Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Watching the Clock & SciSchmoozing

Welcome again,

We get such good feedback from so many of you that i often think of you as colleagues.

Lately i’ve been living less than a hundred meters from a heavily-traveled 6-lane, 55 mph thoroughfare. (Quick question: ¿Of the world’s 190+ nations, how many officially use “miles” instead of kilometers for road signs? Answer below.) All but a tiny portion of the vehicles zooming by are gobbling up fossil fuel and spewing out CO2. There’s not much i can do about that … but i did a little. I made up cards printed on one side, “Make your next vehicle F3 (Fossil Fuel Free). Buy Electric and refuel at home.” On the other side i printed the following:

These messy QR codes work to pull up a list of available electric cars and the cost to ship them to or around the Bay Area (although i have not vetted the retailer). If you live elsewhere, you can alter the algorithm. As i was handing out these cards to drivers waiting their turn at Costco gas pumps, one driver jumped out of his car holding the card and confronted me. I held my ground as he said, “Thank you for doing this!” <Whew> Handing out these cards is nearly pointless. Informing you and the thousands of other SciSchmooze readers is slightly better. Better still would be for you to spread the word to your contacts that we must rapidly abandon fossil-fuel-burning vehicles – and there are good choices for under $20k.

Getting rid of fossil-fuel-burning vehicles is far from all that we need to do. The Princeton University study, “Net Zero America,” presents five different strategies to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 in the U.S. – and their costs. However, the best and fastest U.S. strategy might not prevent our exceeding global climate tipping points.

I stumbled upon an enigma this week. The website lists “Parliamentarians” who have signed a statement recognizing the need to: 

  1. End new expansion of oil, gas and coal production …;
  2. Phase out existing oil, gas and coal in a manner that is fair and equitable …;
  3. Commit to and pursue transformational policies and plans to ensure 100% access to renewable energy globally …;
  4. Enact national budgets and fiscal policies that will support this swift and just transition nationally and globally …;

As of now, about 600 national legislators (senators, representatives, members of parliament, etc.) from 78 nations have signed this statement. Tellingly, not one U.S. Senator or Representative has signed it. That is a puzzle and a problem. I wrote to my House Representative and to my Senators asking why they haven’t signed. No replies yet. You could also ask.

¿Are people who are negatively affected by the climate crisis entitled to recompense? Both the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights are dealing with that question.

Answer to the question: ¿Of the world’s 190+ nations, how many officially use “miles” instead of kilometers for road signs? – Two: Belize and the U.S.A.

Samantha M. won the Crooke’s Radiometer with her guess of 311; closest of only 13 entries. The prize this time is a favorite of ours, a glass beaker coffee mug. Just send an email before noon Friday to david.almandsmith [at] with an integer between 0 and 1,000. 


The ISS will (potentially) be visible from the Bay Area from horizon to horizon on Monday starting at 8:06 PM PDT. Give the multinational crew a wave!

NUTRITION (& the Environment)

A Mammoth meatball was grown in a vat at the Vow Company in Australia. Yes it is mammoth-sized, but it also contains Mammoth myoglobin created from Mammoth DNA. The company did this mainly for publicity; and it clearly worked. ¿But is cultured meat in our future? ¿What about soy burgers? Using grazing animals for meat is environmentally destructive, a major source of greenhouse gas, is ethically controversial, and provides a reservoir for pathogenic viruses and bacteria. Some push instead for a general overhaul of agriculture in the face of our climate crisis. ¿Where does a “paleo diet” fit in? (Do not follow that last link if you are squeamish.)

It was during the Vietnam War in 1970 when Lolita was captured, as four of her young companions perished. Demands to end her confinement in Florida have been repeatedly voiced during the intervening 52 years. Finally, plans and funding are in place for the orca to be released back into Puget Sound where her mother still lives. We hope it goes well.

My Picks of the Week

– The Caves of Mars: Mission to a Lava Tube 7:30pm Monday, San Francisco, $
– Class: Aliens in Science & Science Fiction Livestream 2pm Tuesday, College Credit, $
– Birding the Bay Area: Part One Livestream 6:30pm Tuesday
– Wonderfest: Earthquakes; Gene Engineering Livestream 8pm Wednesday
– Easy Morning Walk at Wavecrest 10am Thursday, Half Moon Bay
– Family Nature Walk: Foothills Nature Preserve 11am Saturday, Los Altos

Artificial Intelligence – AI – is able to predict how proteins fold which assists medical science to the benefit of all of us. AI is helping physicists control plasma streams in prototype fusion reactors. AI is helping mathematicians find previously unknown patterns leading to advanced theorems. AI is also assisting in the creation of misinformation and disinformation. People have been creating misinformation for hundreds of millennia and purveyors of misinformation needn’t employ AI to mislead millions of people. The QAnon conspiracy is a prime example. But AI can make garbage far more believable and it is getting better. ¿How will future generations manage to protect themselves from misinformation in all of its forms? Perhaps we should look to the Finnish example where learning to evaluate information is part of the standard curriculum.

Fun nerdy videos:

Saving lives one drone at a time – Mark Rober – 22 mins
Waste heat and the future of our planet – Sabine Hossenfelder – 22 mins
Microplastics – The Right Chemistry, Joe Schwarcz – 5 mins
National High Magnetic Field Lab – Veritaseum, Derek Muller – 23 mins
History of the scientific method – PBS Get Smart, Joe Hanson – 12 mins
Why is there something rather than nothing? – David Kipping – 20 mins
Science News without the gobbledygook – Sabine Hossenfelder – 17 mins
The Space Gun: Project HARP – Real Engineering – 20 mins

Make this week special – and also expand your sphere/bubble/circle of empathy,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
– Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018) English theoretical physicist

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