Chorizo Gate Meets the SciSchmooze
August 7, 2022
Bless you, Étienne Klein, for bringing levity and wisdom to us last week. Levity came in his claiming that a photo of a slice of chorizo was a JWST photo of Proxima Centauri, and the wisdom came in the physicist’s following Tweet: “Well, when it's time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day... so watch out for them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object of Spanish cold cuts exists anywhere but on Earth.” (Actually it was in French and instead of “cold cuts” he wrote “charcuterie” but i had to look that up, so . . . .)
The real Proxima Centauri is the subject of this excellent 20 minute PBS video.
A real JWST photo of the Cartwheel Galaxy topped Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog last Thursday.
ERROR: I incorrectly named Allison L as winner last month of the JWST model when her guess was only a close second. The real winner was Bill C with his guess of 394. Eerily, Allison L won last week’s Caffeine Beaker Mug with her guess of 141.
This time the prize is a 3-centimeter mirror pin from Cepheid Studio (France) of JWST’s 18 mirror segments. Just send an email to david.almandsmith at gmail.com (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 pin to the person who chose the closest number.
Good news: the Perseids meteor shower will peak this coming Saturday.
Bad news: it will be during a (nearly) full moon (but it’s still a great excuse - if you need one - to bundle up with a partner, an aperitif, and charcuterie on a blanket under the stars).
Not everything falling from space is a meteor, however. Pieces of a SpaceX / ISS mission came streaking down on Australia last week. Nobody and no livestock were hurt, but it was worrisome to local folk and NASA.
Something else i learned this week: in addition to the better-known memorials in D.C. - e.g. Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Abraham Lincoln Memorial, etc. - there is the Samuel Hahnemann Memorial. That’s right; the father of Homeopathic Medicine has an impressive memorial in our nation’s capital that was unveiled in 1900 with President William McKinley presiding.
And last month during SkeptiCal, i learned that Homeopathic Medicine is an accepted - and reimbursable - treatment modality in Deutschland. Many German physicians have been using homeopathy to treat COVID-19 and roughly half of Germans believe that it works. Schrecklich! In England, Emergency Rooms are called A&E (Accident & Emergency). You may have seen the video that imagines a homeopathic A&E.
Picks of the week:
Morning Hike at Rancho Cañada del Oro: 9am - Noon Tuesday, Morgan Hill
Wonderfest: Humanity's New Gravitational Sense: 8pm Wednesday, Livestream
What Does Evidence Do? - 7:30pm Thursday, Livestream
Detecting Disinformation and Deep Fakes - 11am Saturday, UC Berkeley
It’s hard enough for the farmer and the cowman to be friends but now move is afoot for ranchers and buffalo in Oklahoma to be friends. That’s a tall order but there may be numerous benefits, possibly even ameliorating climate change.
I grew up playing with Tinker Toys and my brother’s Erector Set. Now there are oodles more construction toys: Legos, Duplo, Magna-Tiles, K’Nex, etc. Grown-ups, however, get to build things on a much grander scale. Take a look at Detroit’s 2nd Avenue Bridge that was built first and then moved to span I-94. Awesome!
Recognize your cognitive biases, exercise your empathy muscles, have a great week,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics
“It is an acknowledged fact that we perceive errors in the work of others more readily than in our own.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
Click to see the next two weeks of events in your browser.
Decoding the Mystery of Dark Matter Using Galaxy Clusters - 08/08/2022 07:30 PM
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco
One of the main challenges faced by astronomers today is to understand the existence and behaviors of dark matter, which accounts for about 80% of the entire matter content in the Universe. Despite many theories of this mysterious substance, we have yet to achieve a full understanding of its nature and distribution throughout the universe, especially in the absence of signals from direct-detection experiments. At present, the search for dark matter has largely shifted back to the field of astrophysics. For instance, clusters of galaxies provide an excellent laboratory to study the characteristics of dark matter. By studying merging clusters, we can place upper limits on the cross-section of dark matter scattering. Learn how astronomers use galaxy clusters to study various aspects of dark matter, and what other exciting discoveries we are making by studying the largest gravitationally bound systems in the cosmos.
Speaker: Dr. Taweewat Somboonpanyakul, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University
Weekday Morning Hike at Rancho Canada del Oro - 08/09/2022 09:00 AM
Rancho Canada Del Oro Open Space Preserve Morgan hill
Join Peninsula Open Space Trust for an excursion where you'll explore the Mayfair Ranch - Longwall Canyon trails of Rancho Canada del Oro! You will be guided by POST Ambassadors who will share with you the history of the preserve, the region, and the importance of conservation in the area.
The hike is moderate to strenuous at about 4 miles round trip with about 700 feet of gradual elevation gain.
This wonderful preserve is a hub for wildlife, such as deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and more! In the Spring, you can expect a colorful array of wildflowers adorning the hillsides, and you may get a chance to see a beautiful little creek running through Llagas meadow.
When I shake my first at the universe, however benignly, I make gravitational waves - vibrations of spacetime that travel throughout the universe at the speed of light. My personal gravitational waves are far too puny to detect. However, the spacetime waves of cataclysmic astronomical events (exploding stars, the merger of black holes, and the big bang itself) are relatively mighty. Modern gravitational wave detectors are giving us a new awareness - a new sense - of the cosmos.
Speaker: Dr. Rana Adhikari, California Institute of Technology
Coastal Walk at Pillar Point Bluff - 08/11/2022 10:00 AM
Pillar Point Bluff Moss Beach
Join Peninsula Open Space Trust for an afternoon walk at Pillar Point Bluff just north of Half Moon Bay! You will be guided by a POST representative who will share details about the area's interesting natural history, from the coastal scrub habitat to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve that hosts tide pools and breeding grounds for harbor seals.
The walk is moderate at about 2.5 miles round trip with around 350 feet of gradual elevation gain.
In 2004, POST stepped in to fund protection of the bluff, restore it to ecological health, and construct a 1.6-mile section of the California Coastal Trail that now runs across it. Today, all 161 acres of the bluff are fully protected in perpetuity - a process that took four transactions, 11 years of work, and an array of visionaries, landowners and donors, both public and private.
After Dark: Move - 08/11/2022 06:00 PM
ExplOratorium San Francisco
Gear up for a night of cogs and contraptions, analog gadgets and Rube Goldberg chain reactions. Immerse yourself in a delightful array of mechanical objects, from cinematic devices to gears of all sorts. Check out an interactive shadow-puppet installation by Emmy Award - winning Manual Cinema, and experience a performative talk that reveals how they craft multimedia stories like nothing you've ever seen before.
Multimedia Shadow Play With Manual Cinema 6:00 - 10:00 p.m. Bechtel Gallery 3, Wattis Studio
Step into the Wattis Studio and create your own form of live cinema in an installation designed by Emmy Award - winning Manual Cinema. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live-feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of going to the movies and imbues it with energy, ingenuity, and theatricality. Experiment with some of the same tools Manual Cinema uses in its productions to craft your own immersive multimedia shadow play. Get inspired by the familiar materials you encounter and continue your experiments at home!
Behind the Scenes With Manual Cinema 8:00 p.m. Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum
In this performative talk, go behind the scenes with Manual Cinema Co-Artistic Director Sarah Fornace. Since its founding in 2010, Chicago-based Manual Cinema has cultivated a distinct approach to performance that merges handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Tonight, dive into their process and find out how they craft their unique form of live cinema. You'll discover the surprising ways that familiar materials (including your own body!) can be used to transformative effect.
Water Rhythms Opening By Susie Ibarra and Michele Koppes 6:00 - 10:00 p.m. (Installation open) 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. (Meet the artist) Osher Gallery 1, Black Box
Join us for a preview of Water Rhythms, a story of climate change told by ice and water. The immersive sound installation is a collaboration between sound artist Susie Ibarra and climate scientist Michele Koppes. The multichannel spatial soundscape has been rearranged and composed for the Exploratorium's Black Box. This version incorporates field recordings of the San Francisco Bay with recordings from five global watersheds, from the Greenland Ice Sheet to glacier-fed rivers in the Himalayas and the Pacific Northwest.
From 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., meet Susie for conversation and questions!
Susie Ibarra is a Pilipinx composer, drummer/percussionist, and sound artist who focuses on creating and supporting work that preserves ecosystems of biodiverse habitats and traditional and Indigenous cultures.
Michele Koppes is a Canada Research Chair in Landscapes of Climate Change, an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, the Director of the Climate and Cryosphere Lab, and a Senior TED Fellow.
Giant Chain Reaction With Gianna Canamar and Jacky Lin 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. (Build time) 9:00 p.m. (Reaction) Bechtel Gallery 3
Channel your inner Rube Goldberg and join us in celebrating the Exploratorium's Art of Tinkering exhibition by constructing a giant chain reaction! Get your creative juices flowing and cooperate with other groups of visitors for a spectacular finale at the end of the night.
Build with us from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., then gather at 9:00 p.m. to watch the reaction.
Moving Pictures With John Berzins 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Bechtel Gallery 3
Experience John Berzins's inventive artwork Moving Pictures. A tethered film projector moves along a circular track of celluloid, projecting a home movie onto its portable screen. As the evening progresses, dust and dirt cloud the projector, causing images to deteriorate or intensify, much like the memories revisited on film.
Rhythm Blocks With the Tinkering Studio 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Gallery 2, Tinkering Studio
Tinker with mechanisms and unusual sound makers to construct a collaborative, moving, mechanical soundscape.
Scratch Animation Workshop With Antonella Bonfanti, Adrianne Finelli, and Kristin Lipska 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Osher Gallery 1
Become a maverick of 16mm direct animation at this hands-on workshop. We'll provide a 16mm film loop and all the tools you need to create a five-second animated film. From painting on the celluloid to scratching at the emulsion, you can let your creativity take over - and you'll learn a little about the analog filmmaking process along the way. See your creations projected, then take your tiny motion picture home with you.
What Does Evidence Do? - Livestream - 08/11/2022 07:30 PM
Bay Area Skeptics
When it comes to evaluating claims, skeptics tend to adopt the well-known Sagan Standard: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." But what, exactly, is evidence? After all, conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists often present a great deal of "evidence" for their claims. In fact, many conspiracy theorists themselves repeat Carl Sagan's standard as a motto, believing that they do indeed possess extraordinary evidence. In this talk, I discuss different ways that the concept of evidence is used rhetorically in conspiracy claims. We will take a deep dive into what "evidence" means - and the work it does - for conspiracy theorists, as well as why "bad evidence" is often so persuasive.
Speaker: Jenny Rice, University of Kentucky
See weblink for connection information
Science at Cal - Detecting Disinformation and Deep Fakes - 08/13/2022 11:00 AM
Valley Life Sciences Building Berkeley
We are awash in disinformation consisting of lies, conspiracies, and general nonsense, all with real-world implications ranging from human-rights violations to threats to our democracy and global public health. Adding to this disinformation landscape is a new form of manipulated media - so-called "deep fakes." Although varied in their form and creation, deep fakes refer to text, image, audio, or video that has been automatically created by a machine-learning system. Deep fakes add to a long line of techniques used to manipulate reality, but their introduction poses new risks. Now, more people have access to technology that would have historically been restricted to Hollywood, and they can put it to use for nefarious purposes. In this lecture, Dr. Hany Farid will discuss the online disinformation landscape and what interventions are available. He will also provide an overview of how deep fakes are created, how they are being used and misused, and if and how they can be distinguished from reality.
Speaker: Dr. Hany Farid, UC Berkeley
Advanced registration required at weblink.
Dirt: The Bio-Design Work of Mary Lempres - 08/13/2022 01:00 PM
Marinship Studios Sausalito
Please join us for an exhibition of the work of Designer-In-Residence Mary Lempres on Saturday August 13 from 1-4 pm in the Petrichor Gallery at Marinship Studios in Sausalito.
By growing bacteria that already exists in natural clays and sands, Mary's work asks: How can synthetic biology be leveraged in traditional crafts to bring us closer to natural processes?
Inspired by the rich, biologically active crusts of the desert southwest as well as the vibrant hues of the salt flats of the South Bay, Mary's work investigates the symbiotic relationship between living and nonliving material and how materiality can connect us to place, people, and the living earth we stand on. By treating earth as a circular medium for biomanufacturing, she celebrates active bacteria and minerals that heal our soils: filtering out pesticides, improving water retention, and using CO2 as a growth medium.
Please join us for an afternoon of bio-design.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory's History of Robotic Space Exploration - Livestream - 08/13/2022 07:00 PM
East Bay Astronomical Society
In this lecture, we'll trace the history of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from the time it was started by amateur and academic rocket enthusiasts to becoming a research center for the US Army's missile development program, to helping launch the United States' first satellite and becoming NASA's key center for robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond.
Speaker: Varoujan Gorjian, JPL
Watch the lecture on Zoom here. Passcode 578501
How Can Silicon Valley Protect the Most Vulnerable? - 08/16/2022 05:00 PM
swissnex San Francisco San Francisco
Two Talks: Popping the Science Bubble - Livestream - 08/16/2022 05:30 PM
Berkeley Public Library
Understanding the Milky Way - Livestream - 08/17/2022 03:00 PM
Commonwealth Club - Online Event
Limitations of AI systems on Explainability, Causuality, and Ethic - Livestream - 08/17/2022 07:00 PM
SF Bay Association of Computing Machinery
The World's Largest International Dark Sky Reserve - Livestream - 08/17/2022 07:00 PM
San Francisco Amateur Astronomers
NightLife: Art Lab - 08/18/2022 06:00 PM
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco
The Importance of Mentoring in STEM - Livestream - 08/18/2022 06:00 PM
Astronomical Society of the Pacific San Francisco
After Dark: Fly - 08/18/2022 06:00 PM
ExplOratorium San Francisco
California Hummingbirds and More - Livestream - 08/18/2022 07:00 PM
Golden Gate Audubon Society Berkeley
NightSchool: Animal Navigation - Livestream - 08/18/2022 07:00 PM
California Academy of Sciences
Virtual Telescope Viewing: the Return of Saturn - 08/18/2022 09:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center
Evening with the Stars at Lick Observatory - 08/19/2022 08:00 PM
Lick Observatory Mt. Hamilton
Space Telescope Snapshots - 08/20/2022 01:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center Oakland
Science Sunday: The Human Story Behind Your Fish - Livestream - 08/21/2022 01:30 PM
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
What's up with the Sun? Recent results from NASA's Parker Solar Probe - Livestream - 08/22/2022 06:00 PM
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Drug Discovery using AlphaFold, Neural Networks, and Docking Algorithms - Livestream - 08/22/2022 07:00 PM
SF Bay Association of Computing Machinery