SGU Episode 318

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SGU Episode 318
August 17th 2011
SGU 317 SGU 319
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, and a treasure you can always carry easily.'
cheap fortune cookie
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

This Day in Skepticism ()[edit]

  • August 20, 1897: Physician Sir Ronald Ross made a key breakthrough when he discovered malaria parasites while dissecting a mosquito. The day became known as Mosquito Day.

News Items ()[edit]

Non-Growing Earth ()[edit]

Boiron Threatens Blogger ()[edit]

Women, Romance, and Science ()[edit]

Space X Going to Space Station ()[edit]

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week: Fred Dagg

Questions and Emails ()[edit]

Question #1 - More on Helium ()[edit]

Helium is a Noble (not Nobel) gas element usually recovered from natural gas wells. In the US, the gas wells are the top fraction of oil formations - the oil is created in sandstone or other relatively porous rock covered by shale, or much less porous rock. The gas percolates up to the non-porous layer where it gets trapped. Helium is trapped with the gas, and is separated when the gas is extracted. The helium is produced by the decay of transuranic minerals in the rock BELOW the oil formations. The transuranics, like uranium, thorium, and radium, decay radioactively through a mechanism which includes 'alpha decay', where the atoms emit helium nuclei, becoming lighter elements of lower atomic number (helium has 2 protons, so the atomic number decreases by 2). Essentially ALL the helium on earth is produced by this method, NATURALLY. All the original helium in the cloud which created the earth 4.6 Billion years ago was lost in the creation. The US has a virtual monopoly on helium reserves because most places do not have transuranic ores buried miles below gas and oil deposits. The depleted reserves will eventually replenish themselves - in millions of years. Louis Bookbinder Palo Alto, CA

Interview with Paul Provenza ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item #1: Amid growing concern that using food crops to produce biodiesel fuel will raise the price of food, scientists have identified a new raw material for the fuel: Alligator fat. Item #2: Being fat can be good for you. Study finds that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts, and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes. Item #3: The recurrence risk of autism in younger siblings is lower than previously thought. The risk that an infant with an older sibling with autism also will develop the disorder, previously estimated at 19 percent, is substantially lower; between 3 and 10 percent.

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, and a treasure you can always carry easily.' - cheap fortune cookie

Voiceover: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at You can also check out our other podcast the SGU 5x5 as well as find links to our blogs and the SGU forums. 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 leaving us a review on iTunes, Zune or your portal of choice.


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