SGU Episode 84

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SGU Episode 84
February 28th 2007
SGU 83 SGU 85
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day.'
J. A. Wheeler
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items ()[edit]

Update on Scientific Literacy in the US ()[edit]

  • Updated data presented at the AAAS:
    Advances in science education:

Recent Split for Humans and Chimps ()[edit]


Virgin Mary on Pizza Dish ()[edit]

    (Sent in my listener Howard Lewis)

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Negativity ()[edit]

I just sampled a half-dozen of your podcasts.

Seems to me that you guys are doing more damage to your cause than good. Anyone checking out your podcasts, in order to find out more about relinquishing their burden of faith, hears nothing but insults, derision, and negativism.

San Diego, CA

Vitamins Kill? ()[edit]

I'm sure someone will probably already have read this link, or that others have sent it but you all definitely can't pass this one up.,22049,21302215-5006007,00.html

Aparently a Danish group studied 230,000 adults participating in other studies and found an increased risk of death from taking vitamins.

I have a few specific questions for the panel, if they can answer them.

1. Is a meta study of this kind valid for the kind of research that's being done?

2. Can you all (particularly Steven) find any information on the actual methodology and figure out if this was properly conducted?

3. If the study was properly conducted can we actually make any useful statements considering this increased risk was only about 5%? How does this risk increase compare to the error in the study?

I hope this makes for interesting discussion.

Anthony Petruccione
pronounced pe true see ooh knee
Amarillo, Texas

Angelic Harmony ()[edit]

Hello from Nova Scotia,Canada

I discovered your podcasts a couple of months back and am now a dedicated listener. I look forward to every podcast. Your podcast dealing with 'angels singing' is not entirely false. The spirit world however is not involved. I have sung with many choirs and barbershop quartets throughout the past 30 years and have heard that 'angelic voice' many, many times. That 'voice' is exactly what my choirs and quartets would strive for. It results from the harmonic tones that are created when you have multiple voices singing. If all voices are in perfect pitch (in the case of four voices) a fifth voice will appear. This is noting more than an added harmonic which can be heard separate from the four notes. The point in singing in groups is to achieve or at least attempt to achieve perfect pitch and this will result is that added harmonic. This magical voice tells us we have done our job at least as far as pitch goes. So for the 'angels singing' , well lets just say that the 'real magic' comes form human vocal chords mixed with physics......and for me that is 'magical enough'. Hope this sheds some light on the matter.

Keep up the great work

Glenn Drodge
Canada, Nova Scotia

Interview with Ken Feder ()[edit]

  • Topic: The Tomb of Jesus:

    Author: Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology

    Feder obtained his B.A. in anthropology in 1973 from the State University of New York at Stonybrook. He obtained his M.A. in anthropology in 1975 from the University of Connecticut and his Ph.D. from the same institution in 1982. He has taught in the Department of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University since 1977 where he is now a full professor. His primary research interests focus on the archaeology of the native peoples of New England and in the analysis of public perceptions about the human past. He is the founder and director of the Farmington River Archaeological Project, a long-term investigation of the prehistory of the Farmington River Valley. He is the author and co-author of several books including: Human Antiquity: An Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Archaeology (with Michael Park; now in its fourth edition); Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology (now in its fourth edition); A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site; and The Past In Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory (in its third edition). He also is the co-editor of and contributor of two chapters to the most recent (seventh) edition of Field Methods In Archaeology; and he is the editor of Lessons From the Past: An Introductory Reader in Archaeology and co-editor (with David Poirier) of the book, Dangerous Places: Health and Safety in Archaeology. His latest book, Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology has just been published by Oxford University Press. When he's not digging in the dirt or writing books, he likes to hang out with his one wife, two kids, and three cats.<b

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: New study finds that seeing the color red, even briefly, lowers performance on school tests. Question #2: Clinical trials have begun on an artificial tooth that delivers drugs. Question #3: Researchers have found that the ancient Greeks were far less athletic and physically fit than modern athletes.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

This Week's Puzzle

I am holding five objects in my hand
All five objects are the same size and shape
Each object has a number of things on them
These things are all exactly the same
The first object has zero things
The seconds has four
The third has six
The fourth has four
The fifth has ten

What am I holding?

Last Week's Puzzle

Because I do not hope to know
This mystery at this late hour
Because I do not think

Because I shall not know
Once thought to fuel this power
Was alcohol, which I cannot drink

Because I can not know
Why it doesnt happen to tree or flower
Perhaps this bad habit is the link

Because I refuse to know
My impulsive human reaction seem dour
And whatever bits remain, boy, it sure does stink

What am I describing?

Answer: Spontaneous Human Combustion
Winner: Viking 054

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day.' - J. A. Wheeler

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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