SGU Episode 486

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SGU Episode 486
1st Nov 2014
SGU 485 SGU 487
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
RS: Richard Saunders
Quote of the Week
Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all.
Martin Gardner
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Show Notes
Forum Topic


  • Bob is away. Richard Saunders joins as a guest rogue this week. They talk about the upcoming “Down Under” trip.

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

This Day in Skepticism (5:30)[edit]

R: So, it's November 1st, and that means it is the anniversary of the opening of the world's first medical school for women! November 1st, 1848, the Boston Female Medical College opened, and twelve women enrolled in the first class. And they graduated two years later. Eventually, the college expanded, was renamed the New England Female Medical College, and further on still, it was eventually accepted into Boston University, which is my Alma Mater.

Boston University is not the medical college, obviously. But it was pretty cool, 'cause at the time, there was literally nowhere else for women to go if they wanted to study being a doctor.

S: But Rebecca, women just didn't have the constitution to be physicians.

R: Ri-i-ght. 'Cause you know, they've certainly

(Giggling in background)

R: never like, seen babies being born, and things.


R: In fact, that's why the college was started, apparently, because one of the founders thought that it was not right for men to deliver children. So, he wanted to train women to do it.

E: Too lowly a task, or something like that?

R: No, no, I think it was more in terms of

S: Indelicate?

R: Yes, that's a good word for it. Indelicate.

E: Okay

R: Because women's private parts are not to be seen by strange men, even if the strange man is say, saving the woman's life, or bringing a child

S: Yeah

R: into the world, so ...

S: My wife's private parts during the birth of our second child was seen by the entire Hamden Fire Department.


R: Wow!

RS: Uh huh!

E: Uh huh... well!

R: Why?

J: Steve, why?

S: Because she delivered at home, not on purpose.

R: Did she sell tickets?

S: She might as well have. I mean, we unexpectedly delivered our second child at home, and so the Hamden Fire Department nicely showed up to help us out. And there she was, on the ground, her legs totally splayed apart with an umbilical cord coming out of her.

R: Geez

RS: Oh, the mental imagery is just fantastic.

E: Her finest moment!

R: Yeah, I'm sure she's really gonna appreciate this story, Steve.


E: Oh, only the pictures that he

S: I've got pictures. I have pictures.

E: Oh, great!

R: Great.

E: Glossies?

J: But Steve,

E: Online?

J: you delivered the baby.

S: Yeah, basically, yeah. So the hospital, the New England Female Medical College was, in fact, a school for midwives, before becoming a full medical school. So it did come, as Rebecca said, come out of teaching women how to deliver babies. Did you also read, Rebecca, that it absorbed the local homeopathic hospital?

R: Yes

S: And a lot of the first students were homeopaths.

R: Um hmm

S: And they practiced homeopathy. It was part of the curriculum. It was, the middle of the 1800's. I mean, there's not

R: Yeah

S: a lot of effective medical knowledge at that time.

R: Right, this was at the height of homeopathic usage, in a way,

S: Yeah

R: and during those early years, where it could have still been beneficial, because you were essentially doing nothing, rather than causing harm accidentally.

S: So, do you want to hear how far women have come in medical school?

R: Sure

J: Sure

S: So, there were seventeen thousand, three hundred sixty-four medical students graduate in 2011. Their numbers were slightly higher in the few years since then. What percentage do you think were male versus female?

E: For 2011?

S: Yep.

J: Um, thirty-seven

E: Fifty-two percent female. Fifty-two percent female.

R: I would think slightly under fifty. I was kind of

S: Yeah

R: think like, forty-five, or

S: Yeah, it's like, forty-five, right.

J: Yeah

S: It's eight thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight men, eight thousand three hundred and ninety-six women. So almost as parity. Not quite. Women are just a little bit less than men. The numbers for 2013 are very similar. I haven't seen 2014 numbers. But that's steadily increasing also. I mean, if you project out, the women will overtake men in a few years, if you project out the numbers.

R: I think that within different disciplines, there's still a good deal of not much balance. Why can't I think of words today?


R: Geez!

S: Not have way, I guess. Yeah, yeah, by sub-specialty, there are definitely male-dominated and female-dominated specialties.

R: Yeah

S: There isn't equal numbers choosing to go into every type of specialty. Women go into pediatrics more. Men go into neurosurgery. That's, you know, that's changing as well.

R: Yeah

S: Yeah

News Items[edit]

Using Stem Cells to Cure Cancer (10:22)[edit]

Skydiving Record (20:46)[edit]

The Pope and Evolution (32:39)[edit]

Dowsing In Australia (39:23)[edit]

(Commercial at 46:30)

Who's That Noisy? (48:17)[edit]

Answer to last week: Gordon Cooper

Name that Logical Fallacy (50:25)[edit]

Hello! I run a Youtube channel that is completely unrelated to anything skeptical, and is mainly just about living in Japan as an international couple with a baby. However, recently in a video blog I was commenting on a silly television show here in Japan that had a segment that day with a supposed UFO expert. It was the usual stuff you see in the media, nothing special. However, I got a random comment in the youtube video that was full of the usual UFO believer arguments that I felt was full of logical fallacies, so I thought I'd ask: How many logical fallacies are in this comment? The comment: Yes. A percentage of UFO videos and pictures are faked or photoshopped. But dude really? There are thousands of videos and photos, and more and more of them in daylight and close up. Just the law of averages with thousands of them means that there are real craft. They do perform things that cannot be done with any current public technology. AND cannot be done with any materials we have with our present understanding of physics. A human body would not survive the maneuvers performed. Just go to The Disclosure Project web site and read the affidavits from hundreds of upper US and global military and scientists working on government black ops projects. You need to catch up. /end comment You can see my response here: I felt like this was my first chance to try to be a good skeptic directly, even though I've been following your show for years now, and it really feels hard to deal with people I know personally believing the usual pseudoscience fluff without insulting them. Thanks! Chase in Japan

Science or Fiction (58:04)[edit]

Item #1: In the El Sidron cave in Spain, archaeologists found the remains of 12 Neanderthals, three children, three teenagers, and six adults. All 12 were killed, butchered, and eaten raw by other humans. Item #2: Italian Egyptologist Girolamo Segato discovered a method for preserving flesh by turning it into stone. His process of petrification from almost 200 years ago remains a mystery and has never been duplicated. Item #3: Archaeologists examining the prehistoric remains of dozens of butchered adults in the Sacred Ridge region of Colorado have concluded that the butchers were all children, indicating that they wiped out the adults of their village in a single orgy of blood, perhaps as revenge for the practice of child sacrifice. Item #4: Scientists examining the fully articulated and deliberately buried remains of a 3,000 year old Scottish man and woman discovered that they were actually reassembled from the remains of 6 unrelated people.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:18:12)[edit]

Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all.

Martin Gardner, mathematician and writer (1914-2010)

Announcements (1:19:25)[edit]

  • James Randi will be touring Australia

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.

Today I Learned[edit]

  • Felix Baumgartner's skydiving record (the one that was sponsored by Red Bull) has been broken already


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