Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982
Russia’s Nauka Laboratory approaches the ISS

from the desk of Dave Almandsmith

Hello again, friends of science,

Let’s take a brief look at ourselves, our forebears, and our cousins this week. 

First, is a story of our chimpanzee and gorilla cousins. They have been observed for decades hanging out with each other, eating food side by side, and letting their youngsters play with each other. However, given an unexpected encounter and noisy excitability, mob violence resulted, a phenomenon known among humans.

When you have twelve minutes, here’s a video deep dive into our evolutionary family tree.

The August 1st Google Doodle was the Turkana Boy.

¿What if you or your village is subject to capture, or worse? When you live on top of compressed volcanic ash known as tuff, you carve out an underground city. Cappadocian Greeks were living almost like ants in the largest known underground city, Derinkuyu, to avoid persecution until 1923. We are an adaptable species, to be sure.

¿Have we five senses? or thousands?

I’ve known for decades that my body helps itself fight infections by ‘running a fever.’ But i had never before heard of Heat Shock Proteins.

¿Could it be that many of us are nutritionally dependent on breakfast cereals? (The crux of this issue is found in the final sentence of the article.)

It has been a while, but here are my picks for attending LIVE EVENTS, but please wear a mask:
Phenomenal Physics (at the explOratorium): Thursday 6 – 10pm, San Francisco
Nightlife (at the California Academy of Sciences): Thursday 6 -10pm, San Francisco
Nature Day on Codornices Creek: Saturday 10am – 12:30pm, Berkeley

Saving time and transportation, here are my picks for LIVESTREAM EVENTS:
How to Prepare for Climate Change: Tuesday Noon – 1pm
NightSchool: Surviving the Deadly Bucket: Thursday 7pm
Virtual Telescope Viewing: Saturday 9 – 10pm

Of the 15 entrants last month, Barbara Tversky won the Ingenuity Helicopter coffee mug. This time i’m giving away a Perseverance Rover coffee mug with the same rules: Send me an email (only one) before noon Friday with an integer between zero and 1,000. We will then use a random number generator to select the target number. The person who came closest wins the mug. 

Here are bits of science news for the week: 

Complex animal life may have been present hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought. Dr. Elizabeth Turner, a professor at Laurentian University in Canada, believes a rock from 890 million years ago contains fossilized sponges.

The amount of ice that melted on Greenland last Tuesday was enough to cover all of Florida with two inches of water. That was 8.5 billion tons.

My son in Anchorage correctly diagnosed the prolonged shaking he felt Wednesday as the result of a VERY BIG earthquake hundreds of miles away. It was the most powerful temblor in the U.S. in over 50 years.

Russia’s Nauka laboratory used its onboard thrusters to gently dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Some time later, one or more of Nauka’s thrusters began firing again, temporarily tilting the entire ISS about 45° from normal. No harm, no foul.

By the way, the ISS will be visible in the Bay Area for 6 minutes Tuesday evening starting at 9:13pm. Traveling from WNW to SSE, it will only reach an elevation of 43°, however, so you will need a mostly clear view of the horizon.

A Hayward company, Edge Innovations, came out with a plan to remove marine mammals from theme parks – without cancelling marine mammal shows. I wish them success.

This last week, the world was introduced to a ‘new’ word related to neuropsychology – the twisties. I myself have experienced the twisties, especially when doing a fast dismount – not from a balance beam but from a bar stool.

The numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths are rising rapidly in the U.S. and elsewhere largely due to the heightened transmissibility of the Delta variants. A New York Times article on Saturday stooped to sensationalism when it reported that 50 staff at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital tested positive and roughly 40 of those had been fully vaccinated. What they failed to mention is that the hospital has a staff of 5,000 and that (apparently) none of those fully vaccinated required ‘hospitalization.’ Indeed, most were asymptomatic. For a good overview of the current situation, let me recommend this 16-minute interview with Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH, of Johns Hopkins University.

Stay well, mask up in public, and experience something novel this week,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labour, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.”
– Lewis Thomas, American physician, educator, author (1913 – 1993)

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