Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Shaking with the SciSchmooze

San Francisco 18 April 1906

Dear SciSchmoozers,

A 6.1 earthquake topped off my birthday this month in Oaxaca, Mexico (and abruptly terminated a huge outdoor rock concert). Since the quake was located 108 kilometers below the terrain, there was almost no damage – except to nerves.

The Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 was a 6.9 magnitude event. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was a 7.9 magnitude event. Because the magnitude scale is logarithmic, the San Francisco quake was 10 times “bigger” than the Loma Prieta event. In terms of energy, however, the San Francisco quake released over 30 times the energy of the 1989 quake.

¿Is our Bay Area threatened by another 7.9 quake? Well, yes, but not for a while. The geological plates separated by the San Andreas fault have not yet crept far enough past each other for a 7.9 shaker. There’s only a 2% chance of a 7.9 before 2050 on the San Francisco portion of the San Andreas. The Hayward fault is a different story; there’s a 32% chance of a 6.7 or higher temblor on the Hayward fault sometime in the next 13 years

Thursday is International ShakeOut Day which is intended to prepare us for strong earthquakes. 

Here’s a series of brief videos on how to best ride out an earthquake wherever you are. Register to participate in International ShakeOut Day. (I’m registered.)


The Turlock Irrigation District is covering over 3 kilometers of canals with solar panels. If this pilot project achieves its goals of reducing algae growth, reducing water evaporation, and safely producing energy, it could lead to thousands of kilometers of solar-panel-covered canals in California.

Roughly half of Kenya’s electric power comes from geothermal wells – and the percentage is growing. Furthermore, Kenya is assisting other African countries to install geothermal and lessen their dependence on fossil fuels.

Finland is preparing a storage area 450 meters below ground for used nuclear fuel rods. The United States was preparing a similar but larger repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada but funding was withdrawn 12 years ago due to NIMBY voices.


As pristine material from asteroid Bennu is being studied (lots of carbon and water), a mission to asteroid Psyche launched last week. The spacecraft will reach Psyche in 2029.

Eventually, optical telescopes and radio telescopes will be installed on our Moon’s far side. To test radio telescope technology in the harsh lunar environment, a spacecraft is slated to land on the far side of the Moon in 2025. It is the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night, or LuSEE-Night.

The Kessler Syndrome is a scenario where a high velocity collision between two satellites results in debris that spreads out and collides with other satellites creating yet more debris and eventually it becomes unsafe to launch any new spacecraft whatsoever. Ah, but technology creates safeguards. At present there are about 9,000 operational satellites in orbit and another 40,000 are planned; each has little thrusters controlled from the ground so they can avoid colliding with each other. Sounds good? But what if a coronal mass ejection disables satellites?


Michelle won the book, Doppelganger, since her guess was closest to the random number generator’s 160. This week’s prize is a JWST T-shirt. Just send an email before noon Friday to david.almandsmith [at] with an integer between 0 and 1,000.


The McGill University Office for Science and Society published a short list of  What’s trending in the world of pseudoscience. ¿Is it true that rose essential oil can harmonize the human body’s frequency and can treat underlying medical conditions? The answer is probed in this short video

If you have a few minutes for a comedic take on conspiracy culture, i recommend watching “Imminent Arrival.

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

– The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 – Monday Noon, S.F., $
– The Kitchen Mycologist: Surprises, flops, tips – Tuesday 7PM, S.F.
– Snowy Owls of the Northeast – Livestream Wednesday 5:30PM
– NerdNite SF – The Halloween Nerdtacular – Thursday 8PM, S.F., $
– Tomorrow’s Cybersecurity Challenges – Friday 3:10PM, UC Berkeley
– Bat Fest 2023 – Saturday 4-9PM, Morgan Hill, $
– Drop-In: Charleston Slough Observation Deck – Sunday 9-11:30AM, Palo Alto


About 20 years ago, the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) announced that “Large Families No Longer Necessary – Small Families No Longer a Sin.” The State of Utah – with two-thirds of the population identifying as Mormon – now leads the United State in its decline in birth rates; a full 36% decrease from 2007 to 2022. There are now four states with a higher birth rate.

Because of COVID and an overall decrease in birth rate, the U.S. population dropped by 1.4 million from 2009 to 2022 – in spite of documented and undocumented immigration.


Homo sapiens emerged in Africa about 300,000 years ago, so it was surprising that an example of carpentry dates to over 450,000 years ago. Boards were fashioned from logs and then shaped to fit together; possibly to build a shelter. ¿The earliest Airbnb?


Cell-Cultivated Meat – The Right Chemistry – Joe Schwarcz – 5 mins

EV battery manufacturing: China vs U.S. – Wall Street Journal – 8 mins

Scotland’s floating wind farm – Equinor – 9 mins

Mathematical prediction of Black Holes – Dr. Becky – Becky Smethurst – 11 mins

Redox Flow Batteries – Just Have a Think – Dave Borlace – 12 mins

Lunar Radio Telescope? – PBS SpaceTime – Matt O’Dowd – 15 mins

Do chatbots understand what they say? – Sabine Hossenfelder – 22 mins

Looking Deep Into Milky Way’s Center with JWST – Fraser Cain – 34 mins

Thank you for joining us this week. Stay curious,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
– Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018) English theoretical physicist

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