Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

A follow-up SciSchmooze

Bob Siederer
24 June 2024

Hello again science fans!

This is the first SciSchmooze of the astronomical summer, what with the solstice having occurred this past Thursday. Different countries refer to the start of summer at different times, some May 1, Some June 1. In the US, we tend to say it starts on Memorial Day. The astronomical start is celebrated by some as Midsummer’s Day.

Last Wednesday was Juneteenth. What seems like a recent holiday has roots going back to 1865. Heather Cox Richardson explains the history, as well as efforts since then to get around the freedom Juneteenth represents.

I want to follow up on two stories I’ve writen about in the past.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about Jack Davis, a classics professor at the University of Cincinnatti, and a classmate of mine in college. Here’s a link to that SciSchmooze.

Jack has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, joining other members such as former US President John Adams, Noah Webster, of the dictionary Websters, playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, and George Clooney! Congratulations Jack!

The other story is from 6 months earlier and concerns Dr. Lindsey Doe. I was musing on clear communication in that newsletter and used Dr. Doe as an example of someone trying to effectively and clearly educate about sex. For her efforts she was harrassed and eventually moved out of the US, stopping her YouTube channel.

I’m happy to say that she’s back on YouTube and still staying curious, to quote her catch phrase. Her latest episode is on the status of sex education in the US legal and education system. It is well worth listening to what she has to say, although the numbers she quotes will probably make you angry.

The differences between states, and the things some states are prohibited from teaching are mind boggling. The old phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind. I can’t think of any area of life where being ignorant of something is a benefit. Certainly not sex! This may be one, big country, but where you live is a big factor in how much you are taught, not only about sex, but history, race, and other subjects.

I’ve written before about the issues with Voyager 1 and how problems in its computer memory caused the probe to start sending back nonesense. Well, NASA has fixed it. This is a study in perseverence and pluck…and 46 year old technology!

Edward Stone was a physicist who oversaw both Voyager missions. He passed away last Wednesday, at the age of 88. Hopefully he saw the team supporting the Voyager missions success in reviving the spacecraft before he passed.

Astronomers have been watching a here-to-fore quiet galaxy suddenly come alive, with ultraviolet, optical, and infrared light coming from it. It is roughly 300 million light years away from oearth. Suddenly, it has begun emitting X-ray light, and it is believed we’re watching a black hole coming to life. The reality is this happened 300 million years ago in earth time, but it is still fascinating.

For 40 years, another group of astronomers has searched for the remains of supernova 1987A. Now, using the James Webb Space Telescope, that mystery has been solved.

The Chandra X-ray telescope’s mission is in jeopardy, due to funding cuts. The XRISM spacecraft, which also looks at the X-ray portion of the spectrum, is hampered by a stuck door. This combination hampers space exploration.

Here’s an article on the spread of COVID-19, and how climate change, specifically increases in CO2 in the atmosphere we breathe, made it worse.

Lastly comes this report that wild African elephants may identifiy each other by “name”, using unique calls to refer to specific elephants. Calling Dr. Dolittle!

Have a great week in Science!

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