Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe episode 237

This week on the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe Daniel Loxton of Skeptic magazine, and in particular the Junior Skeptic insert of the magazine made an appearance as a guest rogue.  Loxton is making the rounds on podcasts pitching his new book that he wrote and illustrated, "Evolution: How we and all living things came to be," which geared to kids, and people who do not want their kids to learn things like this.  He was also recently interviewed on Skepticality.  He made a very natural fit in with the regular rouges.

The show covered the dowsing bomb detector device arrest of Jim McCormick.  I did not realize just how idiotic a device the U.S. and Iraqi military procured.  Apparently, the user stuck a card into a slot on the device to tell the device what manner of explosive or bomb the operator was looking to find.  There was no actual chip in the card, but just one of those tags that the customer service rep forgets to take off your overpriced, but high quality slacks you buy at Banana Republic.  You feel like an ass since you paid for the damn things not five minutes ago, no I do not want socks or cologne with the pants.  However, in Iraq the enemy elements long ago stopped buying clothes from Banana Republic, so the device obviously cannot work.

Bob Novella lead the discussion on how it might be possible using an electron microscope to infer what color the feathers were that grew on some dinosars when you have impressions of the feathers.  In this case the feathers were apparently ginger colored, so the curse of the ginger kids existed even back in Dino days.  Actually, if this techniques hold up to scrutiny, which not at all clear at the moment, it means my kids (if I get around to paying off the stork to get one), and their kids will think all those green-gray dinos in "Jurassic Park" look drab.  Maybe Spielberg's kids can colorize them in future.

The rogues also discussed an interesting story of a man who tried to smuggle fifty or so geckos in his paints out of New Zealand.  He was caught and the Geckos set free.  I know I could make a GEICO crack.  Really, the best commercial was the first.  The turned to a story that Prof. Paul Davies will tell the Royal Society that science's ought to look for alien life on Earth.  Now Davies is not saying little ugly gray guys or attractive tall blonde nordics are sneaking around stereotypical rednecks fishing late at night, but alien as in life that is on Earth, but that has not been found by science and has a different biology.  So there is life A, which led to us and everything else that we see, and life B which formed but has kept a low profile while life A got all the glory. Interesting idea, but it seems at least as a tall order to find shall I say different life as finding a SETI signal or boring into Europa looking for whatever critters might be there.  If Life B is found, the creationist er-r-r intelligent design "scientist" will have a field day saying that Charlie Darwin and his devil ways did not predict this (nor did the all knowing bible.)  Therefore, god did it all.  (I'm just saying.)

An email was answered by Dr. Novella and crew on how much choice someone with an addiction has to overcome the problem.  The discussion was quite interesting, but it can be boiled down to "it's complicated."  Then as part of the occasional logical fallacy segment on the show the gang ripped apart a Quote from Mike Adams of "Nature News."  

"Skeptics believe that ALL vaccines are safe and effective (even if they’ve never been tested), that ALL people should be vaccinated, even against their will, and that there is NO LIMIT to the number of vaccines a person can be safely given. So injecting all children with, for example, 900 vaccines all at the same time is believed to be perfectly safe and “good for your health.” -Mike Adams, idiot 

It's a giant straw-man argument if I ever read one.  

This was a very good show, so good that I forgot how bad the roads were around Philadelphia as my wife drove us home last night.  Loxton fit in nicely with the Rogues, and the guest Rogue idea continues to a good way to shake things up a bit without doing anything drastic.  My vote is still for someone who is still up and coming to guest Rogue.  It would be a great way to  get more listeners to The Skeptical Review's own Karl Mamer, or Louisiana favorite son Brian Thompson, or British neighbor to Watson Hayley Stevens, or some old recluse who is looking more and more like an aged Jedi named James Randi.  

People ask me all the time, how they might get to influence my commentary on the various podcast I review.*  Would a fine new watch do the trick, or an envelope full of twenty dollar bills, season tickets to the Yankees or Steelers?  No.  I would never ever accept any of this graft for the quid pro quo implications would be too great.  However, anyone with painting and in particular skills mending a cracked turn of the century plaster ceiling just might get on my good side.  Let's face it, we all have our limits.  I just admit it.  (Ok.  An Apple iPad might do the trick too.  Yes, I know it is just an oversized iPod Touch.  It's still way cooler than not having one.)

*This actually has never occurred.  We skeptics are an upstanding lot.  

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