Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

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Lunar Eclipse – Election – Asteroid

Hello, my fellow Earthlings. So glad you are reading this.

Tuesday at 0-dark-30 the entire moon will be fully covered by Earth’s shadow. (2:17 a.m. Pacific) It will begin emerging from the shadow at 3:42 a.m. Andrew Fraknoi has provided an informational page on the event.

Tuesday at 7 a.m. the polls open in California and will stay open until 8 p.m. The SciSchmooze isn’t really running for Emperox (cf. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi) but you should still vote, dammit !!

Asteroid 2022 AP7 is scheduled to smash into Earth in a few thousand years, but by then we will have been mining it for minerals and will have moved it into a safe orbit. Whew!

It is hoped that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to detect whether an exoplanet harbours life, but how? Lisa Kaltenegger is working on that.

It is fairly certain that we (Homo sapiens) wiped out the Neanderthals (homo neanderthalensis) but scientists at London’s Natural History Museum posit that we did it not by violence but by sex. Although violence may have played a role, sex could have been sufficient.

Significant Denisovan and Neanderthal genes were found in the genomes of early South Americans. By analysing remains of early residents of the Americas, researchers have posited possible migration routes of the earliest settlers.

Recently unearthed from a mere 2,500 years ago come bronze statues and hundreds of sarcophagi, beautifully carved and painted.

Of the 13 contestants (including Senator Mark Kelly), Amber Z was closest to the randomly generated 689 with her guess of 717. She won a JWST mirror lapel pin. This time the prize is Randall Munroe’s hardcover book, What If? Just send an email to david.almandsmith [at] (only one) before noon Friday with an integer between zero and 1,000. We will then use a random number generator to select the target number and mail the book to the person who was closest.

¿Would you like to receive the SciSchmooze in your mailbox each week? Go to and enter your email address.

COP27 (27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)) is underway in Egypt in an effort to ameliorate climate change and its effects. There is even a session to “highlight the importance of youth leadership” but Greta Thunberg is boycotting, in part due to Egypt’s poor human rights situation, and in part to COP ineffectiveness. “The COPs are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing.” “In order to change things, we need everyone – we need billions of activists.” “The Climate Book” by Thunberg will be released in the U.S. in February.

Some optimism regarding our climate crisis comes from recent developments and from research that indicates some species can quickly adapt to changing temperatures – given sufficient genetic variability.

COVID and Cuba
The Soviet Union – prior to its collapse in 1991 – helped build a modern biotechnology industry in Cuba which today remains top notch, and was able to quickly and independently create effective COVID-19 vaccines. That circumstance – in addition to a first-rate nationwide health-care system – resulted in a COVID fatality rate less than a fourth of that in the United States. I believe that our lack of a good nationwide health-care system led to 750,000 needless deaths.

In a sequence reminiscent of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, ever more COVID Omicron variants are marching forth. The Omicron variant may have come from mice that were infected by exposure to a COVID-infected person. If you are a mouse (Mickey or not), Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) might reduce the harms of cytokine storms caused by a COVID infection. Stay tuned.

(Departing from science & technology)

Lotteries and gambling are a sleazy marriage of moneyed interests, aberrant psychology, and short-sighted governments that result in de facto regressive taxation and malfeasance, in my not-so-humble-opinion. “[T}here are far more equitable and effective ways for the state to use its mighty powers to improve life for its citizens.”

(Returning to science & technology)

Your mobile phone knows its location using GPS if it is an Android 8, iPhone 11 or older. If your phone is a newer version, it knows its location using GPSGLONASSGalileoQZSS, and BDS. Each of these is a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). 

  • GPS (Global Positioning System) 24 satellites, United States
  • GLONASS (Global’naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema) 24 satellites, Russia
  • Galileo, 28 satellites, European Union
  • QZSS (Quasi-Zenith Satellite System) 4 satellites, Japan
  • BDS (BeiDou System) 35 satellites, China

Some devices employ NavIC (Navigation using India Constellation) that has 8 satellites.

Using multiple systems theoretically improves location accuracy but the computations required are mind boggling. Here is a video that explains how these systems work. QZSS and NavIC use fewer satellites because they only operate within specific regions by using geosynchronous orbits.

My Picks for the week:

A Southern Right Whale has apparently adopted a Humpback Whale calf. Adoptions among whales and dolphins have been observed multiple timessuggesting they might be capable of interspecies empathy.

Why do some people reject science messaging? Three psychologists boiled it down to four factors:

  1. when a scientific message comes from sources perceived as lacking credibility
  2. when the recipients embrace the social membership or identity of groups with anti science attitudes
  3. when the scientific message itself contradicts what recipients consider true, favorable, valuable, or moral
  4. when there is a mismatch between the delivery of the scientific message and the recipient’s favored processes for making judgments

Fortunately they found two effective stratagems for communicating with anti science folk:

  1. Find common ground with people who reject science—even if it has nothing to do with science.  “Find some places where you agree and work from there.”
  2. Convey messages in a way that shows an understanding of their viewpoints.

Fun science videos:

Have a great week, expand your empathy sphere, and appreciate life,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Human morality is unthinkable without empathy.”
—Frans de Waal (1948 – ) Dutch Primatologist & Ethologist

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