Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982
Mt. Rainier, seen from the Puyallup Valley. Photo credit: USGS

Hello again Science Fans!

We’re in for a week of summer-like weather. While this isn’t unusual for the Bay Area, other parts of the country and world are experiencing record heat and other oddities. the Denver area was in the 80s one day this past week, followed by snow the next that broke numerous tree branches. In Spain, May is now the hottest month this century. The northeastern US endured their first heat wave of the season this weekend. India and Pakistan have seen temperatures over 100 degrees for weeks.

We can expect more heatwaves this summer, with more intensity. While it doesn’t often affect us here in the Bay Area, the Atlantic Hurricane Season starts June 1, and predictions are for an active season, partially due to the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico.

COVID-19 isn’t over. New subvariants keep popping up, although keeping track of them continues to be confusing due to the arcane naming conventions used by the powers that be. Here’s a primer on that. For those of us who are vaccinated, severe COVID is unlikely. Caseloads in the Bay Area are increasing, although hospitalizations are not. I know at least four people who have had one version of COVID or another in the past few weeks. At least for me, that’s new in that I haven’t known that many people that have been infected.

And if that isn’t enough to concern you, there’s monkeypox! If you are over 50, you probably had a smallpox vaccination in your youth, and that vaccination will protect you from monkeypox too. But the US stopped vaccinating the general population against smallpox in 1972.

In the fight against plastic polution, there is good news. A newly discovered enzyme can eat up plastics that take hundreds of years to degrade naturally in about a day.

I was in the Pacific Northwest this past week. The two days I was in Seattle were sunny and dry, making Mt. Rainier visible. A new study shows how dangerous this stunning Cascade volcano can be.

The James Webb Space Telescope continues to be fine tuned, but the images sent back to Earth as part of that adjustment process continue to amaze astronomers and the public alike with their clarity. This article shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, both from the Spitzer Telescope and the Webb. The difference between the two is astounding.

The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter has returned some stunning videos of our home star. What looks serene to us here on Earth is really a churning cauldron of storms and energy. Beautiful stuff!

Winter is coming, and Ingenuity, the helicopter experiment that has been flying on Mars for over a year, may have finally met its match. The Martian winter and accumulated dust on the helicopter’s solar panels have caused NASA to lose contact with it. Even if NASA can’t re-establish contact, Ingenuity has set records and achieved success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Have a great week in Science!

See a week’s worth of events here.

Leave a Reply

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