What Is the Mysterious, Reverberating Sound We Hear in North Bernal?


This week, several residents of Precitaville have heard a strange, deep-throated rumbling sound echoing through the air.

It’s been a topic of discussion in various neighborhood mailing lists — and Bernalwood’s inbox.

Indeed, your Bernalwood editor has actually heard the sound a few times as well. Personally, I thought it sounded like a very large diesel engine at idle, or a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over Bernal Hill. Or, at least, what I imagine a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft would sound like, if it was hovering over Bernal Hill.

Yesterday Neighbor John wrote to Bernalwood:

Does anybody know what that rumbling sound is?  I’ve heard it for a couple of days now, runs through the night too.  Weird.

Neighbor Linda heard it again this morning:

The noise is back. Time for some sleuthing.

As far as I can tell, it started on Monday afternoon/evening and continued until Tuesday morning. It started again Tuesday around noon, but quieter. I’m going to attribute that to the weird atmospheric noise bounce we get sometimes (remember Beyonce?). It’s also possible it was going the entire time and I just didn’t hear it.

Right now it’s loud and clear.

I can’t figure out where it’s coming from.

Yesterday evening I set out to figure it out. I walked Bessie to Precita to Shotwell, across to Cesar Chavez, down Cesar Chavez to Folsom, all around St. Anthony’s, up Folsom to Precita to Flynn school, and down Harrison to Cesar Chavez. Most of the time it was really quiet and of course the noise from Cesar Chavez made it inaudible. But when I crossed the pathway in the park I could hear it distinctly on Precita between Treat and Harrison.

I gave up and went home. Based on this I’m guessing it’s coming from the other side of Cesar Chavez, maybe down Harrison. I might try to drive around later but don’t have much time.

Maybe an intrepid reader of Bernalwood knows what this strange sound is.

Neighbor John says it sounds familiar:

Back before the Iraq invasion, the Navy did lots of training on the Bay. Might be the same. Seaborne pilot rescue. As I recall, they were doing some kind of mine clearing operations back in ’02 that had those big Sea Stallion helicopters dragging some kind of device thru water. Sound carries real well over water. Might be it.

I had a somewhat similar thought; that the noise might somehow be connected to Fleet Week, which happens this weekend. Or, possibly, the arrival of the amphibious assault ship USS America in town on Monday morning, which could validate Neighbor John’s Navy helicopters-at-sea-level theory.

Neighbor Andy was on the scene to report the USS America’s arrival:

So, maybe that?

Or, a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over Bernal Hill. Possibly with a cloaking device.

UPDATE 5;17 pm: Neighbor Rusty did some field research, and he thinks the noise is definitely coming from the USS America:

I’m 99% certain it’s the USS America (LHA-6) which is docked at the end of Bryant street at Pier 32. It’s the same sonic signature that I hear from north Bernal. I drove down to Mission Rock and could hear it coming from the direction of the Bay Bridge. Drove down the Embarcadero and sure enough the sound was quite apparent over the sound of traffic right in front of where LHA-6 was docked.

Here’s a visual of USS America here, now, courtesy of Raul:

USS America (LHA-6)

And, a corroborating video!

This is what we're hearing from Bernal Heights it really carries

A video posted by SomaFM Rusty (@somafmrusty) on

Science Says Awesome Neighbors Have Fewer Heart Attacks


There are many good reasons to be a fantastic neighbor, not the least of which is that fantastic neighbors are fantastic. Not coincidentally, Bernal Heights is famous for being fantastic, in no small part because Bernal Heights has a long tradition of highly engaged neighborliness.

That’s great for Bernal Heights, of course. But it may also be good for you. A new study suggests that people who feel more connected to their neighbors are less likely to experience a heart attack.

Writing for The Atlantic, James Hamblin explains:

According to new research published today from psychologists at the University of Michigan, I’m less likely to die of a heart attack than I would be if I gave in to my more introverted tendencies.

Social connection at the neighborhood level has long been known to be associated with good mental health, and some aspects of physical health. But this is the first study to look specifically at neighborhood social cohesion and heart attacks, which hit more than 700,000 Americans every year and cost everyone billions of dollars.

“There’s evidence suggesting that negative factors of the neighborhood, things like density of fast food outlets, violence, noise, and poor air quality impact health,” lead researcher Eric Kim, a psychologist in his final year of doctoral work at the University of Michigan, told me. I’d add broken windows. One 2003 study found that “boarded-up housing” predicts high rates of gonorrhea in a neighborhood, as well as premature death due to cancer or complications of diabetes. (And murder.) More recently, researchers from University of Pennsylvania looked at the health detriments associated with vacant land. By their understanding, abandoned buildings lead to isolation and erosion of social relationships, mutual trust, and collective efficacy, which leads to poor physical health.
Kim’s team is focusing on the other side of things: the positive elements of a neighborhood that “might perhaps be protective or even enhancing of health.” For a young scientist, Kim is precociously well versed in the language of hedging.

The study du jour, published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, is based on assessments of social connectedness in 5276 adults in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The subjects rated how strongly they agreed with the following four prompts:

  • “I really feel part of this area.”
  • “If [I] were in trouble, there are lots of people in this area who would help.”
  • “Most people in this area can be trusted.”
  • “Most people in this area are friendly.”

The responses landed the participants on a seven-point Likert scale. And then they were followed. Four years later, 148 of them had experienced heart attacks.

“On the seven-point scale,” Kim explained, “each unit of increase in neighborhood social cohesion was associated with a 17 percent reduced risk of heart attacks.”

“If you compare the people who had the most versus the least neighborhood social cohesion,” Kim continued, “they had a 67 percent reduced risk of heart attacks.”

Citizens of Bernalwood, you now know know what to do.  Sally forth, be fantastic, be neighborly, and live longer.

PHOTO: Fantastic Elise Street neighbors in 2011 demonstrating how to reduce the risk of heart attack. Photo by Adrian Mendoza

Bernal Neighbor’s Research Links Smarter Brain to Longer Life


This story slipped between the cracks a few weeks ago, but fortunately it’s as timeless as life itself…

In early May, a team of UCSF researchers published published an article that identified a gene which enables both high cognitive functioning and unusual longevity. In other words, there’s a gene that that makes you smarter and live longer — and vice-versa. And science now knows this because the research was organized by none other Neighbor Dena from Banks Street!

Off-hill, she’s known as Dr. Dena Dubal MD,, Ph.D., and she leads the Dubal Lab on Aging and the Brain at UCSF. Here’s what the Chronicle had to say about her recent conclusions:

A gene variant that scientists already knew to be associated with longer life also seems to make people smarter, and may help offset the effects of normal cognitive decline in old age, according to a team of San Francisco researchers.

The findings, published [on May 8] in the journal Cell Reports, are encouraging news for the roughly 1 in 5 people who have the genetic trait, which is a variant of the klotho gene.

Beyond that, scientists hope the findings will help them develop tools for retaining, or even boosting, intelligence in people who have suffered cognitive losses, either from disease or through the normal course of aging.

“What we’ve discovered is a cognitive enhancer,” said Dr. Dena Dubal, an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF and lead author of the study, which was done with researchers from the Gladstone Institutes. “This may represent a new way to treat problems of cognition in the brain.”

You can read lots more about Neighbor Dena’s research, or, in this glamorous video, you can watch as she explains it herself:

NPR Spotlights Science Education for Bernal Students


National media alert! On NPR’s Morning Edition this week, a group of students at Bernal’s Paul Revere School were the focus of a story by Eric Westervelt about Mission Science Workshop, an innovative program to make science education more unboring:

On a recent afternoon in San Francisco, 9-year-olds from Paul Revere Elementary in the Bernal Heights neighborhood are captivated by a large Van de Graaff electrostatic generator — and the prospect of gently zapping a reporter. They implore me to put the metal part of my microphone on the machine — all in the name of science, of course.

It’s semi-controlled chaos here, but that’s the point. This is free-form explore time at the Mission Science Workshop in San Francisco. The program works with low-income and underserved public elementary schools to get kids excited about science. The program does it by mixing lots of hands-on learning with specific experiments that teachers can continue back in their own classrooms.

There are a lot of live reptiles, whole animal skeletons and a handful of project stations throughout the room, a large former high school auto shop-turned science lair. Think mad scientist meets Willy Wonka, with limited impulse controls. Fourth-graders Matthew Rivera and Jamal Damon gently tussle over two pythons while teacher Sarah-Jayne Reilly stands by.

“I grew up in Ireland and really didn’t do science until I was much older,” Reilly says. “And when I came here the first time, my mind was like, ‘Wow! I just love the way the children are learning to think.’ ‘

“We always tell them, ‘Don’t just believe me, try it for yourself, test it for yourself. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to say what you’re thinking,’ ” she says.

For teacher Sam Haynor, the science workshop is about using imaginative experimentation to spark learning, and to counter the idea that science is a set of known facts that students should sit back quietly and receive from on high.

PHOTO: Student at Mission Science Workshop, via NPR

Time-Lapse Photo of Venus and Crescent Moon Over Bernal Hill Is Space-tacular

Venus and Moon Sequence over Bernal HeightsLast month, Potrero Hill photographer Daniel Leu snapped a terrific photo of the moon and Venus setting over Bernal Hill.

This month, Leu ups the game with a new photo that shows the moon and venus in action again over Bernal Hill, in dynamic time-lapse mode:

I set up my camera to capture the sequence of the moon setting behind the hill. Since I didn’t know how much the moon moves in a given time span, I took an image every 30s. This was way too much. As it turned out, one image every 6 minutes is all I needed to create my little sequence.


PHOTO: Daniel Leu

Meanwhile… Bernal Heights Is Just a Tiny Rock Traveling Through Deep Space

Moon and Venus over Bernal Heights

Amid the unpleasantness of current events, it’s good to remind ourselves where we stand right now…. in the grand scheme of things.

Photographer Daniel Leu snapped this remarkable photo of the Moon and Venus rising over setting above Bernal Hill last week:

 I saw the beautiful pastel colors in the sky, but didn’t have time to leave home to try to capture this. But a little bit later while preparing the BBQ to cook dinner, I saw the moon and Venus over Bernal Heights. This time I couldn’t let it go.

To assist our celestially-challenged readers, Bernalwood consulted with the experts from BASA’s Office of Astro-Navigational Cartography to provide this helpful orientation guide. Follow along:


PHOTO: Daniel Leu

New Evidence Supports Theory That Mars Rover Mission Is Actually a Bernal Hill Hoax


David L. Kutzler, Major (Ret.), USAF lives in Tucson, Arizona, but he is a Bernalwood reader, and has been closely following the recent allegations of a government hoax to conceal evidence that NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is not really roving the surface of Mars — but actually driving on the surface of Bernal Hill instead.

Mr. Kutzler has been studying NASA’s recent photo releases from the Curiosity mission, and he has uncovered some explosive new evidence to support the Mars/Bernal Hill hoax theory.

Mr. Kutzler writes:

I stumbled across your August 24, 2012 post on the “Mars Rover” hoax. Props to you for your good investigative work. I wanted to share with you further evidence of this cruel hoax. NASA recently released a “blink” gif image that was supposed to compare before and after images of a rock drilling made by the “Mars Rover.”

Apparently, they mistakenly released an earlier version of the gif where they hadn’t yet edited out the moving insects that were in the scene. I attached a version of the gif where I have circled what are obviously moving insects in the scene.

Of course, NASA is going to claim that the “insect-like movement” is an “artifact” caused by shifting of debris due to the vibration from the drilling activity. That’s what they want us to believe!

Using my own proprietary technique, I was able to zoom and enhance the image of the “artifact,” and I have attached it for all the world to see:


“Mars Rover” my ass! Formica rufescens is a common species of ant in California. The Rover is continuing its mission from Bernal Hill!!

Oh, and that giant space rock that crashed into Russia yesterday? When scientists dredge the debris from the bottom of that frozen lake, don’t be surprised if subsequent analysis concludes that the meteor was comprised of red Bernal Hill chert. Just saying…