Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Travel to Mars with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters
A Belated Happy Valentine’s Day Science Fans,

This is a bit late for actual Valentine Day Science but it’s not like we don’t have the opportunity of extending some fun these days.  It’s hard to imagine that we have been in the Covid-19 mode for a year now.  As they say, “it’s been a hell of a year” between politics and science (note the date on that!).  These days deciding what and who to believe can be a challenge.  There are so many people with so many different ideas about what is a “fact” it is in some ways understandable why there are so many that don’t seem to want to follow the advice of a large group of scientists that all agree.  You can find almost any info that you want to support your idea that defies science, reason, and even manners.  Yelling at someone who isn’t wearing a mask is generally as effective as them yelling at you to take yours off. 

So how do you decide what science authority you should believe?  Not being a scientist myself I generally have to put my trust in people I trust.  I think one of the better ways is to look at the range of ideas about a topic and look to see how deep the background goes.  Are there a lot of “experts” that accept or support the same ideas, or does it look like there are very few who support them.  As they say, consider the source.  Add in some legal abundance of caution fear and it’s hard to figure out what to think.

I’m fortunate enough to have met some people that I have come to place a high level of trust in.  They are my go to gateways to information I can use.  You should know that I am a serious fan and supporter of the explOratorium and through volunteering there I have met some amazing scientists and educators as well as the people who design and build the exhibits.  Allow me to introduce you to Jennifer Frazier Phd.  Here are some links to some her presentations.  Here are a few of the comments and references she has shared recently… 
– If you’re really interested in some of the evolutionary biology happening, this is a really excellent piece in The Conversation that includes a “map” of where the mutations are across variants.
– The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is NOT an mRNA vaccine, but an adenovirus based vaccine.  It will still be able to be tweaked for variants, but perhaps not as quickly.  A primer on how the J&J vaccine is made in the NY Times by our viz advisor Jonathan Corum (nested in a great series on how all the vaccines work). 
Scientific American made a video to explain the new variants and vaccines using animation and a lot of nice video clips of working researchers. 
– This week the CDC also came out with stronger masking recommendations – including cloth over surgical and ways to make masks tighter fitting.  NPR summary here and CDC study here.
– Some good animations of how it actually works, giving you a way to visualize the lipid droplets merging with cell membranes, where the mRNA goes, how it is translated into part of the spike protein and “presented”.
Thanks for sharing all of that Jen.   She knows a lot about beer yeasts as well! 

There is a lot of excitement in space science this month as well.  There are three big stories about Mars alone.  Hope and Tianwen-1 are orbiting Mars and Perseverance is landing on Thursday!  There are lots of ways to watch the landing and also programs about how to do it!  Did you know that the explO has collaborative links with NASA?

Of course there are plenty of great presentations happening this week.  Consider these… The Bay Area: Cradle of Truffle Science Tue @ 7:00,  ‘Rebuilding Paradise’ Fri @ noon, A Rainforest at our Feet: Local wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area Thu @ 7:00.

And now for a blast of other things I find interesting!  NextGenArecibo,      Jeopardy? Really?,     NextGenAreciboEd Yong at The Atlantic covers science,     SciCheck at FactCheck,     tips for better thinking,     Do you see red like I see red?     An interesting link to something you’ve never seen… never-been-seen,     the Highest Resolution Photos Ever Taken of Snowflakes

So much to learn so little time (a bit more thanks to Covid though!)

herb masters

“Let me put it this way. Maybe I’d sleep with you if you were the last man on Earth. But we’re not on Earth.”  Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Ghosts of Mars)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *