Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

from the desk of Herb Masters

Hello Science Acceptors, 

It seems like a bit of a break has been happening in the smoke from so many fires throughout the west.  The respite we have had has been welcome by everyone I have talked to.  They aren’t over and there will probably be more houses, memories, and even lives lost.  I have a bit of experience in fighting fires like this but I’m not going to claim expertise or experience in what has been going on or what is coming.  I have to admit that I find it a bit humorous to see people involved announcing that they have never seen anything so big, powerful, or destructive.  Of course they haven’t, that’s why it is so staggering to experience it or view it from afar! 

It seems that most scientists and media are willing to proclaim that climate change is responsible for the magnitude of what we have been experiencing.  Even organizations within the federal government are acknowledging climate change is real.  Of course the reason for or cause of this is still contested by some.  What do you think of when you hear “Follow the science?” (Note: some of the vocabulary and opinion may not be appropriate for everyone!)  As always recognizing good and bad information online is a challenge these days.  I’m always looking for tips on recognizing things lacking in truthiness.  Here’s one I came across recently that I think is worth a review.  How to be more skeptical about what you read online

Aside from the fires and politics there was big news this week in science.  The announcement trickled out for a few days starting on Monday Oct. 5.  Some of the winners were disturbed in their sleep but none seemed to resent the interruption.  Of course I’m talking about the Nobel Prize.  There were quite a few winners here in California and even the Bay Area though the collaborated with people all over the planet.  Yet again a reminder of what goes on around us.  Congratulations to all of the winners and all of the people who worked with them to accomplish what they did. 
This coming week will again challenge you to decide on what you are drawn to attend.  Bob has dug up some more great presentations.  Here are some that are quite a bit different from the normal offerings…  Ocean Buoy Live Exploration: Cleaning and Servicing a CO2 Buoy on Thu morning, Complexity Weekend starts Fri evening, and Uncovering the Secret Lives of Antarctic Minke Whales – Livestream on Sun afternoon. 

Next week will present even more of a challenge.  You will note that the listings in our calendar get a bit overwhelming starting on Oct. 21.  That’s because the 10th Bay Area Science Festival will run from Oct 21 to Oct 25!

As always there is so much to share with you and hope you share with others.  The other day I watched My Octopus Teacher.  I hope all of you get a chance to watch it.  At first I was a bit put off by the anthropomorphism in it but the photography won me over quickly.  This one is great for all ages, especially people who have never experienced the ocean from below the surface. 

You may have heard that space smells like something?  Have you ever wondered what it might sound like? 

I’d like to add a bit of personal comment here as well.  We rarely get much feedback here at the SciSchmooze.  All feedback is welcome.  This is an entirely volunteer project and we each bring out own focus or bias to our writing.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we celebrate science and believe it is the best tool we have for recognizing and solving problems that either threaten our future or can help enhance it by developing new ways of knowing and doing.  These days, politics has become the dominant topic in the news and life for many.  Rightly so, I believe, science has been turned to for information to help people make decisions and understand some of what is going on.  How important science has become can be seen by how many groups or publications are actually endorsing particular candidates or issues.  Many people think that the denial of science has brought us to the face of two crisis that are truly a challenge to what humanity and nature can look forward to.  Consider two major statements made by two major science based organizations Scientific American and The New England Journal of Medicine.  We will continue to celebrate science and share what we find with you both in spite of and in support of a better future.  So to both “Nitetoad” our greatest critic and “Rebbugs” one of our greatest fans, I want to thank you for your challenge and support. 

So now I ask the question.  HAVE YOU VOTED YET?  If not, when will you? 

So two final links for fun…  Ant-eresting: This Guy Quit His Job to Sell Insects is an interesting story about a unique business.  Bicycle Ballet is a beautiful story that makes me long for my bike days and dream of what some can do with such a wonderful invention.


Have a great week learning a bit more about this amazing universe we call home.
herb masters


“The basic objective of science is to discover, understand and unify what’s happening around us, whether in living things or inanimate things. Very often people talk about the scientific method, but I believe that the way of understanding in science has a great deal in common with the way of understanding anything. Yet there are a couple of very special things about science that are not part of its methodology really, but which are crucial to its progress. One of these is that if you are genuinely trying to understand what’s going on around you there’s no point fooling yourself, or for that matter, fooling any of your colleagues. Within the scientific community there is a tradition that anybody who fabricates data is completely ostracized. This tradition is one of the basic tenets of science and science had traditionally been one of the very special strongholds of that tenet. I wish it also applied to politicians and advertisers, so that they would ostracize people who willingly and deliberately fabricate data.

“One of the nice things that is true of the Exploratorium is that people trust it. We don’t “rig” any of the exhibits; the exhibits do not show things artificially. The natural phenomena are there and the visitors can ask questions of the exhibits, and the exhibits can then answer these because they behave according to nature.”
— Frank Oppenheimer

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