I am on a bit of a buzz right now as I just finished a second appearance on Karl Mamer's "Conspiracy Skeptic" podcast. Karl, as always, was full of awesome, while I just yammered on incoherently for far too long. I pity Karl for the editing task I have hoisted upon him, and I apologize. I hope my appearance does not drive away listenership to a large extent. Regardless, it was a lot of fun on a very history-based out of left field topic. Thanks Karl. He is a real pal.
The Skeptic Zone this week featured an interview by Eran Segev of a science-based firefighter followed by a Dr. Rachie Reports segment by none other than Dr. Rachie on the lastest doing of Meryl Dory.
Segev interviewed John McDonough, an Australian firefighter who spent many years fighting fires, but now trains scientific firefighting. I have to be honest I was not aware that fire fighters traditionally did not fight fires using best scientific information available until the 1980's. McDonough discusses how starting in Sweden new more standard methods of firefighting were spread to Europe, Great Britain, and Australia. McDonough discussed how the United States has a lot more independent and far more localized fire departments than in Australia or Europe where such things are far more centralized. The result is that fighting techniques in the United States are far more traditional and experience-based than their counterparts in other parts of the industrialized world. McDonough explained some of the latest firefighting techniques as well what is "flash over." I've heard this term a great deal, and once explained I thought 'ah-ha.'
The second segment of the episode was Dr. Rachie Reports with Dr. Dunlop discussing the latest doings of Meryl Dorey and her anti-vaccination goons. Dorey was told at the last minute by a church group that her appearance was canceled presumably because someone or group realized that Dorey's information is not scientifically or medically valid. Dr. Dunlop also went into detail over a flap in Australia of a few hundred children below the age of five apparently having a negative reaction to the current circulating flu vaccine.
This week's Zone was short in length, but Segev's interview about the current science of fire was quite interesting. The Dr. Rachie Reports segment may have more interest to Australians due to the more local nature of much of the content, but the AVN/anti-vaccine battle is of important interest to those who worry about such things. (I count me in that category.)
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This week's Celebrathon guest was Marc Maron, radio personality of the late Air America radio network and host of the What the Fuck podcast. I just spent a few minutes trying to look up the What the Fuck podcast on iTunes, and not finding it. All I could think is that, if the control freak and father of the iPad does not allow porn apps on the iPhone or the wonderful iPad, how's he allowing something with "Fuck" in the title on iTunes. The answer is it is called the WTF podcast on iTunes. Anyway, the main topic of discussion was a guy pretending to be a rabbi picking up chicks. He just did not pretend to be any old rabbi, no he was a rabbi with magic sperm, I guess to make magic kids. Honestly, I cannot make this stuff up. It was a brief segment with grit-filled humor on this topic of a fraud and just how illegal it ought to be picking up women with the line "I'm a rabbi and I am packing magic sperm." oh yeah.
Thompson also covered other stories including torturing mice to see how much pain registers in their face. Germans trying to perfect robotics so that robots know not to cut people while they are hacking away. The important topic of self cannibalism in post partum women is broached.
It was a good show. I cannot say I have ever heard of Maron or knife wielding robots. I enjoyed the episode, and suggest once the kids are safely in bed and your have your ear buds plugged into your iPad you do the same. Then with the wonders of your iPad or other tablet computer go ahead and donate a few more dollars to Thompson's show.
New England and Old England
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe had return guest Prof. Massimo Pigliucci on this week as a guest Rogue. Pigliucci is a Professor of Philosophy, host on Rationally Speaking, and author of the new book "Nonsense on Stilts." As always, having a guest Rogue on the program, especially a fellow scientist/skeptical advocate, set up a nice counterpoint on the show. No, there was not any strong disagreement on the show between Pigliucci and the other Rogues, but it does freshen the show up quite a bit. I quite approve of the guest Rogue addition to the show this year.
The Rogues spent a fair amount of time discussing that it was only recently discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary and most other dictionaries following it have contained the incorrect definition of "siphon" for the last 100 or so years. While the Rogues spent a large amount of time describing how a siphon actually works, and no it is not atmospheric pressure differences, the real story is how this could go unchallenged for a century. It really is a damning indictment of just how cut and paste textbook authoring is or has become in the last century or so.
The Rogues discussed how the latest genetic studies of neanderthal bones' DNA indicates that at some point homo sapiens (folks) and neanderthal must have got it on and interbred. There is evidence that after folks migrated out of Africa, non-Africans have a bit of neanderthal in them. (insert own joke here) Interestingly, this means that if you are a aryan Nazi or KKK racist type, the more pure folks are Africans. The KKK and Nazi types should have been lynching themselves and sending themselves to their own separate but (a-hem) equal bathrooms instead of others if you use the KKK's crap logic. (The whole race idea is a non-issue I know, but wouldn't Nathan Bedford Forrest just crap his white hooded self if he were around today.)
The Rogues covered the primary race for GOP candidate for Governor in Alabama as both candidates are in a race for who can repudiate Evolution more, and who is more faithful in their reading of the bible. The Rogues discussed how this shows where the electorate is with the Republican party in parts of the South, and discussed how Governor Huckabee (of Arkansas) raised his hand during a debate that he did not think evolution was correct. Clearly, this is not indicative of all Republicans even in the South, but it sure is not welcome news. It was a rather political topic for a show that is normally apolitical. I thought it was covered without much untoward venom.
By far the most interesting discussion of the show was Sam Harris' recent writing that science can indeed be a basis for system of morals. Harris has received a fair amount of criticism from outside and inside the skeptical community. Pigliucci was the perfect guest to discuss this topic in a meaningful, knowledgeable manner. After all, he is a philosopher and a scientist. The takeaway I took from the conversation is that Harris inadvertently did what skeptics accuse pseudo-scientists of doing, which is disregard engaging knowledgeable people in the field and instead reinvent the wheel, but do so with self-imposed blinders and get it wrong. It is at least not correct to people who already work in this field. Pigliucci, at least to me, seemed to intimate that Harris may have been on a publicity hunt. I have no idea if this is the case or not, but Harris seemed to be falling into the "little bit of knowledge can be a bit dangerous" territory. It was very engaging material to hear.
If you could only listen to two things this whole week the discussion of Harris' ideas of science-based morals and Germans learning to tame knife wielding robots are the two I would go with this week.
In Utah "Irreligiosophy" used the 1950's comic book scare as an excuse to geek out over comic books. I respect it. The religion angle is that it started with the Catholic Church blacklisting comic books as causing juvenile delinquency. Good episode, and Karl received a shout out too.