Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Smile for the SciSchmooze

Tiangong & ISS crews (Frank Rubio is off-camera)

Hello again, dear reader,


While we were Earth-bound this last week, 17 out of Earth’s 8 billion people were in orbit – a new (if soon-to-be-exceeded) record. ¿How high an orbit? Consider the standard (in the U.S.) 12-inch globe. They were orbiting 4 tenths of an inch above its surface. The thickness of a piece of standard copy paper represents the thickness of our atmosphere in which humans can populate – 14,000 feet.

Four of those orbiting people were “private” citizens sent by the Axiom Space company, and their excursion to the ISS was paid for by private funds. ¿How much? Possibly as much as $220,000,000. Their accommodation (including breathable air) on the ISS likely cost over $400,000 per person per day. Not Motel 6 rates.

The Axiom Space company plans to add modules to the ISS beginning next year.  Before the ISS de-orbits in 2031, their modules will disconnect from the ISS and become their own autonomous space station.

Those folk at Caltech succeeded in focusing a microwave beam on a speeding satellite with enough energy to light up an LED. The reverse was also done: the satellite beamed energy collected from solar panels back to Earth. That was a proof of concept for the idea of harvesting solar energy from space and beaming it to power grids on Earth.

But maybe it will be cheaper to harness power from underneath. See below . . . .


Eavor is a company claiming they can fabricate huge closed-system heat exchangers deep underground. [“Just have a think” is British for “Just think about it.”] This is the ‘holy grail’ of geothermal energy research and – if they can indeed do this reliably – could result in low-cost around-the-clock renewable energy anywhere on Earth. I’m hopeful that this goal will be reached – eventually – but not necessarily by this company. Eavor is currently drilling deep into hot rock in Animas, New Mexico where the geothermal gradient is higher than average. They have successfully drilled 5.5 km (3.4 mi) deep where the rock temperature is 250°C (480°F). Their goal is to demonstrate the viability of their technology perhaps as deep as 7 km (4.3 mi) where the rock temperature is over 300°C (570°F). My fingers and toes are crossed.

Linus H. won our last raffle and chose a white coffee mug with blue lettering, “SciSchmooze makes Mondays better!” This time the prize is an 8-inch model kit of the James Webb Space Telescope. Just send an email before noon Friday to david.almandsmith [at] with an integer between 0 and 1,000.


Another anti-science movie has been released by the same folk who foisted the movie “Died Suddenly” on us which claimed COVID vaccines were killing millions. The new movie, “Final Days,” claims that both the COVID vaccines and the COVID-19 virus contain nano-machines engineered to turn people into automatons that can be controlled by the “Satanic LGBTQIA+ Pedophile Global Elite [who] are trying to be God and alter humanity forever.” I’m certain that producing scary docu-drivel is far more profitable than merely publishing a hackneyed sci-fi novel. [Sigh]

¿Hard of hearing? There’s a snake oil for that.

¿Want to be more sexually attractive? There’s a snake oil for that.

¿Want to be healthier? There are dozens of snake oils for that.


State Farm and Allstate will no longer insure properties in California. Wow! The insurance companies cited wildfires as part of their decision. Homes built in ‘wildfire prone’ areas are increasingly difficult to insure with any insurance company. Possibly this will result in our cities becoming more population dense, reaping the benefits of shorter commutes and lower greenhouse gas emissions. We may soon be ceding fire prone areas back to the wilderness from which they came.

I’ve been occasionally staying in SoCal where Colorado River water is essential and where i choose to take Navy showers. Digging into the details of Colorado River water use reveals that “residential use” only accounts for 12% of the total. Growing crops for human consumption uses 24% of the total. The biggest portion, 55%, goes to growing feed for livestock – another good reason for reducing meat in our diets.

The State of Arizona is restricting home construction in the Phoenix area due to the limited supply of water. It is amazing to me that nearly 5 million people already live in the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler area where the average high temperature is over 100°F (38°C) four months out of the year and it is only going to get hotter.

Wyoming ranks as the 7th largest producer of oil and gas among U.S. States. It was therefore surprising to me that Wyoming is the only State to receive a “solid A” for teaching climate change in their schools, according to our local NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.

The air in Norway is measurably cleaner now due mainly to the public’s adoption of electric cars. Last year, 80% of new car sales were for electric vehicles. Tesla sales alone amounted to 30% of all new cars. (BTW, the Tesla Model 3 is now the best-selling car in the world.) It’s not all roses and chocolate candy in Norway, however. The installation of charging stations is proceeding quickly but failing to meet demand. Frustration and irritation are growing. Let this be a lesson for the U.S. 

My Picks of the Week

– Towards Water Justice: Existing Tools & Frameworks 12:30 Monday, Stanford

– Women in Science: Achievements & Barriers Livestream 11:30 – 4pm Thursday

– Improbable Research & the Ig Nobel Prizes Livestream 7:30pm Thursday

– Taking on Big Ag & Going Big on Climate, Cory Booker Noon Friday, S.F., $

– Climate Change from Space 10am Saturday, Chabot Space & Science Center, $

– Family Nature Walks: Foothills Nature Preserve 11am Saturday, Los Altos


A vaccine for Lyme disease has been approved.- for mice. Although deer ticks are a common source of human infection, the major reservoir of the causative Borrelia bacteria is in mice populations. ¿How do you vaccinate millions of mice? Coat mouse kibble with an oral version of the vaccine and distribute the kibble by helicopter. Happy mice, happy people.

Controlling polio is one of the major health advances from the 20th century. However, out of millions of vaccinations occasionally the vaccine mutates in a person and becomes infectious to unvaccinated people. Such is the situation announced this year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi.

¿How did life start? That question is misleading since it suggests a singular beginning of life; and how do we define “life.” A better question is: What sequences of self-replicating and autocatalytic sets led to biology? This video does a far better job than i could in discussing the beginnings of the unbroken web of evolution.


UC Berkeley Falcons – 5 mins

Maze-Solving Competition – Veritaseum – Derek Muller PhD – 23 mins

Largest Sofa Problem – Up and Atom – Jade Tam-Holmes – 10 mins

Three New JWST Results – Dr. Becky – Becky Smithurst PhD – 25 mins

Your Brain: Who’s in Control? – PBS NOVA – 52 mins

Science News – Sabine Hossenfelder PhD – 18 mins

Quest for Quantum Gravity – Quanta Magazine – Renate Loll PhD – 5 mins

Be adventurous – there’s no telling what you’ll discover within & outside yourself,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
― Douglas Noël Adams (1952-2001) English author, humorist, and screenwriter

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