Traveling with the SciSchmooze

July 4, 2021

Hello again dear readers,

¿Wasn’t science supposed to let us travel using flying cars and jet packs and hover-boards? Well, all are available but it’s a lot cheaper to buy an airline ticket (or book a plane from your flying club) and rent a car at your destination.

In my June 6 SciSchmooze, I expressed skepticism that a wind-powered vehicle could travel straight downwind faster than the wind’s velocity. I was not the only skeptic. UCLA professor Alex Kusenko also doubted it was possible and agreed to a $10,000 wager with Derek Muller, the host of the June 6 video. The wager was witnessed by Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Sean Carroll. Long story short, Dr. Kusenko (and I) lost. Here is the video covering the wager and its outcome

¿Is it possible that hundreds of years ago, Māori sailors traveled far enough south to reach Antarctic ice shelves and icebergs? Yes, according to their oral history.

¿Space travel for the price of a ticket? This was once possible when Russia took millionaires to the ISS, but not in the last dozen years or so. This month both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin plan to take folk into space who are not test personnel. Blue Origin is auctioning off tickets and their first paying passenger shoveled over $28 million for this month’s ride. Virgin Galactic has already sold about 600 tickets for $250,000 each. So if you buy your Virgin Galactic ticket now, you will have to stand in line behind Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, and Leonardo diCaprio - to name a few. Stay tuned.

Some would say those trips are traveling into the ‘Ignorosphere’.

My Livestream Picks:
Engineering Mars Missions - Tuesday Noon - 1:30pm
Wonderfest: Playing with a Quantum Toy - Wednesday 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Tilting at Strawmen and Other Tricks of Climate Denial Enablers - Thursday 7:30pm

Here is an upcoming in-person event:
Sunset Science - Saturday 6:30pm - 10pm, Chabot Space & Science Center

The Hubble Space Telescope recently celebrated 31st years traveling around our home planet, but currently it is off-line while specialists are diagnosing a glitch.

Traveling farther out are the Mars rovers:

  • Perseverance takes its first ‘solo’ drive;

  • Curiosity takes and analyzes a rock sample (animation)

  • Zhurong put down a camera and then drove away

I did not find new Ingenuity news, but . . .

. . .  ¡You can win a free Ingenuity coffee mug! Send me an email (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. The person who came closest wins the mug. 

Traveling toward us and farther out still is Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, a behemoth estimated to be at least 100 times more massive than the rock that contributed to the extinction of (non-avian) dinosaurs. Don’t worry; it won’t come any closer than Neptune’s orbit and won’t return again for about 3 million years. The Solar System may be a giant pin-ball machine but it is an incredibly huge pin-ball machine.

¿Are aliens traveling to reach us? ¿Do aliens even exist? As of today, answers to both questions are ‘up in the air.’

Gravitational waves traveled for over a billion years before wiggling spacetime here. Two gravitational wave detectors in the U.S. and a third in Italy sensed two separate events just ten days apart that correspond to the swallowing of a neutron star by a black hole. Yikes!

Potpourri: Darwin loved collecting beetles but he did not have access to a synchrotron. Here’s a discussion of evolutionary biology and human intelligence. And a video that elevates the anus!

Have a great week (remember to enter the coffee cup contest),
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed, for our safety, to its security and peace. Preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft.”
-Adlai Stevenson I (1835 - 1914) Vice President under Grover Cleveland

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
- Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922) French author.

Upcoming Events:
Click to see the next two weeks of events in your browser.

Monday, 07/05/2021

Tuesday, 07/06/2021

Engineering Mars Missions - LiveStream - 07/06/2021 12:00 PM
Redwood Canyon Golf Course Castro Valley

The Red Planet is ablaze with interest upon the recent arrival of Perseverance rover and the first off-world helicopter, Ingenuity. Mars exploration represents some of the most advanced engineering mankind has to offer. Engineer, Robin A. S. Beck, will describe the technology and process of delivering vehicles, such as landers and rovers, 225 million miles to the planet Mars.

Robin A. S. Beck has been a member of the limited group of U.S. experts on developing, designing, testing, modeling ablative materials for use in earth and outer planetary entry, rocket nozzle exhausts, and laser environments for over 25 years.

This event will be presented in person AND ZOOM.

(Age 12+)

Click Here to REGISTER NOW! You will be notified later with the zoom link.

Wednesday, 07/07/2021

Ask the Scientist - Dennis Jongsomit - Livestream - 07/07/2021 02:00 PM
Estuary & Ocean Science Center

How do scientists go from OMG to PhD? How do they turn their passion for science into their profession? What advice do they have for future scientists?

If you are a 5th-12th grade student, undergraduate, teacher or parent, join us to ask these questions and more in a Q&A session with our weekly Seminar speakers.

Parents must give permission for children under 18 to participate.

Register at weblink to receive connection information.

Wonderfest: Playing with a Quantum Toy - Livestream - 07/07/2021 07:30 PM

Rather than just blow stuff up, lasers can be used to cool gases down to temperatures near absolute zero. Stanford physicist Benjamin Lev uses lasers and these ultracold gases to create a quantum version of the classic Newton's Cradle toy. Playing with this quantum toy has led to insights into the emergence of what is called "quantum chaos." Controlling such chaos may lead to new quantum devices for solving challenging practical problems.

Speaker: Benjamin Lev, Stanford

Thursday, 07/08/2021

California's Decade of Decision: Batteries - Livestream - 07/08/2021 10:00 AM
SF Planning + Urban Research Assoc. (SPUR)

Thanks to companies like Tesla, BMW and others, electric passenger vehicles are slowly gaining market share. Electrified heavy duty trucks, on the other hand, have been much slower to gain traction. Though battery technology is now available to power many of these vehicles, the technology - and infrastructure at scale - is lacking to make efficient electrified long-haul trucking a reality. What hurdles exist to the mass adoption of battery powered freight, and is another technology breakthrough on the horizon that could fast-track widespread adoption? Could a new ballot measure generate the momentum necessary for technological innovation and continue the fight for clean air? Come learn more.

Register at the weblink to receive link to the event.

From Brain to Behavior and Pulling Carbon Out of Thin Air - Livestream - 07/08/2021 05:00 PM
Grounds for Science

From Brain to Behavior: Using Advanced Technologies to Probe Population Activity in the Brain

Speaker: April Myers, UC Berkeley

Pulling Carbon Out of Thin Air: Strategies from Bacteria, Algae, and Plants

Julia Borden, UC Berkeley

See weblink for registration information

NightLife - SOLD OUT - 07/08/2021 06:00 PM
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco

After Dark: Spark Your Curiosity - 07/08/2021 06:00 PM
ExplOratorium San Francisco

Spark your curiosity at After Dark! As the sun sets, we’ll hit the rainbow lights, turn the music up, and open our doors - an invitation to take your imagination out to play. Fuel up with a cocktail and prepare to roam free through six spacious outdoor and indoor spaces. Be ready to bring fresh eyes to old favorites and uncover phenomenal new experiences.  

Please note: Food and drinks will be available to purchase in our Seaglass Restaurant and enjoy there or outdoors in Gallery 5 during After Dark. 

Just for Tonight

Plasmatica with Coup de Foudre Make glowing, ghostly forms dance at Plasmatica, an ethereal and electrifying work by the art collective Coup de Foudre. In these custom glass columns, a charged interaction between noble gases and electrically excited particles forms luminous filaments that jump, flow, and respond to your touch.

DJ Lady Fingaz from Hip Hop for Change Get ready to dance your way through the night as DJs from Hip Hop for Change set the vibe and keep the party moving all night! Tonight features DJ Lady Fingaz. Fingaz is a skilled turntablist and member of the infamous Peaches Crew. She can be found rocking parties with Le Femme Deadly Venoms and Jazz Mafia all over the world.  As a DJ, she mixes a variety of genres accompanied by an array of show-stopping turntablism and live production. This southern belle knows how to rock a party!

Hip Hop for Change is an Oakland-based nonprofit that uses grassroots activism to educate people about socioeconomic injustices and advocate solutions through hip-hop culture.

Why Look for E.T. Light-Years Away If He’s Already in Our Airspace? - Livestream - 07/08/2021 07:00 PM
Skeptical Inquirer

UFOs are suddenly serious business. The Pentagon’s confirmation of “unidentified aerial phenomena” has led to a heightened level of excitement and speculation about the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial life. So what’s really going on here? There is perhaps no one better qualified to answer the big questions about the search for intelligent life in the universe than astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute. 

Shostak will discuss how the UFO phenomenon differs in fundamental respects from science’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Two-thirds of the American populace believes that our galaxy is home to other intelligent beings. And one-third believe that clever creatures are piloting their spacecraft through our atmosphere, occasionally making themselves visible to Navy pilots. Meanwhile, a tiny group of scientists is trying to find proof of intelligence that could be situated dozens or thousands of light-years away. But why try to contact beings billions of miles away if they’re already at our front door?

Register at weblink to receive Zoom information

Tilting at Strawmen and Other Tricks of Climate Denial Enablers - Livestream - 07/08/2021 07:30 PM
Bay Area Skeptics

Public perception of the climate controversy has been shaped in large part by a false narrative created by media that strive for “point/counterpoint” debates that seem “fair and balanced” to the uninformed. This framing reinforces the notion that there are actually two legitimate sides: mainstream scientists and contrarians. The most effective contrarians are not climate change deniers - they accept the fact that global warming is real and caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels and other human influences. They understand the science but specialize in misrepresenting it and using logical fallacies and rhetorical tricks to stoke mistrust of climate scientists, thereby enabling denial and influencing climate politics. The new book “Unsettled” provides many examples of denial enablement.

Speaker: Mark Boslough, Los Alamos National Lab and University of New Mexico

See weblink for link to the meeting

Friday, 07/09/2021

Wildlife Tracking: Advanced Tracking and Wildlife Connectivity - Livestream - 07/09/2021 12:00 PM
Peninsula Open Space Trust

Wildlife is all around us in the Bay Area. Diverse species of animals filter through our urban landscapes, crossing the boundaries of our homes, cities and the protected landsthat surround our region. Whether you are visiting your local parks and preserves on the San Francisco Bay, the coast, the Santa Cruz mountains or the Diablo Range, there’s a great chance you’ll see wildlife, or at least signs of them. But how many of us can accurately identify these signs of wildlife, or use these signs to paint a picture of what’s going on in nature?

Join Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) as we welcome local wildlife researchers Tanya Diamond and Ahiga Snyder of Pathways for Wildlife to share practical wildlife tracking skills with our community. They will share knowledge of how to identify various types of common wildlife tracks and other signs, and deepen your understanding of the wildlife communities living in our local landscapes.

Through Pathways for Wildlife, Tanya and Ahiga are conducting groundbreaking wildlife research on the Peninsula, in the South Bay and further afield with a variety of nonprofits and public agency partners, including POST, Midpen and OSA. Using camera traps, wildlife collaring technology and other methods, Pathways for Wildlife is constructing a complex picture of how wildlife move across our landscape, and what we need to do to enhance the health of these animal communities.

Wildlife tracking is one of the many skills in Tanya and Ahiga’s toolbox as they survey the land and help organizations like ours plan for the health of our local wildlife. These webinars are a rare chance to learn tracking from two local heroes of wildlife research.

Part 2: We will expand on what we learned in Part 1 with more specifics about how to identify signs from some of the more challenging local species to track, and other tips for how to spot wildlife movement in our area. The Pathways for Wildlife Team will also share some details about the extensive wildlife movement studies they are conducting along major wildlife corridors in the region.

Register at weblink to receive connection information

Saturday, 07/10/2021

Sunset Science - 07/10/2021 06:30 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center

Enjoy a warm summer evening of activities and stargazing on Chabot’s stunning Observation Deck! Learn about stellar concepts and preview our new offerings with special demonstrations, hands-on challenges and more. When the Sun goes down, the stars come out for exploring the cosmos through historic telescopes.

During this event, celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 14 launch with a night of all things lunar. From cratering to simulated moon rocks and soil, you’ll learn about past missions and future expeditions.

Graze while you gaze! Food, wine and beer will be available for purchase on-site.

Virtual Telescope Viewing - Livestream - 07/10/2021 09:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center

Join our resident astronomers on Facebook Live every Saturday evening live from Chabot’s Observation deck!

Each week, our astronomers will guide us through spectacular night sky viewing through Nellie, Chabot‘s most powerful telescope. Weather permitting we will be able to view objects live through the telescopes and our astronomers will be available for an open forum for all of your most pressing astronomy questions.

Monday, 07/12/2021

Introduction to Computer Simulations in Physics, from Forest Fires to Salad Dressing - Livestream - 07/12/2021 11:00 AM
UC Merced

We will have a hands-on introduction to how computer simulations are used in scientific research, focusing on a versatile kind of simulation called "lattice models." We will examine simulations of real-world topics such as forest fires, oil-water separation in salad dressing, and the spread of diseases. In a series of guided activities, participants will use and edit Python programs through an Internet browser and will discover small changes in parameters that dramatically affect the simulated results. Preparation instructions will be sent before the session.

Speaker: Daniel Beller, UC Merced

Register at weblink to receive connection information

Target audience: High school students

This is a four day class, running through July 15

Sonic Spaces: A Psychology of Music and Work - Livestream - 07/12/2021 11:00 AM
Long Now Foundation

Eric Debrah Otchere's research revolves around the power of music in the context of work; covering an ambitious range from ethnographic research on Ghanaian indigenous fishing culture to personalized musical preferences via modern technology.

Throughout history, the power of music to enhance productivity and focus at work has been explored, leveraged and exploited - by individuals and societies. Combining empirical data from his extensive fieldwork with a critical review of literature and theories from different areas of study, Otchere is connecting previously siloed research into a comprehensive body of knowledge on the intricate relationship between music and work.

Visualizing Cells via Fluorescent Staining - Livestream - 07/12/2021 01:00 PM
UC Merced

In this workshop, we will briefly cover stem cell biology and other cellular biological structures. The workshop will then shift to a live demonstration where we will show the audience how to visualize some of these structures under fluorescence.

Speaker: Jose Zamora, UC Merced

Register at weblink to receive connection information

Target audience: High school students

Tuesday, 07/13/2021

Combatting Misinformation: Incorporating Primary Sources in Your Science Classroom to Promote Critical Thinking in Students - Livestream - 07/13/2021 01:00 PM
UC Merced

Wednesday, 07/14/2021

On Cults, Language, and Social Science - 07/14/2021 07:00 PM
California Institute of Integral Studies

Thursday, 07/15/2021

Midday Science Cafe - The Road to Net Zero: Combating Climate Change through Carbon Removal - Livestream - 07/15/2021 12:00 PM
UC Berkeley

Bird Photography 101 - Livestream - 07/15/2021 05:00 PM
San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

NightLife - 07/15/2021 06:00 PM
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco

After Dark: Question Your Perception - 07/15/2021 06:00 PM
ExplOratorium San Francisco

Micromitigation: Fighting Air Pollution with Activated Carbon - Livestream - 07/15/2021 07:00 PM
Counter Culture Labs

Listen to Her Sing - Livestream - 07/15/2021 07:00 PM
Golden Gate Audubon Society

Friday, 07/16/2021

Meet the San Francisco Garter Snake - Livestream - 07/16/2021 12:00 PM
Peninsula Open Space Trust

The Drake Equation: Livestream - 07/16/2021 07:30 PM
Tri-Valley Stargazers

Saturday, 07/17/2021

2021 Baylands Bioblitz - 07/17/2021 09:00 AM
Environmental Volunteers EcoCenter Palo Alto

Oumuamua: Interstellar Visitor - Livestream - 07/17/2021 07:30 PM
Mount Tamalpias Astronomy Lectures

Virtual Telescope Viewing - Livestream - 07/17/2021 09:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center

Sunday, 07/18/2021

Untangling Giant Kelp: How Do the Environment and Genetics Shape Giant Kelp Form and Structure? - Livestream - 07/18/2021 01:30 PM
Seymour Science Center

Monday, 07/19/2021

The Science of Flocks and Swarms - Livestream - 07/19/2021 10:00 AM
UC Merced