Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Schmoozing with the Burning River

by Bob Seiderer

Hello again Science fans, and welcome to another edition of the SciSchmooze.

Cleveland, Ohio.  What sort of image does that conjure in your mind?  A sports haven?  Rock and roll?  Birthplace of Bob Hope?  How about an incredibly polluted body of water?  The Cuyahoga River begins its journey some miles east of Cleveland, near Lake Erie.  It doesn’t flow directly to the lake there, rather flowing south, then west through Akron, then north through a National Park that bears its name until finally emptying into Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland.  It was there in 1969, that the river famously caught fire.  Randy Newman wrote a song about it.

How can a river burn?  Dump enough pollutants into a river and you will find out.  The Cuyahoga had quite a polluted history.  It had burned before, but 1969 was to be the last time.  That incident led to the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fifty years later, the Cuyahoga is thriving.  It has been cleaned up and is a centerpiece of downtown Cleveland, with parks, restaurants, entertainment, and yes, industry along its banks.  It is a great example of environmental recovery.  This story details some of that history.

I mention this because I fear for recovery efforts such as this one in the future.  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see another article about the current administration rolling back environmental protections that were hard fought and won in the years since the river caught fire.  While the courts have blocked many of these actions, we must all remain vigilant.  You may not be able to have a direct impact on these rules, but you can, and must, vote when given the opportunity.  Lets not go back to the days when rivers could burn.

The Earth is about as close to Jupiter as it gets, and you may be able to see some of Jupiter’s detail with the naked eye this month.  Even if you have to use magnification, it is worth a look.

Despite conflicting messages regarding our quest to explore other bodies in the heavens, NASA continues to develop a helicopter that might fly on Mars.  Given the characteristics of the Martian atmosphere, that would be quite a feat!

Closer to home, the town of Hesperia was ground zero for a swarm of Ladybugs so large it showed up on radar!  Ladybugs are beneficial in that they eat aphids.  Here’s a link to the radar image.

Irene Peden should have a movie made about her life and discoveries.  While that may not happen, her name now graces a line of cliffs on Antarctica.  How times have changed!

Lastly, here are my picks for the week:

  1. Conversations About Landscape: Living With Fire in a Changing Climate – 06/12/2019 06:00 PM at the ExplOratorium in San Francisco
  2. Conversations About Landscape: Living With Fire in a Changing Climate – 06/12/2019 06:00 PM in Pacific Grove
  3. Our Journey Toward Mars – 06/15/2019 07:30 PM in San Jose

Have a great week in Science!

Bob Siederer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *