Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing around the Edges

Brown Bess, a muzzle-loading smoothbore musket from the Revolutionary War

The U.S. Constitution as of 1791 held that:

  • Slavery was legal;
  • For census purposes, slaves counted as ⅗ of a person;
  • Slaves and women were not entitled to vote;
  • People had the right to bear muzzle-loaded firearms.

The only “Arms” covered by the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment were single shot weapons that had to be manually reloaded from the end of the barrel after each shot. A significant portion of militia training sought to increase the rate that the recruit could reload and shoot again. Four shots per minute was exemplary.

The CDC released results from their research on gun deaths. Of note: firearm homicides of Black males aged 10 to 24 years is 21 times higher than for White males of the same age range.

Lessons in evolution: 

  1. I just learned that male cockroaches ‘seduce’ females with sugar, but since cockroach poisons are sweet, females are losing their “sweet tooth.” 
  2. As you know, salamanders live on the forest floor and in streams & ponds – except when they don’t. Aneides vagrans, the Wandering Salamander, lives its entire life high up in redwood trees! Although redwoods are a westcoast species, a biologist from Florida wondered if Aneides vagrans was adapted for flight, sorta like flying squirrels and colugos. The answer: not yet but they seem to be getting there.
  3. ¿Are we still evolving?

As Bob mentioned last week, folk under 50 likely have no immunity to monkeypox. However, unlike COVID-19, people normally cannot spread monkeypox prior to obvious symptoms and the virus is spread only by contact. Therefore, a monkeypox pandemic is not anticipated.

Space Aliens:

  1. After the UAP/UFO Congressional Hearing this May, Republican Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee opined, “We just got hosed. On some level I think it is a cover-up. I have a T-shirt I sell on my website. It says, ‘More people believe in U.F.O.s than believe in Congress.’”
  2. The radio signal most resembling one we might expect from an advanced alien civilization was detected 45 years ago and is known as the “Wow! Signal.” An astronomer published a paper in May showing that there is indeed a star resembling ours ‘only’ 1,800 light-years away in the direction the radio antenna was pointing. Leonard Tramiel noted there would be numerous ‘candidate’ stars since the radio antenna collected emissions from a relatively large swath of the sky. Rebecca Charbonneau at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics noted that an advanced civilization might not require a sun similar to our own.
  3. A problem facing civilizations forced to leave their home star system is the immense distances typically separating star systems and the universal speed limit: the speed of light. Irina Romanovskaya suggested another possibility: hitchhike on a rogue planet. There just might be a rogue planet passing by that they/we could reach and use to set up housekeeping. Since rogue planets by definition do not belong with a nice warm sun, the folk would need to possess the means to create great gobs of energy – perhaps using fusion power. And who knows, the rogue planet might just pass near a suitable star system after a few million years where they could disembark and set up home again.
  4. Dr. Becky (Smethurst) of Oxford would like the James Webb Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of four planets orbiting Trappist 1 for the possible detection of biological systems existing there. 

Orkid won the 8-inch JWST model with her guess of 321. This time the prize is a 3-centimeter mirror pin from Cepheid Studio (France) of JWST’s 18 mirror segments. Just send an email to (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 and mail the pin to the person who chose the closest number.

NASA’s Martian helicopter, Ingenuity, phoned home and apologized for being late. It had been out of contact due to dust and cold which led to a computer re-boot that made it miss curfew. NASA and Ingenuity are now back on speaking terms, but the Martian winter will likely lead to more troubles.

I discovered something that may interest you. It is a YouTube collection of science videos hosted by Rick Loverd called, “The Science & Entertainment Exchange.” Another good collection is “SkepTalk” which emphasizes science skepticism.


Ticket prices for SkeptiCal 2022, July 16 & 17, go up June 1st.

A Denisovan tooth was found in Laos, 1,700 kilometers from the next closest Denisovan discovery in Tibet. Laos makes sense because southeast asian groups are known to share some DNA from Denisovans, just as Europeans share some DNA from Neanderthals.

I believe it is safe to say that computer chips are no longer programmed by tweezers

Hey! Here is a good video on carbon nanotubes, especially if you are comfortable with electron orbitals. (And if you aren’t comfortable with electron orbitals, maybe you’re masochistic.)

Overwintering? Various plants, insects, and mammals overwinter via seeds, eggs, hibernation, etc., but fire?? Apparently that was the case in New Mexico.

Scientists are wrong far more often than they are right. That’s the nature of scientific progress. As the journalist Ed Yong opined, science is, “an erratic stumble toward gradually diminished uncertainty.” Here are 10 examples of (some) scientists getting it wrong.

Here is a story of observation, research, reaching out to experts, feet on the ground, and – finally – success. Enjoy.

I didn’t mention the heat waves occurring around the world. I did that last time. This time i’ll leave you with “What extreme heat does to the human body.”

Try feeling a little compassion for the Russian soldiers risking – and giving – their lives for a lie.
David Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.”
― Fred Rogers, (1928 – 2003) The World According to Mister Rogers

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