SciSchmoozing the Great American Solar Eclipse 8.21.17

Greetings Science Fans,

The solar eclipse day is here, and no matter where you are, I bet you are caught up in the excitement. Just yesterday, I heard that the Oregon airport is fully booked out; the air-traffic is so heavy that people with private planes had a tough time scheduling their landing. A traffic-jam of planes: now that's something!

For eclipse viewers: I know that a lot has been said already regarding the importance of ensuring safety by not looking (or pointing a camera) directly at the sun during an eclipse. But it always helps to reiterate: here's a great video from the Exploratorium's Paul Doherty regarding  how to safely watch a solar eclipse. I also want to add another point, which came up in my discussions with some friends: the sun is not EXTRA dangerous during an eclipse than it is on any other day. It's just that we don't normally stare at it, while that's exactly what you do during an eclipse. So, I hope you all have secured special glasses for viewing the eclipse. If not, you might need a backup plan —  make your own pinhole camera. In this case, you won't be looking...

directly at the sun but rather at its projection, so it's definitely safe.

I feel that science sometimes comes with its own drama. Some of you might have heard of CRISPR— it's a technique to edit specific genes that has been increasingly used in several research studies. You might remember reading controversial articles regarding resurrection of the  woolly mammoth using CRISPR some months ago. Now just a few weeks back, it made news again, as scientists  edited a disease-causing gene in a human embryo, raising concerns of ethics and safety. Although genetic research is progressing rapidly, I want to point out that the CRISPR gene-editing machinery is still at the basic stages, especially because the side-effects of using gene-editing machinery over long-term are not yet clear. So there you go — I think we are fortunately/unfortunately far from making 'designer babies' or resurrecting extinct animals.

Here are some cool events this week:

  1.  Partial Solar Eclipse Viewing Mon 9AM - Noon Oakland
  2.  Skeptics in the Pub Wed 7PM Millbrae
  3.  Full-Spectrum Science with Ron Hipschman: Lasers Thu 6PM - 10PM San Francisco

Lastly, the tragic events that occurred in Charlotteville last week were disturbing and shocking, following a dangerously familiar path, if history were any evidence. This Saturday, Boston and Mountain View, among other cities, witnessed anti-racism and anti-supremacy rallies to propagate the following message: love, not hate, will make America great again. It is heartening to know that several people openly resist this discriminatory ideology and are willing to act upon it. Seems like there is hope after all.

Have a curious weekend!
Meenakshi Prabhune (a.k.a Minu)
 Science writer and journalist

A quick note from the editor.
Paul DohertyPaul DohertyWe lost one of the great science educators ever last week with the passing of the Exploratorium's Paul Doherty. Since 1986, he's been a staff physicist there, training thousands of science teachers through their Training Institute, and developing new and novel exhibits and activities for the curious from K to grey. His smile is the first thing most will remember - that ear to ear grin showcasing boundless enthusiasm and energy. And that smile inspired millions more across the world.

Paul was a noted eclipse chaser and enthusiast. I encourage you to remember Paul when you look up tomorrow. The eclipse is a perfect send off to one of the greatest scientists and science educators I had the pleasure to meet.

You'll be missed, Paul.
-Kishore Hari

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