Home » Blogs »

David Almandsmith

SciSchmoozing Extinction & Life

Thylacine - Credit: Al Jazeera

Thank you, dear reader, for joining us again and for your kind comments.

Christmas Island Rat, Wooly Mammoth, Passenger Pigeon, Thylacine (a marsupial: carries newborns in a pouch). These animals are extinct but efforts are currently underway to “bring them back.” In each case, researchers are compiling the complete genomes of the extinct animals using frozen carcasses and museum specimens. This 26-minute video on current efforts to de-extinct the Thylacine is fascinating and well-crafted. Personally, i question efforts to de-extinct the Passenger Pigeon. It traveled in flocks numbering in the hundreds of millions that stripped crops and orchards and left towns covered in Passenger Pigeon poop. Best of course is to

SciSchmoozing into 2023

An option in 2023?

Happy New Year, science fans. Thank you for joining me today.

As technology promises better and longer lives, the ‘situation on the ground’ is dismal for much of the world’s 8 billion people - but over the long arc of history, “it’s getting better.” As we and our neighbors and our children tune into how alike we all are - emotionally and physiologically - caring for ‘strangers’ becomes easier. I’m expecting 2023 to show progress in this regard. Consider this for a New Year’s Resolution: I will increase the range of people that I consider to be coequal with myself, deserving of the same rights, dignities, and protections. (Tim Minchin gives an 

SciSchmoozing Curses

Belief in ‘Wicked’ Witchcraft

Dear reader, so glad you’re reading this. Let me start by laying out some work we need to do.

I love maps of all kinds. The map above is based on Pew Research data of the percentage of people who agreed that "certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone." The stippled countries are those with insufficient data. No country had less than 9% of its population believing in wicked witchcraft. 

Vote SciSchmooze for Emperox

Lunar Eclipse - Election - Asteroid

Hello, my fellow Earthlings. So glad you are reading this.

Tuesday at 0-dark-30 the entire moon will be fully covered by Earth’s shadow. (2:17 a.m. Pacific) It will begin emerging from the shadow at 3:42 a.m. Andrew Fraknoi has provided an informational page on the event.

Tuesday at 7 a.m. the polls open in California and will stay open until 8 p.m. The SciSchmooze isn’t really running for Emperox (cf. 

SciSchmoozing Halloween Horrors

Courtesy McGill University

Hello again, dear science fan,

No one - arguably - knows more about ghost hunting than Kenny Biddle. At this year’s SkeptiCal, he shared stories from his ghost-hunting forays, including the techniques and the electronic instrumentation he used. Some years ago, however, Biddle did a turn-around, climbed out of the ghost-hunting rabbit hole, and became a scientific skeptic joining the likes of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, et al. Read about his ‘conversion’ here as told by Jonathan Jarry, a recent SkepTalk presenter.

On Target with the SciSchmooze

DART Clobbers Dimorphos

Dear science aware reader, 

Last Monday, September 26, the 600 kg DART spacecraft struck the 4.8 billion kg asteroid Dimorphos. An Italian CubeSat detached from DART 15 days earlier to take pictures of the collision with cameras Leia and Luke. The collision ‘should’ slow the asteroid’s speed by 2 cm/sec from its initial (stellar) velocity of about 2.3 million cm/sec (about 0.00009%). It is impossible to directly measure that tiny change in velocity, but it ‘should’ detectably alter Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos, its parent asteroid weighing in at 523 billion kg. A spacecraft named Hera will launch in 2024 and rendezvous with the asteroids in 2027 to study effects of last Monday’s experiment. Stay tuned!

SciSchmoozing Earth


Happy Labor Day dear reader,

I recall the first time i saw a geochron clock on the wall of my hometown bank. Instantly i knew where in the world there was sunrise, sunset, night, and day. It lifted me for several minutes from living in a town in California with a few thousand others to living on an entire planet with its billions. Perspective. Perspectives grow. After a year in Berlin, Deutschland, earning a degree in biology, volunteering with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, helping to establish a wildlife rescue organization, having kids, etc., etc., my perspectives are multifaceted and messy - sort of like a cluttered attic. What stays with me is the reality of living on a planet with billions of others and sharing responsibility for protecting the whole.

You can have a geochron clock for your very own if you are willi

SciSchnooze and Leap!

¿Do spiders dream of lethargic flies?

Hello again science fans,

Daniela Rößler (‘ß’ is a double-s symbol used in Deutschland) has gathered fascinating data suggesting that jumping spiders might actually dream while sleeping. ¿Sleeping spiders? Well, yes. Just about every animal has been observed in behaviors that seem to indicate sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is associated with dreaming in humans, and other mammals often move and sometimes vocalize during REM sleep. Problem here: the two big forward-facing eyes that salticids (jumping spiders) use for hunting prey don't move; they’re fixed to the head. But their retinas do move! These tiny spiders look around their surroundings by moving their retinas back and forth - sorta l

Chorizo Gate Meets the SciSchmooze

Bless you, Étienne Klein, for bringing levity and wisdom to us last week. Levity came in claiming that his photo of a slice of chorizo was a JWST photo of Proxima Centauri, and the wisdom came in the physicist’s following Tweet: “Well, when it's time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day... so watch out for them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object of Spanish cold cuts exists anywhere but on Earth.” (Actually it was in French and instead of “cold cuts” he wrote “charcuterie” but i had to look that up, so . . . .)

The real Proxima Centauri is the subject of this excellent 20 minute PBS video.

A real JWST photo of t

SciSchmoozing the Good Life

Nichelle Nichols 1932 - 2022 (Getty Images)

Hello again, student of reality,

Wow, what a life to celebrate. Daughter of the town mayor, dancer, singer, model, actress, and for most of us, Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. Nichelle Nichols had roles on stage, television, and in more than 25 movies. She worked to interest children in science and she recruited a number of astronauts for NASA including Sally Ride and the first African-American astronaut, Guion Bluford. Sadly, she lost her younger brother who died with 38 others in the Heaven’s Gate debacle. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a 100-Year StarShip Symposium in Houston. A summary of her life can be found on Wikipedia. Given that we only have one life to lead, she certainly set a sterling example for living it fully. Thank you, Nichelle.

Syndicate content