Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The Past and Future SciSchmooze

from the desk of David Almandsmith

New Year’s Day is Wednesday! ¿But why is it not on a scientifically logical date? Ancient Greece, for example, celebrated the New Year on the winter solstice. Blame it on the Romans. Starting in 153 BCE, the Roman calendar designated January 1st as the beginning of the new year but there was no protocol to keep it aligned with the stars. The Julian and Gregorian calendars also kept it as January 1st. In some places, the New Year is still related to astronomical events: (A) the Chinese New Year begins on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February; (B) the Persian New Year is celebrated at the spring equinox.
In the United States, you are likely to hear the song Auld Lang Syne at the New Year. If you are in Japan, you are likely to hear Nanakusa Nazuna (Seven Herbs, Shepherd’s Purse) and Beethovan’s Ninth Symphony. In Ukraine, Shchedryk (Carol of the Bells). In Persia (Iran) there are many songs to celebrate Nowruz, after all, it is celebrated for an entire week. In Bangladesh, Eso He Boishakh Esho Esho.
If you expect to imbibe booze on New Year’s Eve, check out this report first. Once upon a time, studies indicated that having one or two alcoholic drinks a day appeared to boost good health. Newer studies have not shown that advantage. This does not mean I will forego my one beer with dinner. 
This is the time for “top ten” lists. Here is a list of the 2019 top 10:

This is also the end of the decade. Here is a list of 10 top science stories of the last 10 years.
My last list is a look into the crystal ball for top 10 science stores of the coming year.
Scheduled science events this week are, understandably, at a minimum. Here is one that i strongly suggest attending: After Dark: Happy Place from 6-10pm Thursday at the explOratorium in San Francisco. Consider buying a year-long pass rather than a one-night ticket. Also, don’t pass up their superb store.
As the future becomes the past, the magnetic north pole moves. When i started flying single-engine airplanes out of Oakland airport, the runways were number 27 and number 9. Today they are 28 and 10 since their compass directions have changed from approximately 270 and 90 degrees to nearer 280 and 100 degrees.
Looking back a hundred million years, we’ve learned that feathered dinosaurs had feather lice, just as with today’s birds.
Looking to the future and the past, commuting at supersonic speeds may again become an option.

  • The Concorde SST carried passengers at twice the speed of sound but only over oceans since it created sonic booms strong enough to rattle dishes and people on the ground. NASA thinks it has a solution and is currently building a prototype supersonic jet that may only create sonic “thumps.” We may once again travel faster than the time of day.
  • Hyperloop plans continue. Robert Goddard, known for developing the liquid-fueled rocket, invented the hyperloop in 1904; a concept he named the “vactrain.” ¿Will supersonic vactrains become a reality? Don’t hold your breath. (It would be odd sitting in a ‘train’ with overhead oxygen masks.) 

Live this week joyfully and responsibly,
David Almandsmith
Board member, Bay Area Skeptics

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
Charles Darwin

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