Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Psephology with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters

Hello Science Supporters and Students, (aren’t we all both?)

What an amazing couple of weeks of turmoil we have seen.  We here at the SciSchmooze are focused on science and how it informs us and how it helps make the world a better place to live for all.  Fires, Covid-19, the struggle for equity in society, and the upcoming election in just a few weeks can be overwhelming.  Often, science relies on elections.  Our new word for the week is psephology

There will be more “science” after this missive about elections! I personally think that if you can arrange it at all you should help with conducting good, honest, and fair elections.  (See below for how to help)  This year the elections offices are having trouble across the country.  The combination of Covid-19 and the potential for voter intimidation and disenfranchisement is a big challenge.  I applaud those who are working now to prepare to get the vote out by supporting Vote by Mail all over the country.  Many don’t realize how much local governments control elections and how much help is needed. 

Many don’t know about provisional voting or how to use the new voting machines.  I have worked part time for the local elections department for 15 years or so.  I have several tips I’d like to share to help make your voting experience better and more effective. 

Voting in California is pretty easy.  Make sure your voter registration is current.  It is recommended by some that you update or reregister every few years so that your signature will look the same as when you registered.  Likewise if you have moved.  If you vote by mail, vote early.  Some counties actually start processing their vote by mail ballots the week before the date of the election.  The counts are sealed so nobody can access them until the polls close.  This way more accurate and timely tallies can be posted.  If you go to the polls and are registered to vote by mail, bring your ballot and the envelope with you.  DON’T TRY TO VOTE TWICE OR TEST THE SYSTEM TO SEE IF IT WORKS!  This isn’t the time.  The poll workers will help you make sure that your vote is counted.  Actually, consider being a poll worker yourself.  Many companies are supporting elections by allowing their employees to take time off work to do this. 
If you are going to vote at the polls…  Please fill out your sample ballot before you go.  You probably hate waiting for someone to fill out a check from scratch after they get the total at the grocery store.  This is far more frustrating to everyone if you are trying to decide how to vote when in the booth!  Here are a few links to help you vote and get more involved as well…  Project 538- How to vote     WSJ- How to Vote by Mail in Every State     NBC- Everything you need to know about mail-in and in-person voting      California Secretary of State- Nov ’20 Election     California Secretary of State Adopt A Vote Center Program     Power the Polls

And now for some science…  Our planet and environment seems to be really showing signs of abuse.  It is amazing to me that those who deny that climate change is happening still don’t want to support change in case they are wrong.  Most scientists seem to be willing to say now that we are experiencing it firsthand.  It isn’t a nonscientific theory anymore. The impact of climate change is wide and to many frightening.  Here are two links that I think are worth checking out…  World’s wildlife populations plunge 68% in 46 years and Do you recognize this place?  Keeping  a historical perspective might help as well…  History from the Big Bang to now  a lot more of the story

As we head in to what would normally be an increasing number of opportunities to go somewhere and hear fascinating talks about science we can’t!  There are a bunch of places to visit from the comfort of your home though.  I am always amazed at what Bob Siederer finds for the calendar.  I rarely find something he hasn’t already posted.  This is where you will find an amazing array of choices with one click!  I’m not even going to try and choose some for you!

Another great option is the Osher Mini Medical School for the Public  I’ve attended these in the past and they are always really informative and filled with the latest info on the topic of the day. 

I think it is time to share an uplifting article… ” ‘A miracle’: How 132-year-old Lick Observatory was saved from one of California’s largest wildfires”  I would like to point out that I don’t think it was a miracle.  It was the dedicated work, skill, and knowledge of Kostas Chloros and a bunch of mostly unnamed firefighters who saved this scientific and historic treasure that still does great science.  Talk about a shining building on a mountain!

I love to see examples of understanding science to create art.  Check out Celui qui tombe (He Who Falls)
I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to a few items about Covid-19…  Music on Balconies Under Coronavirus Quarantine     Mask Up and Shut Up     We Thought It Was Just a Respiratory Virus 
Thanks to science we get views like this and stories like this, The Physicist Who Slayed Gravity’s Ghosts 
Have a great week.  Learn something new.  Plan for the election and act.

herb masters
here’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice

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