SGU Episode 212

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SGU Episode 212
August 12th 2009
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 211                      SGU 213

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

“Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.” Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

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Show Notes
SGU Forum


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

News Items ()[edit]

Kepler Passes Test ()[edit]

Methane on Mars Update ()[edit]

MS Breakthrough ()[edit]

Placebo Medicine ()[edit]

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Question # 1 - Birther Movement ()[edit]

I know you guys don't like getting into politics, but I think this ought to be discussed on the show. Ever since the U.S. presidential election last year, there has been a conspiracy theory circling around that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and, therefore, cannot legally be president. This movement is nicknamed the 'birther' movement. It has been compared to the 9/11 'truther' movement. Like 9/11 conspiracy theories, which have been discussed on your show before, this topic has less to do with politics and more to do with evidence and malicious lies. Could you discuss the genesis and development of this movement? Thanks. Guy Sherman Oaks, CA

Name That Logical Fallacy ()[edit]

  • Homeopathy Nonsense

Hey guys, Thanks for being the best and most informative podcast in the observable universe. I have an example of homeopathy apologetics that I guarantee will arouse the bull crap meter in all of you. I thought this might make a great Name That Logical Fallacy segment (where did that segment disappear to?) Anyway here is a quote about why homeopathy is scientific (link provided to the full story below): '...although homeopaths may not understand how their medicines work, keep in mind that leading contemporary pharmacologists readily acknowledge that there are many commonly prescribed drugs today, including aspirin and certain antibiotics, whose mechanism of action remains unknown, but this gap in knowledge has yet to stop physicians from prescribing them. Many conventional physicians express doubt about the efficacy of homeopathy, asserting that they will 'believe it when they see it.' It may be more appropriate for them to acknowledge that they will 'see it when they will believe it.' This is not meant as a criticism of conventional physicians as much as of conventional medical thinking. The biomedical paradigm has narrowed the view of, the thinking about, and the practice of medicine to the treatment of specific disease entities with supposedly symptom-specific drugs and procedures. An integral aspect of this approach to medicine is the assumption that the larger the dose of a drug, the stronger will be its effects. While this seems to make sense on the surface, knowledgeable physicians and pharmacologists know that it isn't true. There is a recognized principle in pharmacology called the 'biphasic response of drugs.'1 Rather than a drug simply having increased effects as its dose becomes larger, research has consistently shown that exceedingly small doses of a substance will have the opposite effects of large doses. The two phases of a drug's action (thus the name 'biphasic') are dose-dependent. For instance, it is widely recognized that normal medical doses of atropine block the parasympathetic nerves, causing mucous membranes to dry up, while exceedingly small doses of atropine cause increased secretions to mucous membranes.' Full story: Thanks a lot guys and keep up the awesome work (I expresed my appreciation via a donation last week). Cheers Fred Lunjevich Auckland, New Zealand

Interview with Michael Goudeau ()[edit]

  • Michael Goudeau is a writer for Penn & Teller's Bullshit. He is also a professional juggler and comedian and the father of a child with autism.

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item # 1: A new simulation finds that type Ia supernova are much more variable than previously thought, casting serious doubt on prior calculations that lead to the inflationary universe theory. Item # 2: Scientists report that three adults treated for severe visual impairment with gene therapy have remarkably improved vision one year after treatment. Item # 3: A new study concludes that human ancestors likely developed bipedality as an arboreal rather than terrestrial adaptation – i.e. while still living in the trees.

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week - Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

“Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.” Isaac Asimov

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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