Sunday, April 25, 2010

Skeptics' Guide to the Universe LIVE! at NECSS

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe this week was LIVE! from the NECSS conference in New York City, New York.  The Rogues were all present but for Rebecca Watson who was unable to attend due to all flights out of London being grounded due to high ash content in the atmosphere from an Icelandic volcanic eruption.  (Possibly the sabotage of puffins, but I'll leave such accusations to Karl?) Rebecca's spot was filled in by the head of the Boston Skeptics, Liz Gaston.  Also joining the panel was James, the Amazing, Randi, who sounded fit as a fiddle.  Rebecca's voice was heard in a pre-recorded regrets message that a volcano stopped her from joining the gang.

Also at the opening, Dr. Novella did a brief and fitting tribute to Perry DeAngelis, the late co-founder of The New England Skeptical Society, and the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.  He is still missed.

The show, other than Rebecca missing, came off without a hitch.  Numerous news stories were covered, the gang played science or fiction, and a brief question and answer period took place.

One of the stories covered were near death experiences, which Dr. Novella told of Perry's NDE, which was a joke in poor, but quite Perry-fitting, taste.  Randi told of his NDE which occurred after a car accident as a teenager.   Bob told of a new acoustic lens that could focus the energy of sound and be of great use to surgeons and the military for various applications.  At the end, Bob noted a disclaimer that while it all seems to be technology of great importance, you may never hear of it again.  It was a great moment in the episode.  Dr. Novella explained the latest round of new stories of science concocting an human embryo with two moms and one dad.  (A worker brought this up with a roll of the eyes.)  The good doctor brought up what they are doing is swapping out the mitochondrial DNA and keeping the rest of the DNA.  This is done to prevent the transfer of mitochondrial DNA-based diseases.  It was quite fascinating, and drew a question from the audience during the Q & A session.

The gang covered a story of a woman claiming that after a store clerk shot a laser price scanner at her child's face, the kid sustained a burn and Tourette's syndrome.  And now she's suing, damn it.  The panel discussed that even though this does appear to be a litigation happy environment, it could be bad reporting.  Dr. Novella pointed out that in order for this case to go to trial, there had to be an expert to opine that the scanner did indeed cause an injury.

The show overall was quite good, and informative.  In comparison to the Righteous Indignation LIVE! episode, this one was the picture of a smooth production.  I do not begrudge it all.  A live show does give a different energy to a podcast whether it is a skeptical podcast, or a tech podcast such as TWiT.  On the other hand, the Indignates did go outside the box and did something a bit different with some moderate audience participation with the pop psychology quiz that was run by Hayley Stevens.  I respect that as well for doing something different.  It is the difference between a podcast that has over four years of experience and perhaps ten live broadcasts under their belt, and a show around a year old.  One is set and tried and true, the other exciting and while I hate this term, "hungry" to get it right.

It's the SGU.  It's live at NECSS.  Who is not going to listen to it?


  1. Apologies to Karl, but puffins look so cute!

    And I still think someone should tell Mr. Randi that his tagline should be, "I am f*cking skepticism, dammit!"

  2. Puffins try to act all innocent 'n' cute but that's part of their game.

    It was a good live broadcast. I've never been a fan of live broadcasts as the sound quality usually sucks but SGU always seems to have the best possible quality.

  3. The sound quality was quite good, but then again no sound engineer would dare mess with the NESS.


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