Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

by Herb Masters

Greetings Fans of Understanding,

Often it seems as if things slow down around the time of the Winter Solstice.  Various religious holidays lead us to reflecting on the lives of our friends, family, and ourselves.  In years past writing the SciSchmooze, the science news has seemed to be a reduced.  I’m not feeling that this year.  It seems that there is a lot going on in science news both out of this world and well within it. 
Let’s start with a bit of seasonal applied science and citizen science to go with it. 

Embedded in all of the discussion about sea level rise, I find the tides to be very intriguing.  King Tides are coming: December 22 and 23, and again on January 20 and 21, 2019.    I think we take them for granted and fail to notice how much variation there is in what they look like.  Consider the tides Sun 12.9 in San Francisco and Redwood City…  High tide in Redwood City occurred 1 hr 2 min after San Francisco.  Low tide occurred 1 hr 47 min after San Francisco.  The difference in height was even more amazing to me.  In Redwood City the difference between high and low was 13.2′ and in San Francisco it was 7.1′.  If you are interested in other locations check out Tides Near Me.  Check out some of the opportunities to observe or participate with the upcoming tides at the California King Tides Project

Of course there are many things happening above our heads as well.  Adam E. at the explOratorium has put together a list of astronomical events to check out.  Check some of these out if the skies are clear…
Geminid Meteor shower peaks December 13/14  My sentimental favorite meteor shower
Comet 46P/Wirtanen ‘peaks’ December 16 ‘claims’ of the brightest of the last 20 years
Total Lunar Eclipse January 20  See video of last time that happened here
Neptune near Mars  Allegedly visible with 10x binos; I couldn’t see it though. YMMV. 
InSight pics from surface the first were cool, but not only are there more, there’s sound!
Osiris-Rex approaches Bennu That sentence is not science fiction…

Shifting way down in the size range there is much talk about “CRISPR” in the recent news.  Minu wrote about some of the CRISPER news from China here at the SciSchmooze recently.  I must say that bioscience has always been tough for me to grasp.  Here’s something that I came across recently that helped me get some of what it is about…  CRISPR-Cas 9 Mechanism & Applications  Maybe it will help you if you have questions. 

Of course there are great reasons to get away from the monitor and go learn new things with other people this coming week.  Here are a few that I think warrant some special attention. 

  1. December LASER Event – Stanford  Mon 7:00 Stanford
  2. Thursday Dec 13 is just too packed to grok!
  3. China Camp Village Talk: King Tides!  Sat 4:30 San Rafael

One more shout-out to point you to the BAHFest with Bay Area Skeptics.  It promises to be an entertaining and informing evening!  There’s still time to submit your presentation! 

There have been some great science based series through the years on television or on-line.  A lot of us saw Cosmos (one or both versions).  Many are not so well known but still available on line such as The Feynman Lectures or Connections.  We tend to think that resources like these will remain available or be rediscovered.  While there is hope for any of them it isn’t a given that it will happen.  Philip Morrison was one of the outstanding scientists of the 20th century.  Now, thanks to the official Loose Canon at the explOratorium, The Ring of Truth has been resurrected.  It has only been available if you had a VHS VCR and managed to find the tapes.  It is really worth a viewing. 

There are a lot of listings above that take a lot of time to really enjoy.  Here are few links that won’t take so long to enjoy but I hope they will inspire you and make you think… Not Just a Pretty Face or a mascot.  How about art using math and simple lines?  Wondering about how to deal with February 14th

So have you thought about where we are going to do in the future?  How will humanity put all that we learn from science to use?  Is there hope we’ll survive ourselves?  Here’s a great read to reflect on…  On the Best Use of Science to Safeguard Humanity

Have a great week of wonder and learning.
herbert a. masters III
ScienceSchmoozer and a shameless promoter of:
the SciSchmooze email list: 

“The creative scientist studies nature with the rapt gaze of the lover, and is guided as often by aesthetics as by rational considerations in guessing how nature works.”  Albert Einstein

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