Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

from the desk of Bob Siederer

Hello again fans of Science!

This Friday, NASA will turn off the Spitzer Space Telescope, ending a 16 year mission that produced significant contributions to our understand of the cosmos.  Discoveries include the study of hot Jupiters and the red dwarf Trappist-1’s seven tightly packed planets.  Spitzer will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, but not until 2021, at least.  Here’s more on Spitzer’s mission and legacy.  It has been a wonderful ride.

The birth of stars and planets is a sub-field of astrophysics where great discoveries have been made in the past few years.  Now scientists have discovered the structure connecting the stars in the Milky Way, called the Radcliffe Wave.

We’re already a month into 2020, but I want to look back a bit at Nature’s 10, people who mattered in all aspects of science in 2019.  While each of these people has made a huge contribution to their specific field, I’m stuck by their individual specialization.   What is it that drives some of us to focus our life’s work on (sometimes) narrow fields of study and research?

I’m sure many of you have ventured over to Santa Cruz or Pacific Grove at some point during a winter to look at the monarch butterflies wintering on the eucalyptus trees.  For the second straight year, the migrating insect is missing in critical numbers.  But long-thought views on the monarch’s migration patterns appear to be wrong, providing hope.

Today’s political climate and polarization has been driven, in large part, by disinformation, the deliberate spreading of false information.  Why does such a tactic work in some people?  Scientists try to answer that question.

Some research can only be conducted in very remote, harsh locations, such as Antarctica.  Working there presents structural challenges that don’t exist elsewhere on the planet.  So architects have to come up with some unique solutions to making habitats and research facilities there.

This last one could be a game changer.  Researchers have found a previously unknown T-cell that could be harnessed to treat all cancers.

As always, we encourage you to get out there and attend an event this week.  Here are my picks:

  1. Nerd Nite Silicon Valley: Space Junk & Internet Research – 01/28/2020 07:00 PM in San Jose
  2. DNA, Secrets & Inheritance – 01/30/2020 07:00 PM in San Francisco
  3. SLAC on Tap: A battery walks into a bar… – 01/27/2020 06:00 PM in Palo Alto

Have a great week in science!

Bob Siederer

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