Sunday, March 7, 2010

Amateur Scientist Podcast #93, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe #242, The Skeptic Zone #72


Brain Thompson's goat sex and boob joke emporium with a dose of science, The Amateur Scientist Podcast, once again served up another 30 minutes of worthy bawdy humor.  The show started with a spoof or a knock (at least to me) of SGU's who's that noisy segment, and ended with an old replay of an interview Thompson had with Fred Phelps' son of the justly maligned and utterly horrible Westboro Baptist Church.  In the middle bit, we learned that pesticides can turn all frogs into girl frogs, salamanders are criminals, what we should do prior to the end of the world due to global warming, and to forget the destruction and death caused by the terribly powerful Chilean earthquake and wonder in awe that the quake changed the length of the day on Earthy by a tiny, weenie, itty-bitty amount.

I have no idea how Thompson kept it together in his interview with Phelps.  I do not know if I was performing the interview if I would have broke out laughing or started to shout angry but appropriate things to him.  Thompson kept his cool, impressive.  The show now has a new reason to dial in to the new Amateur Scientist hotline, now it is to call in confessions (like the Catholic church has, only on the phone and to a podcasters who have a boob fetish instead of a Priest with a I-do-not-want-to-know fetish.)

A thoroughly entertaining episode, but it will not be on next week as Thompson will be doing a live benefit podcast in Atlanta, Georgia for Skepticamp. (Where was this when I was a kid, but I'm not bitter, no not at all.)

New England/Old England/Florida 

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe did not contain an interview, but did contain a guest Rogue - James "The Amazing" Randi.   As always, it is quite heartening to hear Randi after his recent cancer ordeal, and he discussed his treatment at some length, and has YouTube video on his chemo treatments.  Randi discussed at length the materials in the treatment center discussing acupuncture to help treat side-effects of the chemotherapy.  Dr. Novella also discussed a recently high exposure but low quality story that suggests acupuncture might be efficacious in treating depressions.

The show discussed how the Chilean Earthquake very slightly slowed the rotation of the Earth, as Brain Thompson slowly shook his head likely eating Popeyes chicken and red beans and rice.*  The Rogues discussed how the Darwinius fossil that was splashed in the headlines and television likely is not a missing link or a human ancestor.  The Rogues discussed one of those weird stories of it raining fish.  This time, it rained perch in Australia.  It is likely that it did not rain perch but possibly the perch due to the rain were taken out of a fish slumber that overwhelmed a town.  These tales creep me out almost as much as being abducted by aliens.  Fish out of the sky and laying around the backyard.  No thanks.

The Rogues answered an email asking what is the difference between a contrarian and a skeptic.  I think a lot of people see skeptics as contrarians as we have a tendency to question deeply held but not well supported beliefs.  I do not get the hairy eye at work when everyone is discussing last night's episode of "Project Runway."  However, when someone brings up Chiropractic then oops, do I get the looks.  Then there are just contrarian people who alway take the other side no matter what.  However, since people do not like being questioned about things they take for granted, it is easy to be labeled contrarian.

They also discussed the profit motive in having or claiming to have a haunted hotel, and the usefulness of personality tests, especially some of the less scientific shorter versions.  Bob hosted a good Science or Fiction, and the show overall was a good effort.  Heck, Randi was there the entire time, so what's not to like in a brief 80 minutes or so to enjoy.

*I'm guessing here, but Popeye's is as close to cajun as we get in central Penna.   


This week's episode of The Skeptic Zone was a tour de force by everyone's favorite cell biologist Dr. Rachael Dunlop.  The show opens with Dr. Dunlop's win in the Health category on The Shorty Awards.

Dr. Dunlop then did the show's opening introduction which was followed by a internet radio interview of Richard Saunders by Stefan Sojka.  What?  Stefan has a internet radio show?  Yes, he did in 2001 when this interview was recorded.  First, it put me back in the mind of when I first started using iTunes and the Beatles radio show I heard was broadcast in the same 48 kb/s.  The studio only had three mics, but three guests, so between commercials they had to play musical microphones.  It puts me back in the days of being a DJ at my college radio station.  What also struck me is how little things have not changed.  People peddling magic cure-all water.  Talk of alien abductions and that 5% of Americans think they have been abducted, which is a mighty high number if you think about it.  The connection of siblings or twins over long distance to know what the other person is doing or thinking at any given time.  What I found most interesting is even in this early meeting, the chemistry between Sojka and Saunders.  I do not know the last time I have listened to internet radio, but I am glad it stuck Sojka and Saunders together.

Then Dr. Dunlop spoke of her perspective on how she came to win the Shorty Award.  On the one hand, it might seem self indulgent or arrogant to tell, so here's how I done it.  It did not come off that way to me while walking my dog on Friday night.  Sure, it might have been a victory lap, but a well deserved victory lap not just for Dr. Dunlop but for the skeptical community as a whole.  I will not go into detail, I'll save that for the listener.  However, it did show how skeptics band together to get Dr. Dunlop from #16 into the top 5 so she could qualify to be a winner.  On the pseudo-scientific side, all their good natured, calm, "I want to just help people"-rhetoric broke down into some ravings such as Mike Adams' rants, and just rude comments on Dr. Dunlop's weight.  (I still do not get, since she looks fine to me.)  Dr. Dunlop gives proper shout outs to fellow skeptics such as Prof. P.Z. Myers and Dr. Novella.  Once again, congratulations to Dr. Dunlop and to the skeptical community as a whole.

The Grain of Salt segment returned with Eran Segev interviewing the two blokes (am I using the term correctly?) who manned the Parkes Observatory and received the signals from Tranquility Base when Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped foot on the moon.  It was a fascinating slice of life interview, and is a reminder just how many people were involved in the vast enterprise to land a man on the moon and return him before the decade was out.  They told how they had to contend with a winter storm, and a change in schedule of when the first excursion on the moon was to take place.  They also verified, much to the chagrin of Joe Rogan, that the television and telemetry signals they received came from the moon and not a movie studio in the U.S. desert Southwest.
Really, when I think of the first man landing on the moon I should not chant U-S-A, U-S-A, in my head but U-S-A, U-S-A, and Australia, U-S-A, U-S-A.

The final segment was a discussion of two 'readings' that talker to the dead, James Van Praag, has done during his recent tour of Australia.  The first reading you hear Van Praag is pretty dead on in his discussions about the dead woman's husband.  Now, he walked into the studio with this woman, so it might be a bit suspicious.  The second clip you hear is on an Australian version of "The View." The reading by Van Praag is painfully bad.  He gets almost no hits at all.  Van Praag just speaks at a zillion words a minute just tossing stuff and fluff out in all directions.  He misses on a high probability hit that the second woman being read played or plays the piano, nor does Van Praag hit with anyone being musical in the family.  It was almost painful to hear, except it is Van Praag so it was fun.

Anyway, this week's episode did not end with a Think Tank segment, but you know I did not miss it.  It was fun to listen to the history of when Sojka and Saunders met, and of a little known but very important contribution that Australia lent to the Apollo moon landings.  Dr. Dunlop gave her victory lap speech which just makes a skeptic feel good, and ended on Van Praag making an ass of himself.  What's not to love?

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