SGU Episode 443

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SGU Episode 443
January 11th 2014
SGU 442 SGU 444
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
I do not know anything about luck, apart from that the more I practice, the luckier I get.
Ingemar Stenmark (Swedish alpine skier)
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

This Day in Skepticism (1:47)[edit]

  • January 11, 1935: Amelia Earhart becomes the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California.

R: Okay! So, on January 11th, 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California.

S: Cool!

E: Wow!

J: That's still awesome.

E: In less than twelve parsecs!

R: A lot of people had tried it before, and failed. But she did it, and it was a smooth ride.

S: They tried and failed?

R: Everything went fine.

J: Tried and died.

S: Thank you, Jay.

R: What?

J: Anybody listener wants to name the quote from what movie, and you get the Geek Award.

S: You get one official nerd point if you get that quote, yeah.

R: Ugh, great. Now we're gonna get a flood of emails saying stupid things I don't care about.


R: Great.

J: Rebecca, do we know how many people tried before she did?

R: Eight hundred and thirty-seven.

J: Wow!

R: No, I don't

E: You made that up!

R: I don't know. I decided to make that up.

E: Much like Jay's gas that came right out of your butt.

R: Jay's gas does not come from out my butt, just to be clear.

E: Wah!

J: We are close, but not

R: For all our pedantic listeners.

J: we're not quite that close. So a lot of people did try and failed, and then she just came in and kicked ass?

R: Yeah, that's what she did. She was an ass-kicker, until, of course, her famous flight, where she disappeared, attempting a solo trip around the world. Is that what she was doing?

S: Nope, it wasn't solo. She had a

R: No

S: navigator with her.

R: Yeah, right, okay.

B: But before that happened though, she did do a lot of other things. She was the first female to win the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. And this one surprised me - only one year after Lindberg's flight, she was the first woman to make the flight across the Atlantic ocean. Now, she wasn't the pilot, she was checking maps, and keeping recordings, and she kind of disparaged that achievement though, saying that she felt like baggage.

But in 1932, which I think was like, three years later, she did become the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic ocean. So, lots of achievements for her.

J: That's awesome!

R: She was also one of the people who formed the 99's, which was, and still is, I think, an organization for female pilots.

S: Do you guys know that, so on her final trip, which again, she did make with a navigator, Fred Noonan, that she was travelling

B: Noonan!

S: from West to East. So she started in Miami, and she actually made twenty-two thousand miles of her journey,

B: Oh wow!

S: and only had seven thousand miles left, the last leg, essentially, which was across the Pacific ocean. The consensus now is that she and her navigator screwed up, basically. They didn't bring the right radio equipment along.

B: Ooh!

S: And they were aiming for a tiny island called Howland Island, and they probably just missed it, because they weren't navigating properly, because they were using the wrong kind of equipment. And they

R: Well, not necessarily the wrong kind of equipment. What I've read is that it was brand new equipment, that they didn't have much experience with, and so,

S: Yes, they did not have experience with it. So I'm reading off the Navy site, which is saying that - this is the US Navy Operations Archive - that they were using the wrong frequencies.

R: Yeah, yeah.

S: Because of a lack of experience.

R: Yeah

S: Yeah

R: Yeah, they just didn't know how to use it. And it was brand new technology

S: Yeah

R: that nobody had really used before, which makes it probably a poor choice for a trip like that, but

S: And then they just ran out of fuel. You know, you miss your target, it's a big ocean.

B: Ah!

S: Just run out of fuel, and

B: Damn

S: that was it. Yeah

E: Was Howland Island part of the original flight plan?

S: Yeah!

E: Or

S: Yeah

R: Um hmm

E: They didn't have to

S: That was her next stop. She just missed it.

E: Hmm

S: That must be scary! You're running out of fuel, and there's nothing but blue water as far as the eye could see, everywhere, you know?

R: Yeah

B: Talk about panic.

S: Yeah

E: Awful

R: And because they've found the wreckage, there are tons of conspiracy theories

S: Yeah

R: and stuff about what happened to them, and ghostly things. Bermuda Triangle-esque theories,

B: Yeah

R: but so far, none of those have panned out.

B: But Steve, I don't think, that's just the most likely reason right? They don't really have solid evidence that they screwed up.

S: It's inferred from the evidence we do have. The last radio

B: Oh, okay.

S: contact, et cetera. Yeah, we didn't,

B: Okay

S: there's no smoking gun, obviously. They never found the plane.

R: One of my favorite conspiracy theories was that she actually survived, and changed her name, assumed a new identity, and went to live in New Jersey, (chuckles) under the name Irene Bolem. But

B: Oh geez!

R: that was later proved to be completely false.

E: Right, poor New Jersey.

R: Poor Irene Bolem was an actual person, who was flooded with media attention because people were saying that she was actually Amelia Earhart. Why would that happen? I haven't read the book. Maybe the book explains this all. But yeah, Amelia Earhart, just tired of being a famous, awesome hero to the world, decided to fake her own death, and move to New Jersey?


S: Yeah, that's the most implausible part, right?

R: Yeah, yeah. Like, I grew up in New Jersey, okay?

News Items[edit]

Vitamin Supplements (6:50)[edit]

Polar Vortex ()[edit]

Earthquake Lights ()[edit]

I Killed Bigfoot ()[edit]

Cancer Deaths Drop ()[edit]

Who's That Noisy ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week:

Questions and Emails[edit]

Question #1. Distilled Water ()[edit]

I was listening back to episode 336 and one of you guys briefly mentioned not to drink distilled water. Upon doing a quick Google search I found a lot of conflicting opinions on the subject and I figured I'd ask my favorite skeptics to clear it up for me. So is it dangerous or unhealthy to drink distilled water? And if so, why? Thank you very much for your time. I absolutely love and appreciate everything you guys do. Regards,Nick

Mark Crislip ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Item #1: A new study suggests that cleaning bills could save currency producers billions of dollars a year. Item #2: A new study finds a significant correlation between the location of premature rupture of membranes (water breaking early in pregnant women) and the presence of bacteria. Item #3: Scientists examining mutation rates in humans, chimps, and their lice find that their DNA mutation rates are remarkably similar.

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'I do not know anything about luck, apart from that the more I practice, the luckier I get.'- Ingemar Stenmark (Swedish alpine skier)

S: 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, where you will find the show notes as well as links to our blogs, videos, online forum, and other content. You can send us feedback or questions to Also, please consider supporting the SGU by visiting the store page on our website, where you will find merchandise, premium content, and subscription information. Our listeners are what make SGU possible.


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