Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

by Meenakshi Prabhune

Hello Schmoozers,

Hope you all had a great long weekend. I ended up visiting Maui, Hawaii, which is a gorgeous island with abundant natural beauty. What I find particularly interesting about islands is how isolation shapes local culture and biodiversity. We all know about Charles Darwin’s famous study of finches on Galapagos islands, but even today, island life can teach us a lot about evolution of physical and behavioral traits in plant and animal species.

A fun example around this very topic that had surfaced just a few years back. There is a specific population of Hawaiian crows, ‘Alalā, local to Hawaii, which are endangered. With only a 100 of the species left alive, researchers studied these crows in captivity to understand them better. That is how the researchers noticed the exceptional tool-using skills of these crows. Experimental videos showed how the Hawaiian crows skillfully picked up a right-sized stick to retrieve their food buried inside a hole in a log. The researchers working on this project made an interesting point about why this specific species might have developed tool usage; they say that island life is abundant in food, less threatened by predators, and overall more relaxed than mainland situations. This offers the birds luxury of time and a feeling of safety that perhaps mainland crows cannot afford. Isn’t it fascinating to see what amazing scientific facts we can learn from island life?

Switching gears, I want to highlight an everyday struggle for immigrants that maybe few U.S. citizens are aware of– visa. The U.S. visa is an alphabetical jumble, and not everyone is lucky enough to navigate it successfully. My recent write up sheds some light on how the visa situation impacts immigrant careers and diversity in workforce in the country. Although the article focuses on visa woes of science writers in particular, any immigrant working on a visa faces similar issues.

Last, but not the least, SkeptiCal is just a week away! For those of you who don’t know, SkeptiCal is a one-day conference for curious, science-loving people to learn about science and critical thinking in an informal setting. With a diverse range of topics and an impressive line up of speakers, this event is not to be missed. Here’s a registration link.

Here’s my pick of events for the week:

  1. Free First Wednesday at Bay Area Discovery Museum  9:00 AM  Wed  Sausalito
  1. After Dark: #SELFIE  6:00 PM  Thu  San Francisco
  1. Jazz Under the Stars  9:00 PM  Sat  San Mateo

Have a curious week ahead!
Meenakshi Prabhune (a.ka. Minu),
Science Writer & Journalist

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