SGU Episode 52

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SGU Episode 52
July 19th 2006
SGU 51 SGU 53
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

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Show Notes


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

News Items ()[edit]

Rebecca Returns ()[edit]

Precious Bodily Fluids ()[edit]


    CDC fact sheet on Fluoridation

World Jump Day ()[edit]


Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Follow up on Neal Adams ()[edit]

Here are some representative e-mails and post about the interview with Neal:

Dear Dr. Novella,

I was absolutely floored by the interview of Neal Adams. While I would
not suggest having such a guest on every episode, I do think it was a nice change of pace. I look forward to other such shows. I would almost suggest that a two part approach might be effective. Episode one would be the interview, and episode two would be an analysis of the guests arguments and thoughts.

Keep up the excellent work.

Howard Lewis
Hershey, PA

Normally, I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts and they are usually excellent. The last one though, was a real disappointment. Neal Adams was such a crackpot that he wasn't even interesting. His source of science information must have been people like Velikovsky and Von Daniken. I didn't hear him say a single thing related to science that was correct. I don't mind hearing alternate views or theories but Adams was just silly.

On the other hand, I really liked the podcast with Steve Mirsky and the
one last week with Gerald Posner was great.

Jim Matthews

Women in Science ()[edit]

How does the Bad Astronomer, et. al. intend to colonise space with manned space flight? Does this presume that all the women will be frozen embryos when the colony is founded, awaiting there first breath of life once all the heavy lifting is done? And if the spacemen have to raise the girls to maturity, wouldn't that be kind of incestous - pedophilic when they start trying to increase the colony's population? Yech. And too, if they're willing to go without female companionship for that long, isn't it safe to assume that all the travellers would be gay?

Maybe I'm stupid, after all my brain has probably been fried by all my years of studying first biochemistry and now engineering. It's got to be hard on my female brain, especially since apparently I don't like engineering... (beware the sweeping generalization, my friend. that, more than anything, will feed the arguments of the Believers).

My point here is HOW could you POSSIBLY have SERIOUSLY gone from pondering the lack of women in science faculties (by the way, they're there, they're just not in positions of power) to using the phrase MANNED SPACE FLIGHT? Yes, yes, fine, so everyone knows you can assume that Man, with a capital, refers to the human race, but really, when you close your eyes and say it, does it really conjure images of men _and_ women? How hard do you have to work to shove even the token woman into that picture? be honest. Do you truly think any young women listening to your podcast are going to automatically see _themselves_ as part of a 'manned space flight'? (note that I don't use the capital here, because it isn't actually audible).

And please don't belittle this issue, words have a lot of power, and each one comes with a dictionary definition, and the colloquial connotations that it gathers during use. Using inclusive language makes an enormous difference.

By the way, check your history or cross-cultural studies; there's no way that in 20,30 or 40 years we'll be worrying about getting more men into academia, because once a profession becomes dominated by women, the repect it get from society, along with its pay, perks, and power, plummet. How many 'male nurses' do you know?

Arleigh Jamieson
Vancouver, B.C.

Interview with Bill Bennetta ()[edit]


    Bill and his team at the textbook league are a watch group organization on the textbook industry. They rate and recommend textbooks. Bill joins us to discuss the sorry state of science textbooks.

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: Researchers have discovered a bacteria that can extract gold from dirt. Question #2: Material scientists have developed a nanofilm that can form tubes 100,000 times stronger than carbon nanotubes. Question #3: Researchers have developed a technique to use microbes to make electricity directly from corn husks.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

Last Week's puzzle:

When is a boomerang a type of dinnerware?

Answer: If the dinnerware is a saucer - when Kenneth Arnold reported the first modern UFO's sighting he described them as boomerang shaped but described their movement as skipping like a saucer. The term flying saucer was coined, and from that point forward the saucer shape has become the standard icon for alien spacecraft.

New Puzzle:

If you are floating in a boat on a pond, and you are holding a 20lb cannon ball - if you drop the cannon ball overboard into the pond will the level of the pond rise, fall, or stay the same?

(Contributed by listener John Maddox)

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society. For information on this and other podcasts, please visit our website at Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the 'contact us' page on our website, or you can send us an email to 'info @'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


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