SGU Episode 209

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SGU Episode 209
July 22nd 2009
Ap14labeled 540.jpg
SGU 208 SGU 210
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.'
Thomas Jefferson
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Show Notes


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

News Items ()[edit]

40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 ()[edit]

Copernicium ()[edit]

Thomas Jefferson and Evolution ()[edit]

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Question # 1 - Dowsing ()[edit]

Hey guys, Well I guess its too late for the typical Rebecca proposal, but congrats to you Rebecca. Anyways, I consider myself to be very skeptical of claims and do my best to investigate and try everything before i believe something. The one thing that I can't seem to explain, but seems to work most of the time is dowsing for underground utilities. I am a municipal engineer and find this actually comes in handy. The first time i saw it, my boss did this around a site we were drilling at, (I don't trust it that much, call before you dig!! Not worth the risk.) and thought he was crazy. Then i figured i should try to see if there was anything to it. At first I walked across where i knew there was underground lines (marked), and got an immedaite reaction. I used a metal coat hanger bent into an 'L' with the small end held loosly in my hand. As soon as i got over the marked line the rod instantly rotated to run parrallel to the line. I was intrigued, but not convinced, might be the ideomotor effect. So before the next time we got lines marked in a new area, I went to see if i could find the lines myself. I was amazed, I was within a few feet of all the lines. I've done it many times since to continue testing, and here is what I have found. 1. it picks up underground and overhead lines 2. it picks up water, electric, natural gas, sanitary and storm sewer lines, but you can't distinguish which it is, just that there is something underneath, accurate to a few feet. 3. Once in a while (maybe 5% of the time) I'll get a false positive. 4. works best if you walk perpindicular to the pipe, so walk in a grid to find pipe in an unknown area. 5. I hold it with my right hand and when i pick up a line, it ALWAYS rotates inwards, even against a small wind (to the left) 6. Apparently not everyone can do it(I know, I know, red flag). I have no idea whats going on. I thought at first that it might be something to do with an electric current through power lines, but than why does it work for water lines? Maybe the running water makes a current, but it works for storm sewer lines that are usually empty. Sometimes utilities have an electric tracer line for locating, but i've found lots of pipes that don't have one using this technique. I have no idea how it works. Like i said, I'm very skeptical and don't believe in any supernatural forces, or spiritual energy of any kind, but can't seem to figure this one out. I would ask that your crew try it out for yourselves to see if anyone can do it, and give me some feedback of your results. Maybe you can help me crack this. I would like it if you discussed this on the podcast to get all your comments, but I understand you probably get a ton of requests, so an email response would be appreciated as well. Thanks for your time. Riley Jestin

Interview with DJ Grothe ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item # 1: New research finds that a mouse mutation with defective mitochondria that produce greater oxygen free radicals results in longer-lived mice. Item # 2: Researchers have discovered the first example of camouflage as a defensive strategy in a plant. Item # 3: Biologists discover the first evidence of HIV infection in wild chimpanzees, indicating that the virus, which likely originated in chimpanzees, has now traveled back to them from humans.

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to episode #207 - Pong

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.' - Thomas Jefferson

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 'info @'. If you enjoyed this episode, then please help us to 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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