[The planetary nebula M 2-9, winds from a dying star. Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble Legacy Archive / Judy Schmidt]
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Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion
Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about
On April 1 (yes, yes, I know, but seriously) I will be doing a live video interview with Dr. Brian Keating, the Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Physics at UC San Diego, for his podcast “Into the Impossible”, so I’ll have to put on my smarty-pants pants for this one. I expect it will be a wide-ranging discussion of what’s going on in science; he’s interviewed an interesting range of people about their specialties.
It will be streamed live on YouTube:
You can set a reminder there; the interview is at noon Pacific (15:00 ET, 19:00 UTC). This should be fun!
Also, on Friday April 2 at 18:00 Pacific time I’ll be on “Bad Movies Live!” with my friend and comedian Greg Benson, where we’ll be watching one of my favorite scifi disaster movies no one’s ever heard of, “Crack in the World”. It’s not exactly like an MST3k riff session, but we will be making a bit of fun of it and chatting and gently mocking the science. This is from the 60s and it’s one of the more scenery-chewingist movies you’ll see.
I was on BML once before with Greg and so I know it’s a good bet there will be some, um, adult content (mostly bad words and some drinking and yeah, more towards the goofy immature humor) so it’s not for the kiddos. But in his defense a chunk of the money donated over the movie goes to charity. So there’s that. Anyway, it’ll be fun and funny. I hope you drop by.
What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI
[The actual image of material around the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy M87, showing the direction of light polarization coming from that matter. This is due to magnetic fields in the material, which powers much of the emission. From Wednesday’s article. Credit: EHT Collaboration]
Monday 22 February, 2021: Full metal volcano
Tuesday 23 February, 2021: A planet for Vega?
Wednesday 24 February, 2021: Event Horizon Telescope sees the magnetic engine behind a supermassive black hole's immense power
Thursday 25 February, 2021: Was Earth once a water world?
Friday 26 February, 2021: Mars may be sneezing out dust into the solar system that’s visible from Earth
Yeah, but not too personal
As you may know, last week I got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In that mini-thread I talked a little about my reaction but I wanted to give more detail for those of you who are curious.
I got the Moderna vaccine, which is a two-dose version. I got the first one on Tuesday, March 23, and my follow-up is scheduled for four weeks later, on April 20.
Scheduling was difficult; once Colorado announced a new open tier of course the websites were flooded. More than once I was in the middle of getting an appointment when the site told me the slot I was trying to get was filled. Grrr. I wound up getting an appointment at a pharmacy about a 20-minute drive away. My wife was able to get hers set up at a pharmacy five minutes away. Just luck.
It was easy after that. I walked up, told them who I was, filled out a very short form, and then was ushered into a room. The pharmacist who gave it to me talked about possible reactions and the usual stuff, and agreed to let me take the pic while she injected me. I literally didn’t even feel the needle at all.
An hour or so later my arm was just a bit sore, like I bumped it too hard against a corner. That evening I felt a little bit like I was having a mild immune reaction, but no biggie.
Wednesday and Thursday, though, were a bit rougher. By Wednesday afternoon I felt like I do when I’m having a sinus attack or fighting off a cold. Sore muscles, body aches, slight headache, chills, and difficulty concentrating (note that these are NOT from the virus, but the effects of the immune system attacking the viral components; most people think they feel gross directly due to an infection, but nearly all the symptoms you associate with being sick are actually due to your own body’s defenses).
Even so, these feelings were all relatively mild, and certainly not as bad as when I actually do get sick (I took it as an excuse to lie around and watch movies).
I’ll note that for most people, their immune system acts like an army fighting off the enemy, with a coordinated attack that uses up some bodily resources but attacks in an organized manner.
Mine, on the other hand, is more like a swarm of bezerkers madly shooting off in every direction dealing mayhem and chaos to the invaders. The last time I had a bad sinus issue, for example, I was miserable, with all the same issues outlined above plus several more, and they were quite strong. The amount of Kleenex I used up blowing my nose was staggering.
I tell you this because even though my body tends to go off the deep end when I get sick, after the shot things were not nearly as bad. In fact, when I woke up Friday morning I was fine. So take that as a positive sign in case you were worried!
Talking about it with my wife, she wondered if I was already exposed to COVID-19 once before. A year ago or so I had a few days of feeling a little gross, like I had a very mild cold or sinus issue. Like I said I do get these and sometimes they lay me out, and other times it’s just an inconvenient creakiness. But no one else in the house got sick at that time, and I chalked it up to stuff blooming outside.
Still, she wondered if my stronger reaction to the vaccine might be because my body already had the antibodies, and so when the new spiky proteins were injected into me my immune system unleashed my typically overly caffeinated T-cell and antibody warriors. There are some studies showing that people who had the virus previously react more strongly to the vaccine, so it’s possible, I suppose. There is some thought that folks like that might be able to skip the second vaccine.
I will not skip it, however. First of all, I don’t know for sure if I had it, and there’s no way to know now (taking an antibody test now will show I have them, because that’s the point of the vaccine). Also, taking the second one will ensure I am inoculated, and I owe it to myself and those around me to be sure. If it means I have to suffer a day or two of feeling icky to do that, then so be it. Sucks for me, but it would suck worse for those around me (and I’ll still be double masking when I go out, too, as is recommended).
My overarching point here is that if you can get the vaccine, get the vaccine. Don’t feel guilty that someone else isn’t getting it because you are; instead feel good because you are helping shrink the giant reservoir of people who can incubate the virus. The more people who have the virus the more likely a viable mutation can make things worse — that’s just a numbers game (low odds per person x many persons = decent chance of it happening). Reducing the number of people infected means reducing the number of people who can still get infected.
You may feel little or no reaction to the vaccination (my wife had almost none) or it may be stronger. For my second shot I plan on having the blog written a couple of days in advance just in case, and I’ll be prepared for a day or two on the couch to do some serious movie watching so that my little berserkers can have their fun.
Stay safe, my friends. Stay healthy, and get your shot.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!