Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982


by David Almandsmith

Hello again, thoughtful friend of thinking (¿or is it thinking friend of thought?),
 
Once upon a time (¡spoiler alert: fairy tale follows!) taxonomy neatly divided life into two kingdoms:

  • PLANTS and ANIMALS.

Oops. Well dang, these microscopic things don’t have a nucleus so let’s make it three kingdoms:

  • BACTERIA, PLANTS, and ANIMALS.

You probably see where this is going. Today, largely because of genetic studies, there are three recognized domains (Bacteria, Archaea, & Eukaryota), six super-kingdoms of Eukaryota, and oodles of kingdoms. Heck, we animals (Kingdom Animalia) are placed under super-kingdom Opistokonta lumped in with fungi (huh?) ¿Did i say six eukaryote super-kingdoms? Folks at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia recently reported the need to add a seventh super-kingdom to Eukayota for single-cell predators called hemimastigotes. Stay tuned.
 
One of my first “grown-up” books was an illustrated Song of Hiawatha about a fictional Ojibwe Indian and his love, a Dakota Indian, Minnehaha; equally fictitious. (There was a real Hiawatha, an historically significant Iroquois Indian.) In Greenland (now there’s an oxymoron!) is Hiawatha Gletscher (Glacier). You can see a tongue of the glacier flowing from a curiously circular area of ice. That circle is now reported to be a 31km diameter impact crater from an asteroid that was about 1.5km (about a mile) in diameter. Imagine that asteroid sitting placidly in San Francisco Bay, its top surface at 5,000 feet! Now imagine it striking Earth at 20km per second (that’s about 45,000mph). ¿When did this happen? Possibly just tens of thousands of years ago; more study is needed. One conclusion from scientists reporting this, “(the) impact very likely had significant environmental consequences in the Northern Hemisphere and possibly globally.” Bottom line: impacts are not good for your health; that’s why we continue to search for NEOs.
 
Another health concern was recently outlined by the American Public Health Association: law enforcement violence. There is now enough data from research to show the negative consequences of physical and psychological violence that is “mediated by the system of law enforcement” especially on certain populations. I suggest you read this relatively short statement put together by some very bright people who represent the world’s largest organization of public health professionals.
 
On Black Friday, the U.S. government released the Fourth National Climate Assessment prepared by over 300 federal and non-federal scientists. It ain’t good, folks, but we’ve known that for years. Here is a perspective from the BBC. Be certain to click on the bullet points for a breakdown of issues in the Assessment.
 
My picks for the week:

 
Nerd Nite East Bay is fun! Take your choice of sitting around a table with others, or sit in a chair theatre-style, or sink into a comfy couch. Food can be purchased, there’s a full bar including micro-brews on tap, and enter a contest if you please. The talks are always top-notch and entertaining. Nerd Night SF is also great, just not as roomy and comfortable.
 
Another Mars probe nail-biter happens Monday (26 Nov) at noon PDT when InSight attempts a safe landing. The CubeSats that launched with InSight, Wall-E and EVE, will (hopefully) relay data of InSight’s landing. (Officially, the CubeSats are MarCO-A and MarCO-B but their NASA team refers to them using character names from a Pixar movie.) InSight Lander will monitor marsquakes, measure heat flow from Mars’ interior, and measure wobbles in its axis of rotation. Data will reveal much about Mars’ interior and how that compares to cousin Earth.
 
Let the rain refresh the earth and our spirits,
David Almandsmith
Board member, Bay Area Skeptics (psst, click on this link to reach Amazon Smile)
 
“In externals we advance with lightning express speed, in modes of thought and sympathy we lumber on in stage-coach fashion.”
Frances Elizabeth Willard, 1839-1898, W.C.T.U. founder and a major player for women’s suffrage, prison reform, and labor reform.


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