Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

by Meenakshi Prabhune

Hi Science lovers,

It’s a good time for me to write the Schmooze. Last week was Biophysics week, as declared by the Biophysical Society. A biophysicist at heart (my Ph.D. was in this subject), I used to participate by writing relevant articles on my blog. This year, I could not find the time to do this, so I will insert in some fun facts here.

Now, I do know the most common reaction when people hear the term biophysics–it sounds complicated. I will admit this; it does sound complicated. But it is not necessarily so. Biophysics is just looking at biology from a physics point of view. To see if we can find defined patterns in what seems to be a general chaos in biology.

Let me give you a few day-to-day examples. Now that spring is upon us and lovely wildflowers are blooming everywhere, I got out of hibernation and went for a hike yesterday. The glorious views of wildflowers, Bay, and migratory birds presented some good examples. Anyone who has seen flocks of birds in flight has surely noticed their mesmerizing formations. Is there a minimum and maximum number of birds that can fly together in a flock? Are there optimum formations that help the flight of birds, and do they stick to those? These are few of the questions that a biophysicist might ask when it comes to studying flying patterns of birds.

Along the same lines, biophysicists are also looking at the process of migration itself- how do birds use the Earth’s magnetic field for maintaining their direction? Can external fields influence them? I could go on, but you see the point. It doesn’t seem as complicated when you think about it in terms of everyday questions, and you might actually enjoy learning about biology from a different perspective.

Before I go on to upcoming events, here’s a thought. Tomorrow is April Fools’ day. Now, while I love a good prank, I do hope science communicators won’t try to trick people through fake science articles. The reason is simple; sure, people might be fooled, that’s great. But maybe few of them might not realize it was a joke and believe the misinformation. In the age of fake news, accidental spreading of misinformation would be a joke on the communicators rather than the public. On the same lines, I read something sensible on this topic. The public should also be critical about news all days of the year, not just on April 1st. This vigilance is one way they can just be more aware about what they believe or not.

That brings me to my top events of the week:

  1. The Water will Come  7:30 PM Tue  San Francisco 
  2. After Dark: Throwback Thursday  6:00 PM Thu San Francisco 
  3. Silicon Valley Skeptics in the Pub  7:00 PM Fri  Sunnyvale 

Last, but not the least, today is the last day for the early bird discount register for SkeptiCal, a day-long science and skepticism conference with speakers and discussions on critical thinking. Get your tickets now!
Stay curious,
Meenakshi Prabhune (a.k.a. Minu)

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