Originally posted July 1, 2013
Who’s that smelly?
I hate sounding like a broken record, but certain turns of phrase just bother me in certain contexts. One of which popped up again during the latest Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe in an otherwise good episode.
The panel was discussing the skunk ape of Florida. This is a cryptid which I was not familiar with at all, but which allegedly reside in the backwoods/swamp regions of the Sunshine state. Apparently, the ape-like creature has a trademark odor in that it reeks of skunk and old refuse. The panel was discussing the latest evidence for this creature, which was some photographic and video footage that was less than impressive. Interestingly enough, none of the alleged witnesses report a foul smell. However, Rebecca stated " . . . because Skunk Ape does not exist.’ This is what bothered me. As I have noted before with another cryptid discussion, this turn of phrase is a bit presumptuous. I find it highly unlikely that a smelly swamp monkey exists in Florida or anywhere else in the deep South of the United States. However, saying something does not exists borders more on cynicism than on skepticism. I understand this may be pedantic nitpicking. In private conversation, short cuts in language are used that do not mean what people think they mean as in daily usage. (The work "trick" in science circles means something different than in daily discourse.) For a show that prides itself as a long-running and most likely candidate as the flagship podcast of scientific skepticism, such word use should be avoided.
The episode also contained a good discussion of the current podcasting patent legal/business arguments occurring in the courts at this time. Patent holders are trying to shakedown popular podcasts and podcast distributors for licensing fees, which could cost podcasters money to produce its content. If things became really bad it could in theory more or less shut down the podcast media form. If this occurred my favorite activity next to eating and being with my editor would be lost. I would be forced to go back to reading books again. The Electronic Frontier Foundation are fighting these licensing efforts in the courts along with some of the big Internet media companies. For anyone who loves podcasts, this is a sobering area of legal wrangling.
The episode also had an interesting and educational discussion on the perils of a journalist tackling a medical/science topic when the journalist is not a science journalist. Dr. Novella had a run in with a sports journalist on an alleged miracle device called the Gyrostim which is being used to treat brain injuries.
Even with the slip of the tongue during the skunk ape, it was a good episode.
The latest Rationally Speaking was a lighter than normal piece on snobbery. Massimo and Julia discussed whether connoisseurs of wine, water, and music can actually tell the difference between good wine and swill, tap water and spring, and compressed versus uncompressed music files. At the very least the episode made me feel better about my questionable taste in wine. Massimo and Julia unfortunately announced that the show would be on hiatus for the rest of the summer to resume production in September, 2013. I will miss my bi-monthly dose of listening to RS and realizing just how lacking is my intellect.
McCarran Airport will have to wait
I am starting to get into a bit of a pre-T.A.M. funk. Starting with I believe TAM 7 or so, I get that sad idea that I will not be attending, and despite my natural dislike of being social, I ought to be attending. Due to the skeptical infighting last year, I was actually glad that I was not attending although from all reports it sounded to be a good event as in past years. This year I am back into my mini-funk. If it were not for some unavoidable crummy timing of some personal events, the editor and I would be on a jet from a major mid-Atlantic airport to Las Vegas. The convention looks spectacular as it does every year. Nearly all the Virtual Skeptics will be attending as well as most of the Rogues on the SGU. Randi is slated to make the rounds. Oh well. I have vowed to more than one skeptic friend that the SkepReview crew shall attend next year. I just hope the world does not end before then.