SGU Episode 126

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SGU Episode 126
December 19th 2007
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 125                      SGU 127

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

'A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.'

Bruce Lee

Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Discussion


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

News Items ()[edit]

Rebecca's Pilot ()[edit]


Magic Leg ()[edit]


Creationism Update ()[edit]

  • Fired scientist sues for discrimination

    Guillermo Gonzalez

    Trouble in Texas

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Scientific Criticism ()[edit]

Dear Rogues,

I have just finished listening to your interview with Alex from Skeptico and I was very pleasantly surprised at how constructive a dialogue you put together. I had never heard Alex speak before and he came across as a very nice guy, more willing than many of the 'true-believers' to talk about testing and evidence.

However, as a practicing scientist, I was dismayed at his umbrage induced by criticisms of methodology and other aspects of published studies. Whilst you tried to convince him of the rigour and vigour of analysis between scientists, I think that many members of the public still do not see this side of the scientific process enough. Some more polite examples can be seen in the letters and responses pages of such esteemed organs as Nature and Science. Often the more pointed questions are raised at scientific conferences. Indeed the entire point of a 'journal club' often seems to be to take delight in dismembering a rival's latest article.

The general feeling amongst scientists is that once you publish, in print or at a conference, *all your data and methods are fair game*. That is *the entire point* of publication and subsequent peer-review. You show all your cards and ask anyone to come and have a go - if they think that they can see an error or flaw then you must respond. If the flaw is major then you retract the publication.

I know that as a PhD student I was initially appalled at how critical of published work (often by extremely esteemed investigators) people in my lab were. Indeed I vividly recall being on the end of such criticism myself for the first time. It took me almost 2 years to hone my critical skills in such a fashion and I think that critical reading of manuscripts is the second hardest scientific skill. The hardest skill is applying the same faculties to your own work. Indeed the greatest scientists I have known have not had the best hands, or the brightest ideas, but the clearest ideas about how to conduct controlled, careful experiments and the most critical vision of their own work.

Thanks for all your great work,

Alan Huett

Cattle Mutilation ()[edit]

I'll make it short! Former believer, recent skeptic. However, despite my deductive reasoning, I can't figure out this cattle mutilation thing. I mean, thousands of reports, from different areas of the world? Surgically precise incisions? It's bizarre. Removal of the tongue, trachea and esophagus, the removal of sexual organs, the coring out of the anus up to 14 inches deep into the animal? Found with no tracks, sometimes having fallen through trees to land in a crater on the ground from its own weight surrounded by broken branches from the trees? What the hell man? Could you cover this on the show, or in the least, e mail me back with a skeptical answer? Or is this a genuine mystery?

Jacob Arbogast
Saint Louis MO

Interview with Richard Wiseman ()[edit]


    Richard Wiseman is a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) and best-selling author of The Luck Factor and Did You Spot the Gorilla? His most recent book, Quirkology, explores the more curious aspects of our everyday lives.

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: Images taken by the Hinode solar telescope revealed the sun to be almost 1/2 billion years older than previously estimated. Question #2: Fossil evidence suggests that velociraptor had feathers. Question #3: Physicists created the first true invisibility cloak. Question #4: Scientists thawed out an 8 million year old bacterium from Antarctic ice that was alive and well.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

This Week's Puzzle:

Two famous skeptical events are related. One lasted about 18 seconds. The other happened 4 years later and lasted about 58 seconds.

What were they?

Last Week's puzzle:

If I recommend to you that, for your health, you need to take castor oil, get your head checked for subtle shape changes, receive peanut oil massages, eat some charcoal tablets and iodine supplements, electrical shocks, and finally, engage in regular prayer, then who am I?

Answer: Edgar Casey
Winner: Special Ed

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.'- Bruce Lee

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation and For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at For questions, suggestions, and other feedback, please use the "Contact Us" form on the website, or send an email to If you enjoyed this episode, then please help us spread the word by voting for us on Digg, or leaving us a review on iTunes. You can find links to these sites and others through our homepage. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto, and is used with permission.


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