Where isn't Lady Gaga these days?
What you may ask? Lady Gaga was a guest on the SGU? Was she a guest Rogue? No. However, she was discussed on the show, but more on that later.
As always, the Rogues started the show with interesting science and skeptical news. They discussed the official rebuke of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the Lancet pulling his article connecting the MMR vaccine with autism. The Rogues discussed how this is obviously welcome news, but at the same time has elevated Wakefield to martyrdom within the Jenny McCarthy set -- they are just trying to shut up an obvious voice of the truth, those big pharma and corporate medical shills.
The Rogues then covered that Dr. David Rosa, who is an assistant professor at Brown University, wrote a book about the 'death cat.' This made the web rounds about two years ago; this cat taken in by a hospice center would seemly foretell the death of a patient when he chose to curl up next to them. Kitty stakes his claim with you and soon death will visit. (If this were so, then I do not know what to make of my cat's often sleeping ritual of curling up under my arm as if he were a gray furry football. Am I doomed when he does not come over?) Anyway, the Rogues discussed how this is likely explained by confirmation bias, and before an Ivy League physician would write such a book, a little more care into the subject matter should be exercised.
Bob discussed how we just might be on the brink of success of generating large amounts of energy from finally cracking the secret to hydrogen fusion. This is hot fusion and not cold fusion, and it does look somewhat promising. Although Bob is just super giddy with excitement over finally achieving this type of nuclear power for decades. I was a bit disappointed that Bob did not indicate the need to spend billions on this type of continued research, but maybe the tenor of the times has altered Bob's views on the nation's purse strings. If this does come to pass, and it can be done to be economically viable, this truly is a game changer, but I am not holding my breath.
One thing I was a bit surprised that the show did not cover was the de facto dismantling of the United States independent manned space program, but perhaps that is just too political a hot potato for the show to cover?*
An email was answered asking the Rogues to "lay the skeptical smackdown" on the theory that Lady Gaga is a member of the illuminati. The Rogues covered how all the tell tale signs are there for all to see that she is member of the illuninati -her often covering of one eye, her affinity for butterflies, and her wearing of "Hello, Kitty" shirt are all obvious nods to being a member of the world controlling cult. Obviously, they were discussing this tongue firmly planted in cheek and it was very humorous. This is where they should have called upon the expert skills of the mighty conspiracy skeptic himself, Karl Mamer, as they have called upon Dr. Pamela Gay or Phil Plait on past shows. Alas, it is their loss.
The interview was with Professor Simon Conway Morris, who studies Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. At first, I thought this was a fine little interview, not exactly sure why he was booked but I was enjoying it. It was sort of in the vein of when Dr. Rachel Dunlop covers a scientist doing real legitimate and often cutting edge medicine. Good stuff, but not alway what the SGU is known for. The Professor was discussing his idea that evolution is more convergent and less random than most biologists postulate. Therefore, if and/or when we find extraterrestrial life somewhere else, it is likely to be very similar to how life looks and works on Earth. The Professor and Dr. Novella went back and forth on some pros and cons for his ideas. It was a fine little interview, but nothing that exciting and then Dr. Novella asked on the downward slope of the interview if there was something else going on here, and if there was something driving this convergence.
The professor became rather coy, at least that is how I took it. The interview moved to what is consciousness, and while he noted that many prominent scientists thought everything we need to know to understand we have before us, he disagreed. He explained as a possible and admittedly crude analogy that our brains are the radio receivers for consciousness, but when our heads are chopped off the radio is off, but the radio signal continues. The professor took pains to indicate upon Dr. Novella's questioning that he was not sure who or what that broadcast was nor was he making a supernatural pleading. He did indicate that in his opinion while we know a lot more than we have in anytime in the past, there is likely a whole lot more that we do not know. On the one hand, I want to take the professor at his word that he is not making an argument for a creator, but it sure sounds as if he is making an argument for some creative force in nature, some type of 'rough' designer.
Clearly, Dr. Novella knew what he was asking when he did. I also had the feeling the Professor was somewhat reluctant to tackle this line of thought. Do not get me wrong, if there turns out to be evidence for something else out there driving everything so be it. However, I also suspect wittingly or unwittingly the Professor's convergence ideas on biology as a whole could be fodder for the Discovery Institute and their ilk.
It was an interesting interview at the end of the day.
Continuing my discussion of other non-skeptical podcasts that I listen to regularly, I listen to two automotive-oriented podcasts. The first one is CNET's Car Tech Live. Until recently this was a pure podcast-only show, but recently switched to the increasingly popular live web-video format with rebroadcast in podcast form. The show is anchored by Brian Cooley, and featuring Auntuan Goodwin, and Wayne Cunningham. The focus of the show is car technology... these days heavily on electric and hybrid vehicles and cabin technology. The show goes into great detail on the stereo, navigation, cell phone, and web technology present in every growing complexity in modern cars. The show ends with a test drive of a new usually tech laden vehicle driven by Goodwin and Cunningham. I enjoy the show a great deal, and I love to compare the show's West Coast (San Francisco) automotive thought with the other automotive podcast I follow Autoline After Hours which is based out of Detroit.
Autoline is an hour long show hosted by John McElroy along with Peter De Lorenzo and Andy Moldero. This show is chock full of all sorts of inside baseball discussion not just on the cars themselves, but also the ins and outs of corporate leadership, advertising, and some just plain gossip. While I think there might be a cross over skeptic/car interest in Car Tech Live, Autoline is clearly for automotive junkies. I do not mean how to soup up your car or replace your exhaust, but for people who follow the automotive industry and business. Sometimes there is a cross over with some skeptical covered topics as when on the SGU they discussed the idea of changing out the battery pack in an electric car to power up rather than wait for a recharge. Shortly after this discussion this approach was discussed on Autoline, and while they thought the idea was good, it is in many practical ways unworkable. I enjoy this show a great deal, but I doubt many other skeptics would be as drawn in as I. I could be wrong.
*Brian Thompson did tackle this topic on his latest Amateur Scientist Podcast. He seemed to be mocking those unhappy with the President's decision to axe Constellation, and in favor of the President's decision. While I disagree with Thompson's sentiments in this regard and am quite troubled by this turn of events at NASA, I am glad he covered it on his show. He also did his ask Yahoo! answers bit by using it to answer the question on how to become a vampire. Other bits included Osama Bin Laden giving sage advice on the environment, and being a Noam Chomsky fan. Also, Thompson is launching a phone line, which he is able to do with a nearly acquired Google voice account. He is asking listeners to phone in the most offensive word definitions they find in the Meiram Webster's Dictionary. He ended the episode with a bit on how to teach a panda ebonics. It was a good episode, but it was not Thompson's best. I enjoyed the Yahoo! answers segment a great deal, and Bin Laden being a Chomsky fan. Although I am not sure how well the Webster's Dictionary is going to turn out, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Maybe it was being woozy from all the shoveling, but the panda ebonics was flat for me. Not every week can have the "my side hurts" hilarity of his opening jilted girlfriend segment from the previous week, but that's okay. It's okay.