Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Skeptics Guide 220, The Skeptic Zone 51

Late, Sick, and Quiet 

This week's episode of SGU was the first to feature Rebecca Watson in her new hometown of London, England.  Rebecca was speaking with a smokey quiet voice.  This was not part of her new European vamp persona.  No, it was Watson with a sore throat speaking quietly at 2am presumably not to wake up her husband in what seemed to describe a studio apartment.

The show started with Dr. Novella giving a brief overview on why a pair of new studies finding the frequency of autism to be at 1/100 is not evidence of a new epidemic.  Then Steve sounded nearly giddy on discussing the findings of Ardipithicus Ramidis, a human ancestor which is older than Lucy, and is somewhat surprising evidence of human ancestors evolving from tree dwellers rather than savannah dwellers.

The show then had not one, but two interviews.  One long form interview with Daniel Hooper, an astrophysicist with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratories.  Professor Hooper discussed the latest thoughts on dark matter, and the current evidence for its existence.  He also discussed the evidence against the hypothesis that instead of dark matter being the cause of certain observations, it is actually a subtle change in the nature of gravity over great distances that needs to be determined.  I found it all intriguing and basically kept up with it all despite only a year of high school physics and two semesters of astronomy in college.

The second short interview was done by Rebecca with Brian Cox of the large hadron collider.  Yes, the one once they switch it all on will cause a black hole and destroy possibly not only the Earth but the universe.  Rebecca indicated that there were more such short interviews, which were done at TAM London, and will be shared over the next few weeks.

Watson was as good as her word and continued with the show despite her relocation to London.  However, given the six hour or so time zone difference between England and New England perhaps Watson's continuing role on the show should move more toward pre-recorded segments rather than weekly panel member.  She could be the SGU's European correspondent, and cover activities across the pond.  This is not to say I would not enjoy Watson being a recurring panel member (I'd be happier still if she stayed within a time zone or two of Connecticut, but life gets in the way), but I do not care how dedicated someone is to a non-paying skeptical show, people have to sleep.  I think this would leave a hole in the panel, but certainly there are a number of woman who could if not replace but fill in the slot that Watson would leave.  Once again, I would be surprised if the Novella boys, Bernstein, and Watson have not discussed such scenarios.  This is my two cents.  Watson is too valuable to risk having her burn out trying to maintain being a panelist, or being too tired to look right, left, right instead of left, right, left and get hit by a lorry. (Yes, I watch "Top Gear.")

The SGU upside down

I have really begun to enjoy being a regular listener to The Skeptic Zone.  I rather regret not having listened to it regularly for the last year.  It has a similar feel as the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, but with it's own unique Australian take.  The only thing I find to dislike about the show is its introductory song.  It's campy.  I like camp a lot, but this is just a wee bit over the line for my tastes.  It's personal, but I thought I'd share.

This week the show continued with interviews done by Dr. Rachael Dunlop while in New York City.  First, Dunlop interviewed Danny K of the Jolly 13 Club of New York City.  A club that goes out of its way to break all manner of bad luck superstitions.  The club apparently is a revival of one that an eccentric New Yorker began near the turn of the last century.  In that club 13 people would come over to dine while walking under a ladder and with a black cat crossing their path, etc.  This club seemed more to be about drinking and having a good old social time on the 13th of the month.  K shared that he had been interviewed by a Fox news crew which trumped up that this was an Atheist (say it like pedophile) organization, which it isn't.  They really did not use any of his actual interview.  On the one hand, how can anyone be surprised that a news crew twisted a story for shock value Fox, NBC, CBS, or CNN, and second if I ever get asked to be interviewed, I think the answer is going to be no.  I can just see it now, Hershey attorney peddles in rational thought, Vegas wed wife thinks it's "cute."  I like the idea of the club a lot, but I think they need to find a wealthy patron to exchange local waterholes or dinner parties of 13.

Dunlop then had a brief interview of Rebecca Watson post NECSS conference.  Really, is there anyplace Watson is not these days?

The Skeptic Zone gang met for their Think Tank section as usual at a bar, or this time a restaurant.  I do like how the Zone tends to have separate interviews followed up with the round table after the fact.  Especially with the gather done at social location.  I think I mentioned this before, but listening to SGU I always see them not at their individual homes in front of their Macbooks and desktops, but sitting around a table at a restaurant discussing the topics of the day.  The folks at the Zone might had the same thought and decided to actually meet at one place.  Practically speaking I think this is a luxury that most panel discussion shows do not have on the net.

Better late than never.

The latest few Point of Inquiry shows are running about two months late from recording to sharing.  I do not consider this a big deal except for the show that was done on Blasphemy Day, which was on September 30th but was not shared until October.  I hope nothing terrible has occurred with the fine folks at POI, and that the shows catch up to the share date soon.

Conspiracy Skeptic

I would just like to say the feedback I have heard from my appearance on Karl Mamer's Conspiracy Skeptic podcast has been positive.  I am relieved to (hopefully) not have been a blot against Mamer's fine show, not totally embarrass myself, and not done harm to the rather serious topic of JFK's assassination.


  1. Yay, another review! :) I have, over time, grown to love the Skeptic Zone theme - from the very start, it indicated us 'not taking ourselves too seriously'. We can't really - we're scientists, magicians, role-players and students. We're never the cutting-edge of cool nor supercilious communicators of 'the truth'. I think of it as a nod to our Australian waggish-larrikin origins and a bit of fun. :) What other podcast would have a feather-boa-ed George Hrab being stood on for a stunt, or have camels being chased by our car? :) As for 'camp' - we have even marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian mardi gras earlier this year! :)

    The Think Tank has, from the start, been recorded in the local RSL pub in Sydney and we've taken it 'on the road' whenever we travel to a convention or a venue in a city that one of us arrives in. :) I personally like to think of it as a useful entry-point for anyone who does turn up to the venue it is recorded in as a way for them to have a say - you'll hear in earlier episodes that this is very much the case. :)

  2. As I noted, the theme music is purely subjective.

    If for some bizarre reason the Skeptic Zone finds itself in Hershey, PA, I'd love to ask a few questions. Thanks for reading.


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