Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Forward with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of David Almandsmith

Hello friends of science,
There is increasing evidence that a ninth planet exists way out there orbiting our Sun. (Apologies to Pluto, formerly the ninth planet but now considered to be a Kuiper Belt object.) Even if Planet 9 were five times the mass of Earth, as is estimated, it would be very difficult to find with our telescopes. Were it the same density as Earth, its diameter would be 1.7 times that of Earth, or 21,800 km (13,500 miles). A pair of astronomers suggest that we should not rule out the possibility that Planet 9 could be a primordial black hole (PBH). To be five times the mass of Earth, the black hole would be about 10 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter. Try finding that!
The Amery ice shelf in Antarctica just calved a new iceberg that’s about 32 x 52 km (20 x 32 miles) in size. That’s over 1600 square kilometers (630 square miles). ¿Another sign of climate change? No, according to scientists, but iceberg calving is expected to accelerate due to global warming.
At the opposite surface of our planet, scientists from 19 countries have set up a research station on a small (8.75 square kim) ice floe in the Arctic Ocean. They plan to maintain the station for an entire year to gather data to help model climate change. Pretty cool.
Hold the vodka. Russians have a reputation as the world’s heaviest drinkers but a World Health Organization report details a dramatic drop in their alcohol consumption with a concomitant extension in lifespan. I’ll toast to that.
Elon Musk recently presented specifics of the SpaceX Starship rocket and plans for its testing and missions, including missions to Mars. Musk also answered questions posed by representatives from Aviation Week, Ars Technica, NASA Spaceflight, the Washington Post, Space News, Space.Com, SpaceFlight Now, CBS News, et al. The video is 85 minutes long but you can skip about.
While on the subject of space travel, i went to see “Ad Astra,” the Sci-Fi movie featuring Brad Pitt, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones. I have no complaints concerning the plot (Heart of Darkness) and the special effects were excellent. However, the producers were totally uninterested in getting the science right. Example: the script has technicians on Mars sending a communication by laser to Neptune and receiving a response from Neptune less than a minute later. In fact, the minimum time for light to reach Neptune from Mars is four hours. They wasted a huge opportunity to teach a little science. I compiled a list of scientific and engineering inaccuracies too lengthy for the Schmooze. A shame.
On the subject of science accuracy, The Brennan Center for Justice published a damning report on “… how to curb political interference in government science and fix a broken appointments process.” A fascinating read that does not focus entirely on the current administration. For example, a word search for “Obama” had 70 hits, mostly positive but not entirely. Jimmy Carter was mentioned twice, Reagan 11 times, George H. W. Bush 4, Clinton 21, George W. Bush 27, and Trump 265 times.
¿Would you like to experience photons hitting your retina after traveling for millions of years? Here is an excellent opportunity in the North Bay to view the heavens through a 14-inch reflector telescope.
Picks for you:

  1. Chem trails, hollow earths, and other strange ideas – 7:30 pm Thursday, Berkeley
  2. An Evening With Dr. Jane Goodall – 6 pm Friday, San Francisco
  3. Marine Science Sunday: Creatures of the Deep – 11 am – 4 pm Sunday, Fort Cronkhite 

Live this week fully and wisely (if that’s not an oxymoron),
David Almandsmith
Bay Area Skeptics board member
“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together in the same world at peace.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), 32nd president of the United States

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