Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing Earth


Happy Labor Day dear reader,

I recall the first time i saw a geochron clock on the wall of my hometown bank. Instantly i knew where in the world there was sunrise, sunset, night, and day. It lifted me for several minutes from living in a town in California with a few thousand others to living on an entire planet with its billions. Perspective. Perspectives grow. After a year in Berlin, Deutschland, earning a degree in biology, volunteering with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, helping to establish a wildlife rescue organization, having kids, etc., etc., my perspectives are multifaceted and messy – sort of like a cluttered attic. What stays with me is the reality of living on a planet with billions of others and sharing responsibility for protecting the whole.

You can have a geochron clock for your very own if you are willing to part with over a thousand dollars – or you could go to an Internet link.

Lake Palcacocha broke through its moraine dam in 1941 killing 1,800+ residents of Huaraz, Peru. A current Huaraz resident, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, realized that global warming has again led to circumstances threatening a repeat disaster. Enter a German organization committed to global justice, the German court system, and – to fill the role of ‘evil-doer’ – a German power company. This avalanche-hanging story is beautifully told in “A melting glacier, an imperiled city and one farmer’s fight for climate justice.” (Apologies for the paywall.)

If we can immediately halt global warming, then the partial melting of Greenland’s glaciers will still add about 15 cm to sea levels worldwide. Oops! Scratch that. The estimated sea level contribution has just been nearly doubled to 27 cm.

Surprise! With my paltry knowledge of Christian Evangelicals, i thought they pretty much doubted we are in a climate crisis – but the National Association of Evangelicals just published a report, “Loving the Least of These.” The report lays out the scientific evidence of climate crisis and asks Christians to help based on Biblical principles of “Care for creation, love our neighbors, and witness to the world.” 

Monday August 29 was International Day against Nuclear Tests. One of my cousins assisted with dozens of U.S. nuclear tests, and sadly but not surprisingly died of cancer many years ago. Photos and videos of nuclear tests are awesome and captivating, but there are enough in the archives to last us for all eternity.

My Picks:

Mitchell A won the JWST model when the random number generator burped up 750. This time the prize is “How To: Absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems”, a book by the creator of xkcd, Randall Munroe. For example, in the chapter “How to Play Football”, there is detailed advice for getting the ball into the goal including kicking, throwing, heading, and trebuchet. Just send an email to david.almandsmith[at] (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 book to the person who chose the closest number.

I’m forever exhorting myself and others to expand and deepen our ‘spheres’ of empathy.  Let me share this entertaining essay with you: Can Radical Empathy Fix Our Healthcare System?

COVID-19 continues to kill (over 600 people a day) with most of those deaths attributable to Omicron variants. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) has just approved a COVID vaccine with components that specifically target Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The technology behind modern vaccines has become so routine that human trials were not considered necessary. Even if you believe you are not at mortal risk from COVID, just a mild case can spread to someone in the high risk category. So get this latest vaccine to protect others as well as yourself.

Frequently i dive into science videos to help me understand our shared reality. 

Yeah, the usual: Be bold and expand your sphere of empathy,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

Empathy is the faculty to resonate with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering.
-Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D. (1946 – ) Author, Scientist, Buddhist Monk

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