Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing Extinction & Life

Thylacine – Credit: Al Jazeera

Thank you, dear reader, for joining us again and for your kind comments.

Christmas Island Rat, Wooly Mammoth, Passenger Pigeon, Thylacine (a marsupial: carries newborns in a pouch). These animals are extinct but efforts are currently underway to “bring them back.” In each case, researchers are compiling the complete genomes of the extinct animals using frozen carcasses and museum specimens. This 26-minute video on current efforts to de-extinct the Thylacine is fascinating and well-crafted. Personally, i question efforts to de-extinct the Passenger Pigeon. It traveled in flocks numbering in the hundreds of millions that stripped crops and orchards and left towns covered in Passenger Pigeon poop. Best of course is to prevent extinction.

Two SciSchmoozes ago, Herb included a link to a live web cam at a waterhole in the Namib Desert. OMG. I’m addicted. I use a separate window while i work and watch Ostrich, Oryx, Gazelles, Wildebeest, Jackals, Barn Owls (same species we have here!), feral Horses, Hyenas, Zebras, Pied Crows (genetically closer to Ravens), Rabbits, Warthogs, Doves, and Bats! Most birds are too small to identify as anything other than LBJs (Little Brown Jobbers). Let me know what you see.

Life on Earth is carbon-based, but could life elsewhere in the cosmos be different? PBS Space Time asks this question in this entertaining 22-minute video.

Robert F’s guess of 273 was closer to the random generator’s 283 than guesses of the other 27 contestants. Robert won a 450ml coffee beaker. This time we’re offering a magnetically levitating globe of the Earth. (You know you’ve always wanted one.) The device is LED illuminated, 18cm tall by 17cm by 5cm, and the globe is 8.4cm in diameter. 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 levitating globe to the person who chose the closest number.

Speaking of our globe, evidence suggests that Earth’s inner core had been rotating at a slightly faster rate than the Earth’s surface: perhaps a third of a degree per year. It now appears that the inner core may have slowed to the point it’s beginning to rotate slower than the surface. Go figure. Here’s a five-minute video about the phenomenon.

My Picks of the Week

JWST: Atmospheres of Other Worlds Stanford Monday 7 – 8pm
Neuroplasticity, Sensitive Periods & the Adolescent Brain Novato Tues 7 – 8:30pm
Back from the Dead Livestream Thursday 7pm
Planetarium Show of the Night Sky San Mateo Friday 8pm
Birding Drop-In Charleston Slough Observation Deck, Palo Alto 9 – 11am
Family Nature Walk Baylands Nature Preserve, Palo Alto 10:30 – Noon
Afternoon Hike La Honda Open Space Preserve, La Honda 1 – 4pm

When you have nausea, heartburn, indigestion…” ¿Just what the heck is Pepto-Bismol, and why is it bubble-gum pink?

Dogs can detect several kinds of cancer in people by smell, but keeping a dog in a diagnostic laboratory isn’t very feasible. Far easier: keep a colony of ants.

Doing research on the physiology of human lung tissue can be done using a ‘microfluidic lung cell culture’, or ‘lung-on-a-chip’. This methodology is far easier for some kinds of research than using lab mice. Many different human organs can be studied this way: lung, brain, heart, kidney, liver, prostate, artery, skin, bone, and cartilage. Perhaps due to subtle sexism in physiological research, now coming a little late to the game is the first vagina-on-a-chip.

The spate of recent mass shootings in California should make us reflect on the type of gun the 2nd Amendment gave us the right to carry: single-shot muskets, not assault rifles. The manufacturer of AR-15 assault rifles just introduced a junior-sized version for younger shooters – the JR-15. Not everyone is thrilled about it.

Just this month the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) under the United States Secret Service which is under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published, “Mass Attacks in Public Places: 2016 – 2020.” Their conclusion: Nearly all mass attackers were male and experienced at least one significant stressor in the past 5 years. My conclusion: This is patently obvious. Also this ‘demographic’ – males who have experienced a major stressor in the last 5 years – probably describes one-quarter of the world’s population. The Centers for Disease Control keeps data on firearm mortality by state, although the most recent year is 2020.

Staying with the issue of ‘stressors’ and mental health, Quanta webzine just published an article on research into the physiology of depression. Among other factors, inflammation in the brain is a factor and studies are underway for treatment options.

Here’s one more health issue i stumbled across: UV nail polish dryers.

Fun nerdy videos:

Boston Dynamics Atlas impresses 2 mins
Boston Dynamics Atlas has bad days 1 min
Veritaseum Navy’s Indoor Ocean Test Facility 20 mins
Up and Atom The Pigeon Hole Principle 16 mins
The Right Chemistry From the Cotton Gin to Crisco 6 mins
Sabine Hossenfelder Genetic Selection of Embyos 24 mins

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Wishing you a week with time to socialize with friends and strangers alike,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care was as easy to get as, say, a gun.”
-Andy Borowitz (1958 – ) American writer, comedian, satirist, and actor

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