Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Mooning the Schmooze

from the desk of Bob Siederer

Hello again Science fans!

With the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the Moon coming up July 20th, museums around the Bay are going all out to celebrate this monumental achievement.  When President Kennedy said we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, most of the technology to accomplish that feat had not yet been invented.  Yet on that July night, Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon.

This was one of those events where everyone who witnessed it can tell you where they were at the time.  I was home from college for the summer.  My parents woke me up to watch the event on TV, but I dozed off for the actual first step.  Of course, I got to watch the replay, but it wasn’t the same thrill as it would have been to see it in real time.

The moon will cause a total solar eclipse on July 2…but it will be visible in South America.  No need to travel all the way to Chile, however, as the ExplOratorium will be live streaming the event from the Cerro Tololo Observatory.

Here are my picks for this week:

  1. Nerd Nite East Bay: Apollo 11 Recovery, Art Deco, and radiopharmaceuticals – 06/24/2019 07:00 PM in Oalkand
  2. Diamonds are (not) forever: How blowing stuff up with lasers like a James Bond villain can teach us about the insides of planets – 06/25/2019 06:00 PM in Palo Alto
  3. USGS Fire Science: Understanding why wildlands burn and what can be done about it – 06/27/2019 07:00 PM in Menlo Park

Perhaps the biggest question mankind has is “are we alone in the Universe?”  Given the incredible number of stars in the universe, and the number of planets that must be orbiting around them, it seems unlikely that Earth is the only place life has existed.  As our technology improves, astronomers are able to directly image planets, not just infer their existence, and this provides some insight into just how unique our solar system may be. 

Two more earth-like planets have been found orbiting a star called Teegarden, just 12 light years away.  They are nearly identical to Earth in mass and exist in the habitable zone of Teegarden.

Closer to home, the elusive Giant Squid has been seen in the wild again, seven years after a first sighting.

The technology of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is pretty incredible, but many of the applications one reads about seem a bit theoretical to me.  Here’s one use that new parents the world over would find helpful…understanding a baby’s cry.

I was looking out my window last night and wondered what that bright object was in the sky.  A really great example of clever use of technology gave me the answer.  I simply pointed my smartphone at it after starting the app Sky Map and found it was Jupiter.  Saturn was also visible, off to the left and a bit closer to the horizon.  Sky Map is a wonderful example of using the technology in a smart phone for practical use.

Have a great week in Science!
Bob Siederer

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