SGU Episode 107

From SGUTranscripts
Jump to navigation Jump to search
  Emblem-pen-orange.png This episode needs: transcription, formatting, links, 'Today I Learned' list, categories, segment redirects.
Please help out by contributing!
How to Contribute

SGU Episode 107
August 8th 2007
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 106                      SGU 108

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.

Stanislaus I (1677-1766) a Polish king 'of some note.

Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Discussion


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

News Items[edit]

Largest Planet Discovered (1:15)[edit]


New Da Vinci Code Conspiracy (6:35)[edit]


Man Wakes from Coma (13:36)[edit]

Korean Stem Cell Follow up (22:41)[edit]


UFO Followup Mystery Solved (25:30)[edit]


Questions and E-mails[edit]

Using Unproven Therapies (28:57)[edit]

Skeptical rogues and roguette-

My question is this: might it not be reasonable for a skeptical, rational-thinking individual to turn to an herbal remedy or other medication which has not made it through this rigorous vetting process, and which has only anecdotal or preliminary evidence supporting its use, if they are desperate for some treatment (any treatment), and if evidence-based medicine has nothing to offer them?


Dr. Novellas Blog entry on this topic:

CO2 from walking vs driving (37:43)[edit]

I ran across this interesting article from the UK, where it's suggested that walking to the store is worse for the environment than driving;


Rebecca's Blog on the topic

AI Sense of Humor (44:29)[edit]

As always thanks for providing an excellent podcast to start my week off just right. However last week I did find one thing to gripe about a bit. One of my favorite segments is the science or fiction portion and while I am definately not always right I generally understand the correct answer. However last week even after learning the true stories I did not feel that the AI with a sense of humor should be classified as science. To me 'sense of humor' describes something more than just the way something is delivered. If I am understanding correctly this program detects variations in the voice that are commonly associated with telling a joke, much the same way a lie-detector tries to determine truth through bio patterns. Perhaps a 'joke-detecting' AI was made, but just as sweaty palms don't constitute a lie, the right inflections in the voice don't always make humor.

Unfortunately I think we still only have 'Data'; able to understand that a joke has been told, yet unable to find the humor in it. Hence, in my view, Data had no sense of humor.
Maybe I'm way off base here, but I'm sure you'll let me know if I am!

Anyways keep the great work coming!

Kyle Cook
Bowling Green

Name That Logical Fallacy (49:01)[edit]

  • Logical Fallacies

'Say I am arguing against someone about fossil fuel usage. I state that the average American should drive a fuel efficient vehicle to lower the amount of fuel that is used. The person that I am arguing against then tells me that since I drive a car that is not fuel efficient I cannot expect and tell others to drive different vehicles.'

Randi Speaks (52:37)[edit]

  • The Uncompromising Observations of a Veteran Skeptic

    James Randi returns to give his skeptical commentary in his own unique style.

    This week's topic: Acupuncture

S: Randi, you have had some experience examining acupuncture in China. Can you tell us about that?

JR: Yeah, I've not inspected it from the direction of being the recipient of the needles, I'm happy to report. But... I've been to China several times now. I don't remember exactly which trip this was on, but at my own request, I asked to see the acupuncture clinic that they had neaby; we were at the—I think it's called the Beijing Mind-Brain Institute, if I recall correctly. There was a room full of people, most of them undergoing Moxibustion, which is rather longer needles than acupuncture, and sometimes as much as a foot long, and they're inserted into the arms and the shoulders and the chest and whatnot. And they have on the end of them a little platform about the size of a dime of very, very light metal. And a bit of punk (?), some sort of incense, is placed on the end of it and ignited. They look a little bit like bizarre Christmas trees, though I can't say that I've ever seen a Christmas tree that quite looked like a moxibustion patient. Their rooms are all filled with the smell of the incense and the attendants go around regularly. The idea of moxibustion is that the heat from the burning incense or punk or whatever it is on the end of the little platform is supposed to be transmitted down the narrow wire—now of course it's dissipated before it gets anywhere near the body, so there's no transmission of that kind at all, but after all, it's magic, so I guess we have to accept those rules. And when I was speaking to a couple of the elderly gentlemen there—both of them educated—one of them at MIT and the other fellow someplace in California—I've forgotten at what center, but they were both very fluent in English. And they both told me, in so many words, "Oh no, we don't believe in moxibustion, but the patient received some relief from it, and it's probably psychological, but we never treat people who really have serious diseases that can be treated by pharmaceuticals or by surgery, but a lot of people come in here and they just want some comfort; they just want a bit of relief and they have some discomfort and we will often allow the moxibustionists to move in." And they told me that the people practicing the moxibustion probably have different opinion; they probably believe that it worked, but they certainly didn't believe that it worked.

And this is part of the problem in China, because they just have a such a huge populace, and so many ill people or people who believe that they're ill or people that need some sort of comfort and attention and TLC that this is one of the ways that they administer the TLC. And I thought that that was not a bad system, frankly, as long as they have real physicians, and these people were—real physicians who could find out whether or not they really—the patients really needed some sort of medical help. I can't object to that; it's a bit of comfort that is brought to these people, and they seem to be relatively satisfied with it. So, the acupuncture experience, just seeing these people sitting around smoking—well, smoking because they had incense burning on them—was most interesting, I must say, and gave me a bit of an insight into A) into Chinese medicine, and B) into Chinese psychology, I guess.

S: Did you find that the scientists who admitted to they did not believe that it actually worked—were they disingenuous with the patients? Did they try to convince the patients that this was effective?

JR: Well, it's hard to say, because the attitude that any teacher has—as in Japan as well; a sensei instructor in Japan has no patience with students at all. Their students don't ask questions; they are just told. They are just told, "Sit! Stand! Go over there! Give me your arm." It's not... it doesn't seem to be a doctor-patient relationship as we would like to understand it. They are... (indistinct) and they just tell the patient what's going to happen; they don't take any arguments and they don't ask anybody's permission. So, it was very hard for me to tell; it was all very laconic. It's a different psychological approach. The master, after all—teacher is the one who does the declarations and the statements and the patient is just a (indistinct) for it. So again, that was hard for me to analyze and to interpret.

S: Randi, thank you.

Science or Fiction (57:31)[edit]

Question #1: New study shows that drinking milk after weight lifting led to more fat loss and greater muscle gain that drinking soy or a carbohydrate drink. Question #2: New study suggests that the elderly should be eating more vegetables and less meat in order to maintain their muscle mass. Question #3: A new animal study suggests that low calorie or diet foods and drinks may lead to obesity.

Skeptical Puzzle (1:11:00)[edit]

This Week's Puzzle:

I sure hate this delusional person
Though hate may be a word too strong
As I learn more, my opinion does worsen
Perhaps I won't re-write this song

Micro set scams were just some of his wares
He claims he is spiritual at heart
A dozen or so of these blessings are shared
Jesus could only hope to Master their art

From his website I read, as they humbly plead
That they can lay hands and cure you of ills
Just join them and pray, for you will see one day
You've found their holy mountains and hills

For it was their king, that taught them these things
They are simply swine to this pearl thrower
A doctor, a reverend, and a knight, so he sings
But it was yoga that made him a knower

Name the person.

Last Week's puzzle:

What do you call a snake handler who appears between a stinger and a shooter?

Answer: Ophiucus
Winner: Cap Sponge

Quote of the Week (1:15:00)[edit]

'To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.'- Stanislaus I (1677-1766) a Polish king 'of some note.'

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website, or you can send us an email to'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


Navi-previous.png Back to top of page Navi-next.png