Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The Big Dipper & HD 84406
HD 84406 circled in red

Hello again dear science aficionados,

Whew! The James Webb Space Telescope, JWST, folded open and made it to its destination orbit with no glitches. During the next few months, its 18 primary mirrors – each 1.3m across – will be wiggled and warped to become a single ‘perfect’ telescope mirror using wavefront sensing and control algorithms – and i have no effing idea how that works. Apparently images of the star HD 84406 will play a role. Here is an excellent site with videos and descriptions of the mirrors and their controls

It took me some time to understand why JWST can orbit around the L2 point in space since L2 is not a place an object can remain. (If an object drifts a teeny distance farther or nearer than L2 along the line through the Earth and Sun, it will continue moving faster and faster away.) However, if an object drifts a distance at a right angle to a line from L2 through Earth and Sun, it will be gravitationally drawn back toward that line. Because of that, L2 can be the focal point of an orbit. JWST needs to stay out of the shadows of Earth and Moon since it needs sunlight to power its solar panels, so it is now orbiting around L2 at a distance of 450,000 to 832,000 kilometers. Each orbit will take about half a year, and minor course corrections will be made every three weeks.

Luisa won the JWST pin in our last contest. This time we are giving away a laser-cut kit for constructing an 8-inch JWST model. That equates to a scale of about 1:104. Just send an email to (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 kit to the person who chose the closest number.

That was a powerful eruption near Tonga this month. ¿How about eruptions on the Sun?

We have all heard that Schrödinger’s cat was both alive and dead, but have you heard that Erwin Schrödinger was both brilliant and a pedophile

One effect of all that rain we got is the return of salmon to places they have not been seen for almost 20 years: Oakland’s Lake Merritt, Geronimo Valley, and elsewhere. I had to refer to a map to find Geronimo Valley. To get there, the salmon entered Lagunitas Creek from Tomales Bay, swam up Lagunitas Creek past Point Reyes Station and Samuel P. Taylor Park, and made a left turn at Geronimo Creek – a distance of more than 32 kilometers (20 miles)! Herb Masters recently gave us a link to research on fish navigation, and i would like to direct you to a video from that study: Goldfish driving a ‘car.’  Another ‘fish story’ is the discovery of 60 million fish nests in the Antarctic.

Confession: I suffer from Mariko Aoki Syndrome. For example, i occasionally visit Goodwill Stores for odds & ends, clothing, and books. I can only briefly peruse the book shelves before the need to defecate becomes fairly strong, so i then shop elsewhere in the store until the urge subsides and i can briefly return to the books. Truly weird, weird, weird.

Recently, Britain’s The Skeptic publication came out with the opinion that the Havana Syndrome was likely psychogenic. Almost immediately after that, the CIA agreed with that assessment except for a few instances where they had not yet rendered a decision. Скептицизм это хорошо.

The American Red Cross announced earlier this month that it is facing its worst blood shortage in over a decade due largely to the damndemic. More blood donors are needed, so The Walking Dead coagulant – i mean The Walking Dead conglomerate – will soon be opening stores in the U.S. where you will be able to buy merchandise with your blood. But please don’t wait. Click here to locate a donor facility near you. I earned a 5-gallon pin some years ago. As teenagers, we would donate blood, ‘borrow’ a 6-pack, and feel drunk on a single beer. It’s not that easy with hamsters!

Livestream Picks for the week:

Those Stanford science types are guaranteed to get a lump of coal next Christmas from the fossil fuel industry. They found another reason to ditch the gas stove in your kitchen. I’ve been looking for good deals on induction stove tops, but it will also cost to route a 240 volt line into the kitchen. Soon, maybe. 

Climate Change

For your entertainment, the following videos will take you from an underground ant nest to Hamburg, Germany, to low Earth orbit, to the Moon, and on to Venus:

Australian Walking Stick
Modelleisenbahn Wunderland (Model Train Wonderland)
Badminton on the ISS
Breathing Moon dust
Exploring the Venusian atmosphere

Consider donating blood this week – with compassion and intelligence,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Pundits have urged people to “listen to the science,” as if “the science” is a tome of facts and not an amorphous, dynamic entity, born from the collective minds of thousands of individual people who argue and disagree about data that can be interpreted in a range of ways.”
– Ed Yong

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