Monday, November 22, 2021

December 11 - Mass Extinction Events and What Causes Them

Presented by Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., Ph.D.

Principal Lecturer, Department of Geology, University of Maryland

Research Associate, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History


Saturday, December 11, 2021, 1:30 pm
B-CC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane 2nd Floor (West Room)
Bethesda, MD
Directions:
http://tinyurl.com/bcccenter

Mass extinctions are catastrophic overhauls of the diversity of life on land and see. There are five well-attested such events in the history of life, and evidence we could be on the cusp of a sixth. We'll look at the record of past events, and what we know about how they happened and what might have caused them. These environmental crises might serve as warnings for our own future, and what a "sixth extinction" might mean for human society.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs, and especially of tyrannosauroids (Tyrannosaurus rex and its kin). He received his Bachelors in Earth & Planetary Geology at Johns Hopkins in 1987 and his Ph.D. from the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale in 1992. He is also a Research Associate of the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and serves on the Scientific Council of Maryland Academy of Science (which operates the Maryland Science Center (Baltimore, MD)). In addition to his dinosaur research, Holtz has been active in scientific outreach. He has been a consultant on museum exhibits around the world, and on numerous documentaries. He is the author of award-winning popular audience books. He is the current editor of the “Life of the Past” series at Indiana University Press.

This talk will be live streamed.
https://youtu.be/S9QJMpJ9tD0

Note: Effective November 20 at 12:01 a.m.: all persons in Montgomery County over the age of two must wear a face covering in any location accessible to the public.

 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

November 6 - Bizarre Psychological Disorders, Part 2

 

Presented by Brian A. Sharpless, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London and Adjunct Professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Saturday, November 6, 2021, 1:30 pm
Note: This is the first Saturday of the month
B-CC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane 2nd Floor (West Room)
Bethesda, MD
Directions: http://tinyurl.com/bcccenter
 
 
People are nothing if not confusingly complex, and some end up thinking, acting, and behaving in unusual, odd, and extreme ways. Some of the strangest psychological disorders that they can acquire are not well-known to the public or even many mental health professionals, despite some – such as isolated sleep paralysis – actually being fairly common in the general population.
Dr. Sharpless will focus on five interesting psychological conditions and phenomena.  Some you may have heard of.  For instance, Fear of Missing Out or "FOMO", though not a recognized disorder, has received a great deal of popular attention in social media circles.  Other conditions, such as Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID), are a bit more obscure.  People with BIID wish to intentionally damage healthy body parts (e.g., amputate a limb) and/or become physically disabled.  Needless to say, certain treatment options have raised ethical issues.  Dr. Sharpless will not only describe these and other fascinating conditions, but will also place them in historical and cultural contexts and summarize their respective scientific literature. 
 
This talk will be live streamed.  However, at the request of the speaker, the stream will not be available for viewing after the talk, nor will the talk be posted on YouTube at a later date.  The link to view this talk online will be https://youtu.be/vVNSSWvzO
 

Brian Sharpless is an author and licensed clinical psychologist with a practice in the Washington DC area.  He currently holds academic appointments as a visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London and as an adjunct professor at the Washington DC campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology . He was formerly on faculty at Pennsylvania State University, Washington State University, and the American School of Professional Psychology.  He received his PhD in clinical psychology and MA in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Sharpless has broad interests in abnormal psychology and psychotherapy.  He has over 50 publications on common and lesser-known disorders, psychodynamic therapy, professional issues, and the history/philosophy of clinical psychology.  His three books, Sleep Paralysis: Historical, Psychological, and Medical Perspectives (co-authored with Dr. Karl Doghramji), Unusual and Rare Psychological Disorders: A Handbook for Clinical Practice and Research, and Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques:  A Guide to Expressive and Supportive Interventions are all available through Oxford University Press.  This research been featured on TV, radio, and in other media outlets, and he is a frequent speaker at conferences and public events in the United States and abroad.

Twitter:       @briansharpless
website       www.briansharpless.com

Due to continuing concerns about covid-19, all attendees, whether vaccinated or not, are required to wear masks or other face covering while attending this talk.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Shadow of a Doubt - October 2021

 

  • Film: Race for the vaccine
  • Message to current and prospective NCAS members - Extending memberships
  • October Phact Lecture
  • November NCAS lecture: Psychologist Brian Sharpless will present "Unusual Psychological Disorders, Pt. 2:  From FOMO to Frotteurism,"
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to renew
  • Click to read October Shadow

Shadow of a Doubt - October 2021

 

October 2021

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Documentary Film Screening:
Race for the Vaccine

Followed by Q&A with Janet Tobias,
an Executive Producer for the film

Saturday, October 9, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
2nd Floor (West Room)
4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members


As news of the coronavirus broke around the globe, a small group of scientists jumped into action to tackle one of the greatest medical challenges of our time: to create a vaccine against a virus no one had ever seen before, and to do so in record time, during a deadly, global pandemic.

Rooted in rare access during 2020/21 to five of the leading vaccine research teams around the world, Race for the Vaccine tells the inspiring story of the unprecedented global quest to develop vaccine candidates in days and weeks instead of years, putting them through the rigorous testing required to prove that they were safe, and that they worked.  From the design challenges of the drugs to the pitfalls of recruitment, the pressure of politics to the logistics of mass manufacturing, we follow a handful of key scientists every step of the way, sharing their heart-breaking setbacks as well as exhilarating triumphs, in an emotional and uplifting insight into this extraordinary scientific endeavor.

 

Produced & Directed by Catherine Gale
Co-directed by Caleb Hellerman
Executive Producers: Archie Baron, Janet Tobias, Roger Lopez, and Helena Braun

Race for the Vaccine was co-commissioned by CNN Films and BBC. It is a co-production between Wingspan Productions and the Global Health Reporting Center based in New York. It is made in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Tangled Bank Studios and with the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Watch the trailer for the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzA9LSnIPw


 
Janet Tobias is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker.  She started her film and television career at CBS' 60 Minutes as Diane Sawyer's associate producer.  She moved to PBS where she created and executive produced the Emmy Award-winning PBS program Life 360.  Her 2017 CNN documentary feature, Unseen Enemy, sounded a warning call about the threat of pandemics.  Janet Tobias is also an adjunct assistant professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a research professor of Global Public Health at NYU. She was a member of the Drug Forum of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences from 2009 to 2015.  Her latest film, Fauci, was released in select theaters in September 2021.

 

 

https://www.ncas.org/2021/09/october-9-film-screening-race-for.html

Health & Safety FAQs:

Will the event be streamed or recorded?

No, this will be in-person only.

What measures will be taken to protect the health of all attendees?
CDC guidelines and Montgomery County regulations will be followed, as specified here: https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/face-coverings.html
Face coverings must be worn by all persons in the County over the age of two years old when indoors at any location accessible to the public.

(This applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.)

A face-covering exception is made for "giving a speech or performing for broadcast or an audience, if no one in a location accessible to the public is within six feet of you."

Seating will be arranged to separate each person by six feet or more.

Refreshments will not be served; instead, bring your own beverage, or use the water fountain in the hallway.

I'd rather not ride the elevator to the meeting room, is there a stairway?

Yes, there's a stairway near the elevator.

Message to Current and Prospective NCAS Members

In response to the economic hardship and other uncertainties that our members may be facing, in 2020 NCAS automatically extended by one year all memberships that expire in 2020 or later.  Payment will be accepted for new memberships as well as renewals for 2019 and before: new and renewed will have a bonus year added.  Each life member may sponsor a new one-year membership at no charge.  (Double life memberships may sponsor two.)  Send your sponsored member's name and contact information to ncas@ncas.org. This offer will continue until further notice.

October PhACT Lecture

Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, October 16 at 2 PM ET.  Rob Palmer, who writes as "The Well-Known Skeptic" for Skeptical Inquirer, will conduct an interview with actor/skeptic John de Lancie and moderate questions from the Zoom audience.  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.

November NCAS Lecture
Psychologist Brian Sharpless will present "Unusual Psychological Disorders, Pt. 2:  From FOMO to Frotteurism," a follow-up to his 2019 NCAS lecture.  Saturday, November 6 at 1:30 PM at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!

When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2021 came to $24.84, meaning that nearly $5000 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers


Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at ncas.org/p/shadow.html.  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at ncas@ncas.org.

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.
https://www.ncas.org/p/shadow.html

 



Shadow of a Doubt - September 2021

 

  • It came from the Science Fair - presented by Adam Ruben
  • Message to current and prospective NCAS members - Extending memberships
  • Shermer and Swiss
  • September Phact Lecture
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to renew
  • Click to read September Shadow

Shadow of a Doubt - September 2021


Adam Ruben, PhD
Writer, Comedian, and Molecular Biologist

Saturday, September 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
2nd Floor (West Room)
4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

October 18: "It Came From the Science Fair" by Adam Ruben,  is now online for viewing on You Tube: https://youtu.be/9H-pPCPvAMg

What are the most common mistakes kids make when preparing projects for science fairs?  What can we learn from these events about the way science is taught and understood?  And can we all please agree, once and for all, that science has learned all it needs to learn from measuring classmates' heart rates before and after playing video games?  In this talk, scientist/comedian Adam Ruben will share some of the most bizarre, most inadvisable, least scientifically rigorous science projects he's judged and talk about their implications for the future of science education. 


Adam Ruben
is a writer, comedian, and molecular biologist. He has performed stand-up comedy and told stories on stage for more than 20 years. Adam has appeared on The Food Network, The Travel Channel, The Weather Channel, Discovery International, Netflix, and NPR. He currently hosts The Science Channel shows Outrageous Acts of Science and What on Earth? and is a writer for the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS show Elinor Wonders Why.  Adam is the author of two books, Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School (Random House, 2010) and Pinball Wizards: Jackpots, Drains, and the Cult of the Silver Ball (Chicago Review Press, 2017), and writes the monthly science humor column "Experimental Error" in the otherwise respectable journal Science.

Message to Current and Prospective NCAS Members
In response to the economic hardship and other uncertainties that our members may be facing, in 2020 NCAS automatically extended by one year all memberships that expire in 2020 or later.  Payment will be accepted for new memberships as well as renewals for 2019 and before: new and renewed will have a bonus year added.  Each life member may sponsor a new one-year membership at no charge.  (Double life memberships may sponsor two.)  Send your sponsored member's name and contact information to ncas@ncas.org. This offer will continue until further notice. 


Shermer and Swiss
Magician/skeptic (and NCAS co-founder) Jamy Ian Swiss discussed his book, The Conjuror’s Conundrum, with Michael Shermer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cZR5kOUjaw

September PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, September 18 at 2 PM ET.  Steven Novella, MD will discuss the various aspects of the "clean eating" fad, from avoiding GMOs, processed food, and the villain food of the week, to claims for antioxidants, superfoods, and miracle diets.  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.
 

Speaking of PhACT Yours truly, NCAS President Scott Snell (pictured at back left), enjoyed PhACT's hospitality at their annual picnic in Fort Washington State Park on Saturday, July 24.  PhACT members joined me in a toast to science, which had allowed us to safely gather for the occasion.  (Little did we know that the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant would be forcing caution onto social events just a matter of days later.) 

 
AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2021 came to $24.84, meaning that nearly $5000 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers

Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at ncas.org/p/shadow.html.  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at ncas@ncas.org.


Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

October 9 - Film screening - Race for the vaccine

Saturday, October 9, 2021, 1:30 pm
B-CC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane 2nd Floor (West Room)
Bethesda, MD
Directions: http://tinyurl.com/bcccenter


NCAS is happy to present a screening of the documentary film "Race For the Vaccine" as our next in-person event.

As news of the coronavirus broke around the globe, a small group of scientists jumped into action to tackle one of the greatest medical challenges of our time: to create a vaccine against a virus no one had ever seen before, and to do so in record time, during a deadly, global pandemic.  The film "Race For the Vaccine" tells the story of how they did just that, developing vaccines candidates in days and weeks instead of years, and putting them through the rigorous testing required to prove that they were safe, and that they worked. The filmmakers embedded with several of these vaccine teams throughout the process, following them through the triumphs and setbacks of their unprecedented undertaking. From the design challenges of the drugs to the pitfalls of recruitment; from the pressure of politics to the glorious victories and stunning defeats, the film offers an inside look into this extraordinary scientific undertaking for the ages. The film, narrated by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD, is produced by Wingspan Productions and Global Health Reporting Center in association with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, and supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Following the film, one of the executive producers of the film, Janet Tobias, will join us by Zoom to take questions from the audience.

Watch the trailer for this film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzA9LSnIPw

This film has not been rated, but is appropriate for high school students and older.
To avoid possible spread of covid-19, there will be no refreshments at these talks for the next few months.

Due to continuing concerns about covid-19, all attendees, whether vaccinated or not, are required to wear masks or other face covering while attending this talk.



See also https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/face-coverings.html

Shadow of a Doubt - June 2021

 

  •  Online Movie Night - June 3
  • Board of Directors election
  • Message to current and prospective NCAS members - Extending memberships
  • Prez Sez
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to renew
  • Click to read June Shadow

Shadow of a Doubt - June 2021

 

June 2021

NCAS Social Event

Online Movie Night

Hosted by Scott Snell, NCAS President
Thursday, June 3, 7:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00)


Do you remember the halcyon days of your youth?  Drive-in movies, comic books, and blue jeans...Howdy Doody, baseball cards, and birthdays.  And of course fraudulent documentaries about ESP, UFOs, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, etc.

Did you believe what you saw and get spooked by it?  Maybe you got upset that the government was letting planes and ships enter the Triangle.  Those were confusing times.

Well, let's relive those times in a new and improved way.  We'll watch one of the "documentaries" together online and laugh at it.  (Sort of a skeptical "Mystery Science Theater 3000.")

How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Check your email inbox (the same one that's receiving this Shadow of a Doubt) at 7 PM ET on Thursday, June 3.
2) Click on the "Watch2Gether" link in the email.  Your browser will display our "room" to watch a YouTube movie together.
3) Start typing in the chat window at the right of the screen.  The "documentary" will start at 7:30 PM sharp, but anyone who wants to hang out there before showtime is welcome.
4) Make popcorn, close the shades, and turn up the volume so you can hear the movie above the din of Brood X cicada phasers.
5) Enjoy, if possible.  Who knows for sure if this will be funny, nostalgic, interesting, or none of the above?

I sense that you have questions.

I seem to have some psychic abilities, probably limited by my not believing in them.  But I'll try my best.

OK, I've made contact with a mind, apparently a skeptical mind!  This mind will speak for all skeptical minds, because I don't have conference-telepathy capability.

Q. Wait, what is this?  It's not educational?  We're not watching an informative program, instead it's old junk that was new junk about 50 years ago?
A. Correct.  If there is anything insightful or educational about it, that would be a happy accident.  (Actually I think it's possible it will lead to some rational thought and checking reputable references later, but that's not the point.)

Q. Well, what's the program, and why did I have to ask?
A. You can know without being told...use your latent powers of insight!  Everyone has them, they just need to be unlocked!
No wait, don't spoil the fun...it's meant to be a surprise.  You'll know at 7 PM on Thursday, regardless of whether your insights are unlocked or not.
It's more fun if no one peeks at the show ahead of time.  Let's riff on this spontaneously.

Q. Whoa, are you saying you (Scott) have not carefully reviewed this?
A. I have carefully reviewed it to make certain that its original G rating (we're going to watch a theatrically released film) still applies, and that the YouTube posted video appears to have no added material, unsuitable or otherwise.  But the technique I used did not sully my blissfully ignorant self, and enough time has passed that even some of the imagery will only be vaguely available to my conscious mind!  I've never truly experienced this movie, now or ever.

Q.  Why am I finding out about this today, and why June 3rd?
A. I checked the weather forecast for the DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia (yep, we're inviting PhACT to join in) that evening.  It's going to be rainy.  Plus there will probably still be some yucky cicada nymphs crawling around as night falls (that probably hasn't happened for the PhACT pholks...just think what they've missed!).  Who would want to go out in that?  So it's a perfect night for the movie.

Q. You said it's roughly 50 years old.  How's the video and audio quality?
A. It's OK.  If you watch an average YouTube video from the 1970s, it looks like that.

Q.  No HD and no stereo separation?!?!
A. This is not an experience of the senses, it is an experience of the MIND.  You will find TRUE CLARITY, transcending sight and sound, by the end of this event.

Q.  ...which will be?
A. 9 PM.  It's a 90-minute film.

Q. Any clues or other things to mention?
A. Yes...it has a local (DC) angle (just briefly).  There are aspects that skeptics will appreciate, despite the BS.  And I really have never seen or heard of this before, so it's possible the whole thing will fall flat.  (I like danger.)  But I read a few online reviews that suggest this will be fun to watch and laugh at.

Q. Will webcams be part of this?
A. No, just the chat window.  Get ready to type!

Q. You only gave 48 hours (or less, if I didn't happen to check my email for a while) notice for this event, what if I can't make it?
A. Sorry, the short notice came from choosing a reliably rainy evening in the forecast.  (Maybe 72 hours would've worked too.)  There won't be a recording of the actual event, but of course the YouTube video will still be available.  You can laugh at it on your own, or bring others to your own Watch2Gether party!

Q. OK...OK.  Maybe I'll join in to see how it goes.
A. Great!  We'll have this, rain or shine.  (Though I think it will be rain, just as forecast.)

Q. What if the thunderstorms in the forecast knock out the power?
A.  You mean "the electricity."  YOU have THE POWER.  We'll continue the program without electricity, focusing THE POWER OF THE MIND.

Q.  Sure, ha-ha.  This will be moderated, I hope.
A. Correct, please keep all of your chats G-rated.  We're inviting NCAS members, so I'm sure that won't be a problem.  I think PhACT pholks will be good too.  In any case, I'll be moderating.

Q. OK, thanks!  And I think the "skeptical mind" you made contact with may have been your own.
A. That makes sense, I do talk to myself sometimes.

So...if your skeptical mind has any questions not covered here, send an email to ncas@ncas.org.  "See" you Thursday!


Board of Directors Election
Results of April's NCAS member vote on candidates for the board of directors have been tabulated. Re-elected and incumbent members are: Tom Bridgman, Nelson Davis Jr, Chip Denman, Grace Denman, Bing Garthright, Brian Gregory, Curtis Haymore, Beth Kingsley, J. D. Mack, Melissa Pollak, Walter F. Rowe, Scott Snell, and Marv Zelkowitz.

At its May 17 meeting, the NCAS board of directors selected its officers, who are: Scott Snell, president; J. D. Mack, vice president; Walter F. Rowe, secretary; and Marv Zelkowitz, treasurer.


Message to Current and Prospective NCAS Members
In response to the economic hardship and other uncertainties that our members may be facing, NCAS has automatically extended by one year all memberships that expire in 2020 or later.  Payment will be accepted for new memberships as well as renewals for 2019 and before: new and renewed will have a bonus year added.  Each life member may sponsor a new one-year membership at no charge.  (Double life memberships may sponsor two.)  Send your sponsored member's name and contact information to ncas@ncas.org. This offer will continue until further notice.


Prez Sez
By Scott Snell
I hope many of you, hopefully all of you, are sharing a renewed sense of optimism about the future.  So far, the vaccines against COVID-19 are apparently effective against all of the known viral varients.  CDC guidelines are leading federal, state, and local governments to lift restrictions that have been in place for a year or more.

We're skeptics!  So we're unusually vigilant and cautious.  But so far, this looks like another stunning victory for the scientific method and human ingenuity, against a backdrop of human weaknesses.

The US is on the road to recovery, and will surely be helping the rest of the world do the same.

Will there ever again be a moment for science to shine so brightly in such a sudden and dramatic way, other than defeating another pandemic?  The answer is definitely yes, though it may not happen in our lifetimes.

If you Google "planetary defense," you can read more about it.  It's not a question of "if," but of "when."

There might be the equivalent of anti-vaxxers when a comet or asteroid is found to be on a collision course with Earth.  (We already have "Flat Earthers," although some or much of that might be intended as a joke to get news media attention, to get skeptics upset, etc.)  Some might doubt that the impact will be significant, or even whether the object is really going to hit Earth.  Some may be concerned (perhaps with justification) about the competence or motives of the group(s) planning the deflection.  For example, an object that is not on collision course with Earth can be deflected into a collision course, effectively weaponizing asteroids and comets.

So I think science will not shine for everyone, whether defeating a pandemic or deflecting an asteroid from Earth.  But the vast majority of people will celebrate the end results, whether they fully understand how science works (or at least how it should work) or not.

(By the way, as we lift our glasses in celebration of anyone and everyone who contributed to the vaccination effort and saved the world, why do we not know the name or names of whoever brilliantly conceived of mass-producing vaccines that were still undergoing testing?)

I mentioned the "backdrop of human weaknesses," but count me as generally optimistic for the future.  For example, I think modern virtual artificial-intelligence assistants (Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, etc) will continue to improve, and essentially become pocket skeptics.  All online news, whether fake or not, will be accessible to you the consumer, and you will assess/analyze it in conversation with your pocket skeptic.  Think of the positive influence pocket skeptics will have, because people are imitative and take on the habits of those around them, maybe even non-human associates.  (Let's face it, we've seen humans take on the characteristics of their pets, so my claim is plausible!)

If/when AI assistants become capable of asking excellent questions, skepticism will have made a huge breakthrough.

Imagine the domestic disputes that might be avoided or resolved by having an AI "friend" in the household.  Marriages might be saved by its knowledgable and wise advice.  (Or by uniting the partners in mutual hatred towards it!)  AIs might also become valuable members of diplomatic corps and negotiating teams.

In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for human skeptics.

Speaking of which, NCAS is planning to resume in-person lecture events on the 2nd Saturday of September, October, and November at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

We're planning to livestream these in-person events, if the speaker consents, and if technical challenges are overcome.

For December, January, and February, we're planning to hold online-only livestream events...we'll avoid inclement weather and resume our access to skeptical presenters from all around the world.

PS: As we celebrate this victory of science, what crisis might occur in our lifetimes that science can't solve?  Supervolcanoes come to mind.  For example, https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/yellowstone/ash-and-tephra-hazards-yellowstone , though "the probability of any such event occurring at Yellowstone within the next few thousand years is exceedingly low."


AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When holiday shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the first quarter of 2021 came to $19.14, meaning that $3800 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's enough to cover about an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:
https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers


Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at ncas.org/p/shadow.html.  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at ncas@ncas.org.


Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.
https://www.ncas.org/p/shadow.html