Monday, July 5, 2010

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, The Token Skeptic, The Skeptic Zone, The Conspiracy Skeptic

To my American readers, I hope you had a lovely Independence Day filled with picnics, gatherings, beer, and fireworks.  To anyone preparing to fly, train, or drive to TAM 8 I am indeed jealous.  I wish you a wonderful time.  Buy Karl a cocktail.

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe was interview and guest Rogue-free this week with all hands on deck. Once again the show felt upbeat and everyone seemed to be in a modestly playful spirit.  Perhaps it is the pre-TAM giddiness that I can only imagine infecting the show.

Some of the highlights of the episode include a discussion on balancing the protection of endangered species versus protecting the culture of local populations.  In this case, it was balancing limited whaling versus Greenland locals' desire to harvest whales to maintain their normal diet and culture.  The Rogues basically sided with the whales at the expense of the locals' culture.  The jumping off point was whether a whaling film footage opposed to the practice was doctored or real.  Although this did not really implicate the underlying discussion by the Rogues.  The discussion itself was a bit off the norm for the Rogues, but I did find the intellectual exercise interesting.


The Rogues also discussed a poll where people were asked what they expected the world to be like in 2050, and it just goes to prove either polls are not worth much and/or people just do not think.  The majority of people believe that cancer will be cured by 2050.  I hope that it is true.  As an example the question itself is flawed as "cancer" is just not one disease, but multiple processes under the cancer umbrella.  There is not one thing to cure.  The purpose of this type of poll eludes me as it does not foretell or indicate anything other than what people hope, wish, or fear about the future.  I must admit I find such lines of thought as frustratingly fascinating as I do counter-factual history. (i.e. What if Germans took Paris in World War I.  Why then the Czar would have remained on the Russian throne and the 20th Century would have been a time of milk and honey -or not.)

The most practical item discussed on the episode was answering an email about sunscreen and how efficacious it is in preventing skin cancer.  The answer is rather complex as people often use sunscreen in an inappropriate manner reducing it effectiveness, or use the sunscreen and then spend such a long time in the sun that any cancer reducing properties of the sunscreen are overcome by sheer time under the glare of our local star.  Dr. Novella gets a bit science wonky as can be expected and is a beloved trademark of the show.

Overall it was very good in a light hearted manner, Dr. Novella promised a new show out while the Rogues were at TAM, which will be interesting to see how timely it is giving the lag in recording and uploading.   On the other hand one could tune into the TAM feed and watch the TAM episode live.  No, wait.  There is no live web feed this year.  Sadly, it is a TAM fail.

The Skeptic Zone was quite brief clocking in at 35 minutes.  The show featured an interview with Dr. Pamela Gay by Kylie Sturgess.  This interview was recorded at the same time as when Sturgess interviewed Gay on The Token Skeptic, but covered different topics.  Gay, as she was on The Token Skeptic, is exceedingly well spoken and has a voice like butter.  While the discussion aired on The Zone was not as hard hitting and intellectually challenging as the faith/science discussion, it was well worth the listen hearing how the U.S. and global economic troubles are negatively impacting science education.    Gay shared a bit about her background and how she and co-host Fraser Cain produce Astronomy-Cast.

The rest of the episode was made up of two short bits, which are a bit of filler to prevent the show from being twenty minutes long.  They were not bad, but like track three on a pop band's hit album they are nice, but not why you buy the record.  Dale Roy of the Granite State Skeptics gave a brief discourse on why magic bracelets such as the Power Band Bracelet are crap, and the people who make them are jerks.  (I agree with this wholeheartedly.)  The show ended with Richard Saunders during a radio appearance taking questions from callers and fending off a bit of a goof of a DJ.  I don't know if Saunders has ever appeared on Coast to Coast AM, but I would love to hear him sometime dealing with host George Noory and talking to the loopy folks who call into the show.

This week on Righteous Indignation it was just Marsh and Hayley Stevens as Trystan was out due to illness.  The Indignates two discussed the Power Balance Bracelet's use in professional rugby in Britain, and how the company that makes them gives them to professional teams to later use as a marketing ploy.  Just last night I saw a late night television ad for the iRenew bracelet which is the same thing as the Power Balance except they add in the trendy "i" moniker to sound Apple computer hip.  It is all just shameful.

Marsh also covers his ongoing tale with Joe Power.  Apparently, "The Guardian" called Marsh and for a time it appeared that the local police had no record of a call to Marsh's abode.  Luckily, it was a crank call to Marsh, and Marsh did not write a scathing blog post against Power with no real triggering event.  The Indignates then discussed a row going on between Power and investigative British television personality Derren Brown along with a rather cringe worthy audioclip with an exchange between Brown and Power.

The showed featured an interview with Jon Ronson, author of various books and articles on David Icke (King of Bullshit), Stanley Kubrick, and including the book turned movie "The Men Who Stared at Goats." Ronson discussed how he viewed his work comparing his articles to his books and documentaries. His thoughts on the Ten #23 campaign, and how he goes about doing his work.

Trystan was missed on this episode and Marsh's tale regarding his Power and the Police was entertaining as always.  Not that Hayley and Marsh are not wonderful, but Trystan does set the tone and pace of the show.

Karl posted a new episode on The Conspiracy Skeptic with guest Paul Ganssle on the various reptoid overlord conspiracies, and in particular the ravenings of the King of Bullshit, David Icke.  Ganssle has post regularly on the SGU forums, and I recalled reading his post once it was mentioned.  Ganssle really knows his reptile overloard conspiracies quite well.  He knows the ins and outs of David Icke, and his history in particular.  Karl and Paul who have exchanged various emails over the years, but never spoke to each other, had a good rapport.  It's reptile overlords and David Icke.  What's not to love.


On a quite sober note, Christopher Hitchens has announced that he has been diagnosed with some manner of throat cancer for which he shall begin treatment.  Putting aside that Mr. Hitchens is widely known to be a large consumer of cigarettes and whiskey, which cannot be good for one's health, I hope for the best for Mr. Hitchens and a meaningful recovery.  A world without Mr. Hitchens in it is a place I do not wish to be.

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