Well here we are again stuck in our bunkers, but the dogs still want to walk and there is plenty of news about space, science and the virus to keep us occupied.
So, while out on a walk with Astronomer Assistants Danny and Ruby, we encountered this stony, silent mutt with its own mask on. Ruby barked and didn't want to approach it, but hey, it was wearing a mask, so what could go wrong!
|Astronomer Assistant Ruby, barks at and then stays away from stony mutt with mask (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Next up in the news department is the ongoing progress at SpaceX Boca Chica facility near Brownsville, TX. Much of the debris from the failed pressurization test has been cleared away and Starship SN#4 stacking operation is nearing completion in the high bay building. It probably won't be much longer until we see this whole structure moved across the road to the launch facility. Stay tuned! Thanks for watching over the activity for us, @BocaChicaGal!
|Starship SN#4 making good progress with stacking in the high bay building (Source: @BocaChicaGal)|
In other news, if you want a simple, relatively short introduction to and explanation of many of the equations in physics, then check out Brian Greene's online series of videos. I watched this one on quantum entanglement and one of the equations describing it. For the playlist of other equations, check out:
|Brian Green offers a discussion and explanation of equations in physics (Source: Brian Greene, Your Daily Equation)|
Ok, ok, we can't forgo reviewing some of pandemic news. As you know, I have been trying to concentrate on the science and microbiology of the coronavirus. I found an interesting discussion on the naming convention that has been used in many discussions. You probably have been a bit confused too, but finally I found an interesting discussion about the issues behind the naming conventions. It turns out that COVID-19 is assigned as the name of the disease caused by the virus, which is named SARS CoV-2. In the slide screenshot from a presentation by UCSD microbiologists you can see some of the details. For example, AIDS is the disease and HIV is the virus name.
The naming convention is established by committee, just like the naming convention in astronomy where a committee decides that Pluto should be demoted. In addition, the microbiology committee tries to be politically correct by not naming the virus after where it might have originated, for fear about how it might be thought to apply to the culpability of the region and people there. Hmm, this to me might be a bit too sensitive to a problem that is not really there. Had the virus outbreak happened in San Diego and was then called the "San Diego Flu", wouldn't the value of knowing where it originated be valuable and at the same time not denigrating anyone who actually lives in San Diego?
|What is the difference between COVID-19 and SARS CoV-2 (Source: Emily Troemel, UCSD)|
In other news, we see that several clinical trials of drugs that have been reported anecdotal evidence to have some prophylactic value. Two drugs, Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir, have received a lot of attention and granted emergency compassionate use, are now undergoing serious clinical trials. While we wait for a vaccine these immediate drugs hopefully pan out and are found to be helpful and safe.
|One of many ongoing studies for COVID-19 treatment (Source: www.nih.gov)|
At the same time, it is not clear if this entire global shutdown is the appropriate strategy. It is hard to discuss any real strategy without being called ghoulish for worrying about peoples dreams, goals and livelihoods, when the death rate is what it is. But the discussion has to take place. To wait for a vaccine, that might turn out to be no more effective than the current flue vaccines, where thousands of people still die from the flu, the damage to the world economy and deaths due to social isolation needs to be considered. This viewpoint is gaining traction as expressed in this tweet from Bjorn Lomborg, who reports on the Swiss former chief epidemiologist. Of course I have no expertise in this or other areas, but it seems more right to me and might be worth a look and consideration for a rational policy. We need better data on the total number of outstanding cases (the denominator in the mortality equation) and the number of cases without symptoms and an understanding if the main victims are persons with preexisting health conditions.
|Is this Swiss epidemiologist's view the more appropriated strategy? (Source: @BjornLomborg)|
So that is it for all of the space and science and virus news for the day. It all sort of gets overwhelming sometimes, so I was glad to see this advertising post on Facebook. It does look pretty neat though and it reminded me of a similar effect we saw on a plaza in Portugal where the tiles were arranged so that the surface appeared to be a series of waves. Even though the surface was flat, it was quite easy to get a little disoriented when walking across it. Check out the post from April 9, 2018, for a photo. This mat, blow, which can be placed indoors is a neat optical illusion effect that might also have some safety and health benefits if it helps you stay inside and go out. On the other hand, if you trip trying to avoid the wormhole, you might need the paramedics!
|Get yourselves one of these mats to keep you from going outside (Available at Walmart)|
Finally at the end of the day, we have a beautiful sunset, still one of the simple pleasures we can often look forward to as the sun goes down. We should have clear skies tonight, but no time for observing because tomorrow we are signed up for the APS April Meeting, which is now conducted all online.
|Finally, another look at a sunset; one of the simple things around us! (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, the APS meeting starts at its regularly scheduled time at 8:30 EST, as if it were being conducted in its original locale in Washington, DC. That means for all of us attendees out here on the West Coast, that is 5:30 PST. Oh well, we get to get up a little bit early, but we get to attend the meeting online, without doing any travelling, and in our PJ's. Neat! More about the meeting next time.
|Finally, a goal achieved: Attending the APS April Meeting in my PJ's (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Until next time, here from our burrow, stay sane, stay safe,
Resident Astronomer George
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