SGU Episode 108

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SGU Episode 108
August 11th 2007
SGU 107 SGU 109
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
TR: Todd Robbins
SM: Steve Mirsky
ML: Mike Lacelle
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Show Notes
Forum Topic


Sheryl: Welcome to the first live recording of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

(cheering and applause)

Sheryl: And now, I'd like to introduce your master of ceremonies for this special episode, Todd Robbins!

TR: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sheryl. I appreciate that. Thank you and welcome, everyone. I've been called upon to host this and be your master of ceremonies because I'm a New York guide here, and I'm here to welcome these folks to our 'hood here, and it is so great—the reason I was asked this is because I am the executive director of Coney Island U.S.A. We're the not-for-profit organization out in Coney Island that's been trying to keep Coney Island alive for the last three decades. And we're fighting the good fight out there, and so we hope you'll all come out and visit us and see the side show and the burlesque show. I hope you came out to see the mermaid parade and all the other stuff that we do there. If you want more information about us, just go to And... so, since I'm kind of a Brooklyn guy, it's appropriate that we welcome the Skeptics' Guide to Brooklyn here. For those that are listening on the web and don't know exactly, well, there's been quite a bit about Brooklyn in the press this last week, because for the first time ever, a tornado tore through Brooklyn. And scientists and researchers and meterologists are trying to figure out how the hell that happened and why. And I think the explanation is pretty simple. It's the gods are pissed that the Skeptical Guide to the Universe [sic] is coming to Brooklyn. I would not be a bit surprised that after the podcast today, we walk outside, the East River is running red and there are frogs falling from the sky. 'Cause we are here, as I mentioned before we started here, we are here in the shadow of the Watchtower building of the Jehovah's Witness; that's right behind us. And we're nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge, here both in the crosshairs of Al Qaeda. So, sit back, relax, folks. We're doomed. But we're going to have a fun time.

So instead of just introducing our panel today, the folks of the show, I thought I'd do it sort of Coney Island style. Do what's known as a bally. And the bally is that little sales pitch that's done out in front of the sideshow. And I've done these thousands of times, so I've kind of written up a few notes on these folks and introduce them the way we kind of sell out in Coney Island. So this is the way we're going to do it, ladies and gentlemen: This is it; this is the one you read about, you heard about it and now you gotta see it live. It is the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. It's all real; it's all live; it's all on the inside. It is truly amazing, amusing, confounding, confusing, what you're gonna experience here. It is wild, wonderful, one of a kind. You are going to truly experience the strange, the unusual, the bizarre, and I daresay, the beautiful.

Who you gonna meet on the inside? Well, you're meet Evan "The Teddybear" Bernstein. The nicest man in the universe, ladies and gentlemen.


Here he is. Why, he is so sweet, he is so agreeable, he doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone. Except Sylvia Browne, and... Uri Gellar, and... James van Praagh, and... thousands of others. That's Evan "The Teddybear" Bernstein, right over there.


You're about to meet on the inside—yes, the Skepchick herself—I'm talkin' about Rebecca Watson, yes sir-ee sir.


She is that femme fatale of the Mensa mob. Now you spend some time with her, and not only will you feel your I.Q. rising, but your blood pressure as well, and I think you know what I'm talking about, guys. That's Rebecca Watson. Yeah, let's here it for her.


You are also going to experience on the inside, my friends, the death-defying deeds of the flying Novellas! Yes! This is a triumphant trio of high-flying free thinkers. Starting off, we've got Robert "Bob" Novella. He is the Nano Freak. Yes.


He is the Nano Freak, because to him, size does matter. That's the Nano Freak, Bob Novella. You're also going to meet the Sultan of Satire himself, Jay Novella! Step right up, my boy.


He will make you laugh; he'll make you think; he'll make you think you're laughing. That's the Sultan of Satire himself. And of course, the ringleader of this rogues gallery of rationing, reasoning people, I'll tell you, is the one and only Steven "The Brain" Novella! Let's hear it for him.

(cheering and applause)

Oh, mercy. What a smart man he is. He's so bright, his papa calls him Sunny. That's how bright he is. You will be amazed to see how much intelligence is crammed in his cranium there. Why, he's a genius—no... super genius. That is Steven Novella. Now folks, the show's about to start on the inside, so get your ticket and go now. Like I say, it's wild, wonderful and one of a kind. It's the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Let's go now; take it away, Steven, if you would. Thank you.


S: Thank you, Todd. Todd, that was great; it really is a great pleasure to have you here. I think you captured the essence of the Skeptics' Guide quite well with that introduction.

TR: I do what I can.

S: And there's a lot of other people I want to thank, as well. First, thanks all you for coming here; it's great to see a crowd like this. We're all very happy you came. I know some of you traveled quite far. I especially want to thank Mike from So Mike has, on his own time, taken upon his own initiative to set up the Why don't you tell us a little bit about it. I'm sure a lot of people here already know about it, but just give us the quick summary.

ML: Yeah, well, it's... basically, that's what it is; it's the Skeptics' Guide fan site. What I do is, I go through all your episodes—or at first, I did. I went through all your episodes and sort of listed all your funny quotes and everything. It was an idea that started on the forums. That's how that started. And now what I do is, every time you release an episode, I gather some interesting facts and funny quotes and try to get some sound bytes out of there so people can download and see how funny you guys are.

S: Well, thanks, Mike. We really appreciate it. Thanks for coming, too.


S: It's funny; we read Mike's summaries of our own shows ourselves, and sometimes reading the quotes that he pulls out, I'm like, "damn, we're funny!" I mean, who would have figured? It's almost shocking to us. It sounds a lot funnier when you read it out of context like that, when he pulls it on the website. But again, thanks a lot. I also want to thank James Randi, who is affiliated with the Skeptics' Guide and he is contributing the "Randi Speaks" to our show every month. We got him back after a technical hiatus, both last week and this week, and hopefully we'll have him in perpetuity. There's a lot of people to thank as well. I mean, a lot goes into making this show. Of course, I have to thank all of my skeptical rogues. Thank Perry DeAngelis, who can't be here tonight; he really regrets that he couldn't be here today to do the show. We miss you, Perry; wish you were here.


S: I'd like to also thank John Huntington for helping set up the venue and for donating his time and those of some of his students who are here today as well, helping us out today, so thanks a lot, John. And there's a lot of unseen people, the people that are behind the scenes that allow the show to happen. I have to thank my wife, Jocelyn, who's sitting here in the front row. Thanks, Jocelyn.


S: And you know, we all have significant others who put up with the late nights... so we couldn't do what we do if we didn't have people behind us supporting us, so just... we wanted to thank everybody as well.

Opening Remarks (8:08)[edit]

  • SGU Host Steven Novella discusses teaching science and skepticism in the age of podcasting.

Steve Mirsky's Remarks (14:08)[edit]

  • Scientific American editor and columnist Steve Mirsky answers some reader mail.

Live Questions (23:45)[edit]

Autism groups and their relationship to science (24:16)[edit]

Girls in Science (30:42)[edit]

Being a Nice Skeptic (45:20)[edit]

Science Education (55:28)[edit]

Science or Fiction (1:02:53)[edit]

Question #1: Scientists have used X-rays to determine why insects are as small as they are. Question #2: Scientists have developed a method for using light microscopy to create images with detail finer than the wavelength of light used. Question #3: Contrary to prior believe, astronomers have shown that Mars has a significant magnetic field.

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 'info @'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


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