SGU Episode 850

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SGU Episode 850
October 23rd 2021
850 Pig kidney.jpg
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 849                      SGU 851

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
C: Cara Santa Maria
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
RW: Richard Wiseman
DC: David Copperfield
Quote of the Week

Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world.

Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

News Items






(laughs) (laughter) (applause) [inaudible]

Pig Kidneys (00:48)

Scientists Abused for Discussing COVID (6:33)

Synthetic Biology (14:01)

AGW Consensus (22:59)

Dark Skies (31:22)

Who's That Noisy? (38:08)

New Noisy (43:37)

[Morse code-like buzzing with a revolving machine whir in the background]


Announcements (44:08)

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (46:04)

Email #1: Russia Today News Outlet

Listener's email

I listened to your most recent podcast, #848, October 16, 2021. In the segment where you discussed nutrition with your friend Craig Good, Dr. Steve made some offhand comments about RT. I've listened to these comments several times and I hear RT described and dismissed as a Russian propaganda source that is "anti-corporate" and that "stirs the pot." (Isn't that how the strawman fallacy works?... You set 'em up easy and you knock 'em down hard.) As a part of my news consumption, I take in information from a variety of sources, including occasionally RT. I'm not particularly fond of RT, although I'll listen with interest and agreement to almost anything that Chris Hedges has to say when he appears on the RT segment called "On Contact." Regardless of which news source I am consuming, I will always try to take into account the ownership of the source and any political or economic agenda that might be in play. That includes RT.

Dr. Steve, I'm curious as to how you decide whether a news source simply has a bias/agenda versus when it becomes "propaganda." I realize that the comments you made were tangential, but at the same time they involve issues of critical thinking and skepticism. I would comment that when I read my hometown newspaper, the Saint Pete Times (owned by Poytner Institute) or when I listen to the CBS Evening News, I frequently identify comments or whole segments which are remarkably propagandistic. Does the same thing happened to you when you consume mainstream media? Or does that only happen to you with news coming from RT, Caitlin Johnstone, Aaron Mate, Matt Taibbi, Max Blumenthal, Glenn Greenwald, et al.? For the record, politically I am very far left, yet at the same time, I am very pro-vaccination, pro-science and see nothing worrisome about (regulated) GMO technology. As I see it, our US government, many of the international corporations (and their controlling oligarchs), and the handful of corporations that control the dominant US media are "AS ONE" and as such, more than a fair amount of skeptical criticism is in order.

Dr. Steve, do you see it differently? Once you see clearly that the United States is an empire (with an agenda to unilaterally control the nations of the world); has currently, illegally and unilaterally, placed 1/4 to 1/3 of the world’s population under sanctions (creating a kind of siege warfare, which directly harms the health and well-being of populations); through overt wars (or covertly, through the CIA), interferes in any government with a socialist bent or which will otherwise not bend to the will of US foreign policy; promotes domestic policies, which range only from Neoliberalism to fascism, and never to humanism, much becomes clear. The simple act of "consuming the news" can never be the same thereafter.

Dr. Steve, how do you determine what is propaganda?

– Sincerely, Patrick McGirk

Interview with Richard Wiseman and David Copperfield (52:10)

Science or Fiction (1:28:33)

Answer Item
Fiction plasma-infused plastic
Science hardened wood
nanotwinned titanium
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
plasma-infused plastic
plasma-infused plastic
hardened wood
plasma-infused plastic

Voice-over: It's time for Science or Fiction.

Theme: Material Science
Item #1: Researchers have created a hardened wood that is 23 times as hard as the natural wood it is made from, can be sharpened into a blade three times sharper than a commercial table knife, and even made into nails.[7]
Item #2: Engineers have created a plasma-infused plastic with the highest melting point of any plastic at close to 1,500 degrees Celsius.
Item #3: Scientists have created nanotwinned titanium, that is both stronger and more ductile than titanium, properties that are usually inversely related, and even at ultra-low temperatures.[8]

Evan's Response

Cara's Response

Bob's Response

Jay's Response

Steve Explains Item #3

Steve Explains Item #2

Steve Explains Item #1

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:44:45)

Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French chemist and microbiologist


S: —and until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

S: Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information, visit us at Send your questions to And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.


Today I Learned

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[9]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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