Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Shelter in Place with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Bob Siederer

Hello again Science fans!

My, what strange times these are!  Here at the Schmooze, we hope you are being safe, as we are.

Herb and I have been updating the calendar to show canceled events as we learn of them.  Some organizers are marking their events as such.  Some are just deleting the events from their websites.  A few are holding their events virtually.  And some aren’t updating at all.  We’ve been reaching out to those to see if we can get a confirmation. We suspect just about everything is canceled, and, even if it isn’t, you should be staying away from group gatherings.

Our practice is to keep canceled events on our calendar, marked as such.  For rescheduled ones, when we know the new date, we make a copy of the original event with the new date, but leave the original as is, but marked as rescheduled.  Our reasoning is that you may have looked at the event on the main calendar and decide later on that you want to revisit the listing.  If we deleted it, you would be left wondering if you had the wrong date in mind, or imagined it.  This way you know it was canceled or moved.

Several organizers have been archiving presentations online for years.  Now might be a good time to watch past lectures from the USGS or the Silicon Valley Astronomy series.  Many of the California Academy of Sciences Dean Astronomy lectures are available (in audio form only, unfortunately).  There are many others that you can find with a little research.

Are you familiar with Slow TV?  It is a streaming phenomenon where you can watch long, calming videos of various things, including a 9 hour cab ride from a train through Norway.  NASA is now live streaming the building of the Mars 2020 rover, called Perseverance.

“Perseverance” means persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.  This seems an apt name, not only for the rover, but for what we’re all going through these days.

Each time we build a new vehicle such as this, it gets larger than those that preceded it.  Here are some pictures to put Perseverance into perspective.

There’s a newfound comet, ATLAS, that is getting a lot of notice from astronomers, and it is getting bright very fast.  While it is difficult to predict just how bright comets will get, and there have been several disappointment in the past few years where comets didn’t act as predicted, this one shows promise.

The galaxy in which Earth lives is the Milky Way.  Most of the stars in the Milky Way orbit the center of the galaxy in a more or less flat plane.  But there are exceptions, and astronomers have found one, LHS 1815, a red dwarf, that really is the exception that proves the rule.  And it has a planet that, if you were on it, would give you a spectacular view of the Milky Way.  More details on this oddball here from Pill Plait, the Bad Astronomer.

We’re on the lookout for resources you can use during the COVID-19 pandemic to educate yourselves and your families on all sorts of science.  Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland has started “Learning Launchpad“, a virtual resource center for activities, videos, even music related to STEM.  Check it out, and subscribe to their weekly newsletter.  They promise much more content to come.

Nationally, one in four Americans is being told to stay at home, so far.  Expect that number to increase.  If you are looking for ways you can help others, there are plenty of opportunities

The New York Times is making most of their Coronavirus coverage available for free.  Today’s Morning Briefing (which is always free) has many more stories about aspects of this event.  National Geographic is also making their coverage available for free.

Aimed more at health professionals than the general public, The Lancet has put together a Resource Center with all COVID-19 articles from across their journals in one place.

It is often good to step back and gain some perspective on our place in the Universe.  This may help you deal with the day to day stresses of this crisis, and is a well written, reflective piece.

This video is one of the better summaries I’ve seen about COVID-19. 

You may have heard that you should not be taking ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) if you have COVID-19, but acetaminophen instead (Tylenol).  Like many claims being tossed around the internet, this one may not be correct.  There simply hasn’t been any research on this yet.  This, and other articles, come from McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, which has the wonderful slogan “Separating Sense from Nonsense”.   Another article from McGill details some thoughts from the front lines of medical professionals dealing with and treating the virus.

What about food and the virus?  And the latest from Scientific American.

You have no doubt heard about CRISPR, both here and in presentations and media.  Could CRISPR be used against the coronavirus?  Potentially, yes!  But it won’t be a quick solution.

You’ve also no doubt seen stories about health care workers pleading for more supplies.  The shop staff at the ExplOratorium (they build the exhibits), collected all of their personal protective equipment (PPE), including not only the ExplO’s supply, but some from home, and delivered it to San Francisco General Hospital, where these grateful staff posed with the donations.  Every little bit helps.
SF General Staff and donations
I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, “let’s be careful out there”.

Have a great week in Science!

Bob Siederer

Leave a Reply

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