Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Ringing in the SciSchmooze

from the desk of David Almandsmith

Greetings friends of science,
A little bit of rain and what have we got: Mushrooms! The fascinating flurry of fungi can best be enjoyed at fun fungus events:

¿Are there fungi on Mars? The Mars 2020 Mission might be able to determine whether life exists or once existed on Mars and you can watch the Rover being built in real time. (Warning: often nothing much is happening except for specialists in coveralls conferring with one another.) The whole shebang will depart Florida for Jezero Crater (or Columbia Hills or NE Syrtis) in late July or early August.
Betelgeuse just became noticeably dimmer and it is the nearest star in its last stages before going supernova. ¿Time to worry? Not according to Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer.
Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine have found a way to stop Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, in mice. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis results from the expression of a mutated gene and is inevitably fatal. There are about 2,500 new cases a year in the U.S. Gene expression can be stopped by designing a “short hairpin RNA,” shRNA, that gloms onto the target gene. The roadblock has been successfully delivering shRNA to cells in the central nervous system. The folks at UCSD succeeded at delivering a designer shRNA to the CNS of mice with ALS, stopping disease progression. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of ALS, the disease that killed Stephen Hawking.
Add alcids to the group of tool-using animals. Puffins have been observed scratching themselves with a stick. We can also add pigs. (I’m putting a padlock on my table saw.)
Kudos to International Bird Rescue in Cordelia/Fairfield. Twenty-three years ago they responded to an oil spill in Alaska and cleaned and released about 200 sea birds. One of those birds, a King Eider, was found recently deceased. This bird was identified by a metal leg band that was put on by International Bird Rescue staff back then. This is yet another incidence of birds living a long life after being cleaned by IBR. I’m proud to say that with the support of Gary Bogue, I was the first at IBR to be granted a Federal Master Station Banding Permit.
Picks of the week:

  1. The Science of Earthquakes – Tuesday, 6:30pm, San Francisco
  2. King Tides Bird Walk on Cerrito Creek – Saturday, 10:30am, Albany
  3. Fly Me to the Moon: Fantasy Flights to the Moon – Saturday, 7:30pm, Oakland

Whether a person accepts that we are in the midst of serious climate change has little relationship to their education. ¿How do we communicate with deniers? Here are a few pointers.
Enjoy your week and expand your circle of empathy, if only a little.
David Almandsmith
Board member, Bay Area Skeptics

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.”
Neil Gaiman, author (1960 – ) the entire Calendar.

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