Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982
Thursday’s massive solar flare

Hello again Science fans!

We’re into the meat of the holiday season and the number of events on our calendar is quite reduced through the end of the year. But don’t let that stop you from finding interesting science things to educate you, or your family.

On December 26 – 28, the San Mateo County public library system is hosting several telescope viewing nights at various library locations around the county. See our listings for the locations and times.

Still looking for a science gift? Plenty of tickets remain for “The Physics Show” (January 6 and 7, 20 and 21) as we go to press tonight. But the January 20 shows are selling the fastest.

I want to mention something that didn’t make it into my last newsletter, and that is the November 19th death of former first lady Rosalynn Carter at age 96. Among so many other causes she and Jimmy Carter supported, Habitat for Humanity stands out. The Carters did not found Habitat, contrary to public opinion, but were very active in it from the start. I’ve volunteered with Habitat locally for almost 23 years and had the great pleasure of meeting the Carters, briefly, at a Carter Build in Oakland a few years back. If only our political leaders would follow the legacy of service the Carters leave behind…

On to the news…

This coming Thursday marks the Winter Solstice (at 7:27 PM PST). As long as people have been around, the solstice has been a significant event, as this article explains. While you won’t see much of a difference day to day, from this point until mid-June the amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere will increase each day.

The capsule from the OSIRIS-REx mission that returned to earth in September still hasn’t been opened, despite efforts by scientists. Anyone who has struggled trying to loosen a stuck bolt will appreciate this situation. Remember that the mission returned much more material from asteroid Bennu than expected, and analysis of the material that was sitting outside the capsule has been underway for a while. All this is complicated by the fact that the capsule and the material have been in a nitrogen-filled glove box so that the contents aren’t contaminated by anything.

The sun shot out a massive solar flare, one of the largest such events ever recorded, and it has interfered with some radio frequencies here on Earth. The sun is nearing the peak of its 11 year-long solar weather cycle.

Have you ever heard of Ai-Da? She’s an ultra-realistic AI robotic artist who has some chilling “thoughts” on our robotic future. Make sure you watch the YouTube video linked in the article. Just a wee bit creepy!

It is that time of year again, when publications put out their “best-of” or “worst-of” lists. There’s lots of doom and gloom about AI and the environment out there, but also some good news. Here are 10 climate tech innovations and 9 breakthroughs for climate and nature from 2023 that you may have missed. And here are the Smithsonian’s picks for the 10 best science books of the year. Happy reading!

Have a great week in Science! I’ll be back on Christmas Eve with more.

Bob Siederer

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