SGU Episode 111

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SGU Episode 111
5th Sept 2007
SGU 110 SGU 112
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
BN: Bill Nye
Quote of the Week
There is joy in rationality, happiness in clarity of mind. Freethought is thrilling and fulfilling -absolutely essential to mental health and happiness.
Dan Barker
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

S: Hello & welcome to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday September 5th, 2007, and this is Steven Novella, uh your host. Let me say that again. And this is your host Steven Novella, President of the New England Skeptical Society. Joining me this evening are Bob Novella.

B: Hey everybody.

S: Evan Bernstein

E: Hi everyone.

S: and Jay Novella

J: Hey guys.

S: Rebeca is on a cruse ship in Alaska.

J: With Randi.

S: She is with Randi, she is on the JREF Cruse, with Randy and some other prominent skeptics.

J: It's a booze cruise isn't it?

S: Well Rebecca is on it.

B: Right.

S: Apparently they are going to be doing some skeptical lectures at some point in time during the cruise.

E: Hopefully in the mornings.

B: That's a great cruise, I recommend it.

S: But she of course will be back with us next week.

E: I'm sorry, can I throw out that I wish everyone a happy teachers Day in India today?

J: Just in India?

S: Apparently you can.

E: Just in India, sorry, so everyone else has to remain ignorant, But uh in India Happy Teachers Day to all our India listeners.

S: Thank you Evan.

B: Do we have any?

J: Did we ever get an email from somebody in India, I don't even remember?

E: I believe we do, several.

S: I don't remember if we've ever gotten any emails from any listeners in India. Well if any of our listeners are from India send us a shout out to let us know that you're out there. This is our eleventy first episode.

E: I love that. A little tip of the hat to Tolkien.

S: Right, We have an excellent interview coming up later in the show with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

B: I can't wait for that

E: Yeah

News Items[edit]

Airline Sacrifices Goats (1:45)[edit]

Reuters: Airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god

S: Very good, but first let's do some news items. One news item that's been making the rounds this past week deals with the Nepal state run airline, who apparently sacrificed two goats to appease the Hindu sky God following technical problems with one of their Boeing 757 aircraft. So that was their response to the technical problems, to kill a couple of goats to appease the gods.

E: I wonder if it worked?

S: Well the plane didn't crash.

J: Do you think they have little like pen at the air port where they keep them there and raise them there?

S: Yeah, that would be efficient, you would keep goats right at the airport, sacrifice them as needed to the sky god.

E: Right next to the bar.

B: It dosent sound like something that is done very often, but wouldn't, after they sacrificed the goats,just wouldn't you have loved just to see the wing just fall off, just something like that happen.

E: While its on the runway.

B: Yeah, and nobody in it of course.

S: Actually I would like to see absolutely nothing happen, because anything will be interpreted as significant. Although nothing will be to, right.

E: But the Sky God!!

B: It's a win, win situation.

E: Think about that, think about back thousands of years when people were worshiping Zeus and Thor and whom ever elce, I mean this is what that smacks of, and its just incredible that people kinda really, they will take that seriously. I don't know what much more to say.

S: Every now and then something sticks out in the news where it's just a little bit of mid evil mentality popping into the 21st-century.

B: That's what I was thinking, after I read it my first though is what the hell year is it, come on.

E: Isn't it incredible, I mean in the face of this boeing 757 this magnificent feet of science and engineering, you are standing before it, the hundred years of aerodynamic study and flight study that went in to achieving this point in getting to this point of having this magnificent airplane, and you are sacrificing a goat to the sky god, is such a jux to position and contradiction, it's stark.

S: Yeah, just imagine.

J: Who makes the decision, did one pilot turn to the other and say " the plane dose not work, we must kill the goat". When does that happen?

S: I think it's probably someone above the pilot, only the highest officials can decide when the goats get slaughtered.

J: The guy in the tower? I mean, please help me Steve.

B: You wake up in the morning and uh, before you step in your car you sacrifice a rabbit, you know, you buy some lotto tickets, you sacrifice ten frogs, I mean you know.

J: Bob, 300 year from now, some complete jack ass is going to be taking a homeopathic remedy in a space ship going to Pluto.

S: Thats probably true.

B: Thats good Jay.

King Tut Exibit (4:40)[edit]

NPR: King Tut Exhibit Prompts Debate on His Skin Color

S: The next two news items also are thematically linked, almost in an ironic way. the first one deals with the King Tut exhibit. There has been some controversy over this exhibit, based upon the way that King Tut is being portrayed. There are some in the African American community who think that he is being made to look too caucasian, or too white, and to be historically arrurate he should have more african features, and this has become quit a bit of a social controversy. You know I'm alway interested in the intersection between culture, politics, and science. This is the kind of question that you would think would be pretty definitively answerable by science, and yet it gets turned in to a political, sort of hot button, question, or topic.

Is Race a Social Construct? ()[edit]

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Myth Busting Woes ()[edit]

Here's a link to a fascinating -- if depressing -- article summarizing several studies which seem to indicate that humans have a tendency to remember frequently-repeated myths as true, even if they were repeated in the context of debunking them! I thought of you folks when I read the article's final sentence: 'Myth-busters, in other words, have the odds against them.' (Washington Post: Persistence of Myths Could Alter Public Policy Approach)

Scott Knickelbine Madison, WI Interview

Interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy ()[edit]

1) His website is:

2) Here is his Wikipedia entry: Bill Nye

3) Here is a link to the Bill Nye gets Booed entry from 2006: Under the Sun: "We Believe in god"

4) Here is his Planetary Society's website. Bill is the VP and he's on the BOD

5) Here is his 'Ask Bill Nye' page, courtesy of Encarta: (link broken)

6) He hosts(ed) the Science Channel's '100 Greatest Discoveries': Classification of Species

7) Here is an article about the sun dial on Mars (back in 2003):Bill Nye, the Sundial Guy

8) POI interviewed Bill Nye in 2006: Bill Nye The Science Guy - Changing The World With Science

9) And he was part of a CNN interview with Larry 'suspenders' King in January 2007: Could Global Warming Kill Us?

Science or Fiction[edit]

Question #1 For the first time, astronomers have connected radio telescopes in real time from around the world to create a functional radio telescope with the diameter of the earth. Question #2 Geneticists were surprised to discover a gene identical in mice and humans, but absent in all other primates. Question #3 Cancer scientists have developed a way to detect metastasis anywhere in the body simply by examining one vein in the arm or cheek. Skeptical Puzzle

This Week's Puzzle[edit]

Once upon a time, there was a king, and he enjoyed reading books. His sole urge was to better express his personality through his readings. The impersonal life he led would cause him to travel far and wide. It was once said that he would always travel with his 3 favorite books. The first book was a bible, and the second book was a guide book. Can you tell me the title of the 3rd book?

Last Week's puzzle:

Being set on the idea

Of getting to this place
He concocted a theory that would be a
Controversy in science's face

He says our whole conception
Of pre-history is wrong
He insists his arguments are not a deception
Rather a pursuit that is life-long

Three points in a row with one offset
Is apparently the key
To unlocking a secret that is a threat
To how we understand our history

He believes the past is misunderstood
That history has been systematically slaughtered
But if we tried to see his revisionist history

All our heads would be under water.

Winner: Ole Eivind Answer: Graham Hancock

Skeptical Quote of the Week[edit]

'There is joy in rationality, happiness in clarity of mind. Freethought is thrilling and fulfilling -absolutely essential to mental health and happiness.'

- Dan Barker

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