SGU Episode 335

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SGU Episode 335
17th December 2011
Mercury UFOs.jpg
SGU 334 SGU 336
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein


Quote of the Week
Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.
Jean-Paul Sartre
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Show Notes
Forum Topic


Introduction[edit]

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 14th, 2011, 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: Hey, guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: How we doin'?

S: Good.

B: Pretty good.

R: Super.

J: Yah, fine.

This Day in Skepticism (0:30)[edit]

S: So, Evan, December 17th, huh?

E: The year was 1919. Albert Porta, a respected American meteorologist, whose last name means "door" in Italian, I believe...well, he caused a widespread panic back in 1919, and he predicted that a conjunction of six planets, which was to occur on December 17th, would blast the Earth into oblivion. So apparently what was going to happen is that this conjunction of the six planets was going to cause a magnetic current that would pierce the sun and cause a great explosion of flaming gas and engulf the Earth. Bye, bye, Earth. And people took this quite seriously, as, after all, he was a respected American meteorologist, so he had some sway with the public.

S: Mmm-hmm.

E: There's reports of, you know, some mob riots and even a few suicides, reportedly—

B: Wow.

E: —based on this particular prediction he made. And, of course, it didn't happen, and then his reputation crashed and burned right after that, and nobody took him seriously.

J: The suicide thing always boggles my mind because if the world were to end, then why kill yourself before it happens, you know?

B: I'd want to see it happening. What a way to go, huh?

R: In some people's version of the end times, though, it's not something you really want to stick around for. There's locusts and horsemen...

J: But it never occurred to them, he might be wrong, you know? (laughs) You know, the stakes don't get higher.

B: Yeah, but what gets me about this stuff is that people never consider, "Hey, I wonder if this has happened before." And if you kinda look at when these types of groupings have happened, like, say, for four or more planets lining up, it happens like every fifty-seven years, so, hello, I mean, that's kind of pertinent information that seems like a lot of these people never consider. And I know he was going off on magnetism and stuff, which was really silly, but a lot of people focus on the gravitational increase, and, I mean, if you line up five planets and look at what the effect on the gravitational pull...I think it's less than one percent increase. I mean, if I just stepped really close to you, I'm having more of an effect than the five planets would have. It's just so silly.

S: Do you remember the planetary alignment in 1982?

B: I think I do.

E: That was big. Yes.

B: Was that in like May? Was it May 5th?

E: It was the May—

S: March. March 10th.

E: I thought it was the 9th.

B: That's close.

E: Oh, yeah, I think you're right.

S: March 10th. You know what that's called, when the planets line up?

B: Is it, umm...syz...

E: Syzy...syzygy.

S: Syzygy, yeah.

B: Yeah.

S: Syzygy technically is when three bodies line up — like the sun, the earth, and the moon — but it's also sort of loosely used to refer to planets. Although, they were all lined up; they were just all on the same side of the sun at one time.

B: A loose alignment.

S: Yeah, so-called grand syzygy. The next one is coming up May 19th, 2161, when all of the planets will be within sixty-nine degrees of each other.

E: Wow. There was a six-planet cluster just this past May, in fact.

S: But, Evan, no effect on earthquakes?

E: No, no effect...(laughs) Yeah, right.

S: (laughs)

E: No effect on earthquakes.

News Items[edit]

Pro-Measles Children's Book (3:34)[edit]

S: Rebecca, you guys over at Skepchick wrote about a new children's book about the wonderful world of measles.

R: Yeah. Yeah, it's actually...it's a great new children's book, and it's inspired us to put out a whole new series of books based on the same idea, so, for instance, our first title is going to be Syphilis: Awesome!

(laughter)

R: And it's going to—

E: Syphillis: Look what it did for Hitler!

(laughter)

R: Right, it's going to teach kids to have unprotected sex, because syphilis is not as bad as everybody says it is, and then teach them ways that they can get it and basically tell them that it's totally cool and a healthy thing to do, and it's really not that big of a deal.

S: I'm looking forward to the sequel, Playing With Polio.

R: Yep, yep.

(laughter)

R: It's going to be a great series, and I'm sure no one can think of anything that could possibly go wrong with that. Yeah, that's the book that Stephanie Messenger has written. It's called Melanie's Marvelous Measles, and it is written for children to teach them that measles are a wonderful thing to get, that you don't need to get a vaccination—

E: Mmm-hmm.

R: —that you can just contract measles, and it's really not that big of a deal, and it'll make you much healthier, and everybody...it's natural, you know. There's a little girl chasing a butterfly on the cover; I'm pretty sure that's how measles works—

S: (laughs)

E: Hey—

R: —you chase butterflies when you get it.

J: (laughs)

E: —what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

R: It's kind of like those herpes commercials where everybody just looks so goddamn happy, and you think, "Maybe I've been missing out—

(laughter)

R: —you know, by not having herpes."

(laughter)

J: You're right, Rebecca!

E: You're missing out on something.

R: It's the same sort of thing, like she...she just looks really happy to have measles. So Stephanie Messenger is obviously an anti-vaxer. She's friends with Meryl Dorey of AVN—

J: (groans)

E: Oh yeah...

R: We've talked about her before, yeah. Meryl Dorey's the really outrageously awful woman who is anti-vaccine. She's an HIV/AIDS denialist. So they're both in Australia. Messenger has a really sad back story. Her child died very young. She blames it on vaccines. There's truly no way to tell, you know, what exactly happened there. You only have her anecdote to go by, so—

S: Well, I could say, though, that the story of what happened to her child is pretty typical of certain classes of neurodegenerative diseases, like the so-called leukodystrophies. There are some people who think that her child may have had Alexander disease. We can't know that. But, essentially, these children progress normally for one-to-two years, and then their nervous system starts to break down because of a genetic problem, and then they begin to regress, and they, you know, eventually die. The story of what happened to her child fits that very well. So we don't know that, but that's certainly a plausible alternative. We can be reasonably sure it wasn't a vaccine that did it, but that's what she has assumed.

R: Yeah, apparently, she once mentioned that the doctors thought that it might have been Alexander's disease. She uses her other children as examples of...to support her view because her other children do not have...they were never vaccinated, and she says that they are perfectly healthy. A commenter on Respectful Insolence actually mentioned that those children are the children of a different father than the other ones, which supports the idea that this might be a...might have been a genetic disease. So, yeah, there are a lot of maybes, but, you know, there is one thing we do know for sure, and that's that vaccines are safe and effective and we are all much better off when everyone is getting vaccinated. Children—

E: That's not what I read!

R: (laughs) In Melanie's Marvelous Measles?

E: Yeah.

R: Children like Stephanie Messenger's children are benefiting from herd immunity. They're benefiting from the fact that everyone else is getting vaccinated, which is protecting them. Unfortunately, herd immunity is dropping, which is why we're seeing measles coming back. Measles can actually kill and maim in ways that are not mentioned in Melanie's Marvelous Measles, oddly enough.

B: Join the herd!

R: So, yeah, that's what's happening. This book is being self published, so there's no publisher to complain about or to boycott, unfortunately. It looks like, as of right now, she's able to get away with just publishing this absolute dreck focused on children who will read this and not know any better. They'll read this and think that, "Oh, okay, there's nothing harmful about measles. It's perfectly natural and fun to get measles."

E: Well, what good is an insane belief without some propaganda to back it up?

S: Mmm-hmm.

R: Yeah, and—

E: Right?

R: —and, you know, we all know that the best way to spread a belief like that is to get kids when they're young, when they're not—

E: Yup.

R: —necessarily going to question your authority, so...yeah, it's a savvy decision on the part of Messenger.

J: I feel bad for her. I mean, she lost a child. It's got to be such an incredibly horrific life-altering event, and maybe she feels like she's trying to do some good and everything, and it's so sad and common for us to see people like fall into like the single anecdote: "Well, you know this was my only child that got sick. All the other ones are fine." And a lot of people definitely, you know, buy into that. They don't have any perspective on the fact that that single anecdote or personal experience that they have is just completely worthless, like, it doesn't teach you anything. I mean, that only works with things like, "Oh, I touched the fire, and I got burned," you know? But it doesn't work with things like, you know, getting your children immunized.

S: Anything reasonably complicated, yeah, 'cause it's just all confirmation bias and quirkiness of small experience, so...but it's very compelling to the individual. To her, it's case closed. You know, what she knows is, "One child is vaccinated; he's dead. The rest of my children are perfectly fine, and they were not vaccinated." And no logic or scientific evidence will convince her that that is not a cause and effect. It's just the way we're hardwired. And now she's so emotionally invested...I agree, Jay; I mean, losing a child must be absolutely devastating, and this is how she's dealing with it. The emotional investment is also huge. It's just unfortunate that other people will be damaged because of this, because she's spreading misinformation that—

B: Damaged or killed.

S: Yeah, or killed.

R: Yeah.

J: But that...and that's the other side of the coin. Okay, so, yes, I do feel bad for her and anybody in that situation. It's terrible, but you know what? She should not be writing books like this. She has no idea what she's talking about. She's spreading misinformation. And, sadly, if this book gets more press, she will be responsible for kids dying or getting permanently damaged by these diseases.

R: And it's not just the book. Unfortunately, much like Meryl Dorey, she is trying to spread her message far and wide, which includes giving vaccination seminars around Australia. And, also like Meryl Dorey, she claims that sudden infant death syndrome isn't really a thing; it's just based on...the problem is with vaccines that are causing it.

S: Yeah.

E: Vaccinations.

R: Meryl Dorey also goes so far as to say that shaken baby syndrome isn't a real thing, that that's always just vaccines.

B: Wow.

R: She's even...she even lobbied for an American man who was imprisoned for apparently beating his child to death. She campaigned for him on the idea that his child was actually killed by vaccines.

B: What about kids that are hurt in car accidents?

S: (laughs) Yeah, I was going to say—

B: Let's, you know, let's make that

S: —there's no car accidents either. I mean, it's all vaccines.

R: Right. Vaccines are somehow involved, and the government is hiding it all. You know, there's a giant conspiracy.

Higgs Update (12:08)[edit]

S: All right, sad story, but, Bob, let's transition to a happy story about the Higgs boson.

R: Hooray!

B: Well, I might beg to differ. The big news, I think, this week was the first electronic optical fibers with hydrogenated amorphous silicon were developed. Did you know that?

S: Oh yeah.

B: Actually, no, that's number—

J: Don't you ever talk to me like that again, Bob.

E: What did you just throw up?

B: —that's number two. The number-one story was that scientists discovered why buttercups reflect yellow on chins. Did you know that?

S: (laughs) Yes, I saw that one too.

R: Way to ruin Science or Fiction, Bob.

B: (laughs)

S: (laughs) Yeah, good thing I didn't choose any of those.

J: Bob, that doesn't mean you like butter? What...what's up?

(laughter)

E: Or Parkay?

B: I'm kidding obviously, but—

R: Who doesn't like butter?

E: People allergic to butter.

S: But don't get me started on I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! — that stuff is not butter. That will make...that is—

E: I can't believe it!

S: —nausea inducing.

J: (laughs)

R: So about that Higgs boson...

S: Yeah, the Higgs boson...(laughs)

J: Pretty cool, huh?

(laughter)

B: Yeah, so, unless you've been off planet or in stasis for a couple weeks, you probably have heard about the latest hubbub about the Higgs boson.

E: Again.

B: Two separate teams of scientists at CERN using the Large Hadron Collider have found the most similar and enticing hints yet of the existence of the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle"—

(laughter)

B: I hate that...I hate that name.

(laughter)

B: —the particle that is thought—

E: That is stupid.

S: Can we call it the "Lucifer particle?"

(laughter)

R: I was going to go with the "Thor particle."

E: The "Buddah particle?"

B: There you go. Umm, this is the particle that's thought to imbue all matter with mass. Now, both the ATLAS and CMS experiments and...the teams that ran those experiments recently announced their results from literally — and I mean this — hundreds of trillions of proton collisions that offer not conclusive proof of Higgs, but the best evidence yet for many reasons. The Higgs boson is the last predicted particle of the famous and successful Standard Model of physics, which describes how forces and particles interact. A key component of this theory is actually not the particle per se, which everyone seems to focus on, but the Higgs field. This is what everything really is interacting with in order to get the mass, even the Higgs particle itself. Now, as great as this standard theory is, it doesn't actually predict the mass of the Higgs, so scientists kinda need to look around at all the various energies that it could potentially exist in and exclude those energy domains where they don't find it. So to just...kind of just narrowing it down more and more over time. And it seems like they're really backing it into a corner now, if it even still exists, which of course isn't certain. Now, the ATLAS team has narrowed the range that they...it looks like the Higgs exists between 115 and 131 gigaelectronvolts. The CMS team is saying that it cannot be heavier than 127 GeV (gigaelectronvolts). Now, you see "electronvolts" tossed around a lot in a lot of these articles. It refers to an amount of energy — an electronvolt. One electronvolt is the amount of energy that is given to an electron when it's accelerated through an electric potential difference of one volt. So that's kind of it in a nutshell. These electronvolts work very well in particle physics. They're very flexible. They can be used as a unit of momentum, and also, due to E=mc2 — or energy-mass equivalence — it could also be used for a unit of mass. So, to kind of put these into perspective a little bit, one GeV is a billion electronvolts. One TeV is a trillion electronvolts, and that's about the same kinetic energy of a flying mosquito. So even a trillion electronvolts is still not a lot of energy. The energy of one photon of visible light is anywhere between 1.6 to 3.4 electronvolts. So, very, very little energy there. So, if these latest experiments are correct, then the Higgs would then weigh between about 126 billion electronvolts. That would make it about 126 times heavier than a proton and a quarter-million times heavier than an electron, so it would certainly be a big boy. The next question that I think of is like, well, all right, how confident are these scientists? That's pretty important. And you may have heard a lot about "sigma." They give numbers — a sigma of 1.9 or 2-point-whatever. These sigma numbers try to put into perspective the chance that the results are a total fluke with no significance at all. So, for the ATLAS experiments, the statistical significance of the 126 GeV was a sigma of 2.3. Now, that means that there's about a two-percent chance of their results being just a random fluctuation. The CMS detector had a sigma of 1.9, so that was less than two percent. Now, that sounds good, and it is very good, but the gold standard is 5 sigma, and that would mean that there's less than one in a million chance of random noise causing the results that they're seeing. So clearly there's more work to be done and more data to be gathered before we can all, you know, get drunk and really start celebrating the Higgs boson. And, I don't know...did you guys find a similar puzzling attitude? A lot of people were like, "Oh, nothing to see here!" "Please move on!" You know, "Big deal!" "They didn't discover it yet." And I disagree. I think there's plenty of room for real optimism in this. You know, we've been steadily narrowing the range — the energy regime in which the Higgs can be found. That alone, I think, makes these most recent results much more compelling than if the range was much larger than it was, even a few years ago. So, as you narrow that range down where it would most likely exist, any new evidence that you have I think is just more compelling. Second, the Standard Model doesn't tell us how big the Higgs is — this one was pretty interesting — but it does tell us how it would interact with particles like the W and Z bosons, which are responsible for the weak nuclear force. So if you consider the weight of those particles, which have been determined through experiments, the Higgs should weigh between 115 and 130 gigaelectronvolts, and that fits these latest predictions like a glove. That's exactly what they're saying, and, to me, that's very compelling. And finally, for the first time, we've got these two separate high-resolution experiments that both agree on this new energy range. So you put all that together, and, you know, of course it still can be a fluke, but I think after such a...the long journey these guys have taken, it seems likely to me that these are among the final steps that these scientists are taking to finally determine if the Higgs exists or not, and whether it does or not — and I think we'll probably know with a sigma of 5, hopefully within the year or so — that I think either eventuality I think would be worth raising a glass to all the scientists that have worked so hard on this.

E: I think people are...have been inundated — and especially the last few years — with articles about the Higgs boson coming out every what seems like couple of months, and it's kind of like the boy-who-cried-wolf phenomenon. It's like, all right, well, you know, let us know when the wolf is really here.

B: Yeah, that's part of it.

E: Then we'll pay attention, right?

B: It seems like more of the same, and as interesting and as important as these results are, yeah, after three or four times...god, I think we've talked about the Higgs on at least three or four occasions. And the LHC, forget it, we've talked about that a bunch too. So yeah, there's that part of it. I think that might be a reason why a lot of these people are just like, "Ho-hum." But there are certainly a lot of people that are just so excited.

S: Well, yeah, that's fine. This is happening, you know. We're not just going to wait and say when it's totally over. It's interesting to see the process unfold. Lawrence Krauss, whose interview we aired last week, was quoted as saying this about it:
If the Higgs is discovered, it will represent perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of the human intellect in recent memory, vindicating fifty years of the building of one of the greatest theoretical edifices in all of science and requiring the building of the most complicated machine that has ever been built.

S: So I think that puts it into perspective.

B: Yeah, good quote.

S: This is huge, and I think we should watch it unfold and not just pop the corks at the very end and get people caught up, you know, so—

J: Well, I can see the general public might not be interested in the play-by-play. I find it fascinating because I like to hear the steps that they're taking. It's also good to....you know, it's good to keep that research in the press because, you know, it gives us the idea that they're using that machine. It took so long to do it, it was so expensive, and I need to hear about updates like this. I think it's important.

S: I love the play-by-play because what's most fascinating is the process of science, not just the findings of science. And how they're building the case for the Higgs and, you know, what it means is just as fascinating as the end result.

R: Science education — at least in this country, in the U.S. — isn't about teaching the process. It's not about teaching how difficult science can be and all the, you know, the amount of time and the amount of failures you have to have before you have one success. I think most people think of science as a string of large discoveries, and so they look around and they wonder why they're not seeing scientists making these big discoveries now.

B: Yeah. Eureka!

J: The other cool thing about this type of research is it usually does...and we will see the LHC create new information. Like, you know, things will be discovered and happened upon by accident that will lead to other stuff that they never even thought about.

B: Well, Jay, it's funny you point that out because that's exactly what's happening now. Now that they really think they've got a handle on the range in which the Higgs can appear, that would mean that the Higgs is relatively...it has a very relatively low mass, which would mean — according to the standard theory, I think — that the Higgs would have to be accompanied by another particle.

E: Yeah.

B: Now, this is a particle that's not explicitly predicted by the standard theory, but in order for the Higgs to exist at this low mass, it would need this extra particle with it, Otherwise, the Higgs would never be stable, the universe never would have existed, and things would be very different and boring all around. But...so this might actually lead to new physics—

J: So you're saying the Higgs has a posse.

B: (laughs) Right.

S: An entourage.

B: This could lead to new physics. I mean, how awesome would that be if the last particle, you know, proven that the standard theory predicted, that we finally showed experimentally, leads the way into new physics because of this new particle that wasn't like...you know, wasn't really anticipated but would have to exist if the Higgs has that mass?

S: Mmm-hmm. Well, I think that the Standard Model is one of the greatest triumphs of science. It's up there with the periodic table, I mean, evolution...some basic concept that has huge impact...implications for our understanding of how the world works.

Mercury UFO (22:53)[edit]

S: Some lighter news this week — did you guys hear about the UFO that's trailing behind Mercury?

J: Absolutely.

B: You mean the cloaked UFO?

E: Yeah!

S: The cloaked UFO.

B: O...M...G.

J: That can't be anything else, Steve.

E: Nope.

S: No, what else could it possibly be? So—

R: Just tell me nobody's going to commit mass suicide over it.

S: (laughs) I can't promise you that.

E: (laughs) No promises.

S: NASA has a lot...produces a lot of video and other, you know, allied astronomical organizations, you know, that are producing video and pictures, either from probes or telescopes or whatever. And now with the Internet, a lot of this is available online. So UFO enthusiasts can pore through pictures and video looking for anomalies. And then when they see something apparently anomalous, they declare it a UFO. It's just like ghost hunters looking at photographs and video and listening to audio, and anything that strikes them as anomalous is a ghost. It's the same process of anomaly hunting. So what one UFO enthusiast who uploaded a video to YouTube under the pseudonym of siniXster — (spelling) S-I-N-X-S-T-E-R—

E: siniXster.

S: siniXster.

E: Like "sinister"—

J: Don't ask me.

E: —but with an "X." Makes it sound cool.

S: He uploaded the video of a coronal mass ejection from the sun, and Mercury happened to be in the background. And in the video, as the — which we'll link to, of course — as the coronal mass ejections were washing across the visual...the field of view, this cluster of lights appears to the right of the bright light that is Mercury in the middle of the field. And then it fades away again as the mass ejection passes by it. So what siniXster thought this was was a large cloaked vessel that was revealed by the energy of the sun, you know, washing past it. What he...he gives us a voiceover for the video. It's actually the Sun Centered Imaging Package and Heliosphere Imager that was taking the pictures, and he says:
That is definitely some sort of manufactured object. It's cylindrical on either side and has a shape in the middle. It definitely looks like a ship to me, and very obviously, it's cloaked. There's really absolutely no explanation for that other than it's some sort of ship.

S: There you go.

E: There you have it.

R: I buy it.

E: That's it.

B: That's all the evidence I need.

S: Yeah. (laughs)

E: Case closed!

(laughter)

B: It's a very compelling argument.

S: Now, "Two cylinders with a shape in the middle?" So is that the Enterprise? I mean, what does he think that he is seeing there? Maybe a Romulan Bird-of-Prey or...which would make more sense 'cause they have the cloaking device.

E: Yeah.

S: And he sounds very sincere. I mean, you never know if, with things like this, if it's being satirical or it's a joke, but the guy sounds sincere, for whatever that's worth, but...it is interesting the confidence that people can have. Essentially you're looking at blobs of light on a video that has undergone a tremendous amount of processing. And he's convinced it has to be manufactured, it has to be a ship, and it's obviously cloaked, from just these blobs of light on this video. Interestingly, which is often the case, there's already an explanation available for this. Astronomers involved with this project, specifically Nathan Rich, was quoted as saying:
It's a complicated effect. It's basically the background that is removed from the image to bring out the faint coronal signal. It's a negative imprint on the background.

S: So what he's saying is it's a photographic artifact. They have to remove all of the brighter objects in the background in order to see this very faint coronal mass ejection, and this is an artifact of that process. It's essentially a ghost of Mercury itself.

B: Right.

S: As Mercury's moving through the field, you know, its image was imperfectly removed from the background, leaving this ghost image behind on a couple frames.

B: Steve, I found another quote from Nathan Rich. This guy's the ground systems engineer for the Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation — seems like he knows what he's talking about. He said that — kinda like what you said — in essence, the alien image is a visual aftereffect or ghost artifact of Mercury. But he concludes by saying that that was taken...that was photographed the previous day. So he says it's a byproduct of the way the images are made, but I'm just trying to wrap my head around what he meant by a ghost artifact of Mercury that was photographed the previous day.

S: I guess they're using cumulative images, you know, not just one image—

B: Okay.

S: —in order to remove this background. It's not like they're just taking a snapshot; they're collecting data and processing it over a long period of time. It reminded me of the Elenin UFO or Elenin comet. Remember this, guys?

B: No, what was that?

E: We talked about it at TAM.

S: We talked about it at TAM. Where there was again like these cylinders trailing behind—

B: Oh, yeah.

S: —the...like ships in formation or something trailing behind the comet, but it was just an artifact of the fact that the camera was tracking the comet, which is moving relative to the background stars. And so the background stars were smearing out and trailing behind the comet. Pure photographic artifact. But it's...you know, this is a common scenario where the UFO enthusiasts assume that whatever they're looking at is exactly what it is. They take it completely at face value, and they don't consider photographic artifact in their, you know, thinking about it. They...either they just...it's not on their list of things that they think about or they just dismiss it out of hand...

B: It reminds me of visual perception in general, where, I mean, your eye and your brain — it's not just a camera.

S: Yeah.

B: Your brain is constructing reality, so you can't take what you see as something that's exactly the...that exactly reflects reality. You just can't do it.

S: And it's also interesting to point out the process of anomaly hunting as a method of pseudoscience — you know, just looking for anything weird and then, rather than using that as a starting point for a hypothesis, they use that as support for a conclusion, as if this confirms that it's a ship, you know. Not, "Oh, I don't know what's causing that. Let me figure out if anyone knows what's causing it. And let's see if we can figure out what is the ultimate cause." Rather than, "Ooh, that's weird. It's a ghost!" or "It's a UFO!" They short-circuit the entire process of scientific discovery.

Hallucinating Color (29:39)[edit]

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Who's That Noisy? ()[edit]

Answer to last week: Piranha

Questions and Emails ()[edit]

Menstrual Syncing ()[edit]

I was listening to the latest podcast, reached the "fact or fiction" segment of the program and was disappointed to hear Jay trot out that old newage-lady-togetherness-myth about women's periods syncing up. It's one of those things people like say, "Betty and I are such good friends, we even have periods at the same time!" It's also bullshit. Socially synchronizing periods do not exist, and because of the varying lengths of duration of the period itself along with time between, cycles that start out apparently synced will un-couple over time. There are only so many days in a general 4-6 week cycle, chances are at some point one of my room mates and I will sort-of-sync for a month or three, but not the whole length of the apartment's lease (And while this myth persists, even it has never had the ovarian fortitude to claim syncing room mates have periods the exact same duration). Too, as cycles un-sync, people will start to count the near-misses as evidence. First it will be on the same day, then only 2 days apart, then 4, etc. "Why, we must still be in sync, even though clearly they're slowly getting further and further apart!" No reputable, repeatable study has ever proved syncing-cycles. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-women-who-live-together-menstruate-together http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2429/does-menstrual-synchrony-really-exist Barbara United States

Swindler's List ()[edit]

Online Dating

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item #1: Scientists have successfully developed a vaccine against breast cancer that has been shown to be effective in mice. Item #2: Scientists have developed a plant spray that allows plants to survive freezing conditions unharmed. Item #3: Psychologists discover that adding a small gift to a larger gift decreases the gift evaluation of the recipient.

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Announcements ()[edit]

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 www.theskepticsguide.org. 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 info@theskepticsguide.org. 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.


References[edit]


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