SGU Episode 285

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SGU Episode 285
29th December 2010
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 284                      SGU 286

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


M: Mike Lacelle

Quote of the Week

Questioning our own motives, and our own process, is critical to a skeptical and scientific outlook. We must realize that the default mode of human psychology is to grab onto comforting beliefs for purely emotional reasons, and then justify those beliefs to ourselves with post-hoc rationalizations. It takes effort to rise above this tendency, to step back from our beliefs and our emotional connection to conclusions and focus on the process. The process (i.e science, logic, and intellectual rigor) has to be more important than the belief.

Steven Novella

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, December 29th 2010, and this is your host Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella

B: Hey everybody

S: Rebecca Watson

R: Hello everyone

S: Jay Novella

J: What's up, guys

S: Evan Bernstein

E: Ha-ppy new year!

S: and, our special guest, Mike Lacelle

M: Hey guys, how's it going?

B,J,R&E: Mike!

R: I remember Mike

J: Hey!

S: Yeah, this is now a tradition, Mike joins us for the year-end wrap-up episode every year.

M: And get paid handsomely

E: Oh yeah, oh yeah

This Day in Skepticism (0:44)[edit]

S: Before we get started, Evan, tell us about this day–

E: Alright, but I'll need some help introducing this

Remembering 2010 (2:44)[edit]

S: So this is our year-end wrap-up episode, 2010 year in review. And quite a year it has been.

R: Is it the end of the year already?

S: Isn't that amazing?

J: Yep

E: Yeah

R: Didn't this year just start?

J: This goes by faster all the time

R: This is what it's like to be old

S: Yeah

J: (laughs) Oh god

S: Keeps going by faster and faster

R: No really–

E: Your perception of time? It does, it does.

R: Someone was asking me, like, how long I've been on the podcast, and I said "Something like four years or something?"

E: Mm-hmm

S: It's getting close to five

R: That's insane! Completely insane

S: You thought it was like three months or something, right?

R: Yeah!


R: I can't believe I haven't dropped you losers yet

E: This'll die out fast


B: You old biddy


J: Rebecca, did you ever have a moment, say, within the first three or four months where you were like "what am I doing with these idiots?"

R: Yeah. No, I still have those moments


R: Every f-kin show, Jay


B: Too easy, Jay, too easy

R: What am I doing?

J: Yet, you still come back

M: Rebecca started on episode 35, which means this is her 250th episode

E: Wow

R: Really?

S: Yeah, this is episode 285

R: You know what, we should have Mike in the background of all of our shows


R: Not saying anything, except for occasionally popping up with little tid-bits like–

E: Yeah

R: –like Pop-Up Video

J: Yeah, remember that?

E: That's right!


E: Oh, that was great, we used to watch that

R: Which I can only say 'cause I'm an old… you know (laughs) all the kids are listening to this stuff

J: Mike can play like a little ding noise, and shoot out the fact

R: Right


E: Pop-Up Skeptic!


S: Pop-Up Mike Lacelle

R: Yeah

E: Pop-Up Mike Lacelle

Best and Worst of 2010 (4:18)[edit]

S: Well, we're gonna start with the best and worst of 2010. We did poll our listeners[1] and we will be throwing in our own opinions as well.

Best Episode (4:30)[edit]

S: Starting with everyone's favorite episode, so what was your favorite episode this year? What do you think, guys?

B: This one!

R: Australia

B: This one, this one

S: This one we're doing right now?


J: Come on, Bob

E: It's 2011?

R: Australia was my favorite episode, and it wasn't for anything we necessarily said on the episode, it was just for the fact that we were all together in Australia. (see episode 282)

S: Yeah

B: It's hard to argue with that. I have to agree with that

S: For us, the live shows are a lot of fun

E: Yeah

S: 'cause we're a team, we're all together, you know? Although the Vancouver show was awesome. The only problem with the Vancouver show is that Rebecca wasn't there. (see episode 281)

(general agreement)

S: It was the Canada thing too, you know, a lot of bald people there. The Vancouver show, 'cause George Hrab was with us, and he's just awesome

J: Yeah, George did a couple of ridiculously funny things during that show, and I thought that we–

S: A couple?

J: –were having a really good time. And I was trying to figure out why that show ended up being my favorite show of the year as well, and I think part of it was that we were ridiculously amped to go to Australia–

S: Yeah

J: –and we were really jet-lagged, so we were all like, our guard was completely down. Like, it was very uncensored


R: That's how it is for me to do every episode


E: Oh, that's the key!

R: Yeah, just be really jet-lagged

S: We have to inhibit your frontal lobe some way

R: Yeah

J: You know, something that the listeners don't know about, is that right before we went on stage, we were all standing out there in the cold, waiting for them to just tell us "Ok guys, it's time to come". So we all got into a really heated conversation about something, I don't remember what the hell we were talking about, we were all like laughing, and we were totally involved–

E: We were, we were silly out there

J: Yeah, 'cause we were all sleep-deprived. And then we hear "Evan Bernstein", and then like five seconds goes by (louder) "Evan Bernstein"


J: I'm like "You gotta get out there!"

E: It's like "I'm here, why? Who's call– oh, I gotta go"

S: On stage


R: Professionals, true professionals

E: It's hard to hear outside a steel door outside in the Vancouver cold. It's not exactly easy


S: There were a couple of votes from our listeners for episode 259, not sure why. That was the June 28th episode, no interview, just we talked about whooping cough epidemic and a whaling film

R: Sounds like a blast

S: Call to ban homeopathy, yeah. But whatever

E: Whaling call?

S: Sunscreen, that was the sunscreen episode

E: Oooh yeah

R: Oh yeah. You know, that's the problem though, is that, you know, I was looking over our past episodes in order to get a feel for 'what was the funniest episode', you know, which one was the most fun. And it's really difficult to tell, because you never know what is going to resul– like, it's not what's in the notes page, it's not the main points of the episode, it's just whatever gets us off on a tangent.

S: Yeah, unexpected banter that makes the episode–

E: Yeah

J: Well, I think, again, that's because we're really riffing, and we're just being dorks ourselves, and not kinda thinking about the stuff that we were reading about and researching all week

R: Yeah, researching all week!

B: Yeah, right!

R: All week


B: So Jay, what we need, we have to add a banter index to the show notes page so we can better assess–

R: Well this is what Mike used to do

J&S: Yeah

R: That's why Mike needs (inaudible)

M: Yeah, we used to have a fanpage

R: Mike, get back on that! The fanpage was awesome

E: That was a great resource!

R: Yeah, because you had like, funny quotes from every episode, and things like that. We need someone, someone who's listening now, who listens to every show obsessively. You need to get in touch with us so we can hook you up with Mike so you can get the fanpage running again.

S: Yeah, 'cause we have Mike busy doing other stuff

J: Yeah, I guess Mike really stopped doing that stuff guys 'cause we asked him to a lot of other, more important stuff for us, and it was like "Alright, do I do this? Or do I do the stuff they really need done?" so…

M: Plus, I'm not really a fan anymore


S: No, you're not a fan

E: No


R: No, you're over it

S: You've been on the show too many times

J: You've transcended that status

R: No, he just doesn't like the show anymore

B: Oooh, Ok

J: No, I think Mike said, and I quote–

B: I see

J: – (in a whiny voice) "Evan's an asshole"


E: Is that what he said? 'cause Skype cut out at the time, and I thought–

R: That does sound exactly like Mike

E: I heard the "Evan is" part, and I'm like 'aw, he must have said "good guy"'

Best Interview (8:37)[edit]

S: Alright, best interview

J: So my favorite two interviews of the year are Aubrey de Grey (see episode 265) and Sanal. (see episode 258) Sanal, if you remember, is the Indian skeptic who debunked the 'killi-killi-killi' guy that said he was gonna kill him–[2]


J: –by basically concentrating on him, and Sanal went through this awesome description of his story and what happened, and– oh god. It also happens to be one of the funniest things I remember of the year was when Sanal said "The guy was trying to strike him down" and he just said it so–


J: –like he was terrified, you know what I mean? And he was expressing how terrified he was, but it was so funny!

S: I have to say, that was one of my favorite interviews as well, despite the fact that that was overwhelmingly the most difficult interview for me to edit

R: But it was a great interview

S: But it was a great interview

B: That's all behind the scenes. Plus, that was really one of the– it's got to be one of the top five or ten skeptical moments in history. I mean, think of the audience this guy had–

S: Yeah

B: Hundreds of millions of people watching him pretty much totally own this guy. So that to me was a huge, huge moment in skepticism

J: Well it was an improv to conflict that they had on TV. They didn't really know that things were going to go that way, and then what happened was, it was so well received, so many people tuned in and were totally glued to their TV sets for hours past when the program was supposed to end.

E: And tens, or hundreds, of millions of people!

J: Yeah, it was– the numbers were phenomenal. And then what happened was they planned the next day, they had another special TV show where the guy was gonna try to kill him again, by using tantric meditation on him and whatnot. So what an event? And I'm telling you, this guy became a superstar after that in India

S: Mm-hmm

R&B: Yeah

S: We got some listener votes for Daniel Wilson, "the guy who discussed robots", they said. That was a great interview, the robot guy (see episode 241)

B: Yeah, that was good

J: Oh, he was awesome. Yeah, we really clicked with him, he was really fun to talk to

E: He was excellent

S: What the hell, "I wonder how to raise your robot army"? What's not to love?


B: Right!

R: A few people on Twitter have nominated Rhys Morgan as one of the best interviews.(see episode 265) Rhys being the young British lad who debunked the crazy–

S: Bleach

R: Yeah, the drinking bleach cure

E: Ugh

R: And then Rhys ended up winning the 'Skeptic of the Year' at TAM London. He's just an awesome kid

E: Cool

S: Well deserved. Of course, all the interviews were awesome, and we had a really good year for interviews. A lot of the regular skeptics that we had on our show, but also some new names, new voices. So they were all good, but I agree that, for the same reason as Jay, Sanal was my favorite.

J: Oh, you know a funny memory from interviewing Aubrey deGrey: do you guys remember when I was so excited to talk to Aubrey deGrey–

E: Oh, there's still stains all over the place


J: I was just like– it's just so rare that I get that amped over meeting someone who I've kinda been following and reading about for years and years. I think, if I met Arnold Schwarzenegger I'd get maybeequally as excited–

B: (laughs)

J: –just because the position Aubrey has in my life intellectually, and what his life pursuit is, and everything. So, anyway, we're doing the interview, and he said to Steve at one point "Oh, that's a good question". And then Bob asked a question, and he complimented Bob on his question, and then I asked him a question (laughs)

S: Yeah, wait! (excitedly) Jay's typing to us in the Skype chat, like "oh god, Aubrey deGrey just praised you two guys, I gotta ask him a really good question now, I gotta get him to praise my question".


S: So Jay comes out with his question, and Aubrey deGrey goes "I don't understand what you're asking"


J: Oh god!

R: Aw, Jay

B: Oh man

J: You guys– you guys literally could hear me just deflate, I was like "pffft-aaghh, really?". And then I had to really, like restate my question like three times (laughs)

S: Oh boy

M: Jay cried for three weeks after that

J: I was so pissed

B: Yeah, that was almost as bad as when you couldn't bend the frying pan

J: That's true. Bob, I'm sure that you've uploaded video of that to YouTube

B: No, I haven't

R: I believe the boys are talking about bending a frying pan that a listener had volunteered to show them how to do that in Australia

J: No, it was Jason, it was Jason from Australian Skeptics

B: Jason was working it, he's a great guy

S: I ripped a phonebook in half

B: He taught us how to rip the phonebook in half, and bend frying pans, so he was a lot of fun

R: You all looked very manly

S: Another interview that got some mention was the Randi-Banachek interview (see episode 262)

B: Yeah

M: That was a good one

S: And we decided this year at TAM8 to do interviews with multiple people at once, because we don't really get an opportunity to do that on Skype, it's not really practical. But in person, we can do that, we can do the combo interviews. I think that worked really well, I mean–

B: It did, it really did

S: The listeners should tell us what they think, but I think those combo interviews work, and we plan on doing that next year at TAM as well.

R: Next year, it's going to be Jenny McCarthy and Amanda Peet

S: Oh yeah

B: Oh boy

M: I can interview them in my room


R: Mike! Mike, you're not hear to bring down the tone


S: That's Rebecca's job


M: I'm sorry

R: Don't step on my territory


Funniest moment (14:08)[edit]

S: Alright, funniest moment, this is tough. Who could remember?

B: Yeah

J: I know what the funniest moment is…

R: Alright, go on

J: And correct me if I'm wrong, if this wasn't this year, but wasn't this the year that we remembered how creepy Bob sounded in episode 1?

E: Yes!

S: "Hello", this was the 'hello' year


R: "Hell-lo!"

B: Oh boy

J: "Hello!"

E: It was the five year anniversary episode (see episode 251)

R: That was quite a (inaudible)

B: Oh boy

(general mocking "Hello"s)

J: I mean I–

E: That had legs, didn't it?

J: –I got more people in person came up to me, and the first thing they said to me was (exaggeratedly) "Hell-ooo", and it was instantaneous, like "I know, right? How screwed up is that?"

S: That was – Bob, I'm sorry – that was our best bit this year, was making fun of your "hello"

B: You know… whatever…


B: It had legs, it had legs. So whatever, that's fine… it was funny, so what the hell. I can't– I still don't believe that that's really me, I think that you tweaked that in post-production, Steve, 'cause I have no memory of sounding so stupid. But then again, I usually don't

R: That's because your brain blocked it out

B: It must have

J: The thing that I love, is whenever I think about that, I can just picture you sitting there at your desk, like trying– 'cause Bob, let's face it, you were trying to sound cool

B: No, I …

J: You–

B: No, no, no

J: Yes!

R: In your dressing-gown, and you have a glass of gin

B: Jay, there's nothing cool about what came out of my mouth that night. Nothing

J: I didn't say that you achieved what you were trying to achieve. I said you were trying– you were sitting there thinking "I have to sound relaxed and kind of hip right now", and you came out with "Hellloooo"

B: No, no, I don't think I was trying that, I don't know what was going through my mind, but I can't imagine that that's what was going through my mind

J: Alright

S: You were trying to be engaging or deferent, or something

J: Yeah, it was–

B: I don't know what the hell it was, it was– it was a fail on many levels

J: It was GOLD, Bob!

(excited chattering)

S: It was a brain fart

E: It was smooth

J: It was gold

E: It was smooth

B: Whatever, there's plenty of other funny shit

E: Like every time you say 'crap' during Science or Fiction

R: Hmm


R: Or every time Jay expresses disbelief during Science or Fiction

J: Oh, here we go

E: Oh, wow

S: You what? The uh…

R: Can we play that?

S: Yeah!

R: Can we do that now? Because I mentioned this a while back on one of the shows, that Jay always seems to express disbelief in a humorous manner, and that it would be funny if you were to string all of those together. And one brave listener actually took it upon themselves to go through and do that. And I think it's hysterical. Let's play it… Jay Novella expresses disbelief

(background music)

Say it isn't so!

It just seems like total BS to me
Whoa! Craziness, this is totally bullshit!
Kinda BS
My god! How can that possibly be true? Everybody would have brain cancer

R: What?
J: What, how? I don't know

I'm just saying, listen, there was a mystery– I tell you what, I agree with Bob!
What do you mean?
I'm commenting in my head, that's awesome
My head is getting kinda weird looking as I get older
Science or Fiction for a thousand
Bob, you suck. That's really weird, I mean– oh that's bullshit, Steve, really?
Ah! It can't be. That doesn't make sense
Well how the hell am I supposed to know if 8% of Americans said that?
Wow, this is a really– damn, Steve, I'm stumped!
Wow, it's just like that, huh?
I don't agree with it
I might lose right out of the gate here
That's incredible!
Son of a bitch!
Give me the answer, that would help.
(in a squeaky voice) Aaahh!
It's a really hard one, I can't … yaah!
My god!

How can that possibly be true? Really?

(laughter, music fades)

R: I could honestly listen to that all day


S: The funny thing is, Jay was saying all of that about the true items


J: You know what is so weird, is that–

E: Right?

J: –is when I first heard that, a listener named Jason Ferber(?), he sends us these sound files, these mash-ups that he made, and when I heard that one, I actually said "Aw, I don't believe it!"


J: I actually said that out loud

E: So you're saying you can't control yourself, is that it?

J: No. I love it, I don't know why, I love the disbelief

S: You have skeptorrhea


R: There's something you can take for that

E: You're like the journalist, Jay, that says every scientist is 'baffled', 'stumped', 'bamboozled

R: Jay's what they're talking about when they say "skeptics are baffled". Just Jay

Best 'Who's That Noisy?' (18:40)[edit]

S: Alright, best 'Who's That Noisy?'

R: I can tell you worst 'Who's That Noisy?'

E: Oh, I know

M: The dying beaver

R: The dying beaver, the dying beaver

B: What the hell? That was my favorite!

E: Do I need to clarify this again? It wasn't a dying beaver, it was a beaver showing remorse for the loss of it's family[3]

R: Yeah, his entire family

S: They got killed

J: That was horrible

M: More like the remorseful beaver

R: God! I'm still depressed

E: Well, this is what happens when you have the listeners send in the 'Who's That Noisy?'

R: Yeah, blame the listeners

E: I gave you– I give you funny cartoon voices, and they give you dying beavers


M: So it's back to dying beavers?

E: Well, beavers in mourning

S: I liked the hyenas,[4] they were pretty cool

E: You know, the listeners did have some suggestions of their own, and I think this one in particular garnished the most votes

B: 'Garnered', I think

R: Yeah, unless they were putting lots of olives on the side


E: Alright, aaand take two and action. So our listeners also gave us their– (breaks into giggles)

S: Evan, you think I'm editing that out, don't you?

E: Yeah, I do think you're editing that out


S: That's alright, continue in your

E: You better– yeah

J: Steve,


E: The listeners spoke, and they decided that, well, their favorite 'Who's That Noisy?' from the year was this little number:

(almost 'zapping' sound)

R: Lasers

S: The centipede game

B: Ice breaking

J: Oh, yeah

R: The beginning from 1980s dance-hit classic


E: If it wasn't, it should have been, Rebecca, that's very good. The sound of ice cracking[5]

R: If only someone could auto-tune Jay's expressions of disbelief and set it–

E: Oh, that's it!


R: It would be amazing

E: You know that's happening now?

R: Ice-breaking, yeah


J: Well I have a favorite 'Who's That Noisy?'

S & E: Yes?

B: Oh god

J: Of what I could remember, I actually really, really liked the whole laughing hyena thing

R: I, yeah

S: Yeah, I said that already…

J: You said that already, Steve?

S: Yeah, thanks for bringing it up again, though, yeah

M: Good job, Jay

E: It's good, we're done, it's good

Best Quote of the Year (20:47)[edit]

S: What about the best quote of the year, Jay?

J: Best quote. Yeah, I read every quote from this year, and …

S: You mean again, or when you did it the first time?

J: Again. And I actually liked the quote from episode 235, and if I'm remembering correctly, that was the very first episode of 2010, and that quote is:

Weary the path that does not challenge. Doubt is an incentive to truth and patient inquiry leadeth the way.

J: And if you guys remember, Richard Saunders read the name of the writer of that quote, and he said "Hosea Ballou". Remember that?


B: My favorite– Jay, I went through all of them as well, um, my favorite was from Randall Monroe (xkcd), very pithy, but very interesting–

J: What was his name?

B: Randall Monroe

J: Come again?


R: Randall Monroe!

B: The quote is:

You don't use science to show you're right, you use science to become right. (from episode 250)

B: I really liked that one

E: Nice

S: Very pithy

E: Very good

J: I like that

E: You know, I like it any time American history and skepticism come neatly together, and there was no better example of that than this quote

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

E: Thomas Paine, episode 239

S: Very nice

B: I got one more, Jay, this is another good one, Jay, from Bertrand Russell:

Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable. (from episode 280)

J: Oh god, that's awesome, yeah, that's an awesome quote

E: Yeah

Best Science News Story (22:26)[edit]

S: Alright, let's move on to some serious stuff: The best science news story of the year

In Memoriam 2010 (45:14)[edit]

SGU Stats (50:41)[edit]

Who's That Noisy? (56:02)[edit]

Science or Fiction (1:01:09)[edit]

  • Item number one: Researchers find that non-coding sequences of DNA may be responsible for more variation among individuals than genes.
  • Item number two: An extensive genetic analysis indicates that modern dogs first evolved in the Middle East, not Asia, as was previously thought.
  • Item number three: Geologists have determined that the earth was not completely frozen for most of its early history, despite lower levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, because of relatively increased output from the sun.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:16:06)[edit]

Questioning our own motives, and our own process, is critical to a skeptical and scientific outlook. We must realize that the default mode of human psychology is to grab onto comforting beliefs for purely emotional reasons, and then justify those beliefs to ourselves with post-hoc rationalizations. It takes effort to rise above this tendency, to step back from our beliefs and our emotional connection to conclusions and focus on the process. The process (i.e science, logic, and intellectual rigor) has to be more important than the belief.

Steven Novella

Summary and Thanks (1:18:21)[edit]

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.


  1. SGU forums>Messages and Questions from the Panel: Year-End Wrap Up 2010
  2. Rationalist International: The Great Tantra Challenge
  3. 'Forlorn beaver' from WTN episode 278, discussed in episode 279
  4. 'Laughing hyenas' from WTN episode 269, discussed in episode 270. See also Email from episode 273
  5. 'Cracking ice' from WTN episode 238, discussed in episode 239
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