David Almandsmith

The Renewable SciSchmooze – 3 Sep 2018

by David Almandsmith

Greetings,

California is on its way to using   100% renewable energy by 2045. Since we've demonstrated the practicality of using biofuels and/or electricity for cars, trucks, trains, and motorcycles (i just bought an electric motorcycle), a major remaining reliance on fossil fuels is for air travel. There are a few small   airplanes that run on electricity, but their ranges are short. Fortunately, we can   create jet fuel from plants and algae. Test flights using bio fuels in commercial jets are   entering their 2nd decade. There was a major   test last week in India. Although biofuel use puts just as much CO2 into the atmosphere as fossil fuel use, growing the plants and algae removes CO2 from air and water, so it ends up being 'carbon neutral'. If only some folk didn't  

More Musings with the Schmooze

by Bob Seiderer
 
Hello again Science fans! How is it that summer is almost over? It seems like it just started. Schools are going back into session, the number of events we list is picking up, and the amount of daylight is getting noticeably shorter. Of course, the upcoming weeks are often the warmest of the year in the Bay Area, as the summer high breaks down, allowing winds from inland to heat us up. Last year, the Friday before Labor Day was the warmest ever on record in San Francisco, with a high of 106.

This week marked the one year anniversary of the Great American Eclipse. How time flies! I was in Las Vegas. Where were you? While the eclipse gave scientists a great opportunity to do research on the sun, work continues to learn more. This year, NASA launched the Parker probe to  touch the sun.

As if we don't have enough to worry about,  a heart disease-causing parasite is headed our way.

Recent major earthquakes around the "ring of fire" remind us that we live in a seismically active place. But one location not too far away is also subject to significant quakes, and that is

More Mars Schmoozing 7.30.18

by David Almandsmith
 
Greetings,

Always something new in science. Scientists studying data from a ground-penetrating radar experiment, put into orbit around Mars by the European Space Agency, announced that a thin (<1 meter) layer of  liquid water apparently exists that is 20 kilometers wide and 1.5 kilometers below Mars' surface. If true, the significance is twofold. First, because that aquifer might have never been frozen in the billions of years since it formed, it might harbour living microorganisms that might have evolved during Mars' early history when it had oceans. ("Might" is used thrice in that sentence.) Second significance: the money spent by the European Space Agency might have resulted in a remarkable discovery. ("Might" is used only once in that sentence.)

Water on Mars? Well, actually, water is found almost everywhere on the planet, it just happens to be ice. At the south pole, thousands of square kilometers of water ice are exposed and even more area is coated with "dry ice", frozen carbon dioxide. In places, the polar water ice is over 3 kilometers thick. NASA has created a  

Shocking Acceptance of Woo on KQED

I was driving on 580 as Mina Kim hosted KQED’s Forum last Thursday. It was so shocking i had to pull off and park in order to give it my whole and incredulous attention. As Ms. Kim explained to NPR listeners, “We are looking at the surge in popularity of Astrology, Tarot, other practices, focusing on the magical, the inexplicable …”

Excuse us, Ms. Kim, but there ain’t anything magical or inexplicable to focus on. If indeed you know of anything “magical” or “inexplicable” there are scientists and doctors eager to check it out with you.

Later i listened to the entire hour-long podcast at www.kqed.org/forum and heard Mina Kim’s introduction:
In this hour we are going to look at the surge in popularity of astrology, tarot, herbalism and other practices focusing on the supernatural. Why young people seem particularly drawn to them. What’s driving the resurgence now? Companies have taken notice, perhaps you see more rose quartz in your home (indistinct) catalog. But we want hear from you as well. Do you use astrology, herbs, crystals, or tarot in your daily life and how or why?
This seems innocent enough, almost. We might expect the hour to include a sociologist, a psychologist, and maybe even a journalist. Well, we did get the journalist, Julie Beck who

Neuroscience and the Great Questions

(Any errors in this accountRansom StephensRansom Stephens are solely my fault - David Almandsmith)

SkepTalk by Ransom Stephens PhD on 14 January 2018

This SkepTalk combined science, mirth, and intellectual acumen; a genuine treat. Dr. Stephens brought the audience up to date with fruits of neuroscience research and melded them with an evolutionary perspective.

Dr. Stephens began by pointing out that neuroscience in some sense is self-referential - a case of the brain trying to understand itself.

He then warned against over-simplified ideas such as strict roles for the left brain versus roles for the right brain. There are indeed some differences in roles but...

there is some overlap in duties, especially since the brain evinces considerable plasticity. In the most general case, when you walk into a bar (!) the right brain checks for the unexpected - an acquaintance, a hungry leopard, etc. - without 'you' necessarily aware of the search. Any significant results of the search are passed off to the left brain and into your consciousness. Sort of. Neuroscience


A SkepTalk by Carrie Ellen Sager, J.D., Homelessness Program Coordinator, Marin County
14 December 2017Carrie Ellen Sager

An upbeat talk on homelessness? Well, the problem of homelessness in the Bay Area may border on intractability and underscores the failures of United States' political economics, but Ms. Sager's message, pace, tone, and even her smile made this a lively, enjoyable SkepTalk.

She organized her description of the challenges and successes of Marin County's homeless program by...

using false statements concerning homelessness and then debunking those statements using the results of dozens of peer-reviewed studies and using colorful anecdotes from the frontlines. A number of the false statements were ones that i thought were true before Ms. Sager tore them apart with data from recent research.

An example: "(most of) These people aren't from here, they just come for the services (and the weather)." The facts show differently. In Alameda County, 82% of homeless were living in Alameda County immediately prior to losing a place to dwell. In Marin County, 72%. In San Francisco, 69%. It takes


A SkepTalk by Susan Gerbic on 11 May 2017GSoW

We should all applaud Susan Gerbic's impossible mission: to keep Wikipedia free from promotions of pseudoscience. Amazingly, she has been remarkably successful due to her methods. She recruits volunteers to help in this mission, puts them through 'boot camp' so they know what to do and how to do it, and tracks everything that is accomplished.

Her cadre of recruits living around the world is the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, a.k.a. GSoW.

Because anybody can edit Wikipedia pages, making a change can...

be like poking a hole in a pond with your finger; those who have a financial or philosophical interest in disseminating falsehoods can whisk away your edits. There are, however, strategies to limit the forces of drivel.

The mere fact that you are reading this suggests you care about truth AND you have a few minutes out of the week when you could further this essential work. Join the GSoW and make a difference. Not only will you receive at-home training, you will receive ongoing mentoring. Send an email to GSoWTeam@gmail.com


A SkepTalk by Dr. Lauren Popov on 13 April 2017 Dr. Popov’s cheerful voice contrasted strangely with the horror of tuberculosis; indeed, she commented on that herself. However, her upbeat delivery and highly informative details kept me and the rest of the audience captivated throughout her presentation. She began by pointing out that:
  • Although the ebola virus outbreak that began in 2014 in West Africa killed about 9,000 people, a similar number of people die from tuberculosis every 44 hours
  • One-third of the world’s population is already infected
  • About 30,000 people become infected every day
  • Tuberculosis is strongly associated with poverty
  • It disperses through the air from coughing sufferers to infect others
  • Strains of tuberculosis continue to arise that are resistant to antibiotics
  • Most infected people remain asymptomatic for years
Dr. Popov hopes to understand how tuberculosis bacteria manage to avoid destruction by our disease-fighting macrophage cells. In fact, the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, live and multiply within our macrophages. Conducting her research on tuberculosis is both difficult and dangerous.
  • Tuberculosis bacteria grow and replicate very slowly which can make the simplest experiment last many months
  • Inhal

In God We Teach logo The Bay Area Skeptic’s SkepTalk of 8 August 2012 attracted a packed house and delivered a riveting program that included a one-hour documentary movie followed by the Skype presence of the movie’s principal character, Matthew LaClair. The story begins when Matt LaClair, a student at a suburban New Jersey public high school, hears his history teacher insert Christian proselytizing into his lessons. LaClair believed the teacher was doing this in the other classes he taught and probably had been for years. LaClair also believed that if he voiced an objection [on the basis of respecting the separation of church and state] the teacher would still continue proselytizing in other classes. Matt decided to bring a tape recorder to class and recorded what the teacher had to say about Jesus. [Teacher on tape] “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.” LaClair and his parents released the tape to the media

10:23 – Protesting Nothing?

The demonstrators wore white t-shirts with ???1023 Homeopathy: There???s Nothing In It??? emblazoned in blue. One demonstrator, Athena, had blue hair to match. We assembled at the corner of Franklin & California Streets10:23 T-Shirt: 10:23 T-Shirt in San Francisco with a banner & leaflets to protest the marketing of homeopathic ???remedies??? by Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens, and others. Similar and simultaneous demonstrations were taking place in 22 other cities on all seven continents around the planet. We passed out the small information leaflets, took pictures of each other, and chatted in uncharacteristically warm weather. Among the demonstrators were folk from The Exploratorium, the California Academy of Science, Atheist Nexus, Reason 4 Reason, East Bay Skeptics Society, two board members from the Bay Area Skeptics, miscellaneous skeptics, scientists, programmers, and students. At 10:23 AM, we all quaffed ???over-doses??? of homeopathic remedies ??? sort of. Since ???real??? homeopathic fake medicine costs ???r

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