from the desk of David Almandsmith
Hello science fans,
We live in interesting times. Actually, that could be said at any time in history.
The BIG topic this week is COVID-19, a.k.a. Coronavirus. I chatted with the head of communications at Zuckerberg General Hospital, and was surprised to learn there is a rampant rumor that chinese food carries the disease. Ouch! The most wide-spread absurd rumor is that COVID-19 is a virus engineered by Chinese scientists as a bioweapon but it accidentally escaped. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) suggested that conspiracy theory two weeks ago. How about the theory that the epidemic is actually caused by the roll-out of 5G networks rather than by a virus. Cures? Ah, quackery abounds. Try ingesting boiled garlic, vitamin C, or bleach. On second thought don’t. How about a vaccine? A conspiracy theory purports that the U.S. government has a vaccine but it is being kept secret! Back in January, one wing-nut website falsely claimed that already 2.8 million were infected and 112,000 had already died.
Don’t misunderstand me; this is a serious epidemic and may become a pandemic. My back-of-the-envelope guesstimate suggested that as many as 3 – 6 people out of every thousand worldwide might succumb to this disease before it is brought under control. Three quarters of the fatalities were older than 70, there have been no fatalities under 10 years of age, and the number of new cases in China has been tapering off.
What to do? You are a science fan and therefore have already sought legitimate advice — same as with any cold or flu: wash your hands frequently, rather than shaking hands use an elbow bump, stay home if you feel cold symptoms coming on, and if you must go into public places while feeling under the weather, wear a dust mask. Unfortunately, some cases of COVID-19 suggest people can infect others while still asymptomatic. Yikes! If “community transmission” becomes a major factor, then we’ll need to cancel public events and close schools for a spell. Hope not.
For general information, consult the Centers for Disease Control, CDC.
For data, go to the WolrdoMeter site.
For a map, go to Esri’s StoryMaps.
And now for something completely different: Neil deGrasse Tyson is coming to town! He will be in San José on May 11 and again on May 12 with a different talk. Tickets will sell out quickly.
My picks for the week:
Wonderfest: Ask a Science Envoy: Kids & AI, Parasites, Dark Matter – Monday 8pm, San Francisco
Odd Salon: Monumental – Tuesday 6:30pm, San Francisco
After Dark: Imprints – Thursday 6 – 10pm, explOratorium, San Francisco
Women in Science Nightlife – Thursday 6 – 10pm, Cal Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Pacific Flyway – Saturday 1 – 2:30, Menlo Park
No. You are not seeing double: both the California Academy of Science Nightlife and the explOratorium After Dark are on the same day at the same time – and i can’t choose between them! Someone ought to tell them to stop that nonsense, and schedule on different nights.
The Earth has a new Moon, a mini-Moon actually, that will be leaving us in April – if calculations are correct. It is called 2020 CD3 and is about the size of a pickup truck. Check out the orbiting 2020 CD3 is expected to follow. Dizzying.
Thanks to Putin (!!!), St. Petersburg has been protected from serious flooding 13 times since 2011. Flood threats come from winds across the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland funneling water at St. Petersburg. However, in the coming 100 to 150 years, sea level rise at St. Petersburg and along the 20,000 kilometers of coastline of the 13 countries around the Baltic & North Seas will require relocating 33 million people, thousands of cities and towns, and trillions of dollars of infrastructure to higher ground. Precious historical sites and architecture will be lost. ¿Would it be less expensive to simply dam up the Baltic & North Seas? Enter NEED, the Northern European Enclosure Dam, a duanting megaproject. From France to England: 160 kilometer-long dam. From the north shore of Scotland to the Orkney Islands to the Shetland Islands to Norway: 475 kilometer-long dam. Eventually the North & Balic Seas would become a freshwater lake. ¿Will it happen? Stay tuned.
Enjoy your week!
Bay Area Skeptics Board member
“What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”
– David Dunning, (1950 – ) Psychologist