Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing Waste & Words

Unused shared bikes in Xiamen, China  Credit: Reuters from The Atlantic

Bike sharing rentals seemed like a great idea and many millions of these bicycles were manufactured in China, clogging sidewalks and streets. Excess bikes numbering in the millions were rounded up and scrapped. This created tons of non-recyclable waste. This was a tiny trickle of the over 2 billion tons of waste created annually world-wide. Every year another 13 million tons of waste plastic enters our oceans. In less than 20 years, there will be more tons of plastic in the ocean than tons of fish. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and 15% of methane entering the atmosphere in the US comes from landfills. When Carmen and i order a take-out meal, it usually comes in a plastic bag and is, depending on the city, full of non-recyclable plastic containers of food. Some rare grocery stores provide numerous items in bulk and charge by the weight while subtracting the tare weight, i.e. the weight of the empty container you brought with you. Over 30% of food in the US goes to waste because of oversupply, over-purchase, cosmetic imperfections, etc. There is a local organization that is committed to reducing some of that waste: Imperfect Foods. Just sayin’.


The Perseids are coming! The Perseids are coming! The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak August 9 – 13, with the best viewing after midnight. So pack some hot chocolate and blankets, invite a friend or three, and drive to a good dark viewing area. (Also see “My Picks” below for Saturday) My favorite location is Inspiration Point east of Berkeley, but the parking lot fills up during every meteor shower. Most of the meteors are the size of sand grains and burn up above 80 kilometers altitude, but the streaks across the sky are bright and magical. Those tiny rocks orbit the Sun in an elliptical stream and our Earth plows through that stream every year on the same date. ¿Where do they come from? They were shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle which completes its orbit every 133 years. If you hang around another 103 years, the comet will return with a brightness greater than any but a handful of stars.

Of the 5,000+ exoplanets discovered, only a few hundred are Earth-size. In our Solar System, however, three of the eight planets are Earth-size; a much higher ratio. It may be that planets as ‘small’ as Earth are more easily ejected from star systems. Ejected planets might even outnumber planets that are still bound to their mother stars. These ejected planets are called ‘Rogue Planets’ and there could be trillions of them roaming our Galaxy. Even though they wouldn’t receive warm sunlight, interior temperatures from geothermal fission in some of these rogue planets could keep their surfaces warm. Weird.

Andrew’s guess of 451 made him the winner of a model kit of a Strandbeest. This week we are raffling off a kit to build a tensegrity stand. Just send an email before noon Friday to david.almandsmith [at] with an integer between 0 and 1,000.


As an ex-president faces more charges, his public support grows. This is not at all mysterious to Marcel Danesi, professor of social semiotics and linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto. His recent book is Politics, Lies and Conspiracy Theories: A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective. He posits that dehumanizing rhetoric, irony, suggesting implications, etc. change the cognitive functioning of audience members making it easier for them to perceive nonexistent threats and accept conspiracy theories. Similar themes were touched upon during a weeklong dive into the world of John F. Kennedy Jr.  A team of researchers conducted a meta-analysis on belief in conspiracy theories and found that ‘believers’ had a tendency to: perceive threat and danger; rely on intuition; and being antagonistic and feeling superior. By studying the above sources, you too should be able to follow in the footsteps of some very powerful people.

A dietary supplement company, Balance of Nature, got caught suggesting overly rosy benefits of using their products and tricking folk into regular deliveries. They ended up paying $1.1 million in the settlement.


Imagine living in barbecue-loving Texas and becoming allergic to red meat! Blame the Lone Star Tick. There is a range map for the biting beasty on this website.

The Keeley Institute (1979 – 1965) fed gold to alcoholics to cure their condition. It was expensive and ultimately proved to be no more effective than other interventions. Now in 2023, gold is being used to cure cancers. The treatment is not yet ready for prime time but it’s technologically fascinating.

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

– Shorebirds 2023 Livestream Monday 7 – 8:30PM

– Is Sports a Breeding Ground for Pseudoscience? Livestream Thursday 7:30PM

– HangOut with Richard Sanders: Skeptical Box of Tricks Saturday 3 – 4:30PM  Berkeley

– Perseids Meteor Shower in North Coyote Valley Saturday 8pm – Midnight

– Perseids Meteor Shower Saturday 11:45 – 3AM Chabot Space & Science Center, $

– Bair Island Walking Tour Sunday 10AM – Noon Redwood City


Cristina comes from a coal mining family. She says her blood is as black as coal. She’s not from West Virginia; she lives in Spain. Her story takes us from the worst of coal mining to her involvement in restoring the landscape that was destroyed. I think you will enjoy it.

The International Seabed Authority decided to delay approvals for seabed mining operations in spite of considerable industry pressure to go ahead. Al Jazeera produced a 50-minute video on one such proposal to initiate seabed mining and the potential damage to deep sea ecosystems.


¿A pterosaur with baleen? Well, a strainer is a strainer.

Fun Nerdy Videos

Grazing a goat in a circular field – Up and Atom – Jade Tam-Holmes – 1 min
Was the Boring Billion really so boring? – Geo Girl – Rachael Phillips – 1 min
Supplements and bunk – Cup O’Joe – Joe Schwarcz – 5 mins
Science News without the Gobbledygook – Sabine Hossenfelder – 17 mins
What does I.Q. actually measure? – Veritaseum – Derek Muller – 33 mins

Enjoy your activities this week (as you expand your empathy bubble),
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.”
― Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012) American author and screenwriter

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