SGU Episode 273

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SGU Episode 273
October 6th 2010
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 272                      SGU 274

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

'Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.'

Marie Curie

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


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

News Items ()[edit]

2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine ()[edit]

Nobel Prize in Chemistry ()[edit]

Nobel Prize in Physics ()[edit]

2010 IgNobels ()[edit]

Diesel from a Stone ()[edit]

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week: Herring flatulence

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Question #1 - Mass vs Gravity ()[edit]

How to calculate the surface gravity of a planet.

Question #2 - Science Education ()[edit]

I really enjoy the show. I've been listening for about a year as well as going back and listening to all the old shows. (A part of me dreads the day, soon to come, when I 'catch up' and will have to wait until Saturday for my SGU fix.) In your most recent episode you discussed poor science education in the US. I have a daughter in the second grade and want to make sure she has a good knowledge of math and science that will serve her well whether she grows up to become a scientist or follows her current ambition to be 'an artist who lives in a castle.' I try to point out cool (in my opinion) facts about the way the world works. The other night, we turned off all the lights and used a flashlight and a globe to show how the Earth's tilt causes months of darkness at the North Pole followed by it being the 'land of the midnight sun.' You mentioned that you had essentially taken over your daughters' science education. Can you give more specific information? How structured are your teaching efforts with your kids? Do you simply use fun activities like my globe example? Do you have textbooks at home that you actively teach from? (Something this structured would, I think, be doomed to failure with many kids, including my daughter.) Can you point me to some of the resources you use? Thanks to you and the Rogues. Keep up the great work. Chuck Patterson Easton, PA

Question #3 - Laughing Hyenas ()[edit]

Recently I was catching up on some SGU podcasts and I was delighted to hear the hyenas in Who's That Noisy for episode #269. I studied Spotted Hyenas (the laughing hyena) in Kenya for several years and I believe I can speculate about what was happening in your audio clip. The hyena's giggle is usually emitted by a subordinate individual in response to an approach or aggression by a dominant individual and, to anthropomorphize a bit, means 'Leave me alone, I'm not a threat to you'. The giggle is frequently heard during competition at kills and when hyenas mob lions. I think the latter is what is happening in your WTN clip because, in addition to giggle calls, the hyenas are whooping, which is their long distance communication often used to call clan members to a scene. I also think I can hear the deep groan of a tormented lion toward the end of the clip. The hyena's laugh is really nothing like human laughter, although I do think it's interesting that a common human response to an intimidating situation is nervous laughter... Hyenas are fascinating animals, the exceptions to many rules behaviorally and morphologically. I wish more people knew something about them besides their crazy laugh and the myth that they're mangy scavengers. Some hyena info: Sorry for such a long message.. I get really excited about hyenas! I love the show, keep up the good work! Best, Audrey DeRose-Wilson US

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item #1: A recent large epidemiological study shows no evidence of an adverse effect from light alcohol drinking during pregnancy. Item #2: A review of published evidence concludes that placing speed cameras on roads reduces accidents, injuries, and deaths. Item #3: A recent survey of Facebook users found that the number one reason for unfriending relates to offline behavior and relationship.

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.' - Marie Curie

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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