Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing into Orbit

from the desk of David Almandsmith

Greetings, All,
I just watched Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken gain an amazing amount of kinetic energy as they rode a commercial rocket up to the ISS. Just before the 2nd stage rocket engine shut down, I noted that they were gaining a bit more than 100 km/hr every second.  My slide rule says that is about a 3g acceleration; more than my electric motorcycle delivers. After rocket shutdown, they deployed their Dragon Capsule “Zero G Indicator”, looking remarkably like a shiny toy dragon. (As an airplane pilot, I just watched my pencil float about the cabin.) [The Dragon Capsule docked with the ISS about 19 hours later.]
Orbital trivia: Imagine a non-rotating planet the size and mass of Earth but cold throughout and without an atmosphere. Now imagine yourself in a space suit jumping into a wide pipe that goes down through the center and opens on the opposite side of the planet. You will fall with increasing velocity until you reach the center and then with decreasing speed until you just barely reach the opposite side. That took 45 minutes. You don’t stop there. You let yourself fall back to where you started. Your entire trip took 90 minutes; the same time it takes an LEO satellite to complete an orbit around the Earth. ¿Coincidence? Not at all. To understand why, let me recommend A Journey into Gravity and Spacetime by John Archibald Wheeler. (Note: there is much in the book that is way over my head.)
“Science Friday” took off its gloves and attacked the current administration for harming the environment and for being anti-science. The program is called, “Degrees Of Change: Regulatory Rollbacks.” (The first 14 minutes cover other miscellaneous yet interesting topics.) I did not find any responses from the White House. Perhaps they are not aware of Science Friday.
The previous issue of the SciSchmooze sported a link to news about an odd Trojan satellite of Jupiter. Since then, astronomers deduced that it is instead a “Jupiter- family comet.” Reminds me of a comment by Ed Yong of the “Atlantic” who describes science as an “erratic stumble toward ever less uncertainty.”
Fun info: A ‘Dumbo’ octopus was found much deeper than octopuses had ever been seen before.
My pick for live streaming events of the week:

I’m certain you are aware of large projects to build electricity-generating wind turbines off of various coasts. (¿Is this because real estate is cheaper there?) The German company, SinnPower, figured that as long as you have off-shore infrastructure for wind power, why not use wave power generators? Heck, why not also add solar power.
Genie Scott steered me to the McGill University Office for Science and Society. I particularly like the first 5 minutes of their video about aerosol transmission of COVID-19. We all know that Louis Pasteur helped establish the germ theory of diseases and had something to do with Pasteurizing milk. I learned so much more in this brief summary of Pasteur’s accomplishments. The McGill OSS also has this enjoyable short video on epidemiology.
Enjoy this week. Whatever your situation, there are always opportunities for compassion and for frivolity.
David Almandsmith
Member, Bay Area Skeptics board
“There is a clear relationship between income and life satisfaction. But it’s not the only thing that matters. In particular, you know what also makes a major contribution to the quality of life? Not dying. And when we take the value of not dying into account, the rush to reopen looks like a really bad idea, even in terms of economics properly understood.”
Robert Reich, Economist (1946 – )

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