The Great American Eclipse and the SciSchmooze 5.29.17

Hello again, fans of Science.

So much has happened since I last wrote the SciSchmooze a little over a month ago that I feel a little overwhelmed. Whether political news, world events, or science news, it seems these past few weeks have been busy on all fronts.

Here are two items I came across on the medical front. Nature is full of amazing things, including a South Indian frog that oozes a substance that decimates flu viruses. If scientists can figure out how this works, they could eliminate the flu! Then there's research showing how we many no longer need blood donations for transfusions, thanks to stem cell research.

As usual, we have some events to highlight this week:

  1. Nerd Night East Bay 52: The Swingin’ 70s A’s Crawfish History and Cooking The Scientists of Global Warming - Monday, Memorial Day, 7 PM, in Oakland
  2. FOGG Trail Mixer @ the Presidio Archaeology Lab - Thursday 6 PM, adults-only, in San Francisco
  3. National Trails Day 2017 - Saturday 9 AM at Lands End or 10 AM at Mori Point

This past Wednesday, Dr. Andrew Fraknoi, long time head of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College, delivered the last ...

Silicon Valley Astronomy lecture of his tenure. Dr. Fraknoi has managed the lecture series since its inception, bringing some of the world's premier Astronomy researchers to Los Altos. A fixture in the press, as well as radio and television, he has been the go-to person for lay-person descriptions of astronomical events. It is fitting that he presented the last lecture of the season himself, before he begins a well deserved next chapter in retirement. He's been a fan favorite of ours and we wish him well in retirement and future endeavors.

I have a feeling Dr. Fraknoi won't have any problem filling his days, however. He will continue to run the lecture series and his other interests will keep him busy. Among other things, he's been involved in planning for the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse. Now, you might not think an eclipse needs planning as it happens all on its own, but that's not the case. Dr. Fraknoi presented a wealth of information, including some things most of the rest of us probably didn't consider. Good thing for us that there are a few people who are researching some of these things, and making their results available on the web.

It is probably safe to say most people aren't even aware (yet) that there will be an eclipse this August. When they finally do hear about it, it will probably be a news report or something on social media that will tip them off. 3.8% of the US population lives under the path of totality. 14.4% live within 100 miles of the path. Many of them will say "let's go see the eclipse!", figuring they can just jump on a highway and be there in a couple of hours. Guess again! Here's a great link to "Predicting eclipse visitation with population statistics". That's not a very exciting title, but the information contained in the post is fascinating. They estimate as many as 7.4 million people will travel to the path of totality. That's a LOT of people and the traffic jams will be something to behold. Other pages on this website contain all sorts of information about the eclipse.

NASA has a website devoted to the eclipse too.

The eclipse presents a great teaching opportunity for those of you with children. The National Science Teachers Association has educational information, including an online book, Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More, co-authored by the aforementioned Dr. Fraknoi. There's also a link to a free, downloadable, 8-page observing guide for the eclipse.

On a personal note, I was around 10 years old when I received a book about Astronomy. One section of the book listed solar and lunar eclipse dates. Wouldn't you know there was a lunar eclipse happening that month? I made my father wake me up at 2:30 AM to see it, and thus began my interest in Astronomy. So take this opportunity to expose a child to something that may change the course of their life.

Say you decide to go somewhere to view the eclipse. What are the odds that you will be able to see it? Weather can play a big part in eclipse visibility and Jay Anderson and Jennifer West have put together Eclipsophile, a website devoted to everything weather along the path of the eclipse, as well as future eclipses and other astronomical events.

A fantastic video has been put together following the eclipse's path across a map of the US and showing the cities and towns crossed by the shadow.

Several locations along the path of totality are holding festivals in conjunction with the event. For those of us here in California, the best places to go would be in Oregon. Oregon State University in Corvallis still has room at their event, which includes lodging in the University's dorms, breakfasts and dinner, parking, a tailgate blanket, and passes to the rec center, all for a reasonable price. Corvallis is in the path of totality and has pretty good odds for clear skies, compared to, say, the Oregon Coast. Here's a direct link to their lodging page. Expect this to sell out soon, however.

You'll be hearing more from us about the eclipse between now and August, I'm sure.

Have a great week in Science!

Bob Siederer

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