Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The Rabbit Reads the SciSchmooze

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). Credit: Yamazaki

Hello again Science Fans, and welcome to the Year of the Rabbit!

The weather has been on everyone’s mind over the past month. The last time the Bay Area received this much rain in a 3 week period, Abraham Lincoln was President! Some areas were hit worse than others, of course. This all started the day after I left for Europe, and stopped when I returned. Strictly a coincidence, I assure you.

Most of us would recognize that there is a correlation between climate change and all the extreme weather events occurring around the world. For the past four years, the planet’s oceans have set records for the highest temperatures since record keeping began. Temperature extremes are being observed both on the hot and cold sides of normal, with Mars-like cold in Russia that could end up in Canada soon.

The changing climate is causing governments world wide to focus on energy conservation and generation. Automobile makers are working on electric vehicle development. I saw this first hand during a tour of the Volkswagen factory while in Germany. While engineering challenges continue, such as battery development, one issue seems to stand out. Can our electrical grid withstand the demand from all the chargers needed to keep the EV’s going? Palo Alto offers a case study in the challenges having so many Teslas in the city has created.

Who doesn’t like Penguins? No one? That’s what I thought. Found only in Antarctica, penguins have some unique breeding habits. The erect-crested penguins in New Zealand reject their first-laid eggs, but incubate their second one. They are the only bird species to do this.

A new (to us) colony of Emperor Penguins has just been discovered, one of only 66 known colonies, at Verleger Point. Discovered in December, the announcement was delayed so it could be made on Penguin Awareness Day, which was last Friday. Did you miss it?

Maybe penguins should replace one of the animals on the Asian zodiac, perhaps the rat. “Year of the penguin” sounds better to me.

Back to Mars, as Ingenuity, the plucky little helicopter just completed its 40th flight! Remember, it was only designed to make five flights!

It is humbling to remember that each of us is just a small spec in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Our planet is one of billions in the universe. We have the means to view Earth from space, and here are some beautiful pictures from various satellites, including a time lapse showing the storms coming onshore in California these past weeks.

The number of papers being published covering aspects of data from the James Webb Space Telescope are unprecedented. There is so much data to analyze! Our understanding of the early universe is being upended. Yet, despite all these new discoveries, the Standard Model of Cosmology survives JWST’s findings.

As always, there are plenty of astronomical happenings coming in 2023, including eclipses, meteor showers, even a comet. Here’s a link to a calendar of upcoming events.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), also known as the Green comet, should be visible to the naked eye at the start of February. If you don’t catch a glimpse now, you will have to figure out how to live for around 50,000 more years to catch it next time it comes to visit.

Here are my picks for this week:

  1. Astronomy Picture Of The Day: Postcards from the Universe 2022 – 6:00 PM Tuesday, Jan 24, online
  2. Building a National Volcano Early Warning System for the Future – 6:00 PM Thursday, Jan 26, online
  3. Mycological Society of San Franciso Fungus Fair – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Sunday, January 29, Pleasant Hill
  4. The James Webb Space Telescope: Atmospheres of Other Worlds – 7:00 PM Monday, January 30, Stanford University or online

Have a great week in Science!
Bob Siederer

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