SGU Episode 463

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SGU Episode 463
24th May 2014
Horse nasal strips.jpg
SGU 462 SGU 464
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
P: Perry DeAngelis
JL: Jason Luchtefeld
GR: Grant Ritchey
Quote of the Week
People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything.
Jonathan Haidt
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

This Day in Skepticism (1:45)[edit]

R: Well you know, that's okay, because at least those of you who are listening to the show on the day is comes out, still have time to celebrate the birthday of Yness Mexica, and awesome Mexican-American botanist who trekked through central and South America in her fifties to collect novel plant specimens. She was pretty amazing. And in fact, when she was fifty-nine, she started a two-and-a-half year expedition in Peru and Brazil.

And at one point, for three months, she and her team were trapped by floods in a six hundred meter deep gorge. And they only escaped by building a raft, and then riding the rapids on the river out of there.

S: That's like an after school special.

R: Yeah! Yeah.

B: Three months?

R: How awesome is that? Yeah, three months.

B: Three months, Rebecca? How did they ...

S: Were there dinosaurs there?

R: Probably!


E: (Singing) Marshall, Will, and Holly.

R: I mean, you know, the science community has pretended, they've buried that, so to speak. But yeah, there were probably dinosaurs there. Yeah, she was pretty awesome. And some of her specimens are at Harvard University, and the Field Museum in Chicago. She was a larger than life personality, apparently. And she was the busiest, certainly the most accomplished female botanist of her time.

S: Yeah, I mean, you gotta give it to anybody who begins a scientific career at fifty-five.

R: Yeah

S: That's cool! That's cool.

R: Yeah

S: Now, I have read elsewhere that at this time, in the 1800's, and even into the first half of the twentieth century, that this was one of the acceptable scientific careers for women, meaning basically descriptive. Collecting stuff, describing - especially plants. Like, going out and collecting

R: Yeah

S: plants. Yeah, that's the kind of thing a woman was allowed to do, that was acceptable.

R: Yeah

S: Which is kind of sad. You know, it's great that women who had the inclination to do something scientific did stuff. But it was, of course, sad, that they were sort of herded into these very few, what was considered to be not really any cerebral work, just descriptive work, you know?

R: Yeah, although, you know, the thing you gotta give her even more props for is working within that constricting sort of expectation of women. She went out and did things that you wouldn't expect a fifty-nine year old man to be out there doing, you know.

S: Oh yeah, she made the most of it, absolutely.

R: Yeah

S: Yeah

R: But yeah, you're right. And that's why we see, you know, you'll see this come up again and again and again when I talk about women in history, who contribute to the sciences and to skepticism. By and large, yeah, they tend to be in these fields that are considered, you know, safe for women,

S: Yeah

R: even when they're women who were blazing trails, and were being the first women into certain schools, and things like that. Like, another woman, who was born today, May 24th, in 1898, Helen Taussig, who was an American cardiologist, and she founded the field of pediatric cardiology. So again, you have, you know, a broader field that is pretty, was very difficult for women to get into, when it comes to actually being a doctor. But a lot of the women I talk about here are focused on helping other women and children, and usually marginalized people, because those were the areas where women were actually able to make some elbow room.

So, Taussig, yeah, was crucial in figuring out a procedure that would help kids born with what's called "Blue baby syndrome." Are you familiar with that, Steve?

S: Yeah, yeah. I remember all of this

B: Yeah

S: from medical school. This,

R: Yeah

S: the tetrology of fallow is the technical

R: Yeah

S: term.

R: Yeah

S: It's always a cool name. I always remember that. Tetrology of fallow.

R: It is a cool name.

S: And I remember her name. The Blaylock-Taussig shunt. You know.

R: Yeah, Blaylock was one of her colleagues at John Hopkin's. The shunt is named after her and him.

B: She's pretty amazing. She helped avert the `thalidomide birth defect.

R: Yeah

S: Yeah

B: Popped up in the United States. She testified

E: Yeah

B: to the FDA. She suffered from dyslexia. And she lost her hearing before she graduated from Hopkins. She lost her hearing. She had to rely on lip reading, and hearing aids,

R: Wow

B: and it's interesting that some people think that a lot of her advances in cardiology was because of her ability to determine the differences between the rhythms of normal and damaged hearts. Not from sound, but from touching the heart. So that's interesting

R: Wow

B: how that deficit could come in handy. But I think she's a little annoying though, because I don't know. I read that she founded Pedantic Cardiology, and why does she have to be so annoying about that


B: field? I don't get it.

R: We do hate pedants here.

B: Oh wait! Oh, woah, it's pediatric, sorry.

E: Yeah

S: (Old lady voice) Never mind.

B: Never mind! Yes, Steve! Yes!

News Items[edit]

Planet-Eating Stars (6:56)[edit]

Fluoride and Vaccines are Safe (14:32)[edit]

Nasal Strips for Horses (19:25)[edit]

Jupiter’s Red Spot Shrinking (27:51)[edit]

Military Response to Zombies (31:46)[edit]


TAM 2014, Dragon CON, Australian Skeptics National Conference, New Zealand conference, SGU membership (35:05)[edit]

Who's That Noisy? (40:12)[edit]

Answer to last week: Alpaca

Questions and Emails[edit]

Question 1: Drinkable UV Protection (42:56)[edit]

Hi there! I just saw this in an article in the Daily Mail and thought it would be perfect for the show. Maybe you have covered it before but not to my knowledge. When I first saw the headline about drinkable UV protection I thought it might be real…imagine my disappointment! It seems amazing that they have even got away with the ad.. I look forward to hearing your comments. YIS Mike Dublin, Ireland

Interview with Jason Luchtefeld and Grant Ritchey (46:17)[edit]

  • PrismPodcast

Science or Fiction (1:03:45)[edit]

Item #1: A Chinese miner, who was trapped underground for 17 years, was recently rescued by excavators. Item #2: A recent study of buried remains concludes that survivors of the 14th century black death had a significantly increased life expectancy following the plague. Item #3: Sony has announced the return of tape backup, with a cassette that can hold 185 TB of data.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:20:49)[edit]

People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything.

Jonathan Haidt

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at, where you will find the show notes as well as links to our blogs, videos, online forum, and other content. You can send us feedback or questions to Also, please consider supporting the SGU by visiting the store page on our website, where you will find merchandise, premium content, and subscription information. Our listeners are what make SGU possible.


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