SGU Episode 67

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SGU Episode 67
November 1st 2006
SGU 66 SGU 68
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
P: Perry DeAngelis
RW: Richard Wiseman
Quote of the Week
The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable.
Paul Broca
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items[edit]

Dr. Novella on the History Channel (2:01)[edit]

  • Dr. Novella was interviewed for a History Channel special on Exorcism.

Glossolalia (10:54)[edit]

  • SPECT Scan study of glossolalia reveals brain activity while subjects speaking in tongues. user=10&_coverDate=10%2F12%2F2006&_alid=478403489&_rdoc=1&_fmt=summary&_orig=browse&_ sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_ userid=10&md5=079916493e1546cc32f988c5b44092bc

Elephant in the Mirror (16:33)[edit]

    Elephants join elite club of animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror

Holiday Weight (19:16)[edit]

  • How much weight to people put on over the holidays?

Questions and E-mails`[edit]

Skepticism Myths (21:39)[edit]

An article criticizing Skeptics and pointing out various 'myths' that they proffer. How do you guys react to this?

It seems to be a fair bit of straw manning.

From the SGU forums

Michael J. Fox Smear (29:12)[edit]

The smear against Michael J. Fox comes from Rush Limbaugh, who made baseless accusations against the actor. It's very disappointing to hear this smear repeated on your show. This is why ultra-right wing media types do this stuff: they get this garbage repeated everywhere in the media. You just did their work for them.

Rob Zuber
Pittsburgh, PA

Face on Earth (33:17)[edit]

I read about this today. A natural rock formation that puts the face on Mars to shame. ?f=q&hl=en&q=medicine%2Bhat,%2Balberta&ie=UTF8&z=16&ll=50.010083,-110.113006&spn=0.009432,0.026951&t=k&om=1%20

Gary McKeown

Interview with Richard Wiseman (35:38)[edit]


    Professor Richard Wiseman started his working life as an award-winning professional magician, and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle. He then obtained a first class honours degree in Psychology from University College London and a doctorate in psychology from the University of Edinburgh.
    For the past twelve years he has been the head of a research unit at the University of Hertfordshire, and in 2002 was awarded Britain's first Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology.
    Prof Wiseman has established an international reputation for his research into unusual areas of psychology, including deception, luck and the paranormal. He has published over 40 papers in refereed academic journals.
    He is the author of numerous books, including The Luck Factor, Parapschology, and Deception and Self Deception.

Randi Speaks (1:03:39)[edit]

  • The Uncompromising Observations of a Veteran Skeptic

    Each week James Randi gives a skeptical commentary in his own unique style.

    This week's topic: Alice Cooper and Metal Detectors

S: And now, Randi speaks.

JR: Hello, this is James Randi. Back in 1974, I joined the Alice Cooper tour as an executioner and as a mad dentist. I was not listed with the show under my name because I didn't want to be anybody's second banana, so to speak. I was always dressed in a wild costume and/or a mask. So there wasn't much chance my mother would happen to wander into a performance of Alice Cooper and catch me on stage. It all came about in a most peculiar manner. I was seated with some magician friends on 34th Street in the old Al Flosso's magic shop on the second floor. And the phone rang. Al answered the phone, put his hand over the mouthpiece and turned to us. "Any you guys want to work for a rock artist?" Well, I was between gigs at the time, so I brightened up and said, "Yeah? What does he want us to do?" Al turned back to the phone, then put his hand over the mouthpiece, and said, "they want to talk to you to see if they can work up some stunts". Well, that sounded pretty good to me, so I took a chance. I said, "Al, tell them that I want a hundred dollars to go down and talk to them." Almost immediately, Al turned back to me and he said, "you're on", and I said, "I'm outta here". I walked down 6th Avenue into the Village; I knew where the place was. But I was quite surprised by the ambiance in his office. Now I didn't know who Alice Cooper was; I didn't have the faintest idea. This was something I just didn't follow. While waiting for my interview, however, I read some of the publicity on the walls and it dawned on me: this guy is a showman. What really sold me was that there were potted plants all over the place. And every one of them was very, very dead. As I was soon to learn, that was sort of in character for the Alice Cooper show.

Well, we worked out a couple of stunts that we could do with Alice. The money they offered me was simply fabulous. And after a few weeks of getting the props ready, we shipped out on what was going to be a 90-day tour that actually extended over a hundred-and-something days. It was called "The Billion Dollar Babies". That's billion with a "B". Cooper was a really nice guy; very, very easy to get along with. Good sense of humor, and he didn't take himself too seriously for a rock star.

We, of course, traveled by private jet, and in those days, the security regulations were such that you had to be sort of checked going through to the boarding area, but it wasn't terribly serious. Every now and then they'd crack down on things that were being carried on the body that might be weapons. Though, of course, this didn't bother us because we had a private jet and we took of and landed in executive airports around the country. In fact, around the world. However, the time arrived when we had to put the airplane in—it was a 737—for maintenance. That meant that for one day, we had to travel as ordinary people on ordinary jets. Well, I leave you to imagine the sensation that Alice Cooper, not in full makeup, but certainly in full costume, would make getting on an airplane. And, true to form, I decided to play a bit of a gag on Alice Cooper.

Of course he was festooned in metal; he had rings everywhere; he had belts and straps; things that would set any detection machine crazy. On this particular occasion, as we had to go through security, I went through; some of the other fellows went through. Minor pauses, of course, to empty metal from the pocket. And then, Alice showed up. He shed about 30 pounds of metal, I'm sure, in the basket before he passed through the security area. But something very peculiar happened. I was on the far side of the security area waiting for him to come through. And no matter how much metal he would shed, every time he went to go through the gate, you'd hear the sound (whistles tone). Now there seemed to be something wrong with the security device because the red light didn't also light at the same time that the little buzzer went (whistles) And Cooper was just about down to his underwear when I finally said to him, "you know, Alice, that's really peculiar. Every time you try to go through the gate there, it goes (whistles)" Well, he almost killed me. You see, it was James "The Amazing" Randi who was making the sound (whistles). It wasn't the alarm system at all. In any case, we made up almost immediately and I had a very, very good and long relationship with Alice Cooper. In fact, I chopped his head off with a guillotine every night. This is James Randi.

Science or Fiction (1:08:49)[edit]

Question #1: Scientists have resurrected a 5 million year old retrovirus. Question #2: Newly published study apparently confirms a link between microwave cooking certain foods, such as potatoes, and cancer risk. Question #3: New study strongly correlates salt intake and obesity.

Skeptical Puzzle (1:16:02)[edit]

Last Week's Puzzle

Let's assume that I am not a skeptical person. I have a symptom, and I want to take a homeopathic remedy to cure it. I go to a homeopathic website, type in my symptom, and they suggest I take an elixir with Aconitum Napellus as the active ingredient.

Based on that information, can you guess what symptom I am trying to cure?



Quote of the Week (1:17:18)[edit]

The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable.- Paul Broca

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation. For more information on this and other episodes, 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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