SGU Episode 587

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SGU Episode 587
October 8th 2016
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 586                      SGU 588

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

There is nothing dull about a life without fairies, Easter bunnies, devils, ghosts, magic crystals, etc., Life is only boring to boring people.

Robert Todd Carroll

Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Discussion


  • Evil clown harassment
  • New sci-fi show

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

Forgotten Superheroes of Science (7:19)[edit]

  • Rosa Smith Eigenmann: Rosa Smith Eigenmann (1858 – 1947) was a pioneer woman ichthyologist, who, along with her husband discovered over 150 species of fish

S: Well, Bob, get us started with Forgotten Superheroes of Science.

B: Surely. This week, I'm gonna talk about Rosa Smith Eigenmann (1858 to 1947). She was a pioneer woman ichthyologist, who, along with her husband, discovered a hundred and fifty species of fish. Eigenmann was a natural born naturalist. She, loving natural history as a little girl, she was the first woman to get a full membership in the San Diego Society of Natural History. And that was just the first of her firsts, I think.

She discovered the blind gobi, othenops eos (very cool name) which is a blind, unpigmented fish. As an adult, her talent caught her future husband's eye, and together they made quite a scientific duo. Eigenmann became the first woman to attend graduate level classes at Harvard (impressive), studying cryptogamic botany. Cryptogams are essentially plants that reproduce through spores.

Ultimately, she published thirty-seven papers, twelve by herself. Quite impressive, especially considering the time frame we're talking about here. She was President of the Women's National Science Club in 1895. And I find it really interesting that while President, she gave a lecture called “Women in Science.”

She talked about problems still relevant today, like how difficult it is to do quality research while also being a wife and a mother, which she was. She also argued that women doing good work in science should be recognized and praised for their quality of science alone, and not as science done by a woman, which was a hell of a statement to make before 1900.

So, remember Rosa Smith Eigenmann; mention her to your friends, perhaps when discussing briophytes, streptophytes, or even plastidless protists.

C: Like you do.

S: Yeah

B: Happens

E: All that fighting!

B: Yeah, I know!

(Cara laughs)

News Items[edit]

Hawaii Telescope Hubbub (9:08)[edit]

Marijuana Changes the Brain (18:05)[edit]

S: All right, Cara, I understand that weed screws up your brain.

C: (Chuckles) Yeah, so this one got my social media feeds really riled up this week. So I thought, “I need to discuss it on SGU.” I posted a news article from Live Science by author Agata Blasic Boxx called “Heavy Marijuana Use May Damage the Brain.” And I put it both on Facebook and Twitter, and people went ape shit.

E: Especially Specolie.

C: Specolie.


E: Sorry, sorry, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

B: You hear that? That's my head!

C: Seriously though, you guys, lots of sacred cows with marijuana, I am learning. To start though, I understand a little bit of the upset. The write-up in Live Science is not an amazing representation of the actual source article. It was, the source article is in press right now, on Pediatric Neurology. It's called Adverse Structural and Functional Effects of Marijuana on the Brain: Evidence Reviewed, by David Mandelbom and Suzanne Delmont, from Rhode Island Hospital, which is affiliated with Brown.

And just to be clear, it is a literature review. It's not a meta-analysis. So what they really did is they looked at all of the available literature on long term effects of heavy marijuana use. They said at the very beginning of the review that there's a lot of really bad studies out there, just poor quality studies with limited power; you know, studies that were done on an n of three, or an n of twelve people. And so they didn't dive deep into those.

They wanted to look at what they consider to be good studies, and kind of summarize what data is available, and we know it's limited, because marijuana's a Schedule One drug. It's not easy to get your hands on, even though in certain states now, it has been decriminalized or even legalized, both for medicinal, or in certain cases, for recreational use. It's still, at the federal level, a Schedule One drug. So a lot of university laboratories, for example, don't want to go near it, or they have a hard time getting high quality marijuana to do their research with.

Now, the reason that most people were pissed, I think, about this is (a) apparently, marijuana cures everything. So when you say that it doesn't, people get mad. But also, (b) the study, that was published in Pediatric Neurology, about half of it details other literature specifically on adverse effects (physiological, psychiatric, and functional imaging studies – so, looking at actual changes within the brain), but then the second half of the publication is about a single case study. The write-up in Live Science sort of glosses over all of that other stuff, and just focuses on the case study.

I was actually kind of proud that so many people were pissed when they read this, because they were like, “This is bad science!” “The plural of anecdote is not data!” “I can't believe that you would publish something where there's not a lot of good evidence to back it up.” And I'm kind of like, I like this scientific approach to reading these articles online. But I did have to kind of go in and be like, “Read the source article. Read the source article. Read the source article.” Which is sometimes hard to do, because they're behind paywalls. But let's go ahead and delve deep into this source article.

It starts with a historical perspective. And I think that the authors do a pretty good job of giving a little bit of background on cannibis. I do like, though, that there is ... there's a quote that I want to pull, just from the very beginning of the study. It talks about basically, how cannibis has been touted as curing everything from Parkinson's to PTSD to obesity to cancer, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! And the authors said quote,

”It is critical that societal passions not obscure objective assessments of any potential and realized short and long term adverse effects of cannibis, particularly with respect to age of onset and chronicity of exposure.”

And then they go on to talk about how they did the review. And I think that's a really important point. Sometimes folk wisdom starts to crowd or shroud our understanding of the actual science. So, where does the science stand? (Winces) It's kind of all over the place. But what we did find, looking through this is that, let's start with one that sticks out the most to me, which would be anti-epileptic effects. I think that's the first one that people start to tout when getting into the therapeudic benefits of marijuana.

A review of the literature on the effects of cannabinoids concluded, quote, “No reliable conclusions can be drawn at present regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids (can-ab-inoids)

S: Canna-binoids

C: Canna-binoids, thank you. You say canna-binoids?

B: Yeah

E: Yep

B: That's what I've heard as well. Always, in the South, people say can-ab-inoids. I think it's like, in-surance.

E: You say banana,

C: a treatment for epilepsy. So, this is an example of most epilepsy studies had low power, between nine and fifteen patients, and they also concluded were of low quality. They also found that marijuana that was high in THC may even represent a seizure precipitant. So it may actually induce seizures. I think most studies are focusing on CBD – maybe we should draw a distinction here between THC and CBD. That's cannabidiol is CBD, and then delta-nine tetra hydra cannabidiol is THC. Generally speaking, THC is more psychoactive. CBD doesn't seem to have the psychoactive properties, but it has been touted as the compound that's mostly used in therapeutic cases, because it doesn't actually get you high. It just, for example, in cancer patients, can induce appetite.

And just to be clear: This review never talks about appetite. It never talks about nausea, it never talks about any of the medicinal benefits in that regard. It only focuses on cognitive changes. So yes, so they did find that there is some evidence to show that kids with refractory epilepsy - so we're talking about children with epilepsy that cannot be treated by any other medication on the market, who just keep getting seizures – did have a reduction in seizure rate when they took certain compounds of CBD. But they also still had aggravated seizures, and there was even some levels of death. And it's really hard to tease out if the CBD actually precipitated any of that, or if the CBD limited that.

So, that's one of those “we sort of need more evidence.” There's a little bit of a hope there, with what has been published, but we need to dig a little bit deeper.

They then venture into psychosis, and other types of neuropsychiatric conditions. And they've found that multiple studies have shown correlation between psychotic episodes, and marijuana usage, especially long-term, chronic, heavy usage, and usage in early adolescence. And so they review a few different studies. Lots of references, like four thousand eight hundred four references, specifically of individuals with schitzophrenia.

They also review a long term New Zealand study, a longitudinal study, where individuals, one thousand three hundred seven individuals were followed from birth to age thirty-eight, and their cannibis use was tested at eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-six, thirty-two, and thirty-eight, and they had a neurophych evaluation at thirteen (so before they started asking about cannibis use) and again at the very last testing.

And they found that persistent cannibis use was associated with all sorts of neuropsych deficits across a lot of different domains. And they even controlled for education there. So, over the course of all these different studies (and I'm leaving a bunch out here), they did find some correlation between neuropsych function and cannabis use. Also, in individuals with multiple schlerosis, that's often touted as one where it's like “pot can cure MS!” But it does seem to be the case that individuals who used marijuana versus those who did not had significant differences in verbal and visual memory, information processing speed, and attention.

Then they move on to talk about the actual, physical changes in the brain. And they mention that based on certain studies, and based on the case study that I'm going to get into, they saw significant grey matter changes throughout the brain. And, significant decrease in white matter density across multiple studies.

So, across the board, they're seeing a significant change amongst people – again – heavy, chronic users of marijuana, and those who do not. And they found, specifically in the grey matter changes, that these changes were correlated with big, different shape differences in the nucleus, incumbens, and right amygdala, and that these sort of piggyback, previous animal studies. So these reward structures seems to be associated.

S: Yeah, it's just a drug. It's a drug that has some properties that are potentially useful, fighting nausea, increasing appetite, and pain. There's no reason to think that it cures anything, you know what I mean?

C: Exactly! Yeah.

S: The data is not there. It is, like the new herbalism – David Gorski has called it that on Science-Based Medicine, where it's like

C: I like that.

S: people are imbuing all of these magical properties because there's something, whatever, unusual about it. But it's just another drug.

C: It really is.

S: If you abuse it, if you take in high doses for a long period of time, there's risks. If you use it (especially the purified form that doesn't have the THC in it) it might have some very interesting and useful clinical applications. Treat it like any other drug. There's nothing magical about it.

C: Yeah, put it in context. I think the reason people get so up in arms is just what you were saying earlier, Evan, about the Barbara Streisand effect. The fact that it's Schedule One, which means that it's illegal to the extent that it's classified as having no medicinal purposes, I think really frustrates a lot of people, when they see evidence to the contrary of that. And because something is taboo, then all of a sudden, there's all this magical thinking around it.

I wonder if society would change its perceptions if it could be used more often in clinical trials, and if we did see more of it – like you said – an approach to it as, it's a drug. It's a drug that has some beneficial uses, and can be very, very harmful.

(Commercial at 28:53)

Brain Training and Power Poses (30:16)[edit]

Listening to Experts (45:39)[edit]

S: Okay, Jay


S: ... Jay?

J: Yes


S: Are you there?

E: You have his undivided attention.

J: Sorry. What's up, Steve? What can I do for you, doctor?

S: I want you to tell me about this survey about listening to expert opinion.

E: Survey says ...

J: A survey was conducted, yes, in January 2016 by Norc – N-O-R-C, independent research organization,

E: Orc? Oh, okay.

J: at the University of Chicago. That's in the United States.

S: (Thick fake Chicago accent) Chicaga

J: Yep. And they released this on Tuesday. So, today is the 6th. So that was the 4th.

E: Very good

J: of October. So they did a study with a thousand seven people, and four out of five Americans said it's easier to find useful information today than it was five years ago. Which, the study had a list of conclusions that it came up with. And I was scrolling through them. Here's a couple of more for you: They said that seventy-eight percent of those people felt that the huge quantity of information can sometimes be overwhelming. Which I find consistent with what I feel as well, that it is kind of overwhelming. And if I hadn't been training myself over the last twenty years, ever since the beginning of the internet, to be very literal about it, I think I would be downright confused about what to trust, and what not to trust.

I mean, at least I have a lot of ways to get to a place where I feel like I can trust the information. And it takes time, and it's painful. The study also found that the same people who thought information was at a higher value coming from experts, scientific evidence, or based on government data, they also supported Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the belief that global warming is a fact. And this effect was still there, even after they applied controls for demographics and political party affiliation, which I thought was interesting.

So, keep this in mind: They did the study in January, and they just published the results this week. And they did that deliberately for two reasons. One, they didn't want the results to be skewed by the raging election. They knew that the election, party lines were gonna be drawn, and that people might – seriously

C: Jay, did you say raging election?


J: I said raging election, exactly!

B: That's awesome.

E: Well played, sir.

J: Trump is the tip of this raging election.

(More laughter)

E: He hangs out in the ball room.

J: So, totally lost my train of thought. But they published this study now, because it happens to be the organization's anniversary. I think it's their seventy-fifth anniversary, the NORC – norc. So, anyway, here's a couple of other interesting things that came up. Ninety percent of all Americans who still read newspapers – what are those, by the way? They said

E: You wrap fish in them.

J: Exactly! They said that they can completely or mostly trust them as a source of information. And my gut reaction to that is, “What!?” Wow! Picking up a newspaper and reading it, to me, my instinct is, it's all garbage journalism.

C: Really?

J: Yes

C: No me.

J: Yep, it's my instinct.

C: I think that print journalism still has kind of a semblance of real integrity to it. I think it's much harder to stay in an echo chamber if you're reading a publication – especially if it's a large publication, like the New York Times. If it's your local publication, there's probably gonna be some skew, depending on where you live. But I still think that it's, the news room is going to push for – the fact that they're still in print means that they're not as beholden to advertising as digital publication.

B: Yeah, plus, do you guys remember John Oliver was talking about this, and he said that a lot of news outlets, they cite print journalism. I mean, it's critical for them!

C: Yeah

J: Well, I find it interesting, though, that while reading this, and researching this article, I realized that that was my opinion. And then, when I tried to substantiate my own opinion, I couldn't. I just ...

C: (Laughs) I love that!

J: Let's trip out on that though, because I think

C: Yeah

J: that we draw a lot of conclusions unconsciously, which I find to be really interesting. But now, hearing what you guys have to say, and having some time to think about it, I have to second guess why my gut clicked into that position. I don't even know how it got itself there.

There was one more piece of information, to keep going, Steve, there was one more that I'd really like to talk about. So, listen to this conclusion: They said Americans are more likely to gather new information for purchasing decisions than for deciding where they stand on national issues. Eighty-five percent do so often or sometimes for products, compared to seventy-two percent for national issues.

But in both domains, Americans rely on their instincts to help navigate the information environment. Americans are most likely to seek out new information when they have a gut feeling to be skeptical. Furthermore, when they encounter conflicting information about products or policies, they tend to seek additional information, and rely on their instincts to determine which information to trust.

I found that point, that the study concluded to be one of the most interesting, partly because it is kind of going on what I was saying before about the gut feeling, and they even say they have a gut feeling to be skeptical.

S: Well, I think this is totally in line – this whole survey is completely in line with our previous discussions about the Dunning-Kruger effect, and follow up articles that Dunning has written, where he basically says that what's happening is that all kinds of information is out there, right? The good information is out there, and biased and misleading information is out there.

And so, people feel that they're well informed on everything, because they can easily find information to back them up.

C: Yeah

S: But they're not necessarily really well informed. They're just feeding whatever their gut instinct is telling them is probably true. And they're finding things to back up what they already believe. So the net effect for a lot of beliefs is just increasing our confidence that we're informed, even when we're not.

But when it comes to things where there isn't a huge bias or ideology, like purchasing something, people are fairly adept at finding information, and being skeptical, and evaluating that information to make their purchasing decisions. But if they're trying to find out, “Is global warming real?” Echo chamber.

J: Yeah

S: You know, they just find the

J: Exactly

S: find the information that supports what they want to believe, and then they feel well informed, even though they're not.

J: So one of the most important things that I learned in this whole process of wanting to be a skeptical activist, and then learning about critical thinking, learning about science communication, and this giant bag of humility that had to come with it in order to do this effectively. That humility, that allows you to just say, “Wow! Why do I think that?” You know, and realizing that you don't have a real reason to have an opinion. And then being able to change your mind. And having your mind open to new information.

And then, the big thing for me was, to refine my skills at weeding through, like, my baloney detector is so active. It's active all the time now.

S: Yeah

J: And it's powerful. And it's constantly getting better, as the years go by.

S: Yeah, you gotta treat everything like you're buying something,

J: Yeah

S: right?

J: Yep

S: That's a good first sort of approach. Think about, you're about to spend a lotta money on some product, and of course people are trying to sell you bullshit. They're trying to convince you that their product is correct, but there's some other company that says that their product is the best. And how would you approach that before you spent a huge amount of money? That's how you should approach whether or not you should accept global warming as real, right?

J: Yep

S: That'd be better than what most people do, which is, “This is what I want to feel. So I'm gonna listen to the people who agree with me,” you know.

J: So, one final point, to continue on with what I was saying. I find, it feels very liberating to know – I'm not passionless, but I don't care about these individual pieces of information so much.

S: Right

J: Like, tomorrow, I could change my mind about anything. Homeopathy, global warming, the election, whatever, with better information, with, of course, getting inside where I will believe it and trust it, that's the hard part. But if I do trust the information, I could change my mind on anything.

S: Yeah

C: Yeah

S: But I would qualify that as saying, if you already have an opinion that is built upon a mountain of evidence, it will take an equal amount of evidence to move you off of that opinion, right? It's not like I'm gonna read one study and go, “Oh! Maybe evolution isn't real!” You know? I've already read so much information, and vetted it so carefully that – and this is what people generally do – this is, by the way, the Baysian approach, right?

E: Yes

S: You take a new piece of information, you incorporate it into your existing pieces of information, and you adjust your belief. But one tiny piece of information doesn't trump a thousand solid pieces of information. That would be ridiculous. And so, yeah, while we say, “Sure, I would change my opinion about anything,” that's with the caveat that some things are really well established, and it will take a lot of compelling information to move us off of where we already are.

B: Which is why we're so confident with it!

S: Yeah, it's confidence based upon a process, and on actual, reliable information.

C: Yeah, and there's certain things we talk about on the show that are like that. You know, we talk about evolution, we talk about homeopathy, things where there's like, a ton of evidence that shows where we fall on one side

S: Yeah

C: or the other. And then there are other things, like we were just talking about marijuana today, where there's still not a lot of good evidence.

S: Yeah

C: And we need to see better research, so that we can make a stronger conclusion.

S: Yeah, that's a good one. That's one where I would change my mind every time I read a study,

C: Yeah

S: I'd probably adjust my opinion about it, because it's kind of floating anyway, 'cause there's not a lot of good evidence.

C: Yeah

Who's That Noisy (55:35)[edit]

  • Answer to last week: Old navigation system

What's the Word (58:29)[edit]

  • Ultracrepidarian

S: Okay, Cara, What's the Word?

C: The word this week is ultracrepidarian. And if you didn't know, 'cause why would you, unless you are really into counting things, tonight is my fiftieth What's the Word!

S: Wow!

C: Five-oh! Is that crazy?

J: Oh!

B: Crap! Are you sure?

C: I know! I am absolutely sure. 'Cause I have a list of all of them. We're on number fifty. So, ultracrepidarian, this was actually recommended by three different listeners: Andrew from Plano, Texas (hi Andrew, that's my home town); Robert from Melbourne, Australia; and most recently, John, also from Melbourne. Do you guys know each other? It's weird.

All right, here's the definition: According to the Oxford dictionary, ultracrepidarian is both a noun and an adjective, referring to the act of, or a person who (so, an ultracrepidarian is a person), or you can have an ultracrepidarian action. But it refers to one who expresses opinions on matters outside the scope of their knowledge, or expertise. So, I mean, this is really good for the skeptic toolbox.

B: That's a great word, yeah.

C: It's a great word, but it's also one where it's hard not to fall victim to it. I mean, by definition, everybody here on the Skeptic's Guide is an ultracrepidarian, because we definitely cover stories that we don't have expertise on. That said, it's more about expressing opinions and kind of making judgments about these things.

So, like, you know, technically, on the low end of the spectrum, we're all ultracrepidarians, but we also see what happens when egregious examples of ultracrepidarianism hits the media. You guys remember when our friend, actually, Neil deGrasse Tyson, got a ton of backlash after tweeting about evolutionary biology and sex.

S: Yeah

C: People were none too pleased for him stepping outside of his field of expertise. So that would have been an ultracrepidarian act.

S: And getting it wrong. It wasn't

C: And getting it wrong, yeah.

S: It's okay to do that if you get it right. But I do think, I think that there is a connotation that, Cara, correct me if I'm wrong, of stepping outside of your area of expertise with unjustified confidence.

C: It's funny, because the Oxford dictionary definition does not imply that, but all of the American dictionary definitions that I looked at do. They kind of imply an unjustified judgment.

S: Yeah

C: So, I do think there is a connotation there, that it's not something you should be doing.

S: Right, otherwise journalists, if we're just doing science communication, of course we're gonna be talking about things that we're not

C: We have to!

S: experts in.

C: Yeah, we absolutely have to. But I guess if we talked about those things, and then we were like, “And my opinion is …” and it was like, unfounded,

S: Yeah

C: and kind of over-reaching, then we might be able to put it in that bucket.

B: You know what I find myself doing a lot, when I kind of relay an interesting factoid, I will often say things like, “You know, I read that five years ago. I haven't read it since. Or I read this on this website.” Whatever. I always try to, the more outlandish the fact or the idea that I'm

S: Yeah

B: relating, I always

C: Yeah

B: try to say, “This is how old this memory is,” or “this is where I remembered it.” So take that into account.

S: My problem is, I am full of outdated information.

B: Yeah, right?

S: 'Cause I went to medical school. I learned all of medicine twenty years ago.

C: Yeah

S: And anything outside of my current practice, area of expertise, I feel like I understand it, but it's outdated, you know?

C: Yeah, and I guess that does a – it's probably less of an application if your understanding is just outdated, and needs some focus, than if you're like, full on, trying to give advice, like dental advice,

S: Yeah

C: you know, or something that's law advice or something.

S: Yeah

C: So I love the etymology of this, because I think it perfectly describes the term itself. It's from the Latin ultra, meaning beyond, and crepidarius, meaning shoe-maker. So its earliest documented use in English was in 1819, by the essayist William Haslet. But it actually goes way, way older than that, and why “beyond shoe-maker” would make any sense, here's the story: There's a writer in Rome named Pliney the Elder, in the year 77 AD.

S: Isn't it Plinny?

C: Oh, is it Plinny?

E: No, I heard Ply-nee, and I

C: Or Ply-nee.

B: I heard Plinny.

E: I heard Ply-nee.

C: I say Ply-nee, Plooney, ploney

S: Plawdo.;;

C: Plinny the Elder, in the year 77, he wrote a tome called Natural History. And in this tome, he details the story of Appellus, a Greek painter, who would display his works on the street, and then hide near by to hear what people said about them.

One time, a cobbler pointed out that the sole of the shoe was not painted correctly. Appellus fixed it, and then put the painting back out. And when the cobbler saw this, he was bolstered with confidence, and started commenting on other parts of the painting. Then, according to Plinny or Ply-nee the Elder, the painter, Appellus, responded “Sootor nay ultracepidam,” which translates to “The cobbler should not judge beyond the sandal.” So the English addage, “Cobbler, stick to you last,” is a similar translation.

S: Yeah

C: “Don't go talking about stuff you don't know!”

E: Right

S: That's interesting.

C: Yeah, I like it. I love when the etymology has like, this beautiful story behind it, when you can – 'cause in those cases, it's much easier, I think, for etymologists to specifically, and linguists, to point to specific moments in history, when language was born, as opposed to this kind of slow, functional change, because multiple different areas had similar root words

S: Right

C: for those things.

S: Right

C: So yeah, it was kind of beautiful.

S: Cool! Ultracrepidarian.

C: I love it.

S: Yeah, it's a good one to throw out there every now and then. Okay …

C: Yeah, but it's a really pedantic word to use, let's be honest.

S: Sure, that's why it's so wonderful!

C: It really is!

S: You can insult somebody to their face, and they won't even realize it.

E: I'll say, “Thank you!”

C: (Laughing) Yeah!

S: It's like, no, I'm a vegetarian.

Your Questions and E-mails[edit]

Question #1: Net Metering (1:04:32)[edit]

I did this a few years ago, and discovered this catch: The panels generate electricity all day long, and you have to buy it. If it generates more than you use, it's put back into the grid, and you get a credit for it. But there is a large difference between the price at which you buy the electricity, and the credit you get from the power company, so you're selling it at a massive loss. If you produce a lot more than you use, you're losing money like crazy. And there are all kinds of provisions in the contract about not blocking the panels, so that they generate less power, etc. Just a head's up. — Eric Lehi, UT

(Commercial at 1:09:52)

Science or Fiction (1:11:21)[edit]

Item #1: A new analysis of centaurs, 44,000 objects orbiting between Jupiter and Neptune, concludes that they are mostly the remains of a single failed or destroyed protoplanet. Item #2: A recent review conducted by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration found that 80% of clinical trial data submitted to them over the course of a year was “fabricated, incomplete, or untraceable.” Item #3: The Hubble Space Telescope has detected “cannonballs” of plasma twice the mass of Mars being ejected from a red giant star.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:29:27)[edit]

'There is nothing dull about a life without fairies, Easter bunnies, devils, ghosts, magic crystals, etc., Life is only boring to boring people.' — Robert Todd Carroll

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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