From the deepest ocean dive . . . to San Diego!

Every so often, a very unusual, one-of-a-kind ship will dock on San Diego’s Embarcadero. Today I saw a unique ship with the peculiar name DSSV Pressure Drop, so I had to check it out!

It turns out DSSV (Deep Submersible Support Vessel) Pressure Drop, a privately owned ex-US Navy ship, is absolutely extraordinary! Last year its submersible, called Limiting Factor, made the deepest manned dive ever in Earth’s oceans–it descended 10,928 meters into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench!

This historic dive and others have produced important scientific research, such as mapping of the ocean floor and retrieval of deep sea specimens–including completely new species of living organisms!

The numerous exploits of DSSV Pressure Drop and its adventurous owner Victor Vescovo make for great reading. Here’s a recent article that provides a lot of background and detail.

I was told DSSV Pressure Drop will be hanging around San Diego for a couple of months, so if you happen to walk along the Embarcadero just north of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, keep your eyes peeled!

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I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Bones, stones, and ancient history in San Diego.

Did you know humans might have been living in your neighborhood 130,000 years ago?

I was visiting the San Diego Natural History Museum when my eyes fell upon an interesting display concerning the Cerutti Mastodon site.

Thirty years ago, during the expansion of State Route 54 in the South Bay, a team of researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum discovered mastodon bones among cobbles. The bones appeared to have been intentionally broken. It was believed the stones, which had impact marks, had been used by humans to fracture the mastodon bones to extract marrow.

Using radiometric dating, the bones were found to be about 130,000 years old. If, indeed, early humans had worked these bones, that would mean humans were in North America about 100,000 years earlier than previously thought!

Many experts asserted the bones were broken due to the heavy machinery used for freeway construction. Two years ago, however, more evidence was obtained. Bone micro-residues were observed on the cobbles, which seems to confirm that ancient inhabitants of San Diego did indeed hammer at fresh, tasty mastodon bones!

If all of this excites your curiosity, the Wikipedia article concerning San Diego’s scientifically important Cerutti Mastodon site can be found here.

And here’s a detailed article about the discovery written in 2017.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A cool STEAM event at Comic-Con Museum!

This week a very cool educational event is being held at the Comic-Con Museum that should interest Comic-Con attendees and residents of San Diego alike.

Today through Sunday–throughout Comic-Con week–a group of Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassadors are at the museum encouraging STEAM learning! Particularly for young women!

The event features computer scientists and environmentalists and paleontologists and astrophysicists . . . even an astronaut! Visitors both young and old (like me) can create, experiment, play games, and talk to professional woman who are leaders in their fields.

I walked around the museum’s COX Innovation Lab looking at table displays, impressed by all that I saw. I even got to watch how to make a quasi-comet!

One cool display was about how life might have evolved on the fictional planets of Star Wars. Comparisons are made between often bizarre creatures and the organisms in our own Earth’s fossil record.

Inspirational talks are held down in the museum’s auditorium, but I arrived a little too early, so I missed that. But they will be held all week.

To learn more about this awesome event, click here!

If you’d like to view my coverage of Comic-Con so far, which includes hundreds of cool photographs, click here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

What’s inside a high tech ocean buoy?

Perhaps you’ve seen those spherical yellow buoys bobbing on the ocean off San Diego’s coast. Have you ever wondered what’s inside them?

Well, there’s a CDIP (Coastal Data Information Program) buoy on display near the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And a nearby sign describes the technology that makes a buoy such a valuable resource of information!

Buoys like this one measure wave height, period, direction and sea surface temperature information.

The data is used by coastal engineers, planners, scientists, harbor masters, lifeguards, mariners, boaters, surfers, divers, fishers and beach-goers! That’s a lot of people who benefit from buoys!

Inside a plain-looking buoy there are various high tech instruments, including accelerometers, magnetometers, a thermometer, acoustic pingers, a computer, GPS and antenna to transmit all the collected, archived information!

(Did you know biofoul was a word? I didn’t!)

Next time I see one of these yellow CDIP buoys, I’ll have a much greater appreciation of what they are!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Star Trek’s tricorder inspires new medical technology!

An extraordinary panel was held this afternoon at the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego.

The Science and Science Fiction of Star Trek’s Tricorder brought together four panelists who are helping to lead our way into the future. It will be a future of almost unlimited possibility, replete with groundbreaking technologies what were barely imagined when the original television series was created.

Dr. Erik Viirre, who acted as moderator, is Professor of Neurosciences at UC San Diego; Dr. Paul E. Jacobs is Chairman and CEO of XCOM Labs, and former executive chairman of Qualcomm; Dr. Yvonne Cagle is a physician, professor, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and former NASA astronaut; Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment and head of the Roddenberry Foundation, is the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett. He is also an executive producer on Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Prodigy and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

The first thing the audience learned is that all four panelists are fans of Star Trek! (Did you know that the former head of Qualcomm, many moons ago, was founding member of Star Fleet Club La Jolla?)

The next thing we learned was that Star Trek has inspired generations of scientists, engineers, inventors and visionaries. Many technological advances we know today were first conceived by Gene Roddenberry and the experts he turned to for advice when writing the show. He wanted Star Trek to be believable and largely based on science.

We were reminded how Star Trek’s communicator became the actual flip phone, and how today’s smartphones have essentially become Star Trek’s tricorder. Think about it!

The various multi-function tricorders carried by Spock, McCoy, and other Star Trek characters could provide a user with all sorts of useful information. A tricorder could be used to ascertain location and weather, or analyze the physical environment or obtain cultural information. A tricorder could be used as a universal translator. It could even be used to assess one’s medical condition.

In many ways, your smartphone does all of those things today!

We then learned our own future contains even greater possibilities.

The panelists explained how a smartphone, or handheld mobile device, used by an ordinary person, could become a practical health tool. For example, such a medical “tricorder” could analyze the sound of irregular breathing or a cough and determine a likely medical condition or disease. And such a device, by detecting signals or other data from the user’s body, could provide a warning that a stroke or heart attack is imminent.

Projects like that are underway today!

Five years ago, The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE was a $10 million global competition to incentivize the development of innovative technologies capable of accurately diagnosing a set of 13 medical conditions independent of a healthcare professional or facility, ability to continuously measure 5 vital signs, and have a positive consumer experience. Read more about it here.

The co-winning Canadian team, CloudDX, propelled by their Tricorder XPRIZE participation, has gone on to commercialize remote, connected patient monitoring hardware and software that anyone can easily use at home!

And that’s just the beginning.

On the International Space Station today, 250 miles above Earth, astronauts wear a Smart Shirt that senses body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen, EKG, and even the activity of heart valves!

Can you imagine a virtual reality doctor’s visit in your future? (Oh, wait. Star Trek envisioned this already. USS Voyager’s Emergency Medical Holographic Doctor.) Advances in artificial intelligence and tele-medicine have just barely begun.

(And yes, virtual reality was envisioned many decades ago. It was the basis for many tangled plots on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The holodeck!)

Those who sat listening to this extraordinary Comic-Con Museum panel learned all of this, and more. We saw that, in the hands of thoughtful people who desire positive, healthy outcomes, our technological future can be very bright, indeed.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Become a citizen scientist in San Diego!

Would you like to make contributions to science? But you’re not a trained scientist?

You can easily become a citizen scientist!

Opportunities are available for ordinary people who’d like to use their passion or particular talents to help broaden our understanding of the natural world.

I discovered several great ideas while visiting the San Diego Natural History Museum recently. Signs spotted around the exhibition Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science provide details.

Most of the following ideas apply not just to San Diego residents, but to anyone anywhere. Here they are:

Become a member of iNaturalist and post photographs you’ve taken of living things in nature. Scientists will identify what you recorded. Nature lovers around the world can discuss your observations. You’ll contribute to our shared understanding of biodiversity. To learn more click here.

Participate in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count or Great Backyard Bird Count. Critically important data collected during these events is used by scientists to study bird populations across the country. To learn more click here.

Participate in the Celebrate Urban Birds project. Spend ten minutes helping scientists understand how common birds are doing in urban settings. More than a quarter of a million ordinary people have already made observations! To learn more click here. (Balboa Park’s own WorldBeat Center has participated in this project. Read about that here!)

Become a summer camper at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. Over the years, people walking around Balboa Park have observed green anole lizards, which aren’t native to San Diego. It was determined by the museum’s young summer campers that the green anoles were the descendants of escapees. These lizards had once been used as food for other animals at the San Diego Zoo! To learn more about attending summer camp at theNAT, click here. (Scholarships are available!)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Star III submersible outside Birch Aquarium.

Should you walk from the parking lot by Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to the popular attraction’s entrance, you’ll see what looks like a small submarine. On its side is written Star III.

Star III is actually a submersible that was used for undersea studies back in the mid-20th century.

I looked at the cool little marvel of technology and wondered about its history.

A nearby sign provides interesting information concerning the submersible, which was built by General Dynamics.

When I got home, I found a book published in 1968 by the Naval Oceanographic Office titled Undersea Studies With the Deep Research Vehicle Star III which you can preview here. It concerns a series of 21 dives off Key West Florida in March 1967…to evaluate the Star III system as a platform from which to conduct underwater photogrammetric and various surveying tasks.

I also found the following old public domain photograph of Star III suspended above the water from a seagoing vessel.

Launched in 1966, Star III was capable of carrying a two-person crew and as much as 1,000 pounds of scientific equipment to a depth of 2,000 feet. The sub and its occupants could remain underwater for up to 120 hours…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fusion and the futuristic science of Star Trek!

A fascinating panel convened yesterday at San Diego’s Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park. The Science of Star Trek – Travel at Warp Speed featured a Star Trek editor, a Star Trek writer, and three scientists from General Atomics, which is headquartered here in San Diego.

The event coincided with the Comic-Con Museum’s current exhibition honoring Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.

Five panelists focused primarily on the technology of nuclear fusion, which has been pioneered at General Atomics for many decades. Fusion powers the fictional impulse engines of Star Trek’s starships.

It was fun to learn that Star Trek was a major inspiration of David Humphreys, a nuclear fusion scientist who has worked at General Atomics for 40 years! (Incidentally, his favorite captain is Kirk.)

All sorts of different Star Trek technology, like the matter/anti-matter warp drive, tricorders and communicators, were touched upon. The panelists loved that much of Star Trek’s speculative tech has been based on real physics and scientific possibility. Remember how Kirk would sit in the captain’s chair and sign off on a device that looked like a tablet? Some of that once-fictional tech exists today!

Other not-so-realistic Star Trek technology would be used merely as a plot device. The transporters allowed a story (and Dr. McCoy’s scrambled molecules) to quickly transition from scene to scene. Human scale teleportation remains a somewhat unlikely dream. (But who knows?)

The most exciting part of the discussion concerned the imminent emergence of sustained nuclear fusion as a potentially limitless source of cheap, clean energy. Unlike nuclear fission, with its dangerous radioactive waste and chain reaction, the technology that produces fusion is inherently safe. And its “fuel” is hydrogen, which is practically limitless. The trick is energizing and concentrating hydrogen atoms so that they fuse and become helium, as they do inside the very, very hot sun. No easy task!

Fusion has made such tremendous advances that the world now stands at the brink of major breakthroughs, due primarily to the ITER project–one of the largest scientific programs in human history–where 35 nations from around the world hope to perfect and share practical working technology. General Atomics produced the super powerful magnets utilized by ITER.

Another thing the panelists addressed is how young people today can take part in this exciting future. Diverse, good-paying jobs connected to fusion technology are going to be plentiful. General Atomics is looking for interns! Can you imagine a more interesting place to work and learn?

It was great to see how San Diego’s own General Atomics is helping to lead the way to a world that will be completely transformed in a positive way by nuclear fusion. And it was inspiring to see scientists from General Atomics out in the community. They also participated in the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party, which I blogged about last weekend.

When I was in middle school, many moons ago, we went on a field trip to General Atomics. I remember how the scientists briefly fired their fusion reactor under a huge protective pool of water. Now, almost half a century later, we are at the cusp of something so huge, the world might be transformed beyond anything that even the creators of Star Trek envisioned!

Oh–the next photo, taken on the main floor of the Comic-Con Museum, is of Star Trek cosplayers belonging to the Science Fiction Coalition. Live long and prosper!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fun at the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party!

Explosive reactions! A gigantic walking virus! Snakes, molecules, robots and rockets!

Oh, wow! Check out the fun that families and kids enjoyed today during the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party, part of this year’s very cool San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering!

There was much to see, do and learn in the outdoor plaza of Mercado del Barrio!

The event featured immensely entertaining live science demonstrations, creative kids activities, and even a bunch of awesome lowriders on display! I was personally pleased to see the substantial community involvement by UC San Diego.

Look at the great event attendance!
There’s plenty of science and technology to learn from lowriders–especially the hydraulics!
Check out this awesome lowrider!
Everywhere I turned, people were engaged in hands-on learning at this Barrio Logan Science and Art Expo!
Young Women in Bio.

I saw a demo of the above very cool science video game Microscopya, designed by Dr. Beata Mierzwa, an artist and UCSD molecular biologist! Students learn about cells and human biology while having tons of adventurous fun! Check out the web page here!

Friendly folks from the San Diego Public Library!
The ladies of Mad Science make a memorable demonstration using carbon dioxide.
That is planet Earth’s size relative to Jupiter!
Free Trees for your neighborhood!

If you live in San Diego, and want to plant a free street tree where you live, check this out!

EcoVivarium brought snakes, tortoises and other critters for the educational event.
A scientific experiment in progress.
Concentrating on science.
Two very impressive young men give a presentation concerning groundwater.
Look at all the drones!
That’s the biggest virus I’ve ever seen! I didn’t bring enough hand sanitizer.
That’s either goop or slime.
A smile!
The Vulcan-1 rocket, built by students at UC San Diego. It’s the world’s first undergraduate rocket powered by a 3D printed engine!
What’s the space weather today?
The science of tortillas!
Even very young kids were interested and excited!
STEAM related artwork by local students decorates the event stage.
A hand crank powers different light bulbs.
A fun demonstration of various physics principles by folks from General Atomics.
Yes, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen is -196 degrees celsius! Brrr!
What happened?
Hair-raising fun!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Power Avengers beat Darkula in Chula Vista!

In Chula Vista, the dastardly supervillain Darkula has been defeated, thanks to the superhero Power Avengers!

Don’t believe me? The exciting comic book story fills the walls of the Energy Station at the South Chula Vista Library!

When local sixth grade school students enter the Energy Station, with its action-packed walls, they might be inspired to become real life heroes. At the Energy Station makerspace they learn about energy conservation and sources of renewable energy, such as solar or wind power.

This unique City of Chula Vista project, created several years ago in partnership with San Diego Gas and Electric, aims to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM. Having a pipeline of future STEM workers is essential to the health and growth of our regional innovation economy, which depends on technical expertise in fields such as electrical engineering, biomedical research, and wireless communications…

No matter what a kid’s talents or interests might be, at the South Chula Vista Library they can learn how to create a brighter future and thwart the menace of Darkula . . . as members of the Power Avengers!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!