Mooning the Schmooze


from the desk of Bob Siederer

Hello again Science fans!

With the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the Moon coming up July 20th, museums around the Bay are going all out to celebrate this monumental achievement.  When President Kennedy said we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, most of the technology to accomplish that feat had not yet been invented.  Yet on that July night, Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon.

This was one of those events where everyone who witnessed it can tell you where they were at the time.  I was home from college for the summer.  My parents woke me up to watch the event on TV, but I dozed off for the actual first step.  Of course, I got to watch the replay, but it wasn't the same thrill as it would have been to see it in real time.

The moon will cause a total solar eclipse on July 2...but it will be visible in South America.  No need to travel all the way to Chile, however, as the ExplOratorium will be live streaming the event from the Cerro Tololo Observatory.

Here are my picks for this week:

Knowledge? with the SciSchmooze

by Herb Masters

Hello Science Fans,

One can't ignore that we all think we try to make our decisions based on knowledge.  Often though, we make them on a hunch, or a hope.  Often we are at a loss for enough or accurate information to even know who or what to believe.  The more you dive in to the philosophy of knowledge, the more you realize that it's more complicated than you hoped!  It's a bit of a long read but I think Knowledge is crude is really worth a read.  When you start learning about something new to you, I hope you will consider the source.  It might be a very reliable source with a great reputation but they all make mistakes!  Science Schmooze included! 

If you read my missives very often you will undoubtedly know that I am a proponent of

Schmoozing with the Burning River

by Bob Seiderer

Hello again Science fans, and welcome to another edition of the SciSchmooze.

Cleveland, Ohio.  What sort of image does that conjure in your mind?  A sports haven?  Rock and roll?  Birthplace of Bob Hope?  How about an incredibly polluted body of water?  The Cuyahoga River begins its journey some miles east of Cleveland, near Lake Erie.  It doesn't flow directly to the lake there, rather flowing south, then west through Akron, then north through a National Park that bears its name until finally emptying into Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland.  It was there in 1969, that the river famously caught fire.  Randy Newman wrote a song about it.

How can a river burn?  Dump enough pollutants into a river and you will find out.  The Cuyahoga had quite a polluted history.  It had burned before, but 1969 was to be the last time.  That incident led to the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fifty years later, the Cuyahoga is thriving.  It has been cleaned up and is a centerpiece of downtown C

by Meenakshi Prabhune

Hello Schmoozers,

Hope you all had a great long weekend. I ended up visiting Maui, Hawaii, which is a gorgeous island with abundant natural beauty. What I find particularly interesting about islands is how isolation shapes local culture and biodiversity. We all know about Charles Darwin’s famous study of finches on Galapagos islands, but even today, island life can teach us a lot about evolution of physical and behavioral traits in plant and animal species.

A fun example around this very topic that had surfaced just a few years back. There is a specific population of Hawaiian crows, ‘Alalā, local to Hawaii, which are endangered. With only a 100 of the species left alive, researchers studied these crows in captivity to understand them better. That is how the researchers noticed the exception

Kibble is for Science with the SciSchmooze

by Herb Masters

Did someone say "Science"?

Did you notice what happened the other day?  It would have been very easy to miss it.  Based on a decision made in Versailles, France last year, the kilogram went through a bit of an identity update and your weight was "adjusted"!  It was decided that "Prototype" wasn't good enough.  So last week they rolled out the new one.  It's a bit tricky to figure out how they now measure the kilogram.  They use a Kibble balance!  (This isn't for weighing pet food.)  Like so many things in science it is about accuracy.  Here's a nice dry story about it…  The Romance of Precision Measurement (I think it is interesting if nothing else but to see who the narrator is!).  As always Veritasium has a great video about this… 

It’s a Conspiracy with the SciSchmooze

by Herb Masters

Hello Science Supporters,
I hope that you have been enjoying the May Rains.  I wish we could have them every couple of weeks throughout the summer. 

I have been wondering about the "flat-earth" folks.  In this day and age it is hard to believe that there can be people who actually believe the earth is "flat".  There do seem to be some variations on what flat means, since some think there is a massive ice wall all the way around the "edge".   I personally think most are trolls or people trying to make money off of the easily misguided.  They are a group of conspiracy folks that have been getting a lot of attention recently.  Maybe you have seen this… A Look Inside the Flat Earth International Conference   It is an amazing look that makes you wonder what the people in it are up to.  Scientific American recently ran a column by Glenn Branch,

Moms in Science with the SciSchmooze

by Herb Masters

Happy Mother Scientist Day,

Happy all Mother's Day but let's celebrate Scientists who are also mothers.  Two incredibly tough jobs especially if you are both at once.  If you don't read anything else in this missive please watch this and share it with people you care about and disagree with!  SCIENCE MOMS  I have to say that I love watching programs and reports about what is going on in science.  One reason is that there are so many women involved in the major accomplishments that get the attention.  Watch any show about science now and you will see many women in key positions.  Imagine how many more are in the trenches doing the work of scientists. 

There has been a lot of talk about how misinformation or outright lies have been accepted by many people.  Due to the ease of spreading it on the web whether it be denying history, fomenting prejudice against any group of people or promoting bad or even dangerous science.  My new word to incorporate in my discussions is

SciSchmoozing from Here to There

by David Almandsmith

Hello science fans,
 
I was asked, “What do you believe in?” Huh? That tripped me up because i believe that i don’t believe. After some thought i arrived at the conclusion that i provisionally accept things, or at least i try to avoid solidifying my attitudes around ideas where the evidence is inconclusive. Yes, the Earth is mostly spherical. Yes, there was a Big Bang, given its powerful predictions that align with observations. Yet, if some future counter-theory is developed that does an even better job of describing our observations, i’ll abandon the Big Bang for the new theory. That’s science.
 
And then there are those who invest themselves in notions regardless of the evidence; such as a flat Earth, chemtrails, vaccine harm, a 9/11 conspiracy, homeopathy, faked moon landings, psychic powers, creationism, UFOs, and so on, ad nauseum.  We need to understand the rise of anti-science elements in order to find a way forward. That’s why i encourage you to attend this year’s SkeptiCal at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, even if it’s ju

Travels with SciSchmooze

by Bob Siederer

Hello again Science Fans!

Sometimes it is nice to unplug from the day-to-day around here and go see what is happening in the rest of the country, and that's what I've been doing this past few weeks.  I traveled back to the East coast, visiting old friends, experiencing real seasons, and checking an item off my bucket list.  While visiting friends in Florida, I was lucky enough to see the SpaceX Heavy rocket liftoff from about 30 miles away. 

But I missed a lot while I was gone too.  It seems astronomers have managed to get a photo of an actual black hole in Messier 97, a huge elliptical galaxy.  What a fantastic time to be an astronomer!

Despite discoveries and advances such as this

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