SGU Episode 219

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SGU Episode 219
September 28th 2009
SGU 218 SGU 220
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra.'
Theodore E. Woodward
Download Podcast
Show Notes


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

News Items ()[edit]

Premanand Statement ()[edit]

Dinosaur News ()[edit]

Nanotube Springs ()[edit]

Comfort and Cameron on Darwin ()[edit]

Couple Jailed over Homeopathy Death ()[edit]

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Question # 1 - Spiritual Advice ()[edit]

Hi SGU; all the way from Sydney, Australia! I have a question which is probably more applicable to Steven more than anyone else. As I understand it your stance on the afterlife is agnostic. How do you deal with a patient who wishes to consult in you about the spiritual afterlife? It probably goes without saying that the patient's state of mind takes the utmost priority, so a debate is obviously out of the question. Such issues, however, have made me uncomfortable in the past, and as a young medical student I would like to hear your take on how to talk to a patient through the matter although not necessarily pretending that I share their beliefs in the afterlife. I subscribe to something on the order of twenty podcasts a week, but yours remains my favourite. It keeps me sane during the long train rides to and from school. Thank you and keep up the great work; Jason

Question # 2 - Life Signs ()[edit]

Life signs and life force? I recently purchased season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I'm loving it. It's particularly entertaining because every once in a while, something happens in the show, and I suddenly get a reference that you guys made but never quite understood until now. Throughout the show, they scan planets and vessels for life signs or life forms. It got me thinking. Knowing that chi and other such supposed life forces are scientifically untenable, is there some quality of living matter that sets it apart from nonliving matter in such a way as to feasibly make it remotely discernible to some kind of instruments? It seems to work on reptilian species, so it doesn't rely on body heat or anything quite as simple as that. I know Star Trek is famous for its technobabble and does have it's share of plain old impossibilities, but I'm curious about the plausibility of this aspect of the show. I guess I'm asking exactly how far I actually need to suspend by disbelief in this case. Thanks a bunch, guys. I'm off to tell more friends about your show! Your fan, Trinity Sean Melvin Valparaiso, Florida

Question # 3 - Speed of Light ()[edit]

I'll try to keep this short ... I'm sure you are buried in correspondence. I'm new to PodCasts, having purchased my first IPod about 9 months ago. But it it a great medium! I have a broadcasting background and appreciate this new media and it's potential. In fact, my IPod has just enough music to keep me amuzed when I'm not listening to SGU or some of the 'Stuff' PodCasts. Hands down though, y'all are my favorite and I'll listen to at least one show each day while at work or in my hooch (MilSpeak for an 8X20 steel box we call home!). All that said ... keep up the great work. Each of you has brought not only science, but critical thinking to the masses - no easy task and one long waiting in the wings until SGU came along. Here's the question if you should ever have time for it on the air. A friend and I are arguing over the answer. You're flying along in a spacecraft at the speed of light. You have a lightbulb in the ceiling of the craft. Can you see the light since it's speed is relative to the speed of the craft? And taking it a step farther, if you turn the spacecraft's headlights on, will they illuminate the asteroid just ahead of you or since the light being emitted has a relative forward speed of zero (based on the spacecrafts speed) would it look as if the light wasn't even turned on. OK ... wacky question, but sometimes we have too much time on our hands here in the desert! The suggestion deals with a recent story on Yahoo about a dead salmon responding to pictures of people when undergoing an fMRI. The link to the story is: It's actually a pretty good story for a skeptical audience in that it's actually an experiment designed to encourage scientists and researchers to investigate thier results carefully because eventually noise will cause false positives. Almost like the 100-monkeys-100-typewriters theory. Again, thanks for the show ... and each of your committement to bring something special to your listening audience each week. I know this listener enjoys the energy, chemistry and synergy you bring to the broadcast ... uh ... I mean PodCast! Cheers! Lance Spangler FOB Bucca, Iraq (Once the worlds largest prison/detainee camp in the world - - at least until a week ago Wednesday

Interview with Mark Edward ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item # 1: Researchers find that hyenas significantly outperformed chimpanzees in a test of cooperative problem-solving. Item # 2: New research finds that Scandinavians are descended from local populations that have lived in the region for at least a million years. Item # 3: A new study shows that negative subliminal messages are more effective than positive subliminal messages.

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week: the sound of breathing with fluid in the lungs

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra.' - Theodore E. Woodward

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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