SGU Episode 60

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SGU Episode 60
September 13th 2006
SGU 59 SGU 61
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
--Science, the only true magic.
--It's curious, isn't it, that with low-grade, chronic conditions (back pain, seasonal affective disorder, what have you) people are eager to try alternative hocus-pocus. But bring on something virulent, acute, and truly terrifying, then, brother, bring on Western medicine! Nothing like your eyeballs leaking blood to put things in perspective, hey?
Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory and kWe
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items ()[edit]

5th year anniversary of 9/11 ()[edit]

  • Purdue researchers create computer model of jet crashing into WTC towers

    Recent gullible article regarding the 9/11 Scholars for Truth

Jay reports from Mexico ()[edit]

  • Jay reports from Mexico

No Gulf War Syndrome ()[edit]

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Persistent Vegetative State ()[edit]

Hi All,

Firstly, let me congratulate you on an excellent podcast. I discovered The Skeptic's Guide only about a month ago and have been slowly listening back to all episodes. It's interesting to hear the audio quality improve vs. time, but I still haven't quite worked out at which point Thomas Dolby's people got in touch, forcing you to switch over to your current funky bass riffing theme tune! But I thoroughly enjoy the show, a great blend of
interesting issues, intelligent debate and humour. Thank you!

Anyway, I am writing to draw this article to your attention, printed in today's Guardian newspaper.,,1867596,00.html

It's about a patient diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, who was then able to 'communicate' with her doctors via her brain waves-- when asked to think about 'tennis' the part of her brain responsible for limb movement began to fire, when asked to think of her home, another section responsible for location mapping was triggered.

How do you think this incident will change our understanding of this neurological condition? Do you think that if this technique had been applied in the Schiavo case, the outcome could have been different?

All the best
Niall Shakeshaft
Helsinki, Finland

Hello again,

Sorry for spamming you, but it seems you can't move these days without seeing an article on this condition. Would be fascinated to hear your opinions on the previous article I sent you and also now (again in the Guardian), this one--,,1870279,00.html

I think this is again interesting in relation to last year's Schiavo case, but I am sure that both stories are more nuanced than the mass media is portraying. Would be great to hear a skeptical and expert discussion of this.


Science or just Mathematics? ()[edit]

How assured can we be about mathematics when applying it to the real, physical world? My issue is that most mathematical proposals are unfalsifiable, like the big bang theory, string theory, and all these others that fall outside the realm of science. Also the fact that we use negative numbers, when no such thing as a negative observed in the physical world. Why is it that mathematician's are more concerned with an equation being beautiful and perfect, rather than precise? I don't think you'll be able to some up the entire universe in an equation smaller than an inch (a term used often within math) although unbreakable and rightfully so, could it be that math or its practitioners are flawed in

Your fan Elias LuNa, monkey vs. bird enthusiast, and a Rebecca marriage applicant.
Bronx, New York

Thinking about the dead ()[edit]

Hey guys,

I discovered your podcast a couple weeks ago and I must say that I am hooked. It is good to have a show that expresses my opinions on a great majority of issues. Thanks and keep it up!

My question is about experiences people have had with the recently deceased. Today my psychology professor was talking about the domains of science and as an example of things that were outside the realm of science she gave us an anecdote. She told us about an experience her mother and grandmother had. Her uncle was serving in a combat theater during World War II. One night her grandmother had a dream about my professors uncle(her son)walking up to her and saying good-bye and that he was going to a better place. The next morning my professor's grandmother related the dream to my professor's mother. Three hours later they found out that my professor's uncle had died in combat. My professor went on to say that there are a lot of anecdotes like this, coming from believable people. She also said that there was no way to investigate this phenomena because the results were not repeatable.

My question for you guys is 'do you agree with my professor that this type of phenomena can not be investigated by the tools of science?' Must we just sit back and let one of the most important questions in humanity let go unanswered?

Thank you,

Jeff Matzke
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Moon Hoax? ()[edit]

I seen this and it really made me laugh to think that people can believe the craziest of things, at first I assumed it was a joke but as you read on it seems that this is a serious site the article is at

Gregg Carson
Northern Ireland

Name That Logical Fallacy ()[edit]

  • Logical Fallacies
Statements taken from

'We know that the sprinkler systems were activated because survivors reported water in the stairwells. If the sprinklers were working, how could there be a 'raging inferno' in the WTC towers?'

'How could the WTC towers have collapsed without a controlled demolition since no steel-frame, high-rise buildings have ever before or since been brought down due to fires? Temperatures due to fire don't get hot enough for buildings to collapse.'

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: New study shows that fathers secrete a hormone that delays the sexual maturity of their daughters. Question #2: New archaeological evidence from Gibraltar demonstrates cohabitation between Neandertals and Cro Magnon man. Question #3: New study suggests that bicyclists who wear helmets are at greater accident risk.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

Last week's Puzzle:

He says that the power of the mind is like an iceberg, 90% of it lies beneath the surface.
He says that this 90% of the mind's power is the subconscious.
He says the subconscious listens and absorbs experiences - much like a sponge soaks up water.
He says we need only talk to our subconscious to make ourselves happy, relaxed, strong, or whatever else we desire.
He says the absorptive qualities of subconsciousness will make these things come true.
He says the subconscious speaks back to us and that we need to listen to it.
He calls this instinct and intuition.
He says instinct and intuition are psychic gifts.
And he says by listening to these psychic gifts, we use more power of our minds than Albert Einstein ever used his.

Who is this deep thinker?

Answer: Uri Geller


Listeners were challenged to remote view a playing card on display in Rebecca's Boston apartment.

Answer:9 of hearts

New Puzzle:

You meet a woman and ask her if she has any children. She replies, 'two.' You ask if she has any sons and she says, 'yes.' So now you know she has exactly two children and at least one of them is a boy. What is the probability that her other child is also a boy, and therefore that she has two sons?

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

Science, the only true magic.-Dexter from Dexter's LaboratoryandIt's curious, isn't it, that with low-grade, chronic conditions (back pain, seasonal affective disorder, what have you) people are eager to try alternative hocus-pocus. But bring on something virulent, acute, and truly terrifying, then, brother, bring on Western medicine! Nothing like your eyeballs leaking blood to put things in perspective, hey?- kWe on Skeptic 6Feb01

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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