SGU Episode 494

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SGU Episode 494
27th Dec 2014
SGU 493 SGU 495
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
Stanley Kubrick
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Show Notes
Forum Topic


  • Recovering from jet lag

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

Rebecca Leaving the SGU (1:39)[edit]

S: So, before we go into our best of and worst of 2014, we have some updates on the SGU, and the big one is this is going to be the last episode that Rebecca is recording with us.

R: Yup

B: (Disappointed) O-h-h-h-h!

S: After nine years.

E: (Pained) Oh!

R: Nine years, almost a decade.

J: I know.

S: Almost, you almost made it.

J: Oh god.

R: This is longer than any relationship I have ever had.

(Bob laughs)

J: And it was a relationship with four ...

R: Four guys.

J: four guys.

E: Sometimes five guys.

R: Yeah

E: Sometimes five.

R: Yeah, it's true what they say about me.


R: Yeah

E: That you're cool, and fun to be with.

R: Yes, thank you. Uh, yeah, and so are you guys. (Sounding awkward) I'm gonna miss you guys, you know, but it's been almost a decade, and I think it's about time for me to move on, and, you know, I'll still be around, I'm sure. I can pop back on as a guest every now and again if you'll have me.

S: You'll always be welcome.

B: Yep, absolutely.

R: Thank you.

E: Oh yeah.

R: Yeah, and for those listeners out there that want to keep tabs on me, you still can. You can visit my Patreon, that's what I'm going to be devoting most of my time to, at Patreon - - R-E-B-E-C-C-A. Or you can find me on Twitter @RebeccaWatson, or of course on SkepChick, So, I'll be around.

E: You still have a YouTube channel as well.

R: I do. I don't actually know the URL. (Laughs) I think ...

E: Oh gosh!

R: I think it's RKWatson, but yeah. All that goes through my Patreon, so that's the easiest way to find me.

J: I think it's incredible that we did what we did for the last nine years together. Like, no bumps in the road; we haven't missed a show. We get along really well for people that work on something this important to all of us, and skepticism, and critical thinking, and science, and feminism, and all the other things that are incredibly important to us. And we work on these things together.

I've had such a positive experience, when you take the aggregate of everything. I'm proud of us. I'm proud of the fact that we've been able to do it together for so long. I mean, obviously, you know, you joked before, Rebecca, about relationships. Like I, yeah, me too. I've never had anything last this long.

R: Yeah, yeah.

J: It's a real accomplishment, and I'm so happy that I got to do it with all of you, and you, Rebecca, have been a huge part of it for me, and my go to person for humor, and a lot of other things on the show that, I don't know. I just won't be able to replace. Like, you were very special to me, and I love you on the show.

R: Aw, well, thank you, Jay. And you know, I love you guys too. And, obviously, this has been, it's been a great trip. And I'm really happy that, you know, you invited me along, nine years ago.

B: It was all my idea! I take full credit.

(Evan laughs)

R: All right, all right.

B: I'm so happy I made that move.

J: So, mentioning nine years ago, let's go back a little bit more than nine years ago. Let's go back to the first mention of Rebecca Watson on the show. March 9th, 2006.

(Plays clip)

S: Coming on our show in just a little bit is Rebecca Watson. Rebecca is the founder of the Skepchicks organization. We'll be talking to her in just a moment. But first, we'll start, as usual, with some news items, things that have caught our attention over the last week.

(Clip fades out)

J: So that was the interview.

R: Yeah

S: Yeah

(Evan chuckles)

R: The first date.

E: Okay, all right, right, okay.

J: Yep, that was the first date.

S: Yeah

J: But then, on 3/15, 2006, Rebecca actually was invited to the show. And listen to this.

(Opening theme song plays)

S: Hello, and welcome to the Skeptic's

B: Ha!

S: Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, March 29th, 2006. This is your host, Steven Novella, President of the New England Skeptical Society. With me tonight are Bob Novella,

B: Hello, everyone!

S: Perry De'Angelis,

P: Out like a lamb.

S: Jay Novella,

J: Hi all!

S: And, we have a new addition to our panel of skeptics, Rebecca Watson. Rebecca, welcome to the Skeptic's Guide.

P: Y-a-a-a-y!

R: (Noticeably more chipper) Thanks! Hi everybody!

B: Welcome!

R: Yay!

P: Y-a-a-a-y! (Applauds)

S: Rebecca was on our episode a few episodes ago, was on our show, and we thought that she was bright, and witty, and that lent a good addition to the team. So we asked her to join us, and she agreed to.

R: I did.

P: Yes

S: So, Rebecca is the SkepChick. She runs, a publisher of the SkepChick calendar.

B: She writes a great blog. I recommend it to

S: A great blog.

B: everybody.

R: Thank you very much.

S: So we're happy to have you aboard.

R: Thank you. I'm very happy to be here.

(Silence as clip ends)

B: Wow! That was awesome! (Laughs)

R: You all sound so young.

E: We all sounded so young!

S: I know!

B: I know, right?

J: We did not know each other at all.

R: Yeah

J: Like, that was

E: Hell, no.

J: The voices sound like they know each other, but they don't! We didn't know each other. And I also noticed, I listened to a lot of the episodes. Like, I was going back, you know, listening to all of these episodes. The ones that Rebecca's name are in the notes, and trying to get a feel for what it was like. And man, like, our chemistry back then was nothing compared, in my opinion, to what it is today. Just the fact that we know each other so well.

But the idea that Rebecca stepped in to that group of guys, and was able to slug it out with us from the beginning to me, is very impressive.

B: Yeah, Jay. My favorite part, and we've told this a few times at least. After that very initial interview, we all, literally all of us had the same thought: "Holy crap! We just have such chemistry. We've gotta ask her to be on the show." I don't even know who mentioned it first, but we all had the same, exact thought. Like, she's gotta be on the show. It's just, like, this is too much chemistry there. So that was such a fun thing to happen.

R: Yeah, and, you know, it wasn't like I was going into a lion's den or anything. You know, it was really awesome to do a show with you guys. Everybody was so friendly, and easy to talk to. It was very easy. So ...

J: But keep in mind too, now, we didn't, you guys met Rebecca. I didn't meet Rebecca. Perry didn't meet Rebecca at all.

B: That's right!

J: Actually ever, in person.

R: Yeah

J: So I met Rebecca at TAM 5.

R: Um hmm.

J: And here is a clip of Rebecca mentioning the first time that we ever met.

R: Oh.

R: I had actually never met Jay before.

S: Yeah, can you imagine?

R: That was my first meeting of Jay, face to face. And it was, wait, wait. Let me think of a good adjective...

J: Religious?

R: to ... (chuckles)

E: Uh ...

J: Mind blowing.

S: Transcendent?

R: Adequate.


E: That's great.

J: Yeah, I just totally feel like I'm out standing nude in front of an audience.

(Clip ends)

R: Ah, that was harsh. That was harsh, Old Rebecca!

E: Wow. Nah, the truth is harsh.

J: I remember though, we had our first SGU dinner at that TAM, and Rebecca and I shared a warp core.

S: Um hmm

R: That's right, yeah.

B: Yes! I remember that!

J: And then, I'm gonna admit this now, I stole the glass that it came in, and I gave it to Rebecca!

R: That's right.

J: I was so drunk! It was literally, like, a gallon and a half of booze!

R: Yeah, it was a lot of booze.

J: Yeah

R: I have a picture, somewhere, of us drinking it.

E: Yeah

B: Yes

E: And Jay, you were caressing the orb

R: Yeah

E: somehow, or hugging

J: Yes

E: At one point, I think you'd had a little too much.

B: And I love that bar.

J: And I do have a wonderful picture of the first time me and Rebecca ever, you know, embraced, and then, that night, at Quark's, she and I were drunk together. It was just a, oh god, TAM 5 to me was just one of the highlights of my life, to be honest with you. That convention was amazing. And

R: Yeah

J: Rebecca was a huge part of that. Rebecca, I was so excited and nervous to meet you. I was like, "Oh my god! I can't believe I'm going to meet Rebecca in person!" I was like talking in the hallway there.


R: Yeah, I was really excited too. And that was, like, our first - did we do a live show, actually, that year? Or did we just hang out? Was that our

E: No, we didn't. We just hung out that first year.

S: We did interviews. We did a bunch of interviews.

R: Oh, yeah, yeah.

B: Ohh!

E: Yeah, that's right. You sat down with us. You know, we interviewed Christopher Hitchens, amongst others,

R: That's right.

E: you know, one of our more

B: Oh my god!

E: popular interviews.

R: That was a lot of fun, like getting to

B: That was

R: sit down and do parts of the show, at least, together.

S: Yeah

R: That was really awesome.

J: All right, so, one of my favorite moments though, I'm sitting there, and I'm like, "How do I encapsulate Rebecca on this show, in a short enough time to let the audience understand how I feel? And I think I found one of my favorite sound bits where Rebecca just comes out swinging with her humor, and it also has something to do with Perry. So let me just play this for you.


P: Ann and Lorraine Warren, I'll never forget when she looked at us with all the feeling in the world, and she said, "What happened to you boys? Was it the science thing?"


E: Oh, was it the science?

B: Oh yeah!

S: Yeah, yeah. Oh yes!

R: Perry, show me on the daw where science touched you.


(Clip ends)

(Bob laughs)

R: I feel like all of my best lines were with Perry.

J: Yeah, definitely. He was

R: My

J: the perfect foil for you.

R: Yeah

E: Well, he was that, you know, that was certainly part of the magic of Perry. It's one of his many great aspects. You could bounce any idea or thought off of him, and, you know, he just elevates the whole conversation. But hearing those clips between you and Perry certainly are some of the most precious memories that I have of the show.

S: Um hmm

R: Yeah

B: Yeah

E: Without question. And it was really a wonderful time. And it evolved. It really did evolve, even after Perry was gone. Like Jay was saying, we all sound, it took a little while to sort of really get the soup to cook, and the ingredients to blend. But once it all did, I think, it really came together quite nicely, and it's just been a tremendous trip, Rebecca. There's really not another way to put it.

R: Yeah, I completely agree.

S: Well, you think about it, think how much the skeptical movement has changed over the last nine years. I've always felt like the five of us were just a rock that has been unmoved

B: Yeah

S: by all of it, when you think about it.

R: Yeah

S: I do get feedback about that too. People say, "The SGU is just steady." It's just there. And that partly was conscious, you know, that we wanted to be that sort of rock, and not get blown about by what was happening in the movement.

R: Yeah, definitely.

J: Well, there was a lot of stuff going on in Rebecca's life, though, outside. Quite a bit of

S: Um hmm

J: drama,

B: Yeah

J: and harassment, and all that nonsense.

B: Well, initially, Jay, I don't know if you remember, initially for the longest time, we would joke about how many marriage proposals Rebecca got through email. I mean, it was just like

R: Yeah

B: one proposal after the next. And

R: It was the flip side of the coin, really.

J: Yeah

B: Right, yup. It really was.

E: Rebecca, remember on iTunes, when people would leave reviews, every other one would say, "Wow, we really love that Rachael has come on ..."

S: (Chuckling) Rachael, yeah.

R: Rachael

B: Oh my god!

E: Not once or twice,

R: Constantly

E: Nineteen times

R: Constantly

B: I forgot about that!

E: I would always clip them and send them to you, Rebecca, and say, "Hey Rachael, here's another compliment."

R: And there was this one time I went on the SGU Forums, and I was reading something about the most recent episode, and somebody was like, "Yeah, and Rachael said blah blah blah." And then someone else responded, "Well I think Rachael was in the right there, and blah blah blah." And I was like, "Holy crap! What is wrong with you people! You're like

(Bob laughs)

R: in my forum, talking about me. You can't get my goddamn name right!" And then I realized it was April Fool's day. And the


R: forum manager had changed every instance of the word "Rebecca" to auto-correct to Rachael.

B: Oh my god! That's awesome!

R: And I fell for it, hook, line, I was like, seriously, it was the final straw. Like, "How dare you!"


E: Good stuff.

B: Oh my god! That's awesome!

S: Well, but the SGU will go on. And this episode's gonna go on.

J: Yep

(Bob laughs)

SGU in 2014 (13:43)[edit]

  • The Rogues review the best and worst of the SGU in 2014

Favorite Interviews (14:10)[edit]

  • James Marshans, Paul Offit, Bill Ney, Dr. Carl, James Randi & Massimo Polidoro, Jennifer Oulette

Jackass of the Year (18:32)[edit]

  • Food Babe
  • Runners up to Dr. Tobinik, Mike Adams, Alicia Silverstone, PETA, homeopaths

Skeptic of the Year (22:50)[edit]

  • Mark Tillbrook (UK skeptics), all skeptical activists, Senator Claire McCaskill, BBC, Pando Daily, Bill Nye

Favorite Episodes and Moments (28:01)[edit]

  • Episode 444 Riff on tall whites, 447: Put yourself in Satan's hoofs. Turtle coitis Who's That Noisy. The Sydney and New Zealand episodes, Clown sex riff, riff on Jay's flatulence in 443, DNA on inside of a rocket
  • Evan's favorite was Episode 467

(Commercial at 32:36)

Bob Mashup (33:56)[edit]

  • By Jason Farber

Summary of 2014 (36:06)[edit]

  • By Fred Bremmer

News Items[edit]

Science in 2014 (45:58)[edit]

  • 87 space missions (including many from other nations), shirtgate, women speaking up about their position in science, stem cells treating spinal paralysis, gravitational waves, strong nanostructures, visual microphone, powered exoskeletons, sailing stones of Death Valley, exoplanet discoveries, Mayvin Mission to Mars, Neanderthal DNA in humans, homo erectus art, bicep II, Mississippi baby, stem cell boom and bust, synthetic yeast chromosome, smallpox found in a fridge, ebola,

Worst Science Fail (59:50)[edit]

  • AWARE near-death study, Baba Baharaj's death not accepted,

(Commercial at 1:02:22)

Who's That Noisy (1:03:45)[edit]

  • The winner of 2014: Abigail Drum

In Memoriam (1:04:54)[edit]

  • The rogues remember scientists and skeptics lost in 2014
  • Victor Stankir, Willie Bergdorfer, Donald Stucchie, Merton Sandler, Arthur Holdman, Peter Marler, Donald Ross, Stephanie Kwolek, Gerald Edleman, Alexander Shulgan, Ralph Bhere, George Hylmayer, Richard Batton, Herb Lotman, Roger Easton, Andrew Kay, Glen A. Larson, Tom Magliosi, Richard Keele, Don Pardo, James Brady, Cassie Casim, H.R. Geiger, Fred Phelps, Hal Douglas, Russel Johnson, Ambie Davis.

Science or Fiction (1:11:32)[edit]

Item #1: Scientists report the results of the first mapping of a genome of a Clovis skeleton, finding that they possess Asian ancestry but from a side branch unrelated to present-day Native American populations. Item #2: Astronomers report the first discovery of a possible exomoon. Item #3: New research finds that online gaming largely expands and supplements players social lives, and does not replace or diminish it.

Announcements (1:23:04)[edit]

  • 2015 conferences and events: NECSS, episode 500, 10 year special

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:25:34)[edit]

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Stanley Kubrick

See You Later, Rebecca (1:26:17)[edit]

S: So, Rebecca, this is it.

R: Yeah, thanks again, for ...

B: Wah!

R: nine fun years. This is a good date.

B: They were great, yeah.


J: Rebecca, thank you so much for saying "yes" nine years ago, and doing all this with us. It's been absolutely our pleasure to be your friend, and be your fellow podcaster. You will always be the Rebecca in my life.

(Rebecca chuckles)

S: The Rebecca?

R: Or the Rachael.

S: Or the Rachael

B: Yeah, the Rachael.

R: Except for in Evan's life. He's got one already.

E: Now, I have two now.

R: (Laughs) Thank you, guys. It's been a fun time. And thank you to all the audience. And, you know, I'll be around. I'm around. So, it's not a goodbye, it's a see you later.

S: See you later. That sounds good.

R: Yeah

S: We will see you later, Rebecca. Rebecca, you will always be part of the SGU. Not just the SGU brand, but the SGU spirit. You have made your imprint on this show. You have affected all of us, I think, in a very good way, made us better at doing what we're doing. And we will never forget that.

R: Thanks. Ditto.

B: We love you, Rebecca!

R: I love you too.

S: So, guys, this is our last show of the year.

B: Especially me, right?

J: Yep

R: No comment.


E: Thank you.

S: This is the last show of the year. So, until next week, and until next year, this is your Skeptic's Guide to the Universe.

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]

  • The rogues say goodbye to Rebecca in this episode. It is a very sad segment.


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