Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing There & Back

LIGO Quantum Squeeze Apparatus – Credit: Georgia Mansell/LIGO Hanford Observatory

Dear science fan,

The above Quantum Squeeze Apparatus made me laugh. It looks like a far more complex version of one of my goofy grammar school inventions that i assembled from bottles, cans, defunct car parts, light bulbs, wires, and batteries. My inventions didn’t ever do anything – but i always hoped they would lead to some major discovery. The above apparatus actually does something – so they say – that allows greater sensitivity in detecting gravity waves at higher frequencies and at lower frequencies – but not both at the same time. If you believe you can get me to understand how it works, leave a detailed comment.

Another thing i fail to understand is the Refkin Anadol Unsupervised exhibit at New York’s Modern Museum of Art, MOMA. But it was not created to be understood; it mesmerizes. ¿Who needs drugs when one can stand and be immersed in the sound and visuals of this creation? It was a memorable experience in my trip to the Big Apple last week.

Another memorable experience was meeting Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl who was ‘liberated’ last February from the Central Park Zoo by persons unknown who apparently objected to his tiny squalid enclosure there. Because he refuses to be caught and because he feasts on the abundant rats living in Central Park, the Park administration has called a halt to poisoning rats there. We stood just below his perch in a Park tree. He is gorgeous and huge. His wingspan is about half a meter longer than our native Great Horned Owl.

This was my first trip to Manhattan in several years and the differences were amazing. Street parking has been replaced by bike lanes on major thoroughfares. During commute time, there are more bikes than cars. Rental e-bikes were the most popular among office workers. My cab driver affirmed that automobile traffic is noticeably lighter now and the sound of car horns is much less common.


Coincidence?  Three days after my last effort featured Bay Area earthquakes, Shakin’ with the SciSchmooze, (and one day before International Shakeout Day) my cell phone erupted with an earthquake warning. The cell broadcast was programmed for earthquakes of 5.0 or greater that are close enough to cause damage. The automatic system misjudged, however. The quake near Rio Vista was quickly downgraded to a 4.2 temblor. Nonetheless, i waited several minutes under my desk.

Graduate student Brenden Philip found a hole in the seafloor about 50 miles off the coast of Oregon. The hole is a fountain of warm water. That makes it a hydrothermal vent, but much cooler than ones found in the Atlantic. The water could be coming from a megathrust fault zone, and perhaps that water lubricates the fault so that earthquakes there remain small. Stay tuned!.

The Vredefort impact crater in South Africa has been considered the largest asteroid impact scar on our Earth. That may change. Geologists are looking at formations in Australia that suggest a much larger impact scar and that impact may have been the impetus of a major biological extinction event, the Ordovician-Silurian extinction. The Deniliquin structure is about twice as large as Vredefort but further research is needed before geologists are certain that it is the result of an impact.

One way to dispose of trash is to hurl it into a volcano. ¿But, is that OK with the volcano?

My Picks of the Week (put reminders on your mobile phone)

– Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions – 4:30 Monday, Stanford
– Exploring Solar Astrophysics – 7pm Tuesday, Stanford
– Quest for Environmental & Climate Justice – 6pm Wednesday, Berkeley
– Nightlife: Día de los Muertos – 5:45 – 10pm Thursday, Cal Academy of Sciences, SF, $
– Tour of Bodega Bay Marine Lab – 2pm Friday, Bodega Bay
– Solar Observing – 1:30 – 3:30 Sunday, San José


Teaching a chatbot to bolster self-worth in children seemed to work, but studies need to confirm that the changes were long lasting. (Marvin, the depressed robot in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, should not be hired for this work.)

For robots in general, it would be best if they ‘felt’ empathy for humans and pets, but how does one teach empathy to a robot? A group of researchers suggested that robots could better ‘learn’ empathy if they ‘felt pain.’ That suggests that the people training robots would need to learn callousness.


Edward M won the JWST T with his guess of 888. The prize this time is a 1,000 piece “Space” puzzle. Just send an email before noon Friday to david.almandsmith [at] with an integer between 0 and 1,000.


Acapulco was slammed by Category 5 hurricane Otis late last Tuesday. The death toll continues to climb. Hotel and apartment windows shattered with 265 kph winds which then ripped sheetrock off the walls. Utilities have yet to be restored. The storm had been predicted to be far less powerful and was not expected to approach Acapulco. The Director of the National Hurricane Center, Michael Brennan, said, “There are some studies that suggest that rapid intensification is becoming more common in a warming climate. … We are very confident that the impacts of hurricanes from heavy rainfall, flooding and storm surge are worsening in a warming climate and will continue to worsen as the climate warms.

September was the warmest on record for our home planet. This year is on track to be the warmest ever. 


Alternative medicine – Cup O’Joe – Joe Schwarcz – 4 mins
Super Massive Black Holes – Dr. Becky – Becky Smethurst – 12 mins
Revolutionising power transmission – Just Have a Think – Dave Borlace – 13 mins
Erendel (star) – PBS SpaceTime – Matt O’Dowd – 16 mins
Brainwashing American Children – Rollie Williams – Climate Town- 25 mins
Space Aliens: Conversation with Adam Frank & Fraser Cain – 53 mins

With a little effort this week, you can enjoy life and enlarge your empathy bubble,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
– Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018) English theoretical physicist

Upcoming Events:
Click to see the next two weeks of events in your browser.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *