SGU Episode 72

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SGU Episode 72
December 6th 2006
SGU 71 SGU 73
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
KM: Ken MacLeod
Quote of the Week
What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
Werner Heisenberg
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items[edit]

Holiday Shopping Scams (1:00)[edit]

  • Be skeptical when shopping online

NASA Plans Moon Base (9:54)[edit]


    Hawking article on people leaving the Earth:

Flowing water on Mars? (14:36)[edit]


Molecular Manufacturing (23:16)[edit]

  • National Academies Releases Report on Molecular Manufacturing

K-T Extinction Events (26:03)[edit]

Interview with Ken Macleod (27:12)[edit]

  • Dr. MaCleod is the lead author on a new article favoring the single-impact theory of the K-T extinction event that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

    Dr. MaCleod's Homepage:

Questions and E-mails[edit]

Hi from Down Under (38:14)[edit]

Hey people

How I love to hear the new episodes of your show. Just the thing to listen to while walking through the streets of Sydney. I have recorded a short greeting and a question for you (attached). Maybe you can be a guest on my podcast sometime?

Wishing you well and another year of podcasting.

Richard Saunders
Producer of the TANK podcast

Home Page
Investigator / Editor / Film Maker
Australian Skeptics Inc

Chiropractic HIV Denial (40:44)[edit]


As always, I really enjoy your show. I am a former chiropractor, now skeptic, who listens every week.

The reason I am writing you is because I found a great article (or series of articles, rather) that you can possibly discuss on your show. I'm not sure if you have ever done a program on people who deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS, but recently there was a THREE PART interview in 'Today's Chiropractic Lifestyle' magazine promoting this theory. Here are the links:

'Today's Chiropractic Lifestyle' is published by Life University in Marietta, Georgia. It is where I attended chiropractic college. While at chiro college, I was misinformed about almost every public health topic you can imagine. This article above is a good example of chiropractic misinformation and seems to contain almost every 'HIV denialist' argument available today.

I am happy to no longer be a quack and enjoy learning about science and reality from your podcast. Keep up the good work!

Jeff Jones, D.C. (Life University class of 2001)
Tokyo, Japan

High Tech Dowsing (45:38)[edit]

I have begun listening to your show very recently, and I'm trying to catch up on them.

Tell Rebecca Watson that I got her skepchicks calendar yesterday, and after paging through it, I'm satisfied in a great investment.

Anyway, on to the secondary reason for this message.

I'd like you to take a look at this, and maybe see if there's more information about this out there:

There was another article, published over a year ago:,2172,93664,00.html

To me, it sounds like some kind of futuristic method of dowsing. The only positive results I've heard about this is from the articles, and they are obviously anecdotal. If the only evidence that it works is anecdotal evidence, should it be discounted? Is it too early to dismiss this, or should we give them time to come up with actual experimental data?

Thanks for your time,
Matt Frederickson
South Dakota, USA

Testing ID (51:26)[edit]

Hi guys (guys is non-gender specific in England)

Love the podcast. I've nearly caught up with you now, I'm just on the October shows. It's nice to be able to listen to voices of sanity in what can seem a pretty insane world.

I have a question - more of a challenge - for you.

I know ID is not a science, and the actual answer is 'you can't' but I'd like to hear you guys trying to design some experiments for a science class on Intelligent Design.

The issue is raising its head over here (only in a small way though) and I thought it might be fun to have a bit of ammunition.

John Ansari (pronounced AN-SAAR-EE)

Randi Speaks (58:02)[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: Will they ever learn? The end of the world and other nonsense.

JR: Hello, this is James Randi. My question for this week is rather simple: Doesn't anyone ever learn? I refer to the fact that prophets are always predicting the end of the world, and have been doing it for generations now. So far as I've been able to ascertain, the end of the world has not arrived. Now I do live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where not every item shows up in the local papers or on TV, but you'd think that there might be some sort of a mention of it if the world were to come to an end and that I would therefore see it. But hey, it just didn't happen. The prophets continue. All over the world, they are predicting the end of the world next Thursday or next month or whatever. And they won't tire of doing that, simply because the media will cluster around them, give them time and space on television, on radio, and in printed articles as well, if they make a sufficiently silly claim. That's the way the media works.

Now I'm sure you all remember the famous alien autopsy that came up a few years ago. Garish films were shown in black and white, of course, made apparently by an 8mm camera, of this dreadful operation taking place on a poor alien figure sitting on the table. It got a lot of attention, and it made a lot of money for the people that supplied the film. It was on every newscast for quite some period of time. When, eventually, that bubble burst, what was the reaction of the media? Typical. You see, what they did was mention that it had turned out to be a hoax, and then they forgot about it entirely, apparently ready for the next similar hoax to come along. Just look at our favorite, quote, "psychic", unquote, Sylvia Browne. Now it's pretty evident that Montel Williams, who dotes on this woman's attention on his program, knows what she's really doing. Williams is a very well-educated man. Look up the records sometime. And he's smart enough, too, to know the techniques that she's using. He sees how often she's wrong. But the point is he simply doesn't care, because she gets him sponsor satisfaction. That's the bottom line. With that sort of media responsibility working for her, she can go on forever, no matter how wrong she is.

Another one of my favorite hoaxes is the perpetual motion machines. These things are being invented every ten minutes, it seems, all over the world. Not only that, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will issue a patent on them very easily. But think of it. If there were a perpetual motion machine or a free-energy machine (either will do), that would be such a huge step forward in technology and in the scientific and technological outlook, wouldn't it? So where do we find one, uno, einz, une, one of these machines that has been set in operation and actually can be demonstrated? They simply aren't there, friends. But that will never stop millionaires from investing in them, and some people taking their hard-earned cash and investing it in stock companies that sell that kind of product. No, we just don't learn. Now I remember when I was a kid up in Toronto, Canada, the Great Pyramid was supposed to have all the secrets of the universe in it. It was supposed to have prophecies that went hundreds of years ahead and showed the future of mankind. Oh, really? Well, now, let's count the number of prophecies that have come true that are supposed to be shown in the Great Pyramid. Let me see. Gee, zero. That's not a very large number, friends. But the pyramid nuts are still out there. They'll still preach this nonsense to anyone who will listen, and to some who won't. A few days ago, I had some Jehovah's Witnesses call by my home in Plantation, Florida. Well-meaning folks, I'm sure, but simply wrong. The one thing they don't want to discuss is their prophecies and whether or not they've come true. You see, they get the same count as the pyramidologists do, zero. Ah well. This is James Randi.

Science or Fiction (1:03:04)[edit]

Question #1: New study suggests that homo sapiens innovated male/female division of labor and this gave them a critical advantage over Neandertals. Question #2: Newly published study has linked frequent cell phone use to declining cognitive function, as measured by standard IQ. Question #3: New research shows that the effectiveness of advertising has nothing to do with the actual message they contain.

Skeptical Puzzle (1:12:30)[edit]

Last Week's puzzle
This person had good motives in mind when he proposed that mans activities occur in predictable waves. He took stock in this belief, and in his own bullish way, brought his philosophy to bear. Perhaps he should have invested more time in his research, for he could have used some corrections to realize his theory would crash.

Who is this person?

Ralph Nelson Elliot
Winner: John Maddox

This Week's puzzle
Take a mylar coat.
Put it in a machine and mix it up.
Lay it out.

What's left is something that was once believed to exist, yet has never been found.

What is it?

Quote of the Week (1:13:50)[edit]

'What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.'- Werner Heisenberg

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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