Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing with Robots and Drones

from the desk of David Almandsmith

Greetings, friends of science,
Robots and drones are perennially in the news. Two of them caught my interest this week. This video of a person-sized robot has been viewed about 8 million times. This microswimmer is smaller than a human cell and is remotely controlled; it is aimed using a magnetic field and is propelled by ultrasound. Impressively, technology marches on.
If you watch TV, you’ve seen slick ads by Big Pharma and by the fossil fuel industry priming us to be more forgiving of their avarice. I stumbled upon this slick ad while browsing the Internet, but it is from NASA. I’m guessing they are preparing us for upcoming higher taxes for Project Artemis. I’d be more willing to support Artemis if it were an international effort rather than a showcase for ill-conceived ‘American exceptionalism.’ The ISS is a good example of a successful international collaboration. Just ask Andrew Morgan, Alexander Skvortsov, Christina Koch, Jessica Meir, Luca Parmitano, and Oleg Skripochka, who are currently in the ISS free-falling around the globe.
Finally, after a couple of years’ absence, I made it to the explOratorium this week. I was blown away by the fabulous offerings in the explOratorium’s gift shop: books, games, toys, clothing, fossils, minerals, jewelry, and much more. I came away with “A Moving Mechanical Wooden Automata” featuring a pilot in an ornithopter. Way cool. Christmas is coming. Just sayin’.
At dawn on Monday, Mercury will be in transit across the Sun’s disk until 10am. Don’t look without a sun filter and – because Mercury is so small – you will need a telescope. Bird-watching binoculars won’t cut it. I recently lost my telescope’s sun filter so i will be watching it on the Internet. There are several places you can go where telescopes will be set up for the transit. San José, Foothill College, and Oakland are a few.
Here are my picks for the week:

  1. Gene Therapy in Sickle Cell Disease – Tuesday 6pm, Palo Alto
  2. Neanderthals and Denisovans in Central Asia – Wednesday 7pm, San Francisco 
  3. Seaweed Soiree! an adult evening of seaweed, science, and art – Saturday 7pm, Sausalito
  4. Wonderfest: Regenerative Medicine – Sunday 2pm, Alameda

If Ada Lovelace, Emmy Noether, Maryam Mirzakhani, Cathleen Synge Morawetz, and Grace Hopper haven’t convinced you, then check out this study showing that girls’ and boys’ math aptitudes are similar.
¿How high was the sea level during the previous interglacial period? Ten meters higher than today according to this study. That 30-foot increase is very likely but probably won’t be reached for 200 years or more. However, just imagine the change in the world’s coastlines! You can manipulate sea level rise and see the effects at this NOAA site, but it is limited to a 10-foot rise. With 10 feet, San Francisco’s shoreline will reach Market and Montgomery. In Oakland it will reach Grand and Market Street.
¿Will you still be alive in 200 years? If you are under 30, there are many who believe you could live much more than 200 years. I’ll be satisfied to live long enough to see a kinder governmental attitude toward science.
Gary Bogue died recently. He was an outstanding advocate for wildlife, wrote a newspaper column, and was the former head of the Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital. Back in the 70s, Gary provided technical support, material support, and encouragement to Alice Berkner and me as we struggled to put the International Bird Rescue Center on a firm footing. One of my favorite times with Gary involved belaying him down a cliff face to check on a Prairie Falcon nest. At the edge of the sheer cliff, Gary politely offered me the chance to climb down first. My on-again off-again acrophobia asserted itself, so Gary clicked into the rope and sprightly descended the sheer cliff. A beautiful day; a beautiful experience; a beautiful memory of one of our best.
Another reminder for us to live fully.
David Almandsmith
Bay Area Skeptics board member
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”  – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Leave a Reply

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