Chat: Where science and sci-fi meet

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I’m sorry, what was that?

Oh, it is Wednesday, by golly.

Chat Day.

So here’s your weekly reminder that our chats belong to you, too. Give us a shout.

My email address is at the bottom of this column.

Right, that’s business done — so let’s leap into it, shall we?

ITEM: I’ve been making the case that young people should not have smartphones until the age of 18 — and that removing them until then would drastically reduce the growing number of suicides in that lower age group.

Surprisingly, teenagers also seem to understand the problem with living a separate life online.

In a Pew Research Center survey, 57 percent of Americans aged 13 through 17 said they were taking steps to cut back on the use of social media.

Here’s what scary about all that screen time ...

Overall, 56 percent of teens associate the absence of their cellphone with one or more of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious.

Don’t those moods sound like steps on the road to believing life is worthless?

I think they do.

ITEM: Can you bear with me while we do a little science project?

Sure, you’re up for it.

We’re going to discuss PM2.5, which is a form of common air pollution.

PM2.5 is released from tailpipes of vehicles, coal-fired power plants, and industrial plants of all kinds.

People exposed to this type of air pollution — that’s us — are likely to lose a year off our life span, on average.

What’s more, simply reducing global PM2.5 air pollution to levels recommended by the World Health Organization would be the equivalent to globally eradicating breast and lung cancer in terms of life spans.

Dramatic, huh?

We’re obviously living in air polluted well above the WHO standards in normal times, but ...

The addition of all this wildfire smoke in the Northwest pushes up our PM2.5 intake, and obviously raises the stakes concerning our health and life spans.

Seems like every possible plan to curb these fires would be seriously worthwhile.

And when we ARE exposed to all the smoke, please pay attention to weather alerts and all the safety measures provided by Press meteorologist Randy Mann and climatologist Cliff Harris.

Yeah, I know the old joke: “What do I care if I lose a year off my life if I’m 90?”

I’ll give you a call the day you turn 90 — and ask you about it then.

You’ll know it’s me, because my voice will be muffled by a surgical mask.

ITEM: Surely you’ve heard of Area 51, that mysterious compound in the Nevada desert — the one where conspiracy theorists are convinced the government is hiding remains of alien spacecraft and the little green men who flew them here.

But what about Area 53?

Nah, I didn’t know it existed, either.

However ...

Skip Fuller of Coeur d’Alene and his son, Brian, have come across this new eerie place, and you can see the photographic evidence.

“The photo was taken by my son during a road trip we took up the Pend Oreille River Valley (north of Newport, Wash.) and into the Colville National Forest,” Skip said.

“I’d been there before — there’s an easement with some towers for power lines — and I didn’t see anything that time.

“The fact that someone came up with the idea of 50- or 60-foot sculptures of aliens and the ‘Area 53’ sign falls somewhere between creative genius and whimsical comedy.”

Skip noted that the “genius” behind the effort had to have deep pockets to create and erect the sculptures — not to mention being clever enough to overcome whatever bureaucratic obstacles might have popped up in getting permission to erect the sculptures in the first place.

Of course, that assumes the project was of human origin.

The “Area 53” sign on the outer sculpture makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Hey, the Northwest is kind of famous for unexplained phenomena, so a spooky area housing aliens wouldn’t be TOO far out of the question.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter:@BrandNewDayCDA

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