Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Still 2020 with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters

Greetings Fans of Knowledge, Science, and Reason

We truly do live in amazing times2020 has been a staggeringly rough year.  There are many things to be bummed about, the willful covidnorance and ignorance of science overall, pseudoscience and conspiracy theory, along with an incredible denial of…  I can’t go there, let’s just say the sausage making of democracy has taken a horrible hit as well.  I have found myself reveling in the accomplishments of science and the technologies that have brought new inspiration and relief to us. 

Consider a few of these things instead.  I don’t play golf and never have.  The precision that a golfer has to have to hit a small ball with a flat surface and have it be a hole in one is staggering.  That’s one moving object vs. a stationary one requiring exquisite precision in the angle and velocity of the club.  I have heard that hitting a baseball (at the professional major league level) is one of the hardest things to do in sports.  That’s two moving objects, only one of which the batter controls, that must be placed in space and time with amazing precision.  Now think about identifying an asteroid millions of miles from earth and figuring out where and when it will be some time in the future.  Now figure out how you can shoot a rocket to meet it at that point.  It’s moving in an orbit around the sun, you’re moving in a different orbit around the sun, and you want them both to get to the same point in space at the same time and then match the speed of the asteroid, even as the velocity of it and you is constantly changing.  Five years after you launch you want to land on the asteroid.  That’s amazing.  But wait there’s more!  Did you scoop up some asteroid stuff?  You now have to bring it millions of miles back to where you started!  So almost 6 years to the day after launching, you kick it out of your space vessel, and it lands in Australia!  But wait, there’s still more!  I’m not sure if it is more amazing or not but, more than 40 years ago the Voyager 1 & 2 Spacecraft (yes, there are two) started a journey across and out of the solar system.  They are now over 10 billion miles from earth and still working.  They have swung by many planets and received a gravity boost to the next one each time. 

From those incredibly large scales consider some of the smaller ones we need to worry about.  One of the major stories in the news and probably all of our personal lives is Covid-19.  I’m not going to dwell on what it has meant to us and how our lives have changed in a year.  What I do want to do is point out that as big as space science is, so are the various disciplines of biology.  The ability to identify little bumps on a virus and then come up with something that will attach to it to alert your body’s self-defense system to attack it is a mindboggling triumph of science!  Let’s not even dwell on the technology needed to do this type of science.  Covid is so current in our lives there are plenty of discussions about it.  Here are two that I think put a lot of the last year in perspective.  Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines – A Triumph for Science.  A Lack of Transparency Is Undermining Pandemic Policy  You may not be able to help launch a rocket but you can help science beat Covid-19.

Needless to say there is a lot of opportunity to learn about so many different aspects of science this week.  Here are few… 
Two Talks: Popping the Science Bubble on Tue @ 5:30 PM  
Renaissance Medicinal Recipes on Wed at noon  
Celestial – Winter Solstice – The Science  Thu 7:00 :PM

But wait there is so much more unique stuff to see this week…
Don’t miss the ECLIPSE!!!  Note: It’s early on Monday morning. The explOratorium wasn’t able to send a team to livestream the Eclipse but they certainly have programming about it
Be sure to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
There are King Tides.
Don’t miss the Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.  (It has its non-science fans as well.  A lot of them.)
Don’t miss the ECLIPSE!!!  Note: It’s early on Monday morning. The explOratorium wasn’t able to send a team to livestream the Eclipse but they certainly have programming about it

Last week David Almandsmith included a video about Arecibo.  It was one of several done by Scott Manley.  The collapse of Arecibo was a shock.  I remember it being in the news when it was built.  I was young and interested in anything science.  I’d like to share with you the series of videos that Scott did about Arecibo since the collapse began.  They also give a lot of insight in to how engineers and scientists evaluate big problems and how to manage them.
Aug 13 2021-  target=”_blank”Snapped Cable Damages Arecibo Observatory Radio Telescope
Nov 21 2021-  Worlds Largest Radar Astronomy Dish To Be Demolished!
Dec 1 2021-  Arecibo Radio Telescope Collapses!
Dec 4 2021-  Analyzing Video Footage Of Collapse of Massive Arecibo Telescope

Damn what a year,

herb masters

“Science makes people reach unselfishly for truth and objectivity; it teaches people to accept reality, with wonder and admiration, not to mention the deep awe and delight that the natural order of things brings to the true scientist.”
Lise Meitner: Physicist, 1953

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