Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing to LEO

by David Almandsmith

Hello Science Fans,
Ripley rode a dragon with the help of a falcon to ISS. Parsing that out: Ripley the mannikin (named after the Sigourney Weaver character in the Alien movies) was loaded with sensors, strapped into a Dragon capsule developed by SpaceX, the whole shebang was rocketed into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) by a Falcon 9 rocket (also from SpaceX), and docked with the ISS (the International Space Station). But you probably already knew all of this. It’s still way cool and one of the last tests before Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsules take over the task of shuttling humans between LEO and ground.
“The idea that we force someone to give up their liberty for the sake of the collective is not based on American values but rather, Communist.” Hmmm. That statement was made by an Arizona lawmaker expressing her position that requiring people to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, chicken pox, rubella, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio is un-American. By that same logic, requiring people to get a driver’s license would likewise be un-American. The suggestion is circulating that we stop calling these folk “Anti-Vaxx” and start calling them “Pro-Plague”. The Governor of Arizona, however, has indicated he would not sign a bill to make avoiding vaccinations easier. And another lawmaker countered the anti-vaxxers with, “Don’t confuse passion for facts.
In some way it’s comforting that we enjoy free speech (along with most other nations, mostly) but …
¿Know someone with time on their hands? (Between nature walks, concerts, science talks, etc.) Yourself? Aunt Mattie? Rather than binge-watch Law & Order, do science research from home. Go to Zooniverse to find a project; anything from counting penguins in the Antarctic to classifying astronomical objects; from identifying animals caught on camera along the Tambopata River to transcribing documents from Shakespeare’s England. All from the comfort of your own domicile.
And even if you and Aunt Mattie do not have time on your hands, your computers can work around the clock in support of science via BOINC. No, i don’t mean Bonk, the wonderful book by Mary Roach. BOINC stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. Simple steps: pick out a science project from the BOINC website, download the software, and when your computer goes into ‘screen-saver’ mode it shifts into high gear helping researchers. BOINC automatically downloads data to your computer, your computer works on the data, and send the results back to BOINC. Years ago, i did this for SETI@Home until they ceased operations. Turns out that was only a temporary cessation. They’re back up providing datasets and my computer is happily looking for extraterrestrial radio signals. Cool.
Closer to home:

  1. OSIRIS-REx: NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Return Mission – Monday 7:30pm San Francisco
  2. Wonderfest: Expanding the Darwinian Revolution – Tuesday 7pm San Francisco
  3. The Power of the Placebo: Harnessing Placebo Effects to Improve Healthcare – Wednesday 6pm Palo Alto
  4. The Path of the Jaguar – Thursday 6:30pm Oakland
  5. Women in Tech: The Future of AI – Friday 11am Berkeley
  6. Hayward Fault Walking Tour – Saturday 9:30am Fremont
  7. Marine Science Sunday: The Big, The Small, and The Weird – Sunday 10am Marine Mammal Center, Marin Headlands

[Please note that several of the above involve the cost of admission and some offer a choice of time to get involved.]
Scientists are back to studying the geology in Midland Valley after a two-week hiatus. To appreciate this, you should know that Midland Valley is not in California but is on Mars. Curiosity Rover took an unexpected break from doing research when its systems went into “safe mode.” All seems back to what could be called ‘normal’ some 55 million kilometers away from the Bay Area.
Enjoy your week!
David Almandsmith
Bay Area Skeptics board member

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
—E.O.Wilson, Biologist (1929-)

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