Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

from the desk of Bob Siederer

Hello again Science fans!

There’s quite a variety of things to talk about today.  Let’s start with Rock and Roll! 

Well, not exactly, but indirectly. Climate change is having an effect on guitars.  You probably never think about the wood that’s used in making musical instruments, but climate change is causing a shortage of swamp ash, the type of wood used in Fender guitars.  Rock and Roll will never sound quite the same, all because of more historic flooding along the Mississippi River.

You should not take anything for granted these days.  Take north.  Yes, the direction north.  The magnetic north pole is moving quickly, and has left Canada, headed for Siberia!

In the continuing story of OSIRIS-REX, the spacecraft managed to close the door on the sample container and is now preparing to return to Earth.  Scientists have confirmed that at least one pound of material from the asteroid is inside the container.  The spacecraft will leave asteroid Bennu next spring and should land in Utah in late September, 2023.

SpaceX launched the Dragon spacecraft “Resilience” containing four astronauts en route to the Space Station, the first time in nine years that the US has been able to initiate manned flight to the station.  Resilience will remain docked at the Space Station until next spring, when it will return to earth with the four astronauts.  Here’s a summary of the mission from NASA.

There’s another comet visible in the pre-dawn sky, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime visitor known as Erasmus!

The election is over.  Now what?  Over the past four years, scientific integrity in government has taken a huge hit.  Here’s a series of things Scientific American says can be done to restore that integrity.

There is also good news on the coronavirus front.  Not one, but two vaccines have finished trials and reported effectiveness rates around 95%, with no serious side effects.  They have submitted plans to the FDA for approval and say they can begin distribution within hours of that approval.  This crisis won’t end overnight, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing fairly widespread effects of the changes we’ve all had to live through since March.  Several friends around the world have told me how different they feel due to the isolation they have had to endure to remain safe.  For those who already live somewhat isolated lives, no matter the reason, the stresses and strains brought on by the virus have made the situation worse for many.  If you know of anyone who is having trouble dealing with all this, even a little bit, please reach out to them and let them know they are not alone.  The holiday season will make this worse as, for most of us, Thanksgiving will be a smaller celebration than usual.  I’m hopeful that people will heed the warnings and we won’t see a big spike in infections following the holiday, but I’m not optimistic.  Time will tell.  California in general, and northern California specifically has done a better job of following recommendations than most other areas.  According to statistics in the Mercury News today, only Hawaii and New Hampshire have lower infection rates per 10,000 people than California over the past 14 days.  Yet our rates are rising too.

So please, have a Happy Thanksgiving, but be safe!

Bob Siederer

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