Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

from the desk of Herb Masters
Greetings Science Students!

After all I think that if you are a supporter of science or a scientist you never really stop being a student.  What an amazing time we are living in.  Do you remember the statement that started with “If they can put a man on the moon”?  It seems like such a naïve question these days.

Today we face massive challenges that may very well change how we live on the planet in our lifetimes.  Some would say that it all started back in back in 1751 as part of the industrial revolution.  Consider though that many people alive today were born while an early form of digital communication was still used commonly (some would argue it is trinary!) and what we think of as digital now was inconceivable.  But moving to current times that I can conceive of…  I barely remember the uproar and excitement in 1957 when the first artificial satellite was launched and is credited with starting the “space age“.  Back then there were places like this strange now abandoned building in south Napa.   Not only have we put men on the moon and had a permanently crewed space station for over 20 years, we have explored a lot of what isn’t found here on earth!  Space research and exploration has been the driving force in many of the things we take for granted today.  

Please allow a bit of digression here.  Curiosity During Decent to Mars and Perseverance During Descent to Mars were taken about 9 years apart.  I was blown away by the first one and equally blown away by the second one.  Science is about understanding at finer and finer detail the nuance of what we observe and wonder about.  Those are astonishing pictures.  I’m sure I don’t need to impress on you the whole 7 minutes of terror concept.  We should all marvel at, and commend, the folks for the crazy landing system that they developed to land Curiosity and Perseverance on Mars.  These all had to be done automatically with the ability to make adjustments while descending through the atmosphere of Mars.  I think those two pictures represent another level of accomplishment.  MRO is travelling about 7,600 mph.  Curiosity and Perseverance were slowing from about 13,000 mph to 0 mph in those 7 minutes.  Using math, one of the main languages of science, the folks at NASA were able to program the MRO where to point at just the right time to take those pictures!  Now as we seem to be getting a handle on Covid-19 (it’s not over yet) space research has given us many answers and Sputnik has a new meaning

Yet in spite of how much we know and understand we still have disasters like the freeze in Texas and Covid-19 is still a challenge.  Here’s a bit of irony though.  I hope that you laughed in horror that anybody could have the idea of space lasers starting wildfires in California.  But space has played a part in wildland fires in California for well over 40 years!  You might also want to refresh on the Paris Agreement we are back in with; check out FRONTLINE’s Recent Climate Reporting.

So much to learn…  Here’s a few presentations to think about for the next week.  Conversations About Landscape Online: Hidden in Plain Sight – The Unique Natural Landscape of San Francisco Wed @ 7:00,  The Most Famous Equation: Wonderfest Wed @ 8:00,  Virtual Elephant Seal Tour at Año Nuevo Sat @ 10:00   

In case you don’t believe some of the warnings you get…  Leave your pocket knife in the car.    Have you ever wondered about how complicated that natural breakfast mainstay is?  An egg is such an elegant solution to so many problems.    You might want to improve the Fit and Filtration of Your Mask because we’re not through it yet!    Here’s something more to help try and understand Quantum Entanglement (beware of brain cramps).    I would also offer this up as well.  What is humor?  Further research is recommended.

Remember to keep your slide rule handy, wear a mask or two, and get that vaccine!

herb masters

“We’ve sent a man to the moon and that’s 29,000 miles away. The center of the Earth is only 4,000 miles away. You could drive that in a week but for some reason nobody’s ever done it.” – Author: Andy Rooney    

It just might work!  

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