SGU Episode 885

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SGU Episode 885
June 25th 2022
885 Jupiter Juno.jpg

Computer illustration shows NASA's Juno spacecraft over the Great Red Spot.

SGU 884                      SGU 886

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

If we're never wrong then we're never surprised. If we grow too protective of our existing beliefs, then we stagnate and stop learning. If we've reached any degree of competence within our field, it's because we got things wrong along the way. So why stop now? It's interesting, I think, for each of us to consider the following: What am I currently wrong about? It's an impossible question to answer, but a curio, though, to contemplate nonetheless.

Hector Chadwick, UK-based mentalist

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Stomach bugs, Heat waves[edit]

Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, June 21st 2022, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening everyone!

S: Jay is out because he has a tummy bug.

C: Jay has a tummy ache so he can't be here.

E: I've had I've known some other people right around this time who has also come down with this. I don't know they're calling it a foodborne illness. They think it's something they ate and it knocked them out for 24 hours or so.

C: It usually is. Like a norovirus or a rotavirus or a bacterial illness.

S: Could be an enterovirus. That's a summer virus and can give you a GI infection. So he's probably got one of those.

C: I had noro twice and it was the sickest I think I've ever felt in my entire life. It was horrible.

S: Do you feel worse when you have like a bad stomach bug or when you have a bad upper respiratory infection? What makes you feel worse?

C: Well it's it's interesting because I feel like a stomach virus is really acute. So you feel way worse but it's over faster. Whereas the upper respiratory is like stressful and lengthy and you're just like over it because it takes so long to clear. But when I have─

S: Cruddy.

C: ─yeah it is. It is. But when I had noro. Like I thought I was gonna die. Because you're tethered to the bathroom.

S: Yeah. It's more debilitating.

C: Yeah and I also it's kind of weird. I haven't vomited since I was a child. I have like a weird paranoia around puking. And so yes I've had noro twice and did not puke either time. So I was like I was green and like pressing my face against the tile and like oh it was bad it was really bad. For most people it comes out of both ends. For me it was only one end but I probably would have felt better if I had puked. I just refused. I refused.

E: So you suppress the urge?

C: Oh yeah because I had that thing you get where you start to salivate uncontrollably and you're burping. Oh it's terrible.

B: Wow.

C: I didn't throw up.

E: Yeah it's like it's almost like you have a blockage and you have to clear the blockage by vomiting.

C: Yeah but I just didn't. I was like keep it down just deep breathing. A lot of real kind of like focus.

E: I'd rather get it over with.

C: That's what a lot of people say and I probably should have actually looking back. But I couldn't eat for two days. It was I mean it was a whole thing. It was bad. So I'm hoping that Jay doesn't have that because I would not wish that on anyone.

E: But as Steve mentioned it could be a summer virus and that could be the case. Do you know why? Because today's June 21st. First day of summer.

B: Yes that's right. Longest day of the year. And that means Cara what?

C: Shortest night?

B: Yes. The other side.

E: Beautiful thing.

C: So so explain me this solstice experts. Why is it the first day of summer and not the middle of summer?

S: Yeah it's arbitrary. Well I've wondered that since I was a child. Why is the summer begin halfway through the warmest section. And part of it I think is because the weather like the seasonal weather is delayed a little bit behind the position of the Earth and the Sun, you know what I mean? It's because it is true. The next couple of months are going to be warmer than the last couple of months. Not like we're in the─

B: Absolutely.

S: ─middle of the hot season. We're not. It is shifted a little bit later. But also you look at like the analemma. You have like the figure eight with the Sun at the top, the bottom and the two sides. So that's where they made the cutoffs for the seasons. But they could have made them in where like the top quarter was the summer and the lower quarter was the winter. Instead of making the topmost point the beginning of summer. But ultimately arbitrary it's fine. But I always thought that was a little weird too.

C: Agree, yeah. It just feels like─

B: It didn't.

C: ─it's been summer. Here in LA at least it feels like it's been summer for two months.

B: Yeah well for you.

E: Yeah that's the difference Cara.

B: Yes I agree but for in New England I mean we had just a couple days ago where I was wearing a jacket outside.

C: Really?

B: It was chillier than it had been a in a while and you would never get that in July and August. Never.

E: That's right because when you have we experience every flavor of season here in New England. We get the cold cold winters and we get some pretty darn hot summers and everything in between. But Cara in lovely southern California you don't have those kinds of extremes in your weather.

C: No no no. It's really temperate here. But I was on the phone with my mom earlier today and I thought it was brutally hot today so much so that I was trying to arrange going hiking with a friend and we decided we're not going to hike we're going to go on a swim instead. But I was talking to my mom on the phone who's of course in north Texas and I was like oh it's brutal here today it's like 88. What is it like for you? And she was like. Well my car says it's 106. I was oh gosh.

E: The south has been on fire. Some of the hottest temperatures on record in June in the south.

S: Yeah they're having a heat wave really bad heat wave.

E: That a song? (laughter)

S: So Elon Musk has acquired twitter. Did it did that happen?

B: Did that happened?

C: That just happened?

E: When? When? Today?

B: Check it out Steve because I heard that he was one step closer.

E: He passed some hurdle or the government [inaudible].

S: Okay. I just saw that he was like meeting with twitter employees and he's planning on cutting back on this. He's talking as if he's running Twitter. Like wait wait wait when did that happen?

C: Yeah I don't know.

E: Twitter board unanimously recommends Musk's takeover bid. That happened earlier today.

S: There we go.

E: That's gonna be it. Is he gonna pay the money though? He's trying to get a low, he's trying to get it now for less because he thinks that there's more bots than they reported and therefore it's not worth as much.

S: Yeah but of course that's all part of the negotiation, right?

E: Of course. Right. Yeah. But he's clearing hurdles that's for sure. Welp.

S: Welp.

B: Welp.

E: See we'll see where that goes. So yeah interesting happenings in the world of Musk.

S: Right. And crypto is tanking. It's chaos.

E: Oh gosh, are we gonna go there? Oh my gosh. Luna.

Special Segment: Secret of Skinwalker Ranch (6:37)[edit]

A friend asked me to watch secret of Skinwalker Ranch on the History Channel. The name of the channel gets it off to a terrible start. I tried sticking to my guns that I don't want to waste my time with multiple sessions of a ghost hunting show where they run around collecting weird data results and only ask questions. But he said it's not like that. However I watched the clip on YouTube and that's exactly what it is. Does the SGU have even five minutes on an upcoming show to comment towards this? Thank you so much. Love all you do. Please keep it up.

S: Evan let's talk about the Skinwalker Ranch.

E. Yeah. We're going to talk about that as a little special segment here because we received an email from a listener. Ben in Michigan. And let me read to you what he wrote to us: "A friend asked me to watch secret of Skinwalker Ranch on the History Channel. The name of the channel gets it off to a terrible start. I tried sticking to my guns that I don't want to waste my time with multiple sessions of a ghost hunting show where they run around collecting weird data results and only ask questions. But he said it's not like that. However I watched the clip on youtube and that's exactly what it is. Does the SGU have even five minutes on an upcoming show to comment towards this? Thank you so much. Love all you do. Please keep it up." Thank you Ben and yes we do have five minutes to cover Skinwalker Ranch. Because this is actually a subject that I have touched on before when talking about Luis Elizondo and he's that former official at the United States department of defense. He has the UAP/UFO fetish. A few years ago 2018 there was a New York Times story that revealed the formerly classified department of defense program that studied UAPs which is unidentified aerial phenomenon. And that was way back in 2007. It was all secret. And the fellow Luis Elizondo was part of that team and some of that money went to Bigelow Aerospace. Enter Robert Bigelow. Real estate billionaire and strong UFO and alien visitation proponent. I'll read you what some of my thoughts about back in 2018 when I first reported on this[link needed]. So Robert Bigelow. Among his claims to extraterrestrial fame is the purchase of a supposedly haunted ranch in Utah which some describe as a hyper-dimensional portal area or stargate. The ranch is said to be infested by an alien or paranormal shape-shifting creature known as a Skinwalker taking its name from Native American legends similar to European legends about werewolves. Bigelow's approved team of paranormal researchers investigated the ranch starting in 1996. They compiled an impressive collection of what might be termed ghost stories but in spite of having access to sophisticated electronic equipment they failed to obtain any actual proof of anything that was unexplainable going on. So in the skeptical community we've known about Skinwalker ranch since the late 1990s. Bob you remember the late 1990s? You just installed Windows 98 on your PC. 512 MB jazz drive, right?

B: Ha-ha. Nice.

E: So let the horror of that historical context sink in. And like most fantastic stories of paranormal activity. And that's all they are. 100% of them. They are stories in one form of another. This UFO story refuses to quit. So fast forward from 1998 to 2020. Courtesy of the History Channel of course. You get the secret of Skinwalker Ranch the television series. Now, in a literal sense if Skinwalker Ranch is a secret it's one of the worst kept secrets on TV. We've known about it for more than 20 years. Obviously it's been reported on for even longer than that. So I don't know what's the secret behind this. I don't know. Interdimensional leprechauns that pop in and out or something. That must be the secret that the history channel--but in any case here's how they describe the show on their website. "The investigation of the world’s most mysterious hot spot for UFO and “High Strangeness” phenomena continues as astrophysicist Dr. Travis Taylor returns to" and this was written about the second season "join real estate tycoon Brandon Fugal, along with his team of scientists and researchers on Utah’s notorious Skinwalker Ranch. In this groundbreaking second season, the team goes deeper and higher than ever before, applying cutting edge technology to investigate the 512-acre property to uncover the possibly “otherworldly” perpetrators behind it all." Yeah. "With everything from mysterious animal deaths to hidden underground workings and possible gateways that open to other dimensions, witness the close encounters that go beyond conventional explanation, as the team risks everything to finally reveal the ultimate secret of Skinwalker Ranch." That's the write-up from History Channel. That's what you get.

B: Wow.

E: You're right. So this okay property in Utah 512 acres. Look in the 1960s and 70s there was a flurry of UFO sightings in this particular region as there was in lots of places. Especially out west in the 60s and the 70s among other places. It was just part of the culture. Part of the phenomenon. But then you get to the mid 90s and you get these stories about the strange going ons and the interdimensional creatures. And all these other stories kind of start to emerge including UFOs and cattle mutilations. Right Steve? We used to talk about cattle mutilations and early skeptic conferences that and get-togethers in meetings. It was one of our topics. And you kind of wonder okay we're the and you got Robert Bigelow. He's this billionaire. It might be and he's got this penchant and the sort of disposition towards the UFOs and things paranormal. Perhaps maybe you're talking more about these stories in order to sort of up the price on the ranch perhaps? Or get them to be more interested in actually purchasing it? But regardless Bigelow after he's done with his research 2016 he sold it to this real estate guy Brandon Fugle. And Brandon said in a recent interview that Skinwalker Ranch is the most scientifically studied paranormal hot spot on the planet. With the highest frequency of documented UFO sightings, bizarre cattle mutilations, electromagnetic anomalies and unexplained phenomenon. Wow. That's a lot. Well the hot spot on the planet. I not only watched the promotional clip. I actually watched the first episode of season one. And I did so that way Ben you don't have to watch it no one else out there has to watch it. I took the hit for everyone. So let me give you a very quick description of the opening sequence and I think we can kind of maybe draw this to a conclusion. You have a person running across a field heavily breathing towards a group of other people standing around something lying in the field. The looks on their faces is of horror and disbelief. That running person, his name's Travis, he reaches the group and we can see they're all standing around a dead cow. They roll the dead animal over on its side. One of the people checks it with a Geiger counter to see if it's radioactive. One of the other people mentions that they saw the cow earlier in the day was alive. But there's no trauma. No animal tracks. No animal marks. No sign of struggle. Travis suddenly whips out his meter, that's all he calls it: his meter, and he says look at the meter. It's making a static noise and the meter it gets louder in volume and he says it's going crazy. It's jumping all over the place. What happens next is that the whole team whips out all of their meters. And then they start holding their devices over the dead cow like McCoy taking a medical reading on a tricorder basically over a person. Handheld spectral analyzer is what these machines say. "What does that mean?" says one investigator. What's this spike? What is this? What are these readings? Travis says: "We do not know the answer. But something out of the ordinary could be happening right now. We've got to get out of here." That's your opening sequence and then it rolls the opening credits and so forth. That's the sequence. Right away the producer of the show in 60 seconds successfully trotted out over a half dozen paranormal tropes that we've been familiar with since we all became skeptical activists back in the 1990s. It is the same old tired product that the world of gullible paranormal investigators they live on it. They breathe it. It is their stock in trade. All this is something with a little bit of a different skin to it. That's all it is. And yes I did. I won't bother you with any more description of what the whole show was about but Ben you were correct it absolutely is 100% that. Total paranormal show just like any others in which they sit around they ask questions of each other. There's no true evidence to see. There's no science going on here.

S: But Evan they have more meters.

E: I know they had meters. Electromagnetic meters.

S: Well were they electromagnetic? They don't say it because they're not even bothering to pretend.

E: Oh they did later in the show.

S: I thought they were spectral analyzers.

E: Yeah well they did a spectral analysis as well. They have lots of meters and there's lots of sciencey things appear to be going on. They have cameras for surveillance. They have noise detection devices planted all over the over the ranch. They look for disturbance they have meters and things that can detect sort of disturbances. Ground vibrations that are going on. They've got aerial--they've taken aerial photography. They've got aerial monitoring cameras pointing every single direction. So yes it has all the trappings of what appears to be science. They even call it the control room that they have. It looks like a I don't know an air traffic control center almost. In a way. With all 50 screens up in front of you if you look that direction. And all the analyzers over to your right. They spent a lot of money, you can tell, on all of this stuff. But what's their evidence? What did they actually come up with? Not a darn thing.

S: Yeah because they're doing pure pseudoscience. Literally. That's the very definition of pseudoscience. Just they have the trappings. They have meters. Tou know they have no idea how to use them. They're not doing any actual hypothesis testing. It's just mystery mongering. That's it.

E: Yep. And then when there are some suggestions and the fellow Travis who is an astrophysicist and apparently has some and degrees in engineering and some other bonafides that are legitimate. He's brought in to help them figure out what's going on here. And unfortunately they're using him as a veil of being authentic.

S: Yeah but the scientist guy whatever should be ashamed of himself. I mean there's no excuse for what he's doing. He should know better. And like if he's telling, I mean I'm sure he's just enjoying the fame but you can't even tell yourself oh but I'm at least I'm going to introduce some actual science into this. No you're not. Because you quickly learn when you do these sort of things. Because back early in our career we would get asked to be on documentaries or whatever. And we did a bunch of stuff. And you very quickly figure out that whoever's doing it, like the director, they have a story to tell. They're going to tell their story no matter what you do or say. You are irrelevant. They're just quote-mining you. You're a prop.

E: Yep. You're prop, yes.

S: I would always like when there's a preliminary interview about before you do the actual on camera interview. I'm always interviewing them. Like what is your take on this. What story are you telling basically. And if it's a gullible pseudoscience promotion story don't do it. It's not worth it. You're just gonna lend credibility to nonsense.

E: Yep. That's all it is. And you're right I think─

S: So they're complicit─

E: ─yep yep.

S: 100%.

E: Yep. Absolutely. It's part of the problem.

S: All right let's move on.

News Items[edit]

Jupiter Ate Baby Planets (17:53)[edit]

S: Bob tell us how Jupiter ate your baby.

E: Oh no.

B: Yes. That's one way to put it Steve. Based on new insights into Jupiter's interior. Researchers conclude that our largest planet must have consumed baby planets left and right during the early days of the solar system billions of years ago. Now this was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. Lead author Yamila Miguel an astronaut. Nope. Not an astronaut although I bet she could be. She's an assistant professor of astrophysics at the Leiden observatory in the Netherlands Institute for Space Research. So I love the title to the live science article that sucked me into this topic. The title was: "Scientists find remains of cannibalized baby planets in Jupiter's cloud-covered belly." Oh my god what a title. It did suck me in. It might not have if it was more of a boring title. But I can't help but think of the internal thoughts of the person. You got people that come up with the titles and he or she must have been thinking something like this. Like you know if I can get the words cannibal and baby in the same sentence and that's what they did. And wow okay all right so let's start on this one. So have you guys seen those crazy detailed images of Jupiter's clouds in the news? Like from the past year or two? If you've seen them then they're probably from the Juno cam on the Juno spacecraft which has done something like well over 40 flybys of close flybys of Jupiter and its moons. But Juno wasn't just looking at Jupiter's pretty face and all those awesomely detailed clouds. It can also see the interior of Jupiter using what they call the gravity science instrument. That name. The gravity science instrument. Totally uninspired. Right guys? Totally. It's really boring. So I think they should have called it the GDAS or the gravitometric dopplerized analytical surveyor, right? Am I right? Isn't that sound much cooler?

E: You're not wrong.

B: So they used the gravitometric dopplerized analytical surveyor (Evan laughs) to hopefully show which of the two competing rocky formation theories fit Jupiter, right? They got two primary theories that are kind of mutually exclusive. One theory says that Jupiter's initial rocky core formed from boulder-sized rocks kind of glomming together. So this theory for some reason is nicknamed not the boulder theory or the heavy rock theory but the pebble theory. It's called the pebble theory. But we're talking boulder-sized stuff. The other competing theory argues that baby planets called planetesimals a few miles across or so they smashed together to form the core. So one of them's right the other one's wrong. So what did the GDAS as I call it show. So the gravity data from Juno and even from Galileo. Remember Galileo? Oh my god.

E: Sure.

B: That was an amazing time. So Juno and Galilean data showed the distribution of heavy elements near the core of Jupiter. That was kind of the main goal here. Let's look at what kind of heavy elements are in there and what's their distribution and mass. So this was detected because those knots of heavy elements that they detected are denser. And if they're denser they've got a little bit of more of a extra gravitational pull and that pull will then can affect the atmosphere above it in ways that are detectable. Now the models that the researchers created to look into this concluded that there must be between, get this, 11 and 30 Earth masses worth of heavy elements within Jupiter. And that's 3-9% of Jupiter's mass. And that was a lot more. A lot more than they anticipated. Now Jupiter is gargantuan. It is the biggest planet in our solar system and you could fit what? What's the number? A thousand Earths inside. But for it to have potentially 30 Earth masses of these heavy elements was a real shocker but it did prove pretty much definitively proved which of those theories is most likely to be true. And that was the planetesimal accretion theory is overwhelmingly likely to be correct. So that's because it's not really obvious at all. But that's because there's just too many heavy minerals otherwise. There's so many heavy metal minerals there it had to be the planetesimal accretion. So imagine this. So imagine just to see just to visualize what was happening. Now imagine you've got a rocky core of Jupiter before the gaseous envelope kind of accreted on onto it to become the amazingly huge atmosphere of the gas giant Jupiter. So you've got the big rocky core. It starts pulling in even the super lightweight hydrogen and helium to build up the atmosphere. That inflow of gas causes a pressure barrier that's like a force field. And that force field won't let in any of the smaller boulder-sized chunks of rock and heavy metals. So but if you're a big three mile wide planetesimal you can plow right through that pressure barrier shield and then you can just keep doing it. So as the atmosphere is getting bigger and bigger you still have the planetesimals coming in and adding more and more and more of these heavy metals to the interior of Jupiter. Whereas the boulder-sized rocky masses and minerals could never continue. It would start and then it would stop and it would give you just a certain amount of the heavy minerals and you couldn't surpass it. And you couldn't get anywhere near what they're finding now. So it's got to be the planetesimal. So that theory is the one that seems to be absolutely correct. So lead author Yamila Miguel said that: "Jupiter was the most influential planet in the formation of the solar system. Its gravitational pull helped to shape the size and orbits of its cosmic neighbors, and so determining how it came to be has important knock-on effects for other planets." Knock-on effects. Have you?

E: No I don't know that one.

B: That's a new idiom for me.

C: Really?

B: But in context. Yeah knock-on?

C: Yeah in this context.

B: In this context it's obvious. So since Jupiter was the first guy on the block pretty much learning about the formation of Jupiter could really clue us in about the formation of all the other planets. Because Jupiter was such a big beast that it it really influenced absolutely the rest of the formation of the entire solar system. And imagine we may have had 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 planets in orbit around the Sun if Jupiter just didn't suck up all those poor little baby planets. And of course if you extrapolate a little bit Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, maybe they have planetesimal origins as well. I would think it would be kind of likely at this point. So this all means then that distant exoplanet gas giants they may be hiding more mineral mass in their interiors than maybe apparent by their atmospheres. So even when the mighty James Webb telescope, which is basically designed to measure the atmospheres of gas giants and their compositions, when James Webb calculates the heavy minerals that are likely to be in the planet they it could very well be quite wrong because there won't be another Juno in orbit with its own, say it with me, its own gravitometric dopplerized analytical surveyor in orbit around it telling us what's going on inside. Because from what I've read you had to get up and close to Jupiter to find this information out. We really were not ever going to find out about this for an observatory in orbit or on the Earth. You need to be pretty much up close and personal. And who knows? They may develop a technology to infer it accurately in the future. But I don't think anything's on the drawing board that could that could actually do the job of Juno from a distance. So cool. Interesting story. Kind of different. I liked it.

S: Yeah I mean it's interesting that we can infer that from looking at Jupiter today. That we can know something about its deep history like that.

B: Yeah.

S: Because it's really just a big giant ball of clouds.

E: Does this mean we now have to assume that gas giants have some sort of hard core in their centers?

S: Totally.

B: Well. (laughter) We're not sure. Yeah. Absolutely. I mean you start with the rocky core and then it gets so big and so dense that it starts pulling in the gases. Sure. You gotta bring in those glass somewhere. I mean you could potentially have a pocket of gas that just kind of rotates and collapses in on itself. Like a little star, right?

S: Yeah but Bob the other option is that Jupiter never ever ever got hit by an asteroid, you know what I mean? In its 4 billion year history. Why would that be the case? Anything rocky that ever got captured by Jupiter's gravity we're just sitting in the core.

B: Right right. And determining exactly you know what actually is the makeup. How many how much heavy metals, how much is rocky, how much is metallic. I always thought, remember Steve it wasn't too long ago when it was like oh yeah it's like metallic hydrogen in the core. But now that now I guess that's not the consensus anymore and it's definitely I mean there's definitely heavy metals and the density has got to be pretty damn wicked in the core for sure. But the exact composition is not quite what they thought.

The Risk of Sitting (27:10)[edit]

S: All right Cara. We've had this question a few times over the years. Is sitting in and of itself a health risk?

C: Ah.

B: This was depressing to read.

S: While we all sit here recording this podcast.

B: When I read it I stood up, I pushed my chair away, stood up and I was reading the news standing up and for 15 or 20 minutes I felt good. (Cara laughs)

E: I have a very desk at my office so sometimes I will lift it up and just stand and do my work.

C: Oh good for you.

B: Hey I want to get a stand-up desk I really am.

C: That's smart.

E: I like it.

C: So I mean clearly as with almost everything we ever talk about on the show the answer is it's complicated. (Evan laughs) But there is quite a bit of pretty high quality evidence that shows that sitting a lot or just sedentary behavior in general is highly correlated with all-cause mortality. It's highly correlated with cardiovascular disease. But the equal and opposite of sitting a lot is exercising, right? So there are we do see that there are some mitigations that can take place. But some studies show that even with mitigations like even with exercise being more sedentary is kind of more detrimental than not exercising is. Wait, does that make sense? No it doesn't. (laughs) That being sedentary is more predictive of mortality all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease than exercise is protective against it. If that makes sense. There we go.

B: Yeah.

C: So the new bit is a a study that was published just a few days ago in JAMA Cardiology. So that's the Journal of the American Medical Association and the lead author is Li Sidong. So this study is called the prospective urban rural epidemiology study. It's huge. It's a massive epidemiological cohort study and it's prospective in nature and so just as a quick kind of review. Prospective studies are a little bit stronger. So it's still an observational study design. It's not an experimental study design. So keep that in mind. But they're still a bit stronger than for example a retrospective cohort study where you're basically looking at a bunch of stuff that already happened and trying to make determinations based on the past. In a prospective study you're following people over a period of time and during the course of the study certain people develop illnesses for example or die. And you're able to kind of compare over time. So by definition it's longitudinal. Does that make sense? Okay. So in this study what they did is they looked at something like over a hundred thousand. 105 677 participants from across 21 different countries. And the countries are sort of broken up into high-income countries: Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and UAE. Upper middle income countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Turkey. Lower middle income countries: China, Colombia, Iran, Palestine and the Philippines and then five lower income countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. And the idea here was to categorize these based on world bank categorizations and ask the question is sedentary behavior associated with mortality and cardiovascular disease even in low and middle income countries. Because the vast majority of the data that we have cited, that we've talked about and that you guys were talking about when you said when I read this I immediately stood up, has actually taken place in high-income countries. And so I feel like this would be one of those interesting science or fiction Steve where it could go both ways. When you think about okay a lower income country our individual is going to be more affected by sedentary behavior or less affected by sedentary behavior. Or are they going to be more sedentary or less sedentary for example. And I feel like I'm imagining myself being on the panel during science or fiction and like what do you guys think? What are some of the reasonings that you would kind of work through?

E: I'd like to use one of my lifelines.

C: (laughs) Well I guess I'll tell you what what sort of my reasoning was before I looked at the data. I was thinking okay if somebody's in a lower income country are they more likely or less likely to be sedentary first of all. Maybe they're more likely to work like labor-intensive jobs.

E: Yeah therefore less.

C: Right therefore less likely but then sadly what we find and really they weren't so much looking at the incidence rate of sedentary behavior but they were looking at the association of mortality with daily sitting time. And the association of cardiovascular disease with daily sitting time. They found that not only is again mortality or sitting for a long time sedentary behavior in general highly associated with all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. But the association was even more pronounced in lower income and lower middle income countries.

E: Why is that?

B: I think they'd be more active that just doesn't.

C: But again remember that we're not necessarily looking at how many people are sedentary. We're looking at in sedentary behavior how highly associated is it with death.

B: So it's worse but it's more associated with death than more industrialized?

C: It seems to be worse. And so then we could start to say well why is that? Probably because of healthcare. I mean there are probably a lot of other variables here.

E: We have access to medicines and things that can counter it whereas right more poor people and poor nations do not have those.

C: We also potentially and it's a really complicated issue but the authors did cite a couple of studies showing that for example at least in Norway they actually looked at people of different kind of socioeconomic stratifications. And they found that the association was much more relevant when we talk about leisure time physical activity. So people who engaged more in physical activity during leisure time had more protection against all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. But not necessarily occupational or transport or housing physical activity. But this is just one study so it's important to remember that like a lot of different studies show a lot of different things. But there are massive meta analyses and large prospective cohort studies like the one that I just cited that show that generally speaking sitting no bueno. And that sadly in poorer countries sitting even more no bueno. Specifically here's another study I think this was the, was this yeah this was the Finland study. That showed that they did see SES differences across stratifications as well. So not only do we see differences across different countries based on the country's economic strength. We also see within individual countries a difference across socioeconomic strata. Which again kind of makes sense if one of the variables that we're thinking about here is access to health care. But they also talk about things like opportunities for exercise. Opportunities for getting out of the house. Opportunities for engaging in physical activity and motivation to do so. Interestingly in the main study that I was citing, the one that was just published in JAMA, they said that and let's look at some of the numbers here. They said that once you hit about 6-8 hours a day your relative risk of heart disease and premature death is increased by about 12-13% when compared to a control group that sits for fewer than four hours a day. And then it gets significantly worse if we're talking about over eight hours. Then we're looking at like 20%. And there's actually a World Health Organization publication that I pulled up because it's referenced in the study. The WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior was published in 2020. And you can actually look at your specific group. So children and adolescents age 5 to 17. Adults 18 to 64. Older adults 65 and older. Pregnant and postpartum women, adults and older adults, adults with chronic conditions and then children and adolescents and adults living with a disability. And there are evidence-based recommendations for how much physical activity you should get and for how much sedentary behavior you should have. Based on kind of compiling all of this information. So I know I'm skipping around a little bit from the core study that I'm citing but this is a massively researched area and it's important to see that one study is not going to give you a total picture. We've got to look at kind of all of this stuff combined. But here's a couple other takeaways from the report that was just published a few days ago. Exercise does have a strong mitigating effect on mortality. It does not completely reverse it but it has a strong mitigating effect on mortality and cardiovascular disease. So even if you do have to sit because of work if you exercise more this is good. So when we compared the low and lower middle income um countries to the high income countries specifically in this study they found that sitting for more than eight hours a day risks an increase of right around 30%. An increased risk of a right around 30%. So we're talking 12-13% across the board if you sit for 6-8 hours a day. Jumps up to 20% if you're sitting for 8 hours or more and then when you combine that risk with being from a low income or lower middle income country then we're jumping up to 30%. And so when we look at the the WHO guidelines I'm just going to say arbitrarily for adults because that's probably going to be the largest group listening but again like I said there are guidelines for adults living with disability for adults with chronic conditions. But for adults who are not living with a disability or a chronic condition they recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity. Or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination throughout the week. They also recommend muscle strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity on two or more days per week. And they say that you can increase it to more than 300 minutes or more than 150 minutes of vigorous activity for additional health benefits up to a point. And then of course they recommend really really reducing the amount of time spent sitting. And especially this is interesting and I've seen this across multiple studies especially sitting time that's associated with screen time. So lying around watching television seems to have a poor predictive outcome. And perhaps it's because you're even less likely to move when you're doing that. I'm not really sure what it specifically is about about television or computer use or screen time but a lot of studies cite that.

B: Well can I sit just sit in a chair and eat bon bons? Is that all right?

E: Yeah. That's perfect.

C: Probably also not good but even that would mean that you're moving around a little bit. You're counteracting it.

B: Yes. Thank you. Enough said. Thank you Cara.

E: I'm moving my jaw as I eat my chips.

C: Right. So I don't think that there's anything specific about the fact that there's images on a screen. But it's probably more that we are less likely to physically move when we're sitting in front of the television or lying in front of the television than when we're doing other activities like I don't know arts and crafts or cooking or I guess we don't usually sit to cook but other things that involve sitting.

E: I do.

S: You're saying the bottom line is VR games are better than non-VR games.

B: Yeah.

E: Right.

C: Absolutely. Especially if you're on your feet. Yeah that's definitely true. So there's a lot of takeaways. This is a really really complicated topic and the news peg this week had more to do with stratifying based on the kind of the economic strength of the country but bottom line is just to reinforce sitting is not great for you. And of course there are situations in which you have to sit. When you're recovering from surgery. When you're dealing with certain types of disabilities. But even in those situations it's important to move within your constraints and within your limits because any movement is better than no movement. You wanna try and hit these guideline standards of 150 to 300 minutes depending on if it's moderate or vigorous. But what what every study I've seen and especially the who says is that a little is better than nothing. And start slow, don't dive deep into it start to develop these slow and steady healthy habits to help you get staying power. Because if you dive in too fast you may just stop.

S: Yeah you'll burn yourself out. I know. It's what are you gonna do? (laughter)

C: What are you gonna do? You're gonna get off your ass that's what you're gonna do.

S: A lot of the work that I do involves sitting. There's no way around it.

C: Exactly. So I think the important thing there is that when you don't have to don't. So if you have to sit let's say just like I do when I'm doing therapy I'm sitting for the whole therapeutic hour. Not gonna walk around.

S: You should start a practice of like exercise therapy. Where you're on with you're on a bike while you're doing therapy.

C: (laughs) Well I have weirdly had like dreams of doing group therapy in the future that involves kind of like movement and yoga and just being somewhat more active during group. I think that would be awesome. But yeah let's say I'm seeing a patient for an hour or Steve let's say you're seeing a patient. In between patients do a lap around your house.

S: Yeah.

C: Get up move and then come back. Don't just sit there straight through.

E: And if you can speak to them through some sort of digital avatar or something they don't even have to see you exercising. You would still be your voice you would be able to hear them fine it would just be the face and everything you're moving all over the place.

C: Would you really want that from your therapist? A digital avatar therapist?

B: Or Steve get us get those stand up desks when you don't have a patient in the office. Just all you do is like you just lift it up and it you stand up and it's up at head height. I'm really gonna I'm seriously gonna consider getting one of those.

E: Press the button and it rises. It works well.

S: All right thanks Cara.

NASA Joins Study of UAPs (42:26)[edit]

S: So we've talked previously and Evan you just brought it up earlier with your Skinwalker Ranch segment about the Pentagon's investigation of UAPs. Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. Well─

C: Phenomena. I had to.

S: Earlier this month it was announced that NASA is getting into the game too. That they are going to be launching their own independent investigation of UAPs. They'll be starting it in the fall and they said that this research program should take about nine months. This is what NASA said in their announcement. They write: "NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also." That was Thomas Zurbuchen the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He goes on: "We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space – and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do." This is interesting. It's good as far as it goes. I have no problem with NASA investigating this scientifically. I think they should. They make a point of saying that the big problem here is the lack of data. They just the reason that many of the sightings are not explained it's not because they're inherently unexplainable it's because the data is crap. They just don't have enough information to to make a positive ID. That's it. And so more information will likely yield more of these sightings being explained. I do think that taking that kind of approach is a good one. However here's the downside. This has provoked yet another round of the media talking about UAPs from a very gullible perspective. And the mainstream media narrative is just extremely frustrating. So one piece of that narrative is again that there's somehow among scientists this stigma against investigating unknown phenomena. Which I don't really see to be honest with you. I think that's just the narrative that they go with. Like if we get like they have to feel like they have to defend themselves out of the gate or say that the skeptics don't want this to be investigated. It's like no that's actually not true. I'm happy to have more data and obviously if pilots are reporting things they can't explain without in any way introducing the notion of alien spacecraft that's a worthy phenomenon to investigate. So first of all there's lots of stuff in the sky. We're putting more and more stuff up there all the time. Both civilian, private, military, domestic, foreign, etc. And so knowing what those things are is good. Even for nothing else just to make commercial airline navigation safer. If it turns out that people are running a lot of drones in that area then that's a fixable issue for example. And also we need to learn best how to interpret the data that we're getting. If pilots are seeing things they can't identify they need to learn how to be better observers or how to gather more information or what the things could be or how not to be fooled etc. And so that's useful information as well. We learn about human perception and the limits of these instruments and all that stuff. It's all good. All right but the bigger part of the narrative I really saw a shift like when I don't know if this is because NASA got on board it was maybe the trigger but there were other components here but now I'm reading just a lot of mainstream media articles saying that there has got to be something going on here. Like now we have multiple sightings of things that are breaking the laws of physics by trained pilots and the Pentagon and NASA are investigating it. We don't know what they are but there is something real and physical going on here. And they're like the skeptical angle is just completely missing from mainstream reporting. I think a lot of the blame falls upon people like Michio Kaku.

B: Yep. Say it. Oh my god.

S: Michio Kaku said in an interview that he thinks the evidence now is so compelling that the burden of proof has shifted to those saying that UAPs are not alien spacecraft.

C: What?

S: Yes.

E: He is gone.

C: What is he's reasoning for that?

B: He's been saying that for years.

S: He's just horribly wrong on multiple levels. On the other hand I have to say I saw an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson and he completely nailed it. He said: "The evidence is extremely poor quality. It's extremely low quality and given how ubiquitous phones and cameras and videos and all that are you would expect occasionally we get one high resolution video or picture. But no. They're all low resolution. They're all terrible." (Cara laughs)

E: Or a piece of material. Something physical instead of that picture that we have to interpret.

S: Something.

E: Something.

S: So here's the angle that Kaku and the media are generally missing and that skeptics have known for decades. Decades and decades. Is that the fuzziness of the data is the phenomenon. That is what the phenomenon is. It's the fact that it's unidentified. So in other words you have something can be identified for two reasons basically. You could have high quality data of something that is inherently unknown or you can have low quality data of something that may or may not be known, right?

E: It's all low.

S: These are all in the low quality data bucket. Why is that?

E: 100%.

S: It's a 100%. It's all crappy data. It's not like we have a high resolution in focus relatively close up video of an object where you could make out what the object is. How big it is? What it's doing? And we just have no idea what it is. That's not what this phenomenon is at all. The phenomenon is entirely oh there's a blob and I have no idea what that blob is and it appears to be doing weird stuff but there's no verification of any of it. It could be an alien spacecraft. It could be a freaking bird.

C: And that's best scenario. Best case scenario is I have a grainy photo worst case scenario is I saw a thing. Like a furball kind of. I remember when I was flying there was a thing.

E: And where is the discussion about how our brains are filling in the blanks and how it and how our brains fool us and trick us all the time. That never seems to become part of the discussion.

B: Yeah no one's talking about that.

S: Only in the skeptical literature. It hasn't cracked through. The media is just in love with this story as uuh there's something real now we have enough of a justification that we could say this. Because Michio Kaku is saying it and the Pentagon is saying it. Although the Pentagon is not saying that. Again this is to get you caught up we talked about this when the first videos were leaked and they just rekindled the whole UFO thing. And the Pentagon said all right we're looking into it. We're gonna have a report due. We predicted the report would be a huge nothing burger. The report came out. It was a huge nothing burger. And the pentagon said that the problem here is that we can't identify things because of lack of information. We lack sufficient quality evidence in order to make a positive identification and they said there is no reason to think there is no evidence that any of this represents extraterrestrial phenomena. They were pretty blatant about that but of course that's easy to write off as that they're being coy or they're being whatever. They're hiding the truth.

C: And to Evan's point I think it's a good one that very often what happens when we approach a question scientifically but we approach it narrowly scientifically we don't use a multi-disciplinary approach the whole story is not there because it's not contextualized. It's like oh if we're going to approach this just as NASA and we're going to use just the tools that we use at NASA. That's not to say NASA is one thing. Obviously there are a lot of different kinds of scientists there. But I doubt they're gonna have a social science component to their report. And that's the part that makes me sad.

S: How about a neuroscience component?

C: Or a neuroscience component. Exactly. To say listen. This is. We are pattern seeking individuals. This is how we process this kind of information. That's sadly probably going to be missing from the conversation.

S: So just to review some but there's good skeptical learning points to be made here. Again this is the "blob squatch phenomenon" where why are they blurry? Why are all photos of Bigfoot blurry? Just the indistinct blobs? Because the ones that are in focus are not Bigfoot. They are black bears or people or something else. There's something identifiable as not Bigfoot. It's only the unidentifiable blurry photographs or videos that are Bigfoot. Other than the few demonstrable hoaxes. Same thing with UAPs or UFOs. The one, if you eliminate the clear hoaxes where you could demonstrate yeah like this is dangling from a string or whatever. (laughter) But for the ones where it's like organic and honest that if you eliminate the ones that are in focus and clear. Those are all planes and birds and other things. And you're just left with the detritus of things that can't be identified because they're blurry. That's why I say that's the phenomenon. The blurriness is the phenomenon. It's not anything about what is being seen itself.

B: And you can't get rid of that. It's always going to be there. Always.

S: There's always gonna be a residue. It's always going to be a residue. So one of the logical fallacies they make is do they confuse unidentified with unidentifiable. So they're saying that object is unidentifiable. It's like no it isn't. You just can't identify it now because of the low quality data. That doesn't mean that it is inherently unidentifiable. Then they make the argument from ignorance. We don't know what it is therefore we can't rule out that it says flying saucer. It's like yeah but you can't rule it out that it's a flying unicorn either. It's you don't know what it is therefore you don't know what it is and that's it. That is the beginning and ending of what you can say. And if you want to speculate─

C: Right then you start to work with what is reasonable.

S: ─what it might be. Yeah. Speculate about plausibility what might it be then you have to involve Occam's razor and then it would say well it's much more likely to be something mundane and observed in a weird context than introducing we're being visited by aliens. But here's the other thing and this is where again the rubber meets the road. When you look at any individual piece of evidence here it's never compelling. So there was one person in the comment, I wrote about this on my blog, one person in the comment was taking the pro UFO thing. And everyone else is like saying dude give us an example. Tell us which piece of evidence you find compelling. He's like it's out there I don't have to tell you. The whole thing. I don't have to give you.

B: Find it yourself basically he said.

S: Yeah right exactly. So finally he gives a link, right?

E: Okay.

S: And it's two the triangle UFOs. Have you guys seen this?

B: The pyramid one?

E: You mean where the shutter is─

S: It's the shutter.

E: ─almost is all closed and it makes a triangle shape, that one?

S: Exactly. And it's--and Mick West of course has a debunking video.

E: Oh yeah Mick's awesome.

S: He does an excellent job and he said look there's lots of lights in this field that are triangles because it's all of the points of light that are blurry or it's there's an optical illusion where they look triangular not really pyramidal shape but triangular because night vision goggles have a triangular aperture. That's it. That's why you can see that that's what would do that. And he said this here is a plane. You're just looking at the running lights on a plane. Look! There's multiple running lights. You know why? Because the ship who took this video is right beneath the approach that vector for a local for the Los Angeles airport. There's planes flying over all the time.

C: What could it be?

E: Oh my gosh I'm here at the Los Angeles airport and I'm seeing things I cannot explain.

S: And then he says you see these four triangles here. And he matches it. That's Jupiter and these three stars. And it's a perfect match.

E: Oh there you go, star map.

S: Yeah so it's like this is a slam dunk. Debunk, right? Absolutely. That is an aperture artifact. That's all it is. But the one guy, one promoter said this is the best UFO evidence the world has ever seen.

E: I agree.

S: To which I like I agree. (laughter) Absolutely right. That is as good as it gets. A blurry light that could just be running lights on a plane you idiot. That's the best evidence that you got.

E: Top quality.

S: So that is saying when you're you can't argue in generalities. I mean you could talk about basic principles when they're saying like the evidence is so compelling. We always say what evidence? Show us the evidence that you think is compelling and we will do a detailed examination of that piece of evidence. And whenever that happens it's always crap. The evidence is always crap.

E: Not even close.

S: And that's why we're skeptical. That's why we're not convinced. And it's the thing is we we went through this 20 years ago, 40 years ago whatever, 50 years ago. It's the same stuff over and over again it's like every generation people have to rediscover the same crap─

B: Kind of boring at this point.

S: ─all over again but skeptics have like institutional memory for this sort of thing we're like yeah been there, done that. This is what this is. It's an artifact It's whatever. It's all the perception things. And it's the same blob squad phenomenon etc., etc. We have to sort of teach everyone that all over again. Eventually it goes away. It's like your ghost hunting story Evan where it's like just people scaring each other and doing going through the motions. But there's never smoking gun evidence. It never leads to anything because there's no there there. There is no flying saucers buzzing our pilots.

C: And because there's no there there my perspective which is usually a psychological one clearly I'm interested in why people see patterns and all of that but even beyond that you definitely see individuals who have clear motivated reasoning for this to be true and it's a little bit hard for me to grasp why. Specifically I mean very often you can kind of point to the personal gain that individuals get with different kinds of pseudoscience. But in this specific case why do people want to believe it's alien so badly.

S: Because their life is boring and mundane. (laughter) That's a sufficient explanation. As Perry would love to say because people are living lives of quiet desperation. (laughter) Anything that breaks them out of that even momentarily is entertaining and exciting and it makes them interesting for a moment. Then there's people who are making a living off of it.

C: Right. So there's monetary gain.

S: There are people who are just fantasists. This is just how their mind works. Their fantasy prone or whatever or their some people this is a religious belief. There are UFO cults UFO-based religions. Absolutely. But for most people it's just it's interesting. And I would be interested too. I would love for this to be something real. Assuming they're benign. But it's just not true.

C: I think there's also that kind of that the I can't trust the government global cabal they're hiding this from us king of mentality.

E: Sure.

S: There's the conspiracy angle as well. Absolutely.

E: I can peek through that curtain. I have a little bit more insight to it.

S: Yeah. One final point is that one of the main speaking points of the believers is that these objects appear to be doing, appear to be breaking the laws of physics.

B: Oh yeah.

C: Right. You hear that a lot.

S: Things that no human artifact can do. And the thing is that some people leave out the operative phrase there which is appears to be breaking the laws of physics. They're not actually breaking the laws of physics. Again it's an artifact of the radar or the the optical illusion of the observer or whatever. And as a good rule of thumb when tricky biased observations are put up against the laws of physics I will bet on the laws of physics every single time. I've been right so far. Every time. And maybe one day I'll be wrong but not this day and I don't think it's going to happen. If something appears to be breaking the laws of physics the appearance is wrong not the laws of physics. All right.

E: Those apples may one day defy gravity right Steve?

S: They may float about up out of there but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise Not Extinct (59:52)[edit]

S: All right Evan tell us about the Galapagos Giant Tortoise.

E: Yes. Yes. Would you agree with me that nature is awesome?

C: Yeah.

B: Absolutely.

E: And the journal Nature is awesome for publishing this article. It appears in their communications biology journal with the title: "The Galapagos giant tortoise Chelonoidis phantasticus is not extinct." So not only is nature awesome but whoever came up with that name Chelonoidis phantasticus is also awesome. What a great name. So Chelonoidis which is the genus, phantasticus it translates to fantastic giant tortoise. The fantastic nature refers to the extraordinary shape of the shells that these tortoises have. At least in the males which have extreme flaring along the outer edge and conspicuous saddlebacking at the front. Saddlebacking is unique to Galapagos tortoises. And the phantasticus tortoise shows it's more prominent than the other species of tortoise that you'll find in the Galapagos islands. Perhaps the person who possibly named it was explorer Rollo Beck, I like that name, way back in 1906. When he was part of an expedition to the Galapagos islands sponsored by the California Academy of Science and they reportedly found only one specimen of this tortoise living on Fernandina island. And they found a male tortoise and so far that's been it. One. One direct sighting. One specimen collected. 1906. No confirmed sightings for decades and I mean decades beyond. And due to those decades upon decades of failure to find a second specimen of this tortoise it was believed to be extinct. But some evidence poked its head out, that's a turtle pun by the way, thank you, in the years after the initial discovery. There was a report in 1964. One again in the early 2000s. And the reports had suggested that this turtle, the phantasticus line of Galapagos tortoise was still alive because they found some turtle poop on the island. The island is Fernandina. The largest of the westernmost Galapagos islands. It has an active volcano on it. Not just the turtle poop but also bite marks and cactus leaves. Well something was doing was biting and pooping but they could not find a second specimen. They could not locate the tortoise until 2019. In 2019 another turtle from the island believed to be phantasticus was found. A female tortoise. And the scientist named her Fernanda. After the island. At the time of Fernanda's discovery in 2019 this provided scientists an opportunity to determine if the species is still alive. So in 2021 the researchers led by one of the paper's co-authors Stephen Gaughran from Princeton University, he sequenced or they the team sequenced the genomes of both the living individual from 2019 and the museum specimen now from 1906. And then they compared each sequence to the other 13 species of Galapagos giant tortoises. 12 of which are still alive today and there's another one that was deemed extinct in 2012. And he says, this is Stephen Gaughran: "We saw honestly to my surprise that Fernando was very similar to the one that they found on the island more than a hundred years ago and both of those were very different from all of the other island tortoises."

C: Neat.

E: Yeah.

C: But she's all alone?

E: Well.

C: Where are the friends?

E: Yeah they have found other tracks. I guess that don't match the footprint of hers. So they've seen some evidence that there are other. That there is at least one other tortoise perhaps living on the island. And also some other poop trails as well.

C: So to be clear because very similar to like the finch thing when people think back to Darwin and his finches. This is the only species of tortoise living or known to have ever lived on Fernandina. There's no other species of tortoise that scientists know about on Fernandina. Only phantasticus.

E: Yeah and this island is inhospitable to say the least. I mean it's an active volcano. It has like these they describe them as uh lava pools. And there's very little vegetation but there are some patches of cactus and some other things. And it's not easy apparently to get onto the island and go exploring. And the turtles apparently have a lot of places to hide. And very difficult to detect because they've been looking for over a hundred years for the specimen. Groups groups of scientists who have returned to the island to to look. And it's been very difficult. Very long process but even though they found Fernanda they weren't necessarily convinced that it was actually a native to the island.

C: Right and she doesn't look like. I'm looking at the study right now. She doesn't look the same. She doesn't have that weird saddle thing.

E: Yeah they talk about that and the researchers believe that this sort of lacking of that flaring that's indicative of at least the male specimen that they have they believe that that's the case because she had very limited resources and food. So they believed she had stunted growth features. And distorted features as a result of that.

C: Interesting. So it's not sexual dimorphism it's just that she didn't nutritionally.

E: Yeah nutritional. Right right. Nutritional lack of development and apparently she's smaller and lighter than the other specimen that they have and I guess on average when you compare them to the to all the tortoises that exist at the Galapagos.

S: Now Evan you use the term turtle and tortoise so.

E: Oh yeah I'm interchanging the two things?

S: But let's define them. Let's define them because it's actually very complicated.

B: Must we?

S: Just very very quickly. People might want to know that these first of all they're not cladistic groups and their usage varies. Like the US, UK and Australia use the terms differently. In the US the term turtle refers to generically to all turtles. And although sometimes people use it to refer to only seagoing turtles.

C: Yeah aquatic. That's what I thought it was. That tortoises are on land.

S: Tortoises are land dwelling. Although the box turtle is land dwelling and so that's an exception. And terrapins are fresh water or brackish water small turtles. So those are that's the American term. The British don't make the same distinction. They use the term tortoise broadly to all to refer to all land dwelling members of the order testudines regardless of whether they are actually members of the family testudine. And then Australia's they don't really have land dwelling tortoises so they use them to refer to freshwater turtles which some people don't like in Australia because it's confusing with the American and UK usages. Yeah it's very confusing. But as Americans it's yeah turtles are either sea going or generically all turtles. Tortoises are always land dwelling and terrapins are the small freshwater turtles.

E: And I even said to myself before I was going to do this story I said Evan use tortoise don't say turtle.

S: But you did.

E: Can't help it. Totally slipped into it.

S: Yeah technically accurate if you're going by the American convention of it referring to all turtles even if they're tortoises or terrapins.

C: But in the Galapagos specifically they call them tortoises. They don't call them turtles.

S: It's not cladistic. Yeah they should decide on a strictly cladistic definitions of those terms and say all right this is now how we're going to use them and just make it universal but we're just left with etymological confusion right now.

C: Right but at least when we specifically are referring to Galapagos tortoises that 13 species they're always tortoises.

S: They're always tortoises. That is correct. Yeah.

What's the Word? (1:08:16)[edit]

S: All right since Jay's not here to do Who's That Noisy. Cara you're going to do a What's the Word instead.

C: Indeed. And this word was recommended by listener Eve Hughes from the UK. Generically. This is where she said her location was. She said: "I came across the word nostrum in the Sherlock Holmes story "The sign of the Four". It seems a really useful word for the skeptic community to have in their arsenal." So let's talk about the word Nostrum because truly this is not a word I ever used before but it's so good for us to have in our arsenal. And I don't find that it's a commonly uttered word on the show.

S: It's a little archaic. I use it a lot because in when I'm writing about science-based medicine I don't want to like for example I don't want to call homeopathic nostrums remedies or medicines, right? I need something that pay like it's their potions or nostrums.

B: Why not snake oil?

S: I don't want to cycle through those so that's why I use nostrum.

C: And I love that you say that because the last line in Eve's email was: "I particularly like it in preference over words like alternative therapies or treatments or medicines because all of those words imply that a degree of aid is being provided."

S: Exactly.

C: Because you're saying treatment, medicine, therapy. And the truth is they aren't treatments, medicines or therapies. So let's look at the definition of nostrum. This is by definition a "medicine". We're gonna put medicine in like firm quotes here. Of a composition only known to the creator. So something that's like a snake oil a liniment you could say. Something that it was made by the preparer but does not have any scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness. And you will see it also used kind of more literally as a questionable strategy or scheme or remedy for something. So you'll often see it, here's the example from Miriam-Webster: "An audience eager to believe he had found the nostrum for all of society's ills." So in that case we're using it more like the word panacea. And you'll see it sometimes used economically or in like kind of social good as well so kind of an idea for solving a problem but one that is probably not going to work. Or one that is not very good. So very often it does have a negative connotation.

S: It's derogatory. No question.

C: It's very derogatory. Yeah. And so let's talk about--oh and I love the definition that gave it. It's like a little bit more obvious than the kind of standard approved Merriam-Webster or Cambridge. So says: "A medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value aka quack medicine. Patent medicine or a medicine made by the very person who recommends it." Yes you don't want your doctor to be like I made a potion. Go ahead try it out. And so I dug deep into the etymology of the word and this is really interesting. So it comes from the Latin nostrum and that actually and that comes from the word noster which means ours. And so by definition a nostrum is our medicine. The medicine that we made. So it really does connotate that the person giving it to you was the person who mixed it or invented it themselves. And so by definition it has that sort of snake oil patent medicine vibe to it. Which of course like you said it's a little bit out of fashion now but I think for our use in skeptical activism when we talk about pseudoscience. As you mentioned Bob snake oil liniments. What are some other words for snake oil?

E: Concoctions.

C: Yeah concoctions, potions. That it really─

E: Elixir maybe.

C: ─does have that flavor. Yes elixirs. I love that. And so I'm gonna start using it more often on the show I think because it's such a great term to use for things like yes a homeopathy.

S: Actually it's a shortening of the phrase nostrum remedium our remedy and just got shortened to nostrum. Which is weird. It just means our. Here's our.

C: It just means ours yeah but by definition.

S: That's because it was nostrum remedium. Our remedy.

C: Yeap. Yep yep yep.

S: But it's cool. I liked it it also has that Nostradamus kind of quality.

E: Yeah.

C: You're right. You're right.

S: Like you know you're talking Latin when you say it and it's cool.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (1:12:48)[edit]

Followup #1: Testing AIs[edit]

I love the podcast. In Episode 884 you had a really interesting discussion about LaMDA, the Google chatbot, and whether it was sentient. I agree with your conclusions but found two of your lines of reasoning problematic. Firstly, this idea that the emotions being displayed were "too human". If the chatbot is being trained on human emotions, it is unsurprising to me that a sentient AI would use those human words and terms to express themselves because that is the only language it has available. They are trying to create something to sound human, so we shouldn't be surprised that is how that chatbot talks, sentient or not. But more broadly, I struggled with the logic of "this is not how I imaging it would happen or look like, therefore it is not likely to be true". Our preconceptions could easily be wrong. I certainly believe this is a logical fallacy being deployed. And whilst informal logical fallacies are informal and therefore sometimes fine to use, in this case, the first potential AI, I think it is relevant. We have never seen a real true sentient AI. Therefore your own assumptions of what it should look like carries even less weight. All this to say, the engineer clearly fell platonically in love with a piece of software, like the chao pets in Sonic the Hedgehog from the Dreamcast era for many computer game players. He failed to actually properly interrogate the software. LaMDA is not sentient but is impressive. If you believe I have misunderstood your positions or believe my own logic/reasoning is faulty do let me know please. Best regards, – David (Leeds, United Kingdom)

S: All right we have one email. This comes from David from Leeds also in the United Kingdom. I always when I hear the the city Leads─

E: Live at Leeds.

S: ─I always think of the game Kingmaker because it was one of those catastrophe cards that was Stafford had to go to Leeds. So if you had Stafford in your deck you would have to send him to Leeds and bad things usually happened.

C: Oh no bad things happen in Leeds.

S: Well it's just that it was just throwing chaos into your plans. Whenever that would happen. All right so he writes: "I love the podcast. In Episode 884 you had a really interesting discussion about LaMDA, the Google chatbot, and whether it was sentient. I agree with your conclusions but found two of your lines of reasoning problematic. Firstly, this idea that the emotions being displayed were "too human". If the chatbot is being trained on human emotions, it is unsurprising to me that a sentient AI would use those human words and terms to express themselves because that is the only language it has available. They are trying to create something to sound human, so we shouldn't be surprised that is how that chatbot talks, sentient or not. But more broadly, I struggled with the logic of "this is not how I imaging it would happen or look like, therefore it is not likely to be true". Our preconceptions could easily be wrong. I certainly believe this is a logical fallacy being deployed. And whilst informal logical fallacies are informal and therefore sometimes fine to use, in this case, the first potential AI, I think it is relevant. We have never seen a real true sentient AI. Therefore your own assumptions of what it should look like carries even less weight." He goes on but those are his two main points there. And I wanted to take the opportunity. Those are good excellent points although that's not what I meant in either case and I clearly need to clarify what I was saying. So there's some nuance and subtlety─

C: Yeah the first one.

S: ─here. So the first one I actually thought about that when I was when I was discussing it. I guess I didn't make myself clear enough.

C: I feel like he just or she whoever wrote the email. He is reiterating your point in the first one.

S: Well but he's saying that he's saying that well wouldn't it be too, he is but didn't realize it. He thought that my own my restricted point, was actually making a kind of more of a connected point, was that oh it was too human and that is unlikely and therefore that's why I don't think it's a genuine AI. And he's saying but wouldn't it sound human regardless because it was trained on human words.

C: But your point was it was so human that it was like obvious.

S: Yeah but not only that. Not only that. My real point is that we have an explanation for why it sounds human. It sounds human and is displaying human emotions because that's exactly what it was programmed to do. In the very narrow sense because this is literally narrow AI that it's just putting words together that mimic those humans thoughts feelings and emotions. And the hypothesis that it's doing it through general AI because it really is having those emotions and feelings is a massive violation of Occam's razor. It's like Randi was fond of saying like I don't know that this magician is using this simple trick but if he's doing it some other way he's doing it the hard way.

E: Yeah he's talking about that with spoon bending with Uri Geller. Because Uri would be channeling powers from afar and some planet or whatever is his excuse whereas Randi was simply bending the spoon.

S: Yeah. Exactly. If you're doing it that way you're doing it the hard way. It's the same thing. If LaMDA is using actual general AI to mimic human emotion it's doing it the hard way because it we know it can do it the easy way the narrow AI way and that's why it aligns with the narrow AI manifestation. That was really my point was that if it were a general AI it wouldn't have to conform to the narrow AI of personality. But the fact that it does suggest that it's probably because it's doing it through as a narrow AI. And the other point is kind of connected about what I imagine it to be. Like that really wasn't the point I was making. I wasn't making a point about what I, my preconceived notions about what an artificial intelligence would be like. It was all about probability. What I'm saying is if a general AI sentience were an emergent property in LaMDA what's the probability that the emergent AI would have a human personality? Pretty minimal. Just from probability. But not only that. If we are going to detect a signal of sentience it would not be because it's perfectly duplicating human emotions. It would be because it was not perfectly duplicating human emotions. It was it was displaying some anomaly. It was doing something other than what it was programmed to do. And we had to reach for another explanation. It would have to display something quirky or new or decidedly not typically normally human, you know what I mean? But it was so yeah bizarre or like that's odd why is it doing this? But instead it was behaving perfectly typically normally human. Because that's exactly what it was designed to do and therefore that's why that's not evidence for a sentience. Evidence for sentience it would be an anomaly. Would be that it's quirky. Now he might his point kind of is well maybe though it's it just happens to have a human personality. We can't say. And maybe It's even whether or not it does it's expressing itself like a human because of the language training the chatbot training that it has. To which my rejoinder to that is well that's an unfalsifiable hypothesis. You're saying it's sentient but in exactly the way that mimics narrow AI. This narrow AI. That's an unfalsifiable hypothesis. And it's also a completely unnecessary hypothesis. And it's sliced away by Occam's razor. Because the only reason why we would have to raise the specter of sentience in this chat bot is if it were breaking in an interesting way not not because it was succeeding in doing exactly what it was programmed to do. Which includes mimicking human emotions through language, right? That was my point. That was my point. So yeah it's a little subtle and I could see how it could get misconstrued so I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify. Because this the logic here I think is very very important. It's all about unfalsifiable hypotheses and Occam's razor and probability. Does that make sense to everybody?

E: Can I bring up a tangent?

S: Sure.

E: Steve because HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey also had this two human vocalization and did you have the same feelings about how in the movie that you sort of have about this particular topic that we're discussing or did that ruin the illusion for you?

S: No because well first of all we knew it was fiction but HAL wasn't--there was something odd about HAL. HAL had a weird affect. It was a little flat. It was a little deliberately pleasant. It was a little bit servile. And of course HAL started to behave unpredictably and erratically like we couldn't know exactly why he was doing what he was doing. Because he was sentient in the movie. HAL was sentient. That introduced an element of unpredictability that ended up biting the mission in the ass in the end. But it was, what made HAL an interesting character. But also I think Kubrick very deliberately made HAL the artificial intelligence. Evan you can't bring up Kubrick and then expect me not to talk about it. (laughter) Kubrick deliberately made HAL the most human character in the movie. That was just deliberate.

C: Right so then it's all by context. The whole point was this humanity giving way to machines. That's why you have like these spaceships dancing to a waltz in the movie and meanwhile the people were all emotionally closed down. They were frigid. But HAL was like the most emotional character in the whole movie. That was very deliberate. But it still sort of worked because even though he was more expressive and emotional than Poole was for example he was it was odd. It wasn't it was wonderfully quirky. And then that so that sort of especially in 1968 it kind of made sense. Like yeah an AI would be would be kind of weird. It was almost like he was on the spectrum.

E: Yeah.

B: Yeah, right?

S: It was not neurotypical for a human being essentially.

E: Okay.

S: But also a little bit of a trope.

C: But maybe it was AI typical?

B: I see what you did there Cara.

S: But in fact that HAL's personality. I don't know if it became the trope but it's basically the trope for robots and AI and whatever. It was like they have this kind of put on personality but a little flat really.

C: It's a little uncanny valley. Not quite yet.

S: Yeah it's exactly it's a little uncanny. That's exactly where people tend to go to where they're like I'm being a robot. (Cara laughs)

E: But do you think the fellow who experienced they had his LaMDA experience perhaps got caught up in that a little bit as well.

S: Totally.

C: Well and quickly one thing that we didn't really say which you could go back to like a bunch of episodes ago on a What's the Word that we did between sentience and sapience. So sentience is about emotions. Like can it feel things. Sapience is does it know things. Does it have wisdom. And so we sort of use them interchangeably because what we were really talking about is an a wise and emotional AI. So we sort of went back and forth between the two.

S: You're right but I mean but Lemoine's claim was that LaMDA was really both. It was sapient and sentient. It actually new stuff. It was thinking not just putting words together and it was feeling. That was part of the claim.

C: Right.

S: Fascinating. But LaMDA is a chatbot. (laughter) All right.

E: You just ruined his soul.

C: Rug pulled.

S: Let's go on with signs or fiction.

Science or Fiction (1:23:43)[edit]

Theme: Geology

Item #1: Geologists estimate that the next major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault would cause vastly more damage from the resulting tsunami than the quake itself.[5]
Item #2: The Pacific ocean is so large that it contains its own antipode.[6]
Item #3: Sapphires and rubies are actually the same mineral, corundum.[7]

Answer Item
Fiction Tsunami more damaging
Science ...has its own antipode
...are the same mineral
Host Result
Steve swept
Rogue Guess
Tsunami more damaging
Tsunami more damaging
Tsunami more damaging

Voice-over: It's time for Science or Fiction.

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts. Two real one fake. And I challenge my panel skeptics to tell me which one they think is the fake. We have a theme this week. The theme is geology. Just some random geology factoids. All right. You ready? I think we equally know little about geology. I mean none of us are geologists.

C: Yeah, right, where's George?

S: George also not a geologist. All right here we go. #1: Geologists estimate that the next major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault would cause vastly more damage from the resulting tsunami than the quake itself. Item #2: The Pacific ocean is so large, how large is it, that it contains its own antipode. And remember an antipode is the exact opposite point on the Earth. In other words if you went through the middle of the Earth you would come out at your antipode. Okay and #3: Sapphires and rubies are actually the same mineral, corundum.

Cara go first.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: All right. Let's see. Geologists estimate. I don't like reading them out loud. Okay. The next major earthquake along San Andreas fault. This is in my backyard.

E: For the moment.

C: I should know this. Would cause vastly more damage from the resulting tsunami than the quake itself. So when you say the next major earthquake you mean like above─

S: Yeah like above eight. Huge. The big one. Like there's a big one coming like the kind that's city destroying.

C: So is the big one going to cause more damage from the actual movement of the of the plates or is it gonna be from the water. More water damage or more property damage just from the quake itself. Pacific ocean contain. Now I'm like do I have a globe in here. Is that cheating?

S: Don't cheat. Yes, that's cheating.

C: I mean the Pacific is the biggest ocean. And I'm trying to think of like I feel like I'd be tricking myself if I'm thinking latitudinally but what if we're talking longitude well no it doesn't matter an antipode doesn't matter where on the map it is. It's just the opposite. But it would what if it's at the very very tippy top that we're talking about. Maybe it's antipode would be the oh wait but then that's the antarctic. Maybe. Oh man. And then sapphires and rubies are actually the same mineral. Okay so sapphires are blue rubies are red. Rubies are red sapphires are blue. We'll come up with the rest of that later. So corundum okay corundum not conundrum. I thought you wrote conundrum and I was like no. This is a conundrum. Well it is a corundum. That sounds so ridiculous that I'm gonna say that's science. I'm gonna say the antipode one is science too. There's something about the tsunami one that bugs me. I feel like this is the stuff of like disaster movies but really when I think about the last big earthquake that I know about it was the quake itself. That's where the damage came from. Yeah tsunamis are scary and horrible and yeah we see terrible stuff that happens when there's geologic activity under like plates under the ocean. And I'm sure there would be some waves. And I'm sure they would come up and crash but I think there would be way more property damage from the quake itself. So I'm gonna say that one's the fiction.

S: Okay Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Yeah I believe that Pacific ocean could although man I wish I had a globe in this room. And the sapphires and rubies. That's certainly possible I mean I just know squad about that. The one that rubbed me the wrong way though was the fault one. And isn't the San Andreas isn't that what's it called? Is it a slip fault? Is that? I'm just riffing kind of. It's not the kind it goes across itself. It doesn't go up or down which I think would be more likely to cause something like a tsunami. So I just don't think the San Andreas fault is a type that would cause a tsunami and it's historically it's always seems to be the damage from the earthquake itself. So I'll say that one's fiction.

S: And Evan.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Yeah I'm gonna agree with the team. Isn't it called the subduction or subduction zone? Like when one plate goes underneath the other like in Japan? The plate on Japan. So when you have the earthquakes there that's what ultimately will cause the tsunami. Not the type at the San Andreas fault which are the two plate lines scraping effectively I think against each other. There may be some movement underneath but it's not at the water level. So I think that's why that one's the fiction. The antipode in the Pacific ocean. I think the Pacific ocean is big folks. I mean it is big. Look at your globe. I didn't know about the sapphires and ruby's one but I'm just not feeling it for the faults here. So we're all together on this one.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Okay yeah you're all together. So we'll take then in reverse order. We'll start with sapphires and rubies actually mineral corundum.

E: Ay corundum!

S: You guys all think this one is science. And this one is─

B: Say it.

S: Science.

C: Yeah! Corundum!

S: A lot of the common names for gems are based upon their look not necessarily their their mineral structure. They're all corundum also can have like an opaque brownish kind of like looks like a rock kind of thing. But the yeah the crystalline like translucent ones if there's iron trace iron in it then it's red like a ruby. And if there's trace either titanium or chrome in there then it's chromium then it's blue. Actually sapphires are. Rubies are corundum that's red and sapphires are corundum that's every other color but they're mostly blue.

C: Yeah that's true I've seen. They'll refer to them as like green sapphires.

S: Green sapphires. Anything other than red that's corundum that's a gem is a sapphire. But yeah it's just the trace minerals that give it the color. But then the structure is the same and bonus points if any of you know what that structure is.

C: What do you mean? It's corundum.

S: What's the chemical structure?

C: The chemical structure?

E: It's very hexagonal.

S: Chemical formula.

E: Oh gee.

S: It is a hexagonal. It is hexagonal crystal. Comes in blue, red, violet, pink, green, yellow, orange, gray, white, colorless and black. And the chemical formula is Al2O3. Aluminum Oxide.

C: Oh. That's shorter than I thought. Because you know when you visit a natural history museum and you go to the gem hall and there's some really long formula.

S: Some are really complicated.

E: Long strands. Oh my god.

S: Yeah it's got like five six.

E: Looks like alphabet soup.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: All right let's go back to #2: The Pacific ocean is so large. How large is it? That it contains its own antipode. And yeah the Pacific ocean is really big but is it big enough that it covers literally half of the Earth?

C: And if so where? Where would it be?

S: Exactly.

E: North south probably.

S: Well this one is science. It's a science.

E: Yey!

S: And it is just barely because you there are antipodes from the gulf of Tonkin to Peru.

E: Interesting. Crossed that line.

S: So it's like it just barely fits in there but it's the antipodes are both in the Pacific ocean. But just barely.

C: Cool.

S: That's cool.

E: That counts.

S: Yeah it counts. Totally. That's cool.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: And that means that geologists estimate that the next major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault would cause vastly more damage from the resulting tsunami than the quake itself. That is the fiction. Bob and Evan nailed it.

C: Oh.

S: Cara you should be ashamed.

C: I loosen the lid.

S: Yeah sure you did.

E: You did start.

S: So Bob is correct. This is a slip fault and it has a horizontal movement only not vertical movement so it doesn't cause a tsunami. And also the San Andreas fault is on land. It's not under the ocean. So you have to be under the water to cause a tsunami.

C: So you guys used your science and I used my history.

S: But Cara you said you were correct when you said this is like a disaster movie because it literally was a disaster movie.

C: Oh really?

S: San Andreas where there was a massive tsunami but that was pure science fiction because the tsunami would not have happened. Now that doesn't mean that you can't get small tsunamis. Those small tsunamis are caused by landslides caused by the earthquake. They're tiny though. They're not the huge.

B: Yeah they'd have to be an amazing landslide to cause even a little tsunami.

S: So California that the west coast doesn't really get hit with big tsunamis because there's no real fault line that would produce a big one. There are some fault lines that go into the Pacific ocean that can cause some tsunamis but they're just not gonna be huge. Like there's the Ventura Fault. That one extends into the ocean so that could cause a tsunami. You can get them from Alaska and you can get them from China and Japan from those areas. But they they're pretty diminished by the time they would get to California. So California could get hit with a reasonably big tsunami. Just not the real huge ones that could like really be devastating to parts of Asia.

E: Yeah, Fukushima, right?

S: Do you know technically you know any of you guys like what makes a tsunami a tsunami? What's the difference between a tsunami and just a really big wave?

C: Does it have to be caused by [inaudible]?

B: The wavelength. Is it the wavelength of the wave?

S: The critical feature.

C: Source?

S: No because again source could have different sources. The critical feature is that the wave the pressure wave extends all the way to the ocean floor. It's not just on the surface. The pressure wave extends all the way to the floor. They usually originate from the floor. Like if it's an earthquake it's originally─

C: Yeah that makes sense.

S: ─from the floor itself. But yeah that's that it's the pressure wave. It's not just on the surface it goes all the way down to the bottom.

E: What if it kills a bunch of fish and sea life?

C: Yeah what do they do to the wildlife?

S: I don't know. Maybe they just ride it out but the thing is─

B: [inaudible] too bad.

S: ─and that's important because there's the dynamics of when it hits the shore that pressure wave really raises the water really high and that's why the water goes so far inland. If it was just a surface wave it would just crash. Wouldn't go all the way and land the way that it does.

E: Oh gosh the one in 2004 was just cataclysmic.

C: So scary. Horrifying.

B: Yeah I mean really the wavelength this is a critical part because it comes in and it keeps coming it doesn't stop.

S: The amplitude more than the wavelength. Is that the amplitude goes all the way to the sea floor.

C: Yeah the height of the wave.

S: The height of the wave. And it's the pressure wave not the water at the surface. It's the pressure wave. It goes all the way down to the bottom.

C: So that's at the actual energy that's going through it.

S: Yes exactly. It's a massive amount of energy that's exactly right. And that pushes that water so miles inland in some cases. All right well good job guys. You knew more than you thought.

C: Yey!.

E: Yey geology.

B: Wait a tsunami can have a period in the range of 10 minutes to two hours and a wavelength in excess of 300 miles. 500 kilometers.

S: Yeah that's huge. I mean that's part of it. That's a good chunk.

S: Yeah yeah. True. You're correct. All right Evan give us a quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:35:39)[edit]

If we're never wrong then we're never surprised. If we grow too protective of our existing beliefs, then we stagnate and stop learning. If we've reached any degree of competence within our field, it's because we got things wrong along the way. So why stop now? It's interesting, I think, for each of us to consider the following: What am I currently wrong about? It's an impossible question to answer, but a curio, though, to contemplate nonetheless.
Hector Chadwick, UK-based mentalist

E: All right this week's quote was a suggestion from listener David from Asheville, North Carolina. Thank you David. He wrote: "Love the show been listening since almost the very beginning of the podcast. One of my hobbies is magic and recently read the following quote in a book called The Definitive Mental Mysteries of Hector Chadwick by magician Hector Chadwick. So this is a Hector Chadwick quote. "If we're never wrong then we're never surprised. If we grow too protective of our existing beliefs, then we stagnate and stop learning. If we've reached any degree of competence within our field, it's because we got things wrong along the way. So why stop now? It's interesting, I think, for each of us to consider the following: What am I currently wrong about? It's an impossible question to answer, but a curio, though, to contemplate nonetheless."

C: I like that.

E: What am I currently wrong about? How often do we think that to ourselves?

C: Right.

E: Not often enough.

B: Yeah I like thinking similar to that I like thinking what assumptions are am I making?

S: Yeah. That's hard.

C: That's a big one.

S: Hidden assumptions.

B: You gotta think it. You gotta think it once in a while because a lot of times I think of it after the fact. Like crap that was an assumption that was not identified.

S: Yeah those are tricky. But it's good to be on the alert for them. And so that's why when you disagree with somebody stepping back and going all right I'm not just going to assume I'm correct. Let's break it down see where what are the assumptions. What's the logic. Who's making the mistake here and try to really. That's what I like, I like arguing with people even though they're not good arguers or like don't really have much of a doubt about the position I'm taking. I still like the argument itself because it's breaking down logic and premises and assumptions and everything is a fantastic exercise.

E: You used to do it with creationists all the time.

S: I know. My wife would say why do you bother debating with them on this. Like I'm learning. I'm learning how to debate these people and and it was earning your bones as a skeptic I think. I mean basically it's just that's how you develop your chops.

E: Very good practice.

C: But it sure is exhausting.

S: Yeah it can be.

E: Well, like any exercise.

S: Yeah it's exercising your brain. Your logic muscles.

All right thanks Evan. And thank you all for joining me this week.

E: Thank you Steve.

C: Thanks Steve.

E: Feel better Jay!


S: —and until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

S: Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information, visit us at Send your questions to And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[8]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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