Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The SciSchmooze Celebrates the Earth

Earth Day, Every Day

Hello again fans of Science!

The first official Earth Day observance was in 1970. That’s 51 years ago that organizers proclaimed the day as one to take action on our environment. While a lot has been done since that first Earth Day, including the start of the recycling movement, the introduction of unleaded gasoline, and significant pollution restrictions, have we really improved the planet?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I would say it all depends on where you look. In some areas great strides have been made. In others, not so much. And overall, climate change continues seemingly unabated while politicians and governments continue to talk about the issue rather than do as much as possible to fix it.

Here’s a rather comprehensive list of questions and answers, backed up with facts and research, to answer the “how do we know” questions climate deniers pose. Due to the number of questions the article attempts to answer, it is a bit long, but worth reading.

A new study reinforces human-driven global change back well beyond the industrial revolution, the period often cited as the start of our influence on the planet’s ecology.

One hundred forty two years ago, a researcher at the University of Michigan buried some seeds in a sort of time capsule. Every few years, he, or subsequent researchers, dug up some of the seeds to see how long they could remain viable. This may be the longest running experiment ever.

Our planet continues to develop. It seems that there’s been an increase in volcanic activity in the past few weeks. Scientists don’t have sensors on as many volcanoes as you might think. New NASA data shows that signs of unrest beneath a volcano can be detected years before it erupts.

Meanwhile, on Mars, Ingenuity, the pint sized helicopter, finally took off successfully last Monday. It was a short flight, but very significant. Here’s a video of the first flight. And the second. And just a few hours ago, the third flight took place, reaching heights and distances bigger than previously tested on Earth. The third flight covered 164 feet. Fantastic!

We’ve all heard that the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are 95% effective. That does not mean there’s a 5% infection risk. Effective communication is so important, especially with this disease, and is something we frequently mention here at the Schmooze. In fact, communicating science effectively is one of our main goals.

So far, the vaccines are all injected. But that may change, with a nasal spray vaccine that would hinder the evolution of new variants of the disease.

California has gone from having one of the worst infection rates to one of the lowest in the US. But while the news is good here, elsewhere it isn’t that great. Some areas of the US continue to struggle with containment, with Michigan being the worst. In India, officials are running out of oxygen to treat patients and case loads are increasing rapidly. The official counts there are probably very understated too. Less affluent countries have little vaccine to distribute, placing their residents at risk.

So while there is progress, it is not universal.

For your consideration this week:

  1. Near-Earth Asteroids, The Impact Hazard, and Space Missions – Livestream, Tuesday 4/27 at 7:00 pm
  2. Black Hole Survival Guide – Livestream, Wednesday 4/28 at 7:00 PM
  3. Bringing Back the Natives Virtual Garden Tour, Sunday, May 2 at 10:00 AM, with subsequent sessions on May 16 and 23.

Have a great week in Science!

Bob Siederer

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