Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dr. Stuart Robbins on Dark City

Dr. Stuart Robbins appeared on Art Bell's Digital Network as a guest on Dark City, a show hosted by Steve Warner.  I thought about placing in the title 'Robbins appears on Art Bell digital radio network  Show" to gain hits and as a laugh, but decided that would be uncouth.

I have never listened to Warner's show.  Actually, after listening to a few episodes after Bell's return to the airwaves on satellite radio for a brief period a couple of summers ago, I think I was subconsciously boycotting Bell.  Anyway, I thought Warner was a pretty solid host.  My fears that Warner would be some Alex Tsakiris type were thankfully not met.  Warner, at least on this episode, came across as a reasonable person who had at least done some basic homework and had an appreciation for science with a dose of realism. He was not attacking or trying for any 'gotcha' moments.  

The interview lasted two hours and was fairly wide ranging.  Dr. Robbins discussed how he came to be interested in astronomy, and his particular field of studying impact craters on Mars and other celestial bodies.  Warner asked reasonable questions what Robbins thinks of people who are reading into the latest and earliest round of photographs to come back from Pluto.  Warner was clearly skeptical of such notions.  Even the nature of the current understanding of science and the likelihood of our current models of the universe and physics might be upended was discussed.  In particular what manner of evidence would be necessary to trigger a paradigm shift as when the existence of ether was disproven or Relativity accepted.  The conversation even wandered to how evolution on another planet may or may not track with evolution of life on Earth, and how worthwhile is S.E.T.I.  Also, of note was Dr. Robbins' issues with calling String Theory a “Theory” at all when it seems on its face to have some merit.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Seventh Rogue: Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria is the latest Rogue and only the seventh person to be anointed as a full-blooded member of the SGU in the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe’s ten years of production.   Since Rebecca Watson left the show after a nine year stint, the show has had an obvious hole in their lineup.  Once Maria was named as Rogue during the SGU’s annual live show at The Amazing Meeting, I determined I would listen to a few episodes of the SGU before commenting.

The SGU homepage is a tad out of date . . .
When Maria was named her name rang a bell, but I was not terribly familiar with her work.   Among other things, she has her own Talk Nerdy podcast.  I listened to her January 2015 appearance as a guest on the SGU as well as a couple of episodes of her own podcast.  I listened to a TN episode where the guest was none other than Dr. Steven Novella, and the one that I picked at more or less random with Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog.  From this sampling, Maria struck me as a fairly polished interviewer.  She was able to have Novella get more political personally than I have heard him in the past.  Novella dished on his thoughts about the U.S. health care system.  Her interview with Mehta also was paced.  For someone like myself who is a world weary aged 43, the part of the interview where Mehta and Maria discussing the trials of not only being a freelance science communicator by trade, but an early 30-something who is too old to party but not so old to care struck me as funny.  While the interview was lively and casual, it never slipped into snark or annoying self pity that is too often the case.  All in all, I enjoyed both episodes.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A talk of the old days and an idea for the future.

This week's Skeptics' Guide to the Universe was recorded at TAM 13.  I listened with interest on how the newest Rogue, Cara Santa Maria, fared during her first day 'on the job.'  I plan to listen to a few more episodes and then draw some initial conclusions.

the skeptical sun could still be rising 
Of greater interest was the interview of senior skeptics and the founding fathers of modern skepticism, James Randi and Ray Hyman.  The particular portion of the interview that struck a chord with me was Hyman and Randi discussing the beginnings of their skeptical collaboration along with Paul Kurtz and Martin Gardner.   This initial organization that eventually became CSICOP included not just these gentlemen, but also Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov among others.  The old days were not perfect as for example there was tension between the academics and non-academics.  From Randi and Hyman's recollection at the start, they toiled on the focus and the mission of the new organization while Kurtz just wanted to get matters organized and implemented.  Randi and Hyman wished to hash out should their new group's focus be on education, basic information, or just downright proselytizing.  Unfortunately, fairly early on tension grew between Randi and the others on how to handle Uri Gellar's threats of litigation resulting in Randi's departure.  Randi wished to keep after Gellar head on, while Hyman (and others) wished to avoid direct confrontation.

Although I have had a rather dour recent post on the current state and future possible state of skepticism, it is good to keep in mind and gain some perspective that things within skepdom have never been perfect. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Imitation Game & the SGU's Big Announcement

I was informed by the editor that she had rented "The Imitation Game" on iTunes as it was on special for 99¢.  So we settled down to watch it Saturday night after a long day at Hersheypark, our local amusement park.  I then checked my twitter feed and saw that Cara Santa Maria had been announced as the latest Rogue at TAM 13.  Therefore, I went back and listened to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe episode 497 which featured Maria as a guest Rogue.  Overall, Maria sounded as if she made a nice fit.  I plan to listen to a couple more episodes with her as a Rogue before commenting further.  I do hope her addition stirs the SGU pot a bit and freshens up the show.  

On this particular episode, the Rogues reviewed "The Imitation Game."  It was a bit freaky.  Perhaps not freaky enough to make it to The Odds Must be Crazy, but I listened to their take on the movie with interest.  I generally disagreed with the Rogues positive review.  

First, Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his modern portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC and as Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness," was the best thing about the movie. Cumberbatch probably could play a loaf of bread in a elementary school production of the food pyramid and make it work.