Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing from Here to There

by David Almandsmith

Hello science fans,
I was asked, “What do you believe in?” Huh? That tripped me up because i believe that i don’t believe. After some thought i arrived at the conclusion that i provisionally accept things, or at least i try to avoid solidifying my attitudes around ideas where the evidence is inconclusive. Yes, the Earth is mostly spherical. Yes, there was a Big Bang, given its powerful predictions that align with observations. Yet, if some future counter-theory is developed that does an even better job of describing our observations, i’ll abandon the Big Bang for the new theory. That’s science.
And then there are those who invest themselves in notions regardless of the evidence; such as a flat Earth, chemtrails, vaccine harm, a 9/11 conspiracy, homeopathy, faked moon landings, psychic powers, creationism, UFOs, and so on, ad nauseum.  We need to understand the rise of anti-science elements in order to find a way forward. That’s why i encourage you to attend this year’s SkeptiCal at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, even if it’s just to better understand your wacko brother-in-law. The program is top notch and the tickets are rock-bottom.
New York City was utterly destroyed by an asteroid last week in a simulation exercise. Sodom and Gomorrah were not so lucky; apparently a real air-burst asteroid wiped those cities off the map around 1700 BCE in an area known as Middle Ghor. The event was similar to the Tunguska event of 1908. You can read a story about it in the Old Testament of the Bible, Genesis 19.
This last week had a jawbone revelation; not the jawbone Samson used but a 160,000 year-old jawbone from a distant cousin, a Denisovan, found in a Tibetan cave. A complex story is unfolding about Neanderthals, Denisovans, and we Homo sapiens. Stay tuned as we learn more.
Thousands of images from the Hubble Space Telescope were stitched together to make yet another Deep View of galaxies beyond our Milky Way. This image, called the Hubble Legacy Field, was released last week. Roughly 260,000 galaxies can be seen in this 118 megabyte image although it covers only 0.00075% of the sky. Grabbing my slide rule, that works out to about 34 billion galaxies could be seen by Hubble if our own darn galaxy were not in the way. And a more powerful space telescope is coming.
There is so much great geeky stuff happening this week around the Bay. My picks:

  1. David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth – Monday Noon, San Francisco
  2. After Dark at the explOratorium: Designed by Data – Thursday 6 – 10PM, San Francisco
  3. Mori Point Biodiversity Walk – Friday 10AM, Pacifica

Sadly, the person who played Chewbacca died last week. Peter Mayhew’s hairy tall android character delighted a generation and more. Mayhew, who was 221cm tall, died at age 74.
May the Force be with you,
David Almandsmith
Board member, Bay Area Skeptics
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
—Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian biochemist and author

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