Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

First SciSchmooze of Spring

by Bob Siederer

Hello again Science fans, and welcome to spring.  I know, it doesn’t feel very different, but the Equinox was on March 20.

Spring brings us longer days, more outdoor activities, but still provides many, many science-oriented talks.  In the next week we have, what seems to me, more excellent ones to pick from than usual.  And that’s saying something.  My picks this week include:

  1. Accelerating Discoveries through Genetic Data – 03/25/2019 03:30 PM, the SLAC colloquium in Menlo Park with Anne Wojcicki
  2. Wonderfest: ‘Chasing Einstein’, Dark Matter – 03/26/2019 07:45 PM in St. Helena
  3. taste of science: Sleep and space exploration – 03/27/2 019 07:00 PM In Palo Alto
  4. Science Saturday: Bees, Wasps, Honey, and Hives – 03/30/2019 10:00 AM in Pacific Grove

In addition, there are several events celebrating women in science, two opportunities to preview “Hostile Planet“, a new series from National Geographic at the Lawrence Hall of Science (Sat. and Sun), and a new planetarium series of talks at De Anza College in Cupertino.

No matter where on the science spectrum your interests fall, there’s something for you in this weeks list.

If you are considering going to SkeptiCal on June 9 this year, listen up. You have until March 31 to buy tickets at the super advance price.  Prices go up on April 1, again on May 1, and again at the door.   The discount is significant.  Check it out here.  We’ll keep reminding you about SkeptiCal between now and the conference itself.

Back on March 4, Herb and I (and a couple hundred other people) attended the latest in the Dean Lecture Astronomy series at the California Academy of Sciences.  The speaker this particular night, Daniella DellaGiustina, was an enthusiastic member of the OSIRIS_REx mission team and explained what has happened with this mission so far and what is planned for the next several years.  This mission is the first US attempt to retrieve a sample from the surface of an asteroid and return it to earth for examination.  Asteroid Bennu just so happens to cross Earth’s orbit, so it is a potential hazard.  It was a fascinating talk, but since then new news about Bennu has come out…it is being orbited by tiny moons, the first such asteroid to be discovered.

Meanwhile, back here on Earth, paleontologists discovered another first…a fossil of a bird with an unlaid egg.

From the department of things you probably never think about comes this item.  How do fish survive in the cold waters of the Antarctic without their blood freezing?  They make their own antifreeze.  And in an amazing discovery, some fish in the Arctic were found to have developed the same ability independently.  Christina Cheng has spent 20 years researching this mystery.  I don’t know about you, but if I worked 20 years on a puzzle and finally solved it, my first thought would probably be, “now what do I do?”

Speaking of eggs, are you confused about their health effects?  These are one of those things that we were told were bad to eat too much of due to their cholesterol content.  Then we were told they were OK, even beneficial.  Now there’s more confusing news.  Hopefully this will straighten you out.

Eggs are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  A recent personal health development has caused me to examine what I eat, and don’t eat.  In researching things on the web, I found a huge amount of conflicting information about what was good for me.  One site says “eat all you want of this”.  The next site says that same food is bad for you and should be avoided at all costs. 

The truth, I’m finding, is somewhere in between.  And the government organizations that should be making useful nutritional information available to us are failing.  Do you look at nutrition labels to compare quantities of calories, cholesterol, carbohydrates, sodium and other nutritional components among food choices?  I didn’t, but I do now, and the information is misleading, at best.  Each manufacturer is apparently free to set the size of a serving to suit their needs.  If they make the serving small enough, it looks like their food is healthier than it really is if you eat a “normal” amount.  I mean, who eats one slice of bread for a sandwich?  Yet that’s the serving size most bread bakers put on their labels.  This seems like an area crying out for standardization.  My solution was to see a registered dietician, someone who’s job it is to know all this stuff.

Lastly, just in case you were thinking of visiting the French island of Mayotte for vacation, you might want to read this first.

Have a great week in Science.

Bob Siederer

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