Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing Around the Neighborhood

Ingenuity helicopter hangs from Mars Perseverance Rover

from the desk of Dave Almandsmith

Dear Science Fans,

Out in our solar system neighborhood, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is about to be released from the underside of the Perseverance rover. NASA’s official description of Ingenuity’s role says it will be decommissioned after a month of test flights. Sorry, folks. I do not expect the world’s population will sit idly by while Perseverance trundles off abandoning the cute little ‘copter in the brutally cold and lonely Mars wilderness. Any day now, expect an international campaign demanding NASA not abandon its diminutive drone. Instead the two intrepid explorers could accompany each other across the barren plains.

Please show me some sympathy. I LOST. Instead, an Embry-Riddle alumnus won the lottery for a trip in space around our Earthly neighborhood, but decided not to go – out of caution? – from a fear of heights? Regardless, he/she offered the ride to an old friend. Here is a page with video introductions to the four civilian astronauts.

Once again, a SpaceX Starship prototype blew up – this time before reaching the ground – and with a lot more explosive force. (The term that rocket aficionados often use is not ‘explosion’ but “R.U.D.,” which is short for “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.”) A heavy fog hid this RUD from view.

Saildrone is a company in our Bay Area neighborhood that manufactures science drones in Alameda that sail the oceans of Earth. Heck, they’ve even circumnavigated Antarctica. The 7m (23 ft) craft resemble windsurfing boards but are loaded with radar, sonar, cameras, radios, solar panels, and are capable of autonomous operation for a year at a time. In January, they launched the first of a larger version – 22m (72 ft).

Dave Boitano is a science journalist for the Bay Area neighborhood with his own website, Science In View, that is well worth checking out.

Also part of the Bay Area neighborhood is the Bay Area Science calendar, of which the SciSchmooze is an adjunct. Using the calendar, let me offer you my (livestream) picks for the week:

QAnon continues – rife with disinformation and conspiracies. Our household does not have HBO or i would watch “Q: Into the Storm,” a six-part documentary. Thankfully, a number of sources help us counter disinformation, such as Snopes and Annenberg Political Factcheck. There are even advice and games helping us from becoming disinformation spreaders. Many of my relatives believe in multiple conspiracies, e.g. the moon landings were a hoax, automakers can make 100 mpg cars but the fossil fuel industry won’t let them, cold fusion power is being suppressed, and a consortium prevents lightbulbs from lasting longer. Wait! That last one was an actual conspiracy!

Dr. Joe Schwarcz of McGill University offers a little information and advice on COVID-19 vaccines. The Rand Corporation identifies some hurdles to achieving herd immunity. PBS shares information on a virus pandemic that lasted 15 million years

Stay safe – and happy, damn it,
Dave Almandsmith
Bay Area Skeptics board member

“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”
Sterling K. Brown, Actor (1976 – )

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