggested.

"Unlike most historical-era extinctions of large bodied animals, the baiji was the victim not of active persecution but incidental mortality resulting from massive-scale human environmental impacts - primarily uncontrolled and unselective fishing," the researchers concluded.

August 03, 2007


Según los cálculos, si Google tuviera una pantalla negra, se ahorrarían 750 mega watts/hora cada año.

En respuesta, Google creó una versión en negro de su página de búsqueda:


How is Blackle saving energy?

Blackle was created by Heap Media to remind us all of the need to take small steps in our everyday lives to save energy. Blackle searches are powered by Google Custom Search.

Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen." Roberson et al, 2002

In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy.

How can you help?

We encourage you to set Blackle as your home page. This way every time you load your Internet browser you will save a little bit of energy. Remember every bit counts! You will also be reminded about the need to save energy each time you see the Blackle page load.

Help us spread the word about Blackle by telling your friends and family to set it as their home page. If you have a blog then give us a mention. Or put the following text in your email signature: " - Saving energy one search at a time".

There are a lot of great web sites about saving energy and being more environmentally friendly. They are full of great tips covering the little things that we can all do to make a difference today. Try Blackling "energy saving tips" or visit a great blog dedicated to environmental awareness.

August 01, 2007

Back from Vallarta!

Y lo único oque tengo que decir es:

July 16, 2007


Mi tía Marce me mandó esto hace unos minutos. Me encanta. ¿Cómo no, si cada que salgo del país tengo que decir que me apellido Gavino?


María Elena Walsh

La culpa es de los gnomos que nunca quisieron ser ñomos.
Culpa tienen la nieve, la niebla, los nietos, los atenienses, el unicornio.

Todos evasores de la eñe. ¡Señoras, señores, compañeros, amados niños!

¡No nos dejemos arrebatar la eñe! Ya nos han birlado los signos de apertura de interrogación y admiración. Ya nos redujeron hasta la apócope. Ya nos han traducido el pochoclo. Y como éramos pocos, la abuelita informática ha parido un monstruoso # en lugar de la eñe con su gracioso peluquín, el ~.

¿Quieren decirme qué haremos con nuestros sueños? ¿Entre la fauna en peligro de extinción figuran los ñandúes y los ñacurutuces? ¿En los pagos de Añatuya cómo cantarán Añoranzas? ¿A qué pobre barrigón fajaremos al ñudo? ¿Qué será del Año Nuevo, el tiempo de ñaupa, aquel tapado de armiño y la ñata contra el vidrio? ¿Y cómo graficaremos la más dulce consonante de la lengua guaraní?

"La ortografía también es gente", escribió Fernando Pessoa.

Y, como la gente, sufre variadas discriminaciones. Hay signos y signos, unos blancos, altos y de ojos azules, como la W o la K. Otros, pobres morochos de Hispanoamérica, como la letrita segunda, la eñe, jamás considerada por los monóculos británicos, que está en peligro de pasar al bando de los desocupados después de rendir tantos servicios y no ser precisamente una letra ñoqui. A barrerla, a borrarla, a sustituirla, dicen los perezosos manipuladores de las maquinitas, sólo porque la ñ da un poco de trabajo. Pereza ideológica, hubiéramos dicho en la década del setenta.

Una letra española es un defecto más de los hispanos, esa raza impura formateada y escaneada también por pereza y comodidad. Nada de hondureños, salvadoreños, caribeños, panameños. ¡Impronunciables nativos! Sigamos siendo dueños de algo que nos pertenece, esa letra con caperuza, algo muy pequeño, pero menos ñoño de lo que parece. Algo importante, algo gente, algo alma y lengua, algo no descartable, algo propio y compartido porque así nos canta.

No faltará quien ofrezca soluciones absurdas: escribir con nuestro inolvidable César Bruto, compinche del maestro Oski. Ninios, suenios, otonio. Fantasía inexplicable que ya fue y preferimos no reanudar, salvo que la Madre Patria retroceda y vuelva a llamarse Hispania. La supervivencia de esta letra nos atañe, sin distinción de sexos, credos ni programas de software. Luchemos para no añadir más leña a la hoguera dónde se debate nuestro discriminado signo.

Letra es sinónimo de carácter. ¡Avisémoslo al mundo entero por Internet! La eñe también es gente.

Fuente: Efemérides Culturales Argentinas, Ministerio de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología.