SGU Episode 116

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SGU Episode 116
10th October 2007
SGU 115 SGU 117
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
MA: Marc Abrahams
Quote of the Week
Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.
Kurt Vonnegut
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

This Day in Skepticism ()[edit]

News Items[edit]

Geller on NBC ()[edit]

NBC: NBC announces deal with world-renowned mystifier Criss Angel and famed mentalist Uri Geller for 'Phenomenon,' controversial new live competition series that will lead search for the next great mentalist

Yet Another Acupuncture Study ()[edit]

EurekAlert: Acupuncture does not reduce radiotherapy-induced nausea, but patients believe it does

RespectfulInsolence: Perception and reality in acupuncture

Cell Phones and Cancer ()[edit]

Neurologica: Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Tumors?

E: Keep your phone on your belt near your groin. You'll be all set.

S: Yeah.

R: Wait. Can I just say as a girl, don't, guys, don't do that. It looks so dorky. OK go on.

S: What? The cell phone on the hip?

R: The cell phone on the–yeah. The phaser.

J: The Star Trek Next Gen phaser.

R: Just don't do it.

S: Where else are you going to wear your cell phone if not on your hip?

J: Yeah?

S: Let me ask you a question.

R: You can carry it in your pocket, in your man purse...

S: Why won't women wear cell phones on their hip? I don't get it.

E: Yeah.

R: Because it looks ridiculous.

S: But you know what? My wife throws her cell phone in the purse and then she can't hear it ring.

R: Yeah, but she doesn't look ridiculous does she?

S: Yeah but she doesn't answer her cell phone.

R: No, she looks cute 'cause she has a purse.

E: She's being impractical.

R: Yeah. And she's not getting getting brain cancer 'cause she's not answering her phone all the time cause she can't find it. There, problem solved.

E: Or groin cancer.

S: I'm not going to advocate that people wear like fanny packs or anything, but I think this is one case...

R: Oh, god.

S: ...where function trumps fashion.

R: No no no. It is practically, you are right next to fanny pack.

S: No, no no. This is totally different.

R: I know that you've been walking down the street thinking, "You know, this phone clipped to my belt is cool and all but wouldn't it be better if I could stick a little bit of money next to to the phone. Or maybe put my keys there. Hey, you know, I should get like a larger sack to carry the phone in."

S: No you're missing... Rebecca you're missing the whole thing here. First of all, wearing an electronic device on your hip is way cool. Okay? That's number one.

E: Oh, yeah.

R: Oh, you are so confused.

S: Number two...

E: Babe magnet.

S: you're going in the wrong direction by going towards a fanny pack. You should be going in the utility belt direction.

E: Ooo... I agree.

S: Yes. Absolutely.

J: You're a genius.

R: Yeah. Yeah. Batman. That's a great idea. Have you considered a cowl while you're at it? A cowl?

S: A cowl?

R: A cowl pulled over your face. Yes. Maybe with little ears.

S: Those are only for evil–those are only for villains. Not heroes.

R: Uh, Batman has a cowl. Hello.

S: He's the dark knight, okay? He's right on the edge.

R: Just don't do it, okay? It's bad.

J: You could have like a little change thing on there.

S: Yeah.

J: If you can get a...

R: The only way an electrical device attached to your hip is going to get you laid is if it's a vibrator, okay?

A World without Time ()[edit]

PhysicalReview: Is the accelerated expansion evidence of a forthcoming change of signature on the brane?

Physics ArXiv blog: Why our time dimension is about to become space-like

Questions and Emails[edit]

Follow up on 30 Year Battery ()[edit]

  • Corrections and additions to last week's discussion

Slain by Woo ()[edit]

I want to begin by saying I generally consider myself a very grounded, down to earth guy. I don't drink the "dojo kool-aid" as it were. However I spent time studying Juijitsu under an old Korean grand master, who had dabbled in qigong amongst many other styles. Physically for his age, his skill as a martial artist was exponentially better than his English, but on one particular night he selected my friend to demonstrate what you'd probably call "magic".

I don't have any video of him slamming a blade into his arm, and that's a strike against me I know, but with extreme focus he could render a person unconscious from a pace or two's distance. He would extend index and middle finger, place the other arm behind his back, and go through a very audible breathing routine as he focused. Within maybe 20 to 30 seconds, my friend would begin to teeter back on his heels and eventually slump to the ground. I was always the guy to catch him, and can say with absolute certainty that he was not only unconscious, but also not breathing (or breathing faintly enough I couldn't detect it with my arms around him). He would quickly sweep forward, slide his arms under my friends and around the back, then with two quick hits to the back, bring him to.

I understand the skeptic is on constant vigil and in a state of disbelief, especially in a realm so overexploited by hacks and liars such as martial arts, but it was entirely and completely legit. Having known this individual since kindergarten, I can say without doubt he was not buying in to something if it wasn't going to work. He wasn't folding to spare the teacher humiliation. He was out like a light.

So take it for what you will. I don't buy in to much myself, and consider myself to be entirely rational, but I can see in no way how it could have been explained by anything other than what it was. Other mutual friends of ours had seen it themselves, and though just as rational, were and remain just as sold. It will always be something people can write off, and maybe rightfully so, but in this particular case I can without hesitation assure you of it's legitimacy.

Either way, I figured a more down to Earth account of martial arts "magic" might do good to weigh in against the BS that is indeed out there. Love the show. Keep it up.

Joshua McCurry

YouTube: The dimmak touch of death master

Interview with Marc Abrahams ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1 A theoretical physicist has proposed a testable model of the universe with two time dimensions.

Question #2 New study suggests that humans evolved their upright body plan 15 million years earlier than previously thought - about 21 million years ago.

Question #3 Harvard linguistic scientists have created a mathematical model of language evolution that predicts that the past tense will eventually disappear from the English language.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

This Week's Puzzle:

Deserted some time ago From a plain red place As Pluto crossed the sky Four horses led the way Gazing down on all the animals It seemed improbable that animals made them Despite the insistence of the AA crowd Foreign visitors were not responsible

What is it?

Last Week's puzzle:

For a feline and fowl he is known This styling, for years, he had grown Auras foretold his seizures In the meantime his leisures Would yield fame from these seeds he had sewn

Who is this describing?

Answer: Edward Lear Winner: Flighty

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand."

Kurt Vonnegut, US novelist (1922 - 2007)

Announcements ()[edit]

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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