SGU Episode 902

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SGU Episode 902
October 22nd 2022
902 Neanderthal-Father-Daughter.jpg

Father-daughter Neanderthal pair[1]

SGU 901                      SGU 903

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

In a way, everyone in this story is seeing Jesus in the Toast. We all want to see what we want to see. We are projecting our own selves. That's what we do as humans: we look to make connections between different things. And sometimes, when those things align, we declare those connections "truth."

Geoffrey Gray, American author

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Cara's birthday, perceptions of age[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 Thursday, October 20th, 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: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening everyone!

S: So if you guys heard this? One of the last people who was the child of an enslaved American just died at the age of 90. Isn't that amazing, though, to think that somebody whose parents were slaves was still alive? And they said one of the last, so I guess there may be more that are still alive.

C: Yeah. I mean, that doesn't-

E: Jee whiz.

C: That was not that long ago.

S: I mean, that is a long time ago. That's 160 years ago.

E: How many generations? It was roughly 25 years a generation, so eight generations ago.

S: But here's the thing. He was born when his father was 70 years old. And he lived to 90. So that's 160 years.

E: Holy moly. Yeah. Right. Yeah. It'd have to be. The edges.

S: But I find that amazing. It reminds me of President Tyler's grandkids were alive until very recently. They may still be alive because, again, he was old when he had a son, and his son was old when he had his kids, so, I always find that amazing.

E: Similar phenomenon. Yeah.

B: It's an anomaly. That's not normal. I mean, having a kid at 70 and then living to 90, those two extreme things.

E: Speaking of birthdays, right? Happy birthday, Cara. Related.

C: Thanks.

J: Cara.

S: Cara, I understand you're almost 40. Yeah. I've got one year. Here's the thing. I feel like my 40th will be, okay, it'll be tough, fine, whatever, 40th is like a big year for a lot of people, existential crisis time. But I feel like 39 is almost weirdly tougher. Did you guys have the same experience or no?

S: I stopped paying attention to that when I passed 30.

C: Really? At 30? When you were done with your 20s, you were like, I'm just old, I'm not going to pay attention to my birthdays anymore.

S: I mean, I still pay attention to my birthday. I just, I don't pay attention to boundaries just arbitrary numbers.

C: Oh, I see. Those arbitrary kind of decades, yeah. You say that, but you guys also live a very different lifestyle.

S: Yeah. What do you mean by that, Cara? You need an explanation.

B: Explain yourself.

J: You got to explain that. Yeah.

C: Well, so I'm-

E: In most ways, I would say.

C: I'm single and dating. When you're like, I'm married, I have a family, like whatever, 30, 35, 40, 45, it's all the same, but like when you date, it's not, I disagree by the way with Steve's characterization. Here's one of many examples. When you are like on the apps, people set parameters and I think 40 is like a hard and fast cutoff for some people.

J: Sure.

C: And that's weird to me.

S: When you get married, you could stop worrying about a lot of things.

C: (laughs)

S: Thank Christ, I don't have to think about that anymore.

E: Like hygiene. Yeah. (Cara laughs)

B: Cara, I was divorced and dating in my 50s, so-

C: Yeah, yeah. And that's actually, that's something that I see a lot on apps, which is really funny. So yesterday or the day before I was 38, and I remember talking to friends and being like, it's so interesting how there aren't that many people on the apps that are my age. There are a lot of younger people and there are a lot of older people. And they're just don't seem, and so I was like, maybe it's because they set their parameters differently. I let's say I'm dating guys, then guys are like dating younger or whatever. And I was talking to a friend about it and he was like, no, it's because they're married. He was like, they're not yet divorced. Like wait a few years.

E: We're not yet divorced. N.Y.D. Right.

C: In the mid 40s, there'll be a whole new batch. Don't worry.

S: Yeah, you're in the trough of a bimodal distribution.

C: Yes, exactly.

J: Cara, to make you feel better, though I was single in my 40s and I found the best relationship of my life in my 40s. I think that was largely due to the fact that I finally grew up.

C: Yeah it takes guys a while.

J: Yeah, it does. It does. But I mean, also it's just you're in a different part of your life. And I think the chances of you finding like the right person, as corny as that sounds.

C: I don't, that's not what I'm worried about, Jay. I'm a non-monogamist. I don't, that's not a thing I'm trying to do. I'm having lots of fun. Don't worry. You don't have to worry about me in this department.

E: Right, right. You just want a bigger ocean to swim in.

C: I'm just talking about arbitrary cutoffs. That's all. I think the world sees 40 as something different than it sees in people in their 30s.

E: We're conditioned. I think we're conditioned by a lot of our media and demographics and things that they hold up. People aged 18 to 39 fall into this category and 40 to 64, this category. And that happens all over the place. So in a way we're kind of conditioned to these numbers.

C: Don't you think culturally like the, it doesn't keep time with the changes to our actual demographics. So it's like we are culturally induced to think about these things as like, oh, 40 is middle age, but it's not really anymore because people live longer than that now.

E: Longer and more quality to a lot of those years that they do wind up living. I think quality of years has a lot to do with it as well. There's more quality years to be had.

C: 40 is the new 30. Let me have this, you guys. Let me have this.

E: Oh, no, no argument here.

S: Yeah. And that carries through every decade.

C: Yeah. I actually think it is too. One of my best friends just had her first, likely only, I think, I don't think she wants anymore, but her first kid at 40. This is not uncommon now.

E: Cara, you can look up an old documentary series from the late 80s and early 90s called Thirtysomething and you can watch that documentary and learn a lot from it.

C: Will it make me sad?

E: Well, it's not a documentary. It's a sitcom. (Cara laughs) So no, it won't.

S: They're just tracking the baby boomers as we get older.

C: I think that's what that is. It's just that the people who are in charge are like, we got to make another show about us.

Quickie with Jay: Hiding Anti-Vaccine Misinformation (6:31)[edit]

  • [link_URL TITLE][2]

S: All right, Jay, you're going to start us off with the news items with a quick one about anti-vaccine groups and Facebook.

J: Yeah. So Facebook has removed over 27 million pieces of content that violated their COVID-19 misinformation policy. I'm assuming that that is for all time and not 27 million a year. But the point I'm making is that they're in a constant battle to find and remove, "dangerous content". And Facebook, as you guys probably know, they have something called community standards. These are the rules that people that start groups, they have to follow these rules. Now, part of these standards say that Facebook will, and I'm quoting Facebook's webpage, they'll "Remove information during public health emergencies when public health authorities conclude that the information is false and likely to directly contribute to the risk of imminent physical harm." And Facebook also says that groups will be removed if they "Instruct or encourage users to employ code words when discussing vaccines or COVID-19 to evade our detection." But this rule does not specifically talk about the use of emojis and misinformation. And I know that when you hear the word emojis, you probably just think, ah, it's silly or whatever but it isn't actually the way that they're using them. I never thought that people would use emojis for serious communication. And it's legitimately them writing in code and the bots and or moderators that Facebook uses can't pick them up, just can't pick up the encoded language that they're using. There are groups right now on Facebook that are most definitely violating the rules, but they remain in place specifically because of the coded language that they're using. So Bloomberg reviewed six anti-vax Facebook groups, all of them created in the past year. And I think they were they were viewing them for about a year and they commonly use emoji peaches and apples to represent people being harmed by vaccines. Now I know this to me, this seems so obvious when you read about these, you read the post that you'd be like, they're clearly talking about people who are hurt by vaccines. But it's not that easy for the artificial intelligence or the moderators to pick them up. And then we also have to to factor in the huge volume of of stuff that needs to be moderated. So this slips below Facebook's radar. And these groups easily go on to create brand new Facebook groups. If there's any heat at all, they just jump from one group to the next. They use different names. If they get banned or not, they just pop up the very same day in another group and there's no way to like have continuity. It's complicated. It seems that Facebook just can't keep up with it. And I think they have an issue with the detect with detection. And like I said this this could be a problem with their artificial intelligence apps that's that's doing moderation. That's the first line of defense. Now, of course, this isn't limited. This coded language thing isn't limited to just antivaxxers. Many pseudosciences and of course, all sorts of other different types of groups that could be anything that they've created their own emoji codes to avoid detection deliberately. They're doing this all deliberately. So in the legal realm, law enforcement and courts don't know how to handle the use of emojis when it comes to incriminating evidence. It's complicated there. You can imagine this guy put typed in an apple and it means this and that. How do you prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt? It's a little gray and that's why legally nothing has really happened yet. So social media platforms are easily being played here and they obviously need to change their policies to include coded speech, all coded speech. And this is a good example of people being clever, which they are. We keep seeing pseudoscientists being pretty clever and how they do what they do and how they get around the "rules" that everyone has to deal with. They're inventing workarounds. So I have a few questions for you guys. I thought this was really provocative. So first off, what do you guys in general think of this, the coded language thing?

S: Well, I think this kind of thing was inevitable.

C: It's smart.

S: You knew this was going to happen. And it's not always a bad thing. We know that, for example, Chinese dissidents will often use coded language in order to evade government censorship or government crackdown. So it could cut both ways. But what I wonder, though, is if you have to use coded language to spread your misinformation, does that limit its reach to some extent? Because you have to already be in the know to understand what's being said.

B: Yeah, that's my first thought is that it would it would limit it.

J: I just think that people will always somehow find a way to be one step ahead. There is always a workaround. Nothing ever gets locked down. And misinformation this is a huge deal. This is misinformation is playing out on the global stage in a profound way. And social media seems to be the thing that misinformation kind of circles this drain. It's coming from these platforms. It's a great question. What do you do? What should they do? What should our legal systems ask them to do? And is it technologically within their grasp? I don't know. It's one of those things. I would love to hear someone who is in this space talk about this and really wrap our head around, what's going on? Because it is a problem right now.

News Items[edit]

Electric Universe (11:58)[edit]

S: So let me ask you guys a question. Have you ever heard of the Electric Universe?

E: Is that a dance craze?

S: Yeah, it's the one that came after the Electric Slide, right? How about you, Cara? Have you ever heard of the Electric Universe?

C: I know that you wrote about it this week.

S: Yeah, before. Before I wrote about it.

C: I heard about it then.

S: So yeah, this is an interesting pseudoscience. It's not one, I think, of the more popular ones. It kind of flies under the radar. It's not like astrology or homeopathy or anything. But it's big. It's been around for a while. It's actually a set of beliefs. It's a category of beliefs. It's not one specific theory. That way it's often hard to nail it down. But basically, the Electric Universe is the idea that at cosmological scales, electromagnetism is the dominant force, not gravity. So it basically replaces gravity as the force that determines the general structure and movement and stuff in the universe. Part of the reason why I wrote about it and I wanted to talk about it was because some EU proponents, Electric Universe proponents, were infiltrating my blog and writing about it and promoting it. And it's interesting. It's an interesting pseudoscience, and it's maybe a little bit more complicated than a lot out there because it kind of exists at a physics level. And some of the proponents have science degrees. So it's maybe hard for the layperson to immediately recognize how ridiculous it is. It's not overtly magical. It's not saying really crazy stuff, at least it doesn't sound that way unless you have a basic working knowledge of some cosmology, astronomy, physics, whatever. So it kind of can slip under the radar. It's also what I call a crank pseudoscience because it is, again, it's not magic per se. It is trying to just say, oh, it's an alternate theory of physics. And you should be open minded to this new alternate theory. And so people can fall down this rabbit hole very easily. You read, watch a YouTube video, read a book or a series of articles, all promoting this one idea, and people find it compelling because if you're marshaling all of the arguments just for one perspective all at once, then that could be overwhelming, especially if you don't already know why it's BS. And then once you get invested into it, then you start to defend that position and it could be hard to get out of it. Especially then you start to get into the conspiracy mindset and you're being closed minded you start to replicate all of the things that pseudoscientists do. To get into a little bit more detail, I mean, they make some really, really far out claims. One of which, for example, is that, well, if gravity isn't the dominant force at astronomical cosmological scales, the stars like the Sun, is not primarily fueled by gravity, meaning that astronomers and astrophysicists have pretty much worked out the stellar lifecycle. Stars burn fusion at their core, and the reason they can do that is because the gravity, the immense gravity of their mass squeezes the hydrogen in their core to such temperatures and pressures that it can sustain fusion. And then the bigger the star, the heavier the elements they can ultimately fuse in their core all the way up until you produce iron, and then you can't get energy out of fusing iron, so that's when the process stops, no matter how big the star is. So most of the time, most stars are fusing hydrogen into helium, and that's fueled, it's powered, if you will, by the gravity, the intense force of the gravity pushing in. But if they say that gravity either doesn't exist at the extreme end, again, it's multiple theories, it's not just one specific set of beliefs, it's multiple ideas within this umbrella of electricity being dominant. So if gravity either doesn't exist or it's a minor player, then that means there's no fusion in the core of the sun. And if there's no fusion in the core of the sun, why is it burning so brightly? What is fueling the sun? So guess what they say, like what is, what's their answer to that question?

J: Their batteries?

E: They're plugged in.

J: Their batteries.

E: Very long extension cords.

S: That's basically right, they say that the stars are cathodes, galactic cathodes. That they're pumping energy from the galactic electric energy source.

E: Oh, that's right.

J: Oh, right Ev.

C: The galactic electric power source?

E: The galactic electric power source. The GEPS. G-E-P-S.

S: We've never detected.

E: The GEPS.

S: But it's out there somewhere.

E: It's always the GEPs.

S: And you know the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies? They don't exist. They just to say that, yeah, they don't exist.

C: You know those things? They're not real.

S: And then they say that, so what's the solar wind? Well they, if the sun is a cathode, right, that's positively charged particles.

E: Oh, like sitting in front of a television.

S: The solar wind is negatively charged particles. It's like, wait a minute. So they would be attracted to the positively charged particles, not repelled by them. So they think, this doesn't make even basic electromagnetic sense. At the macroscopic scale, negative charged things and positively charged things are attracted to each other and they cancel each other out. So anything big, basically the positive and negative stuff will cancel each other out. So big things are electrically neutral, generally, unless there's some active process like a Van de Graaff generator or some active process separating out the charges. The Earth has a magnetic field because there's a magnetic dynamo in our core. There's got to be something powering it. Also the solar wind, not for nothing, is both positive and negative particles, right? It's protons and electrons. So they're both it's stupid and they're factually wrong. All right. So let's talk about the fact that there is no evidence for any of this. Any of these claims that the Electric Universe is making, but also they're sort of undoing things that we've already explained. They're unexplaining things. We know that fusion is happening in the Sun, partly because of the neutrinos that are streaming at us from the Sun and from every star. In fact, neutrinos are created by the process of fusion. So they would have to explain where these neutrinos are coming from if there's no fusion happening at the core of the Sun. So some of them have said, well, maybe there's a layer of fusion on the outside of the Sun, in the atmosphere of the Sun, because it is really hot there. The atmosphere of the Sun is very, very hot. Maybe that's where the fusion is happening. So first of all, no, those conditions are not amenable to fusion, cannot happen. But second, if it were happening, we would be fried by gamma rays because fusion also creates gamma rays. The reason why the fusion at the core isn't frying us is because the mass of the Sun filters and attenuates the gamma rays. So there's only a small amount leaking out from the surface of the Sun. But if the fusion were happening on the outside, they wouldn't be filtered and basically all life on earth would be fried. So these are non-trivial problems with their theory, and they don't have answers to these things. That's the thing. They don't really explain anything. They don't predict anything. They can't answer fundamental fatal flaws with their ideas. It is such transparent nonsense. They can't explain the life cycle of stars. They have no explanation for it, whereas the standard model of stellar astronomy has a very thorough and well-supported, mountain-of-evidence-supported model of the entire life cycle of stars. And obviously there's lots of out there that we can observe. This is a rock-solid theory at this point in time. They're replacing it with something unnecessarily. They're fixing a non-problem and creating massive fatal problems in its stead.

C: Why do you think that it has, I mean, I've never heard of it, but why does it have staying power?

S: Well, at the core of this, there are pseudoscientists who are making a lot of money selling stuff to rubes.

C: That makes sense. That tracks.

S: There's a huge financial incentive here. They're giving lectures. They're selling books. They're holding conferences. And why would somebody who has training in science go into this? Well, maybe they like being a big fish in a small pond. They like the attention, the money. It's interesting. It's exciting. Maybe, and again, you can't really read people's minds as we say, maybe they've fallen down their own rabbit hole. They're just really bad at science.

J: Of course.

S: And then why do people believe it? Because it's interesting. It's different. You're in the know. You're one of the few people who understand something that the rest of the world doesn't understand. Everyone else is being deceived by the mainstream and you're on the inside. So you know something special. Now one of the patinas that they use to convince the rubes that they're doing real science is something called the Sapphire Project. And essentially this is an experiment in plasma. They're doing stuff with plasma. And then they're saying this is going to prove that the Sun really is electric in nature and not being caused by fusion. Now none of the people who are doing the Sapphire Project are plasma physicists. None of them have any idea what they're doing. There was one guy who was an actual plasma physicist that was hired. They paid him money to basically help them make this experiment work. And he said, he was doing it straight up for the money. And he said that these people have no idea what they're doing. They refused to let me educate them about plasma physics. They had never had any idea what they were doing. And they're not really proving or predicting or doing any experiments. They're just seeing what's happening. And then they make superficial analogies to stuff that astronomers see when we look out into the universe. So they're saying, oh, look, here's a pattern, and we see a similar-looking pattern in gas clouds in space, in nebula. Therefore the Electric Universe. It makes no sense. And again, the resemblances that they're doing are not exact or precise. They don't predict that they're coming from the same phenomenon. They're just very, very superficial. It's like analogy versus homology in evolution. Do these two features, these two anatomical structures or whatever, do they look similar because they have a similar function, or do they look similar because they evolved from a common ancestor? How do you know the difference? Well, if you have a common ancestor, then there should be similarities in details, in little details, especially those that are not critical to function. The only reason, way you could explain those similarities is because they must have shared a common ancestor. So they do similar kind of things. It's like the pyramids. There are people saying, oh, there are pyramids all over the world. What are the odds that different cultures would come up with the exact same building designs? Well, first of all, they're not exactly the same. You have ziggurats like in South America, and you have pyramids in Egypt, and you have some pyramids that have four sides, some have three sides. So what are the odds that people would have stacked stones in progressively smaller layers because of gravity? That's just basic construction. So for example, we talked, was it last week or the week before, about the concentric rings around that binary star system, and it was discovered that this is probably because the two stars are revolving around each other very, very quickly, and their solar winds are interacting and it's pumping out these concentric rings of dust. So they saw that picture. This is actually what caused them to infiltrate my blog because I blogged about it. They saw that picture and they go, look, concentric rings. We see concentric rings around the plasma in the SAFIRE project, and therefore, Electric Universe. Well, yes, but then they say things like they look exactly the same. No, they don't. They're not perfect concentric rings. They're imperfect. And the imperfections are clues as to what the mechanism of them are. We know that they're coming from the period of revolution of these binary stars because of the specific details of those rings. And again, the idea that, what are the odds that we would see concentric rings out there in space somewhere? And as if that would be a rare phenomenon in nature. There's lots of things that can create concentric rings. It's not that unusual a pattern. Tree rings are concentric rings. The waves in water can be concentric rings, anything like that. It's not that big a deal. It proves nothing. And the SAFIRE project predicted nothing. They didn't predict anything specific, just we're going to be able to find superficial resemblances in clouds and dust and whatever. And then it is classic pseudoscience. They're not doing actual science. They are just doing something that very superficially resembles science.

E: So does it boil down to these are like some of the most self-deluded people out there?

S: Well, I mean, there is certainly dumber stuff out there, more magical more far off stuff. But this is pretty bad. You know where this comes from, by the way? This all derives ultimately from Velikovsky. Remember that guy? That was the guy-

B: Oh, my god. Wow.

S: -that was the guy who said that like Venus was spat out by Jupiter and fell into its current orbit.

E: Wait, why don't I know that?

S: Started a lot of the Electric Universe stuff. So, yeah, so it goes back to him and there's definitely some cult like religious belief type stuff within the Electric Universe. Here's another really out there belief of theirs. They believe in space lightning. There's just into this interplanetary massive discharge of electricity, which we've never seen, for which there is zero evidence. But they conjure this up in order to explain things again that are already explained, like impact craters. Oh, those aren't actually impact craters. Those are lightning strikes. And then they'll say, oh, I know the the Valles Marineris on Mars. That was space lightning. Well, how do you know that? Well, we don't know because it is. And even the Grand Canyon on Earth, they say, was space lightning. And we don't observe this today anywhere in the universe. We could look out in the universe and see anything because it's, we have a huge theater. We could look at billions of galaxies, billions of stars. We could see extremely rare events because the universe is a big place. We could look back in time, billions of years. We've never seen space lightning or the evidence of it or any whatever it is. They're just making stuff up a whole cloth there.

E: But that's why I say, I mean, how deep is the self delusion here? It seems pretty deep because deep, baby, because they're not I'm trying to think about why they really are doing this and so and so devoted to it, Steve. I know you mentioned it earlier about in the context of why the Flat Earthers kind of are the way they are as well for this. But you know, I mean, OK, so they want to sell some books or they want to get clicks on their on their site or something but there's got to be something more to it.

C: I know it's hard to believe that's it.

E: Their brains are not working. Their brains are not working correctly.

S: That's the thing. There doesn't. I don't think there has to be anything more to it. As Perry used to love to say people are living lives of quiet desperation. And what that means is they will latch on to anything that distracts them or elevates them from that the everyday mundane drudgery of life. And it's entertainment at the end of the day. Again, you're part of this click that knows something that most people don't know. And it's just the idea that the mainstream science could be so profoundly wrong for so long is fascinating. If you think that you have evidence of that, then the world suddenly becomes a much more interesting, I guess, place. To me, that would make it a much more scary place. But that's it. That's all you really need to explain. There doesn't need to be anything more than that. And then, of course, people will who are just trying to make money will attach themselves to any phenomenon like that, because people who believe in nonsense and pseudoscience are really easy marks. So then that becomes self-reinforcing as well. You mentioned the Flat Earthers, by the way. They like the Electric Universe theory because the Flat Earth can't deal with gravity. The EU theory gets rid of gravity. So there's a synergy between the Flat Earthers and the Electric Universe believers as well. So sometimes that kind of thing is going on.

E: Yeah, it's fascinating. And then it becomes dangerous when they start trying to sell us free energy stuff, vitamin supplements and anti-vaccination propaganda. That's when it starts to turn nefarious.

S: Yeah, clearly some pseudosciences have more pragmatic implications than others. Some have caused direct harm. But even things like this that are more abstract, it still indoctrinates people into pseudoscience and conspiracy thinking.

E: Yep. Conditions them in a way.

S: Yeah that has a danger unto itself. So anyway, if you want to learn more about this, I wrote a blog about it at Neurologica. I linked to two really well-produced videos that go rapid fire through like tons of problems with the Electric Universe theory and give you a lot of information.

E: Jay, you've got to kill your meatball universe theory right now before Steve takes you apart online, okay?

J: I know enough, Ev, not to really talk about it, you know.

E: Okay. Well, wait. Wait till enough people-

S: No, you don't get to learn about that until you get to level six.

C: And how much does that cost me?

Neanderthal Clan (30:38)[edit]

S: All right, Cara, tell us about the first Neanderthal family.

C: Yeah. Do you guys remember, was it just last week or was it two weeks ago when we talked about the Nobel Prizes?

E: Mm-hmm. Two weeks.

B: Two.

C: So Professor Pääbo, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, who I talked about, Svante Pääbo, the Swedish geneticist who, oh my gosh, like sequenced the Neanderthal genome. This is cool. So there's a new study that was published literally yesterday, and he was one of the authors of it. He wasn't the lead author. The lead author was Laura Scoff, and it's the same group of specimens, Neanderthal specimens, that his team has been working on for some time, led us to some new insights about how Neanderthals lived. And I love stories like this where we're looking at the genetics, but the genetics are telling us a little bit more about behavior and kinship and family dynamics than we previously knew. So there is a cave in eastern Siberia, basically the farthest east that we know that their home range was, called Chagyrskaya Cave. I hope I'm saying that well. It's like southern Siberia, and it's really close to Denisova Cave. And researchers have found just treasure trove of specimens in there, lots of tools, lots and lots of stone tools, and then also I think 90,000 stone tools so far in the cave, a bunch of butchered bison bones. And in this study, they looked at fragments, mostly teeth, some bones of individuals, and they tried to kind of sort out how many people we got here that are all in the same level, all in the same layer of sediment. How many people we got here, what can we find out about them? And so they looked through these different fragments, and they started sequencing, sequencing, sequencing and saying, okay, what's going on? Is this individual male or female? How old is this individual? What can we glean from this? And they found some really cool stuff. So one of the first things, I don't know what order they found them in, but one of the first things I'll list is, okay, so these are 11 different individuals that they were able to identify. There were two more in a nearby cave, Okladnikov, but that's like kind of a separate story. So in Chagyrskaya Cave, they found 11 individuals, and they found a pair of individuals that were so closely related, they were like, it must be a father-daughter or a brother-sister. But they knew that the male was older than the female. So they were like, hmm, how can we tell if it's a father-daughter or brother-sister? Let's not just look at, let's look at the mitochondrial DNA and compare that to these Y chromosome sequences. And they found that they had different mitochondrial DNA, which would only happen in a father and daughter. If it was brother and sister, they would have both gotten mitochondrial DNA from mom, right? So they were able to identify, and I think this might be the first time ever, we have a father and a daughter in the same cave that are both Neanderthal, that are super old, and they're next to each other. They also found another pair of second-degree relatives, so likely cousins, that were related to that same father. And so they're like, ooh, this is cool. So we know now that these individuals were living together. We don't know where mom is, but they think they might still be able to find mom because they haven't sequenced everything that they found in the cave yet. And then they're like, what else is going on here? Well, up to a third of the genomes of the individuals had super long segments of homozygosity. So they're like, there's a lot of genetic similarity within this group, which makes us think that these were very small communities. And they likened it unto mountain gorillas who are endangered, that these were really, really small groups that were traveling in these super small bands or potentially staying put in this cave. Because that's the other thing that they realized that was kind of strange. We think of Neanderthals as like purely hunter-gatherers, but there's a chance that a lot of these related individuals were not there at the same time. There's a chance they were. There's a chance that they all died in the same event. And the scientists say maybe it was a mass starvation event. But there's also a chance that they were leaving and coming back, leaving and coming back, because it's kind of impossible to know granularly exactly what year they died. We're talking about bands of like hundreds or thousands of years. But here's something else that's kind of interesting. When they looked globally at the 11 or actually at the 13 specimens that they had across two different caves, they found that there was a lot of variation within the mitochondrial DNA and very little diversity within the Y chromosome genetics. It was an order of magnitude less diverse. So anybody but Steve, what does that tell you?

B: Yeah, so they traveled, so then the women like left their families and met up with strange men.

C: And that's what they think. They think, like many other species throughout kind of the animal kingdom, that it was the females of the species that would leave the home group and travel into other groups and mix. And it was the males that would kind of tend to stay put in the basic group. And the interesting thing is that would then lead us to believe that most of the admixture that we now have today that was Neanderthal human and even some of the Neanderthal Denisovan might likely have been due to the females of the species going out and finding new groups and their genetic material being spread far and wide and not the males of the species. So it's kind of interesting. his is something that we just didn't know before.

B: The men are the home bodies.

C: Yeah, and it's all based on looking at their DNA and comparing different types of DNA, nuclear DNA to mitochondrial DNA, which is pretty cool. There's a lot of other cool stuff from this group. You can read other studies that have come out from the similar group. We know, for example, that the Neanderthals in this cave are more similar to Neanderthals in other parts of Europe than to the Neanderthals in the very, very nearby Denisovan cave. And so what that tells us is that it's very likely that there were two massive waves of Neanderthal migration east across Eurasia. And they just both happened to settle in this far eastern portion that may have just been so severe because we're talking like deep, deep Siberia that they couldn't go any farther and then settled into these caves. One thing that some researchers caution though is to not make wide sweeping generalizations about Neanderthal culture as a whole based on our findings from these caves because these might have been, as I mentioned, very severe places. And so their communities may have been small simply for that reason. Some of the things that we're saying, oh, this is how Neanderthals were, well, it might just be how Neanderthals were there. And we have to remember that as well.

S: Yeah. I always find it fascinating when we find a snapshot like that, like frozen in time, we see an event.

B: Yeah.

S: I think that it seems more likely from reading this that the father and the daughter were killed at the same time.

C: You would think because they're not, they're contemporaries.

B: She wouldn't be a teenager.

C: You wouldn't have, and it could be that all of these individuals were killed in the same event. And they think because there's no evidence of any violence or, I guess there are historical sites where roofs caved in and they were able to say, wow, these people were crushed to death. But in this case, they didn't have any evidence like that. So they're like, maybe it was just a bad hunt year and they couldn't get enough food or they froze to death, something like that.

S: Pretty cool. All right. Thanks, Cara.

C: Yeah, really cool.

[commercial brake]

Gorillas and Chimps Friends (39:27)[edit]

S: Jay, you're going to give us this next news item. It's somewhat related. It's at least about primates. You're going to tell us about gorillas and chimps being friends.

J: This one is fascinating. It really it's really, really fun. Scientists have to observe chimpanzees and gorillas in a park in the Republic of Congo cavorting together.

B: Cavorting?

J: Yeah, they're socializing. They were eating together. They're playing together. Historically, it's been it's been thought that chimps and gorillas were competitive with each other. They largely avoided one another and if they if they didn't, there was conflict. But an anthropologist researcher named Cricket Sands at Washington University in St. Louis and her colleagues, they spent 20 years observing and compiling information. They witnessed multi year relationships between chimps and gorillas. This research in the Congo is focusing on an area known as the Gulagu Triangle. And so over the past 20 years, since 1999, the researchers followed the chimps on their daily routine and they witnessed and logged 285 interactions between chimps and gorillas. And these interactions lasted a minute to over eight hours. That's longer than a D&D session. So a typical situation, a typical situation was that a group of chimps became excited when they found edible fruit and the sounds of the chimps would attract a family of gorillas. And 34% of the time, the gorillas would join in on the meal in the same tree right next to each other.They'd also look for varieties of foods together as well. So that's another thing. They're not just sharing that one tree. They would then go off and look for more food together. Adult female chimps that had their young with them actually tolerated gorillas being around their young as they were all socializing. And the socialization also showed the researchers that individual chimps and gorillas recognized each other and made friends like they were acting like they were friends. They knew this because they would prefer to socialize with specific individuals. So a chimp and a gorilla would look for each other and they'd go and find each other. And they were friends. Yeah. So they they're they paired off and their interactions included playtime, like chasing and wrestling. And if there was any tension at all, it never escalated just beyond yelling. You know, they would yell at each other, which that's pretty human of them. They they would have regular interactions. And these friendly interactions benefited both species because they would alert each other of feeding spots, but they would develop friendships while the feeding was happening. That's very human.

E: Bonding.

J: So now fast forward five to 10 years and these individuals came to know each other. So first they're feeding with each other. They're hanging out there playing and they're then they slowly over time developed a relationship. Now they know each other. Some actually even grew up together as they shared resource resources and had these regular interactions. So this research has implications for human evolutionary history as well. It's commonly thought that hominins competed with each other. And this research asked the question of whether early man had friendly interactions with others from different species. We know that there was interbreeding.

B: Oh, yeah.

J: It could be like, yeah, maybe there was a lot more friendly interaction going on. And it wasn't all just movie like wars and everything.

S: It makes sense. And it shows another example of we have this assumption that evolution is always competitive. We're always fighting over stuff, fighting over resources, but actually cooperation is hugely evolutionarily advantageous. And so it's not surprising that it would happen across species. Of course, it's always something adorable about it the dog befriended a duck or whatever. It's always you see like a chimp and a gorilla palling around together. I don't know. For some reason, I always find that totally adorable. But from an evolutionary point of view, it makes sense. And it is this is partly why we evolved species in the wild to challenge our assumptions about what's happening out there.

C: I mean, they're different, but they're similar.

J: We're all similar, though.

C: But apes are really similar.

J: Yeah, without a doubt, without a question. It does. It seems to make more sense than them just warring with each other. It just feels right. And also there's a warm and fuzzy here that I just really enjoyed reading about this and I'm like, oh, they're friends.

S: All right. Thanks Jay.

Most Powerful Gamma Ray Burst (43:58)[edit]

S: Bob, you're going to tell us about the biggest gamma ray burst ever.

B: Yeah, this was quite striking. Recently, our solar system was hit by the most powerful and brightest gamma ray burst ever detected, even from billions of light years away it had a detectable impact on our atmosphere.

E: I felt nothing.

B: No surprise there. This was actually pretty exciting news for me. And I wish I knew when it was happening. I think it would have been kind of fun to look up and say, we're getting hit by a huge gamma ray burst right now. And I'm still alive. All right. So the date I'm referring to is October 9th. This is October 9th, 2022. Very recently, it was detected by X-ray and gamma ray space telescopes. The gamma ray burst was called GRB 221009A, which is basically the first gamma ray burst of 2022.

E: That they've detected.

B: Yeah. On 10-9. So if they had two in one day, then it would have been 10-09B. All right. So and astronomers all over the world were obviously really excited. They all jumped on their telescopes, those that could, to see and study what was being called the boat. You've all heard of the goat. This is the boat for the brightest of all time. And it is by far. So gamma ray bursts are definitely on my top three coolest shit in the universe in terms of big explosions. It's really top three. Top three. They're the brightest events we know of with peak luminosity near 100 billion billion Suns. And there's two kinds, there's summer short bursts. They last less than two seconds and they're probably caused by something like colliding black holes or colliding neutron stars. This one was a long gamma ray burst, which can last as many seconds to over a minute. And this one was fairly long. They are thought to be the result of the most extreme supernovae. We've talked about supernovae many, many times. That's when the most massive stars at the end of their lives run out of fuel and basically collapse into black holes and explode at the same time. The supernovae that can create these long gamma ray bursts, though, are so extreme. They're such at the far end of the spectrum, if you will, that they're called hypernovae with 10 times the kinetic energy and luminosity of your more typical supernovae. So these are, I mean, these are the ultimate in terms of supernovae that can create these. So it is thought that some of the collapsing gas at the end of the life of this massive star rebounds off of a gas shell that's already surrounding the new black hole. And then that rebound creates jets that fly through other collapsing gases, and then it emerges and evolves into a collimated beam of gamma radiation, the most intense radiation that exists. That's kind of like the birth of a gamma ray burst. This is the most intense release of energy known after the Big Bang itself. And that one that happened on October 9th takes the cake above and beyond all the thousands of other gamma ray bursts that have ever been detected. Part of that, of course, is that it's closer, but it was still 2.4 billion light years away. I was kind of surprised that that was the closest that we've ever found. I thought there would have been some that were closer than that. But if you look at just the absolute amount of energy that was released, it is record breakingly huge. Incredible. Andrew Levin at Red Baud University in the Netherlands said, we don't know exactly how powerful this burst is, though, despite the fact that many telescopes around the world are looking at it. That is partially because it's so bright that it saturates the detectors of gamma ray telescopes. So all they see are completely white pixels with no detail. If you had gamma ray eyes, you'd be blinded. And of course, I love that last line. So how huge was it then? Even though they're not certain, they can give they can give error bars. So here comes the part where Bob mentions insanely large numbers that almost nobody has ever heard about before. Estimates put the energy release of the gamma ray burst between 1054 and 1055 ergs. So 1054. 1054. That's septendecillion.

E: Yep. That's right.

B: Which is. Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Evan.

E: Confirmed.

B: And which is also a quintillion quintillion quintillion. So this is an amazingly huge number. But the other end of that is ergs. We I don't think we've really mentioned ergs before and you really don't need to know too much about it. Other than that, it's a very tiny unit of energy or work. It's equal to about 10-7 joules, 100 nanojoules. Really tiny. You would have to use 13.5 million ergs to move a pound weight one foot. So they're tiny, like I said. But this gamma ray burst spit out 1054 of them, 1054 of anything, even ergs is just stupidly huge. So I was trying to think, how could you wrap your head around a number that big? You can't just say, oh, it's septendecillion. Quintillion quintillion quintillion. That really does not help. Even though I love those I love those words. It doesn't really help. So how about this? The amount of energy contained in that gamma ray burst was the entirety of our Sun's energy output over 10 billion years times a thousand. That's a lot. So even, but even the tiniest components of that energy beam, the individual photons of gamma rays themselves are they're breaking records. Some are 18 TeV. You should be impressed 18 trillion electron volts, which may in fact require revisions to our understanding of physics itself. If it's true. It's such a huge amount of energy that it's kind of hard to figure out exactly how it could be accelerated to that to that level. It's much more powerful than anything created in the Large Hadron Collider, I mean immense. So now you would think that anything that happens 2.4 billion light years away couldn't physically impact the Earth, except maybe vacuum decay or J before gas X was invented. (laughter) Well I've really worked on that sentence. I had I reformulated it to make it easier to understand.

E: You did the most research on that.

B: So this this gamma ray burst actually had a tangible impact on Earth's atmosphere. Sunwave radio transmissions in Earth's ionosphere were actually disrupted to a certain extent, not a huge amount, but they were, they were disrupted and it was detectable by an event that happened 2.4 billion years ago. Incredible. So this then leads to the question, what question does this lead to? What would happen if such a gamma ray burst was closer? What if it could impact our atmosphere? What would happen if we're a lot, lot closer? It's kind of hard to find scientists really speculating in the detail that I would love to read about, but if it were thousands of light years away, such a gamma ray burst would basically destroy a good chunk apparently of our atmosphere, including our protective ozone layer, which you don't want to destroy. You don't want to destroy that ozone layer. It's the main thing preventing you from getting a deadly tan and very quickly with that will lead to cancer. But the direct radiation blast and the lack of protection for years would cause mass extinction. So, I mean, first off you have that gamma ray pulse that would basically wipe out a lot. And then it would take earth probably, I don't know how long would it take to rebuild our ozone layer? Decades to centuries or millennia who know, I don't know. Did you know? Did you know that the Ordovician extinction 450 million years ago is thought to maybe be caused by a gamma ray burst when they're not sure, but some scientists think that it could have been caused by a gamma ray burst. So that's how, that's how deadly they can be. Now if we had a direct head closer if we were right in the bull's eye and it hit the Earth from, from much closer, I mean, say a hundred light years or 50 or 40, 30 light years, really, really close, then basically that would sterilize the surface of the Earth. Ultimately, perhaps only back only bacteria. I was trying to think what would happen?

E: Especially when I'm on the Earth.

B: I mean, it only lasts about, it could last a minute if it were, if it were a long rate, a long gamma ray burst. So only one side of the Earth would be, would be like demolished that would be completely and utterly sterilized by, by such a beam. So what would that, what would that do to the other half of the planet where there's lots of living creatures? I would think that they would just slowly just become extinct because of the disruption to the ozone disruption to the atmosphere itself. So I think it would probably probably wipe out pretty much everything except maybe maybe some bacteria would survive. I mean, cause there's bacteria deep underground. I think they would be fairly protected, but at some point a gamma ray burst would be so close nothing would make it. I want to see that in a movie. want to see, I want to see a gamma ray burst take out a planet and, huh?

E: But the bottom line is distance matters.

B: Yeah. Yeah. Distance. And we would have to be, have exquisite bad luck to be in the cross hairs of such a thing. So it's, so don't worry about it. It's amazingly unlikely and it would have to be not only pretty intense, but very, very close. And there's none that are, that are that close to us that we're really worried.

E: Hypernova events shouldn't be happening close to us.

B: This one was special. We may not see another gamma ray burst like this for centuries or a thousand years. So this is probably our only chance. We got lucky to see such an amazing event and hopefully some good science will come out of it.

S: Does it have a cool name? Like the Carrington event? Anything like that?

B: Oh, it was-

E: The Thanos snap?

B: Just a GRB221009A. Very cool. Very cool.

E: No, no Boddy McBoat face. Okay.

B: I agree. It should. It should. It may be one will organically evolved because because we're not going to see this again. So I think it should, it deserves a name.

E: The Bobening.

J: It's the Babanink.

C: The Bobening.

B: I'll take it like that. I'll take all of it. Any, of those are good. Thank you.

Cheating Scandals (54:03)[edit]

S: All right. Evan, tell us about this recent rash of cheating scandals.

E: Yeah. I can't get away from these stories for some reason. Maybe it's because science and gaming, these are two circles on my Venn diagram. They overlap pretty well together and anyone who knows me knows this. So anytime a news item about gaming, especially one that comes from an online science magazine, arrives, well, you're hitting my sweet notes right there. All right, ZME Science, it's a great website. Headline: Bizarre cheating scandals are rocking the world of chess, poker, fishing, and tap dancing. Mm-hmm.

B: No way.

E: And the article starts out with this. It's a tweet from Fabiano Carana, in which they say: "Poker imitates chess?" And so you have to know, and I think you do know, what's been going on in the professional world of chess lately. We touched on it a few episodes ago. We didn't do a deep dive, but enough of a discussion where we also had to do some follow-up on the next episode in regards to that news. This was back in September during a chess tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. Magnus Carlsen, top-ranked chess player in the world, lost a chess game to an unlikely opponent, Hans Niemann, who was a late wildcard entry into the tournament. So Hans beat the top-ranked player, Magnus. And I won't go into the finer details. We've already discussed some of those, but I wanted to give a little perspective and then kind of blend this in with the other stories that are going on on this news item. Just so you know, chess has rating systems for players, various ones, but there's a rapid system, and they have something called the standard system. They've got something else called the blitz system, but they all kind of parallel each other. If you look at them on a chart, they basically ride the same kinds of waves. So generally speaking, for perspective, when you have a score, when you're rated at 2,100, if you're looking at the standard deviation chart, 2,100, that puts you in the 99.8 percentile. So you are way far over to the right side of that standard deviation curve, 2,100, okay? At the time of the controversy, Niemann was ranked at about 2530, and Magnus was ranked 2850, okay? Which may obviously we're talking about extremes here, but when you focus in and zoom down to that level, there is an enormous difference between a player who is ranked at 2530 versus 2847. Also for comparison, Deep Blue, remember the chess AI program, Deep Blue? 2,700 was its rating. So at the very high end of professional chess players, Magnus still beats Deep Blue. But Alpha Blue, the next generation of AI chess, 4650. So yeah, that kind of blows away even the potential of a human really achieving that. So that gives you kind of a scale of what we're talking about here. Magnus, after the loss, he withdrew from the tournament, sent a cryptic tweet, effectively accusing Niemann of cheating without directly saying so, but he did it. And he eventually followed up with it and basically said, yeah, I think he was cheating. Now, when we did our quick follow-up on the SGU after the story kicked in and it was one of the opening banters on our show, but I did some research for the follow-up of it, and I looked into the work of Kenneth Regan. He's also a grandmaster at chess. He's a professor of theoretical sciences at the University of Buffalo, and he's highly regarded as one of the world's leading chess cheating analysts. He's designed programs and analysis that are regarded as some of the best absolutely in the world at detecting. His systems detect unusual patterns in a player's play, and he analyzes it on a game-per-game basis. His system doesn't use chess knowledge specifically, he says, it's all based on the quantitative data from computers evaluations of moves that they are making. So the data reveals patterns, and where the patterns show deviation of unusual things, then the chances of the cheat wind up going way up, and that has to be considered. So he analyzed the Carlson versus Nielsen game, and according to his analytics, nothing stood out so much that could have been called obvious cheating. So it didn't have those markers. However, the story actually has more depth to it. Nielsen had admitted to cheating in the past on two different occasions, and then, who's the world's top online chess site, right? For both professional and amateur players, they released a couple weeks ago, just two weeks ago, something called the Nieman Report, in which they explained their reasons for banning Nieman from, and overall, basically what they said, they have 100 instances, 100 online chess games, in which they do have statistical analysis that says he likely cheated. And in some of those cases, they're using the fella, Ken Regan, his data to support their findings. Two specific instances in 2015 and 2017. Also, if you want another update on this, just today, just hours ago, Nielsen has filed a lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen for defamation, $100 million lawsuit is coming Magnus' and, I believe, both of their ways for defamation. So that's the latest on that. So all while this has been going on in the world of chess and cheating, there have actually been other professional games and leisure activities that have also involved cheating on a very high profile. This one was about, as the first sentence in the article says, tells us poker. Cara, you're a poker player.

C: I am.

E: Did you happen to hear about this one?

C: I did not. I don't really follow the poker news. But people cheat in poker all the time, don't they? Maybe not in professional games.

E: But, right.

C: Because there's like sanctioned poker cheating, and then there's like unsanctioned poker cheating. You can lie all you want, you just can't lie.

E: And this is a live televised event.

C: Yikes.

E: September 29th. Pro poker rocked by alleged cheating scandal where the winner repaid $269,000 to the loser, or the person who felt they were cheated.

C: Oh, interesting.

E: Yeah, so we've got Robbie Jade Liu is her name. And she's a social influencer of some repute, but turned professional poker player. And the other person involved is Garrett Adelstein, who was a one-time contestant on Survivor. That's his kind of claim to fame, I suppose. But he's also gone into the professional poker circuit. And the game they play, of course, is called Texas Hold'em No Limit. And for those of you not familiar with it, you play with a standard 52-card deck of cards. You're dealt two cards face down, and then three community cards go face up. You make a round of bets. A fourth card goes face up. Then you bet again based on what you've got. And a fifth card eventually is turned up. Final bets are made. And those five cards in the middle are community cards.

C: Well you bet pre-flop too.

E: Yes, I'm sorry, there's a pre-flop bet as well. Thank you, Cara, there is. So you get your two cards, you make a bet, and then as more community cards are revealed, you make the best hand possible. It's pretty simple. At any point during this game, a player can go all in, which means they're gonna bet everything they've got. All their chips, they push them all into the center. It's the most daring move at the table, and it's often done out of, well, desperation. When a player is so far behind, they basically are gonna statistically be likely to lose anyways. They might as well wait for two cards that give them the best odds of winning and a hand before going all in.

C: Well, it's a power move to try and double and triple and quadruple up.

E: Or a power move, right, in which you try to overpower basically your opponent when you know you've got a good, you know.

C: The nut.

E: Yeah, when you know you've got something really good. In this game, it was Garrett who goes all in after the fourth card is revealed, all right? And then Robbie Lou, she has to call the bet. She has to say whether she's gonna fold at that point or go all in, and she goes all in. Okay, so this is unusual because in her hand was a jack and four off suit. That is a lousy pair of cards to win with.

C: That depends on what the flop was.

E: Right, and the flop did not help at all. It was a pair of tens, basically, which is basically the same for both, and both players get to benefit from that. So no help at all. There's nothing helping the jack. There's nothing helping the four in her hand. Now, normally, your two cards on all in bets, you associate them. Either you've got pairs, or you've got two of the same suit, or you have two cards in a series in which you're going for a straight. So jack, clubs, and four in hearts, that's practically a useless hand. Especially when you're using it in an all in bet. So it's one thing to bluff. If you've got it and you're calling it and you're trying to bluff your opponent, you might do it. But when you're answering a bluff, you don't do this. There's no instance statistically that will help you. You have to have amazing luck, basically, in order to win.

C: There's so many questions and it's probably not that important but how in were they before the first person pushed? Was she super pot committed at this point?

E: No, she only had about maybe 20%, maybe 15% of her money in front of her, about 130,000 she had in front of her.

C: Interesting.

E: And he had about 800 something thousand on his own.

C: That's bananas.

E: Right, right. So statistically speaking, it's a terrible thing to do, is to call when you've got this hand. She calls. And it turns out her jack is the highest card in play. Garrett's hand is eight clubs, seven of clubs.

C: Oh, that's so brutal.

E: On the table in front of him are 10 of clubs and nine of clubs. So you could see why he would want to go in. He's hoping for the straight at least. If not, the straight flush to come with the river card. And it doesn't happen. There's a rule in poker that when you have an all in bet, if the players agree, the final cards that come out, you can play them twice and split the hand. Something I didn't really know about before, but apparently it happened in this case.

C: You can do pretty much whatever you want if there's only two people in a hand. There's a lot of things you can do.

E: So the first final card comes up, boom, it's garbage, and she wins half the pot for that one. And then the second time that they play at the ace of spades comes up, helps no one, she also wins that. Well, at that moment, Adelson says, basically, something's really not right here. He basically, he effectively lost his cool without losing his cool. He gave her the death stare, is basically what they called it. It was all caught on camera. It was really fascinating, in a way fascinating to watch. But it's what happened afterwards that took place that made the news, because Lou, she has claimed that she was pulled out of the game and forced to speak to him in a dark hallway. She said, he cornered me and threatened me. Garrett denies that this version of events happened, but Lou, in any case, felt threatened and offered to give him the money. And she did.

C: All of it or half of it?

E: That pot, $269,000.

C: That's the entire pot though, not just half of it, okay.

E: Right, right, the amount that she pulled in for the win from that pot. So there have been now, so this is blown up, right? There's accusations basically on both sides. He says she's definitely had to have been cheating. There's no other way she could have possibly known. And she suggested maybe she hid a vibrating device on her, which goes back to the original chess story, which also had early accusations that Hans Niemann had perhaps had some kind of vibrating device on him to help him cheat at chess. So here we go.

C: Jesus.

E: We've got, oh my gosh, so it is, it's terrible. And now you've got these two factions in the world of poker, some who agree on one side and others who are saying systematically on the other side. No, it had nothing to do with cheating. And there's big inner conflict. So that's resolving itself all at the same time in the world of.

C: It's just such a leap to be like, oh, she was cheating because she should have never been in that hand. People suck out on people. People play poker crazy. That's the thing about poker. People play donkey hands. They're in hands they should never be in. It's what makes the game dynamic and interesting and nuts. And yeah, she should have never been in that hand, but just because somebody doesn't play by the book or play how they should be playing doesn't automatically mean they were cheating.

E: And some people have pointed to her erratic style of playing that she supposedly undertakes at times. She's made other also bad choices apparently.

C: And if she was like, he could be bluffing and I'm calling his bluff.

E: Yes, yeah. Except apparently, and again, it goes into the depth.

C: I know she had a bad hand, I get it.

E: But she's also apparently changed, supposedly has changed her story about what she was thinking at the time. She thought, yeah, at one point, I thought you were bluffing. But then at another point, she kind of said, I knew you absolutely didn't have it. I knew you had total crap and therefore not a bluff.

C: But that's the same story. I thought you were bluffing and I knew you didn't have a hand is the same exact thing.

E: At one point, she also said she thought that she had a different card in her hand. She said, oh, I thought I had jack three because there was a three up on the face of the table. Instead she had jack four and she said, oh, I kind of forgot what I had. I really didn't understand what I had in my hand. So she said that at a certain point. What it is doing, it's feeding the people who are accusing her of cheating, of giving them a sort of this kind of ammunition, which is baseless as far as I'm concerned. I think you're right, Cara. She stumbled into a victory that she shouldn't have had statistically, but it wasn't a zero chance.

C: But she sucked out. That's the game.

E: Yeah, she lucked out. Luck happens in these kinds of games.

J: But she's got a sketchy story now, you know? Because she's even saying she might have had a device on her. What the hell?

C: No, he's saying that.

E: No, they're accusing her.

C: He's accusing her of that.

E: The person who's accusing her of cheating is saying, oh, perhaps she had a vibrating device on her.

C: She doesn't have a sketchy story. She's just defending herself.

E: And when you are playing on something that is being somehow either broadcast in some capacity, somebody could be looking there because they can see what the other player has. They broadcast it right up there on the screen. You can know what everybody's hand is.

C: But here's another thing about poker. Yes, yes, somebody can look at the pocket cam and go, oh, he's bluffing. He doesn't have anything. They don't know what she, well, I guess they know what she has too. So like, you're actually in the clear here.

E: That's right. They're able to assign [inaudible].

C: Knowing that it's a dynamic game and he could still suck out. But regardless, she could have also just seen his cards. And that does happen in poker.

E: That's the other thing, yep.

C: And that's not technically cheating.

E: No, it's not, right.

C: If somebody flashes their cards.

E: Yeah, right. Bad, bad card hygiene at the table basically is what it comes down to. Protect your hand. It's your responsibility to protect your cards, definitely.

B: That's a good point.

E: So that's all playing at the same time. And then two more quick things about fishing and tap dancing because these are crazy things. You may have heard about the pro fishers who were caught putting weights into fish in fishing tournaments.

B: Oh my god yep.

C: Oh my gosh.

E: Oh my gosh. Jake Runyon, Chase Kaminsky illegally stacked the deck in their favor according to officials in Ohio. They're now been indicted on three felony charges. So this has gotten serious here. Charges of cheating, attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools are the fifth degree felonies. They could bring punishment up to 12 months in prison and $2,500 in fines. And they were absolutely caught. They had weights that they were stuffing into the fish.

B: Couldn't the fish have eaten the weights?

C: Yeah, right. What are the odds?

B: And then migrate out of the stomach.

E: And these are, I guess in the fishing world, these are known people. They're not some fly by night, someone who kind of just walked in off the street. These are known people. They were gearing up, they were gonna be crowned team of the year apparently from their record hauls that they or championship winning fishing that they did this year. They were gonna win the year end event. But now a big investigation's gone in onto against these people to see, okay, they cheated here. What else have they been cheating at?

C: It's such a stupid thing when people cheat to be the best. I'm always like, you should cheat to like be in the money, but not at the top. It just feels like don't cheat and then win everything. It's too obvious.

E: Or they got away with something for so long and they felt, all right, we've got to, our system is down and but I don't know. It's, it's-

S: These fishing guys were caught red handed. There's like solid evidence.

E: Yeah, there's not, they've got them on video, yep.

S: The other cases, like the chess and the poker case, it's just circumstantial evidence. People are just assuming things based upon indirect evidence and supposition. They really don't have anything solid or firm there at all. All right, thanks Evan. Yeah, we'll have to keep an eye out for these dirty cheaters.

Who's That Noisy? (1:11:23)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
A pack of Iberian wolves howling to disorient prey before a hunt

S: All right, Jay, it's Who's That Noisy time.

J: All right guys, last time I played this Noisy:

[sounds of spooky talking crowd or crying animals]

All right, anybody have any guesses?

S: It sounds like a large crowd of some kind of animal.

C: I was going to say, it has kind of like a South Park, rubble, rubble, rubble vibe to it.

E: It's a crowd of something.

J: Yeah, there's definitely a crowd of something, sure. Well, Rick Wilson wrote in, said: "You may want to smack me for saying this, but that's but that sounds like a recording that Art Bell played on Coast to Coast, supposedly some Russian group drilled several miles into the Earth's crust, sent down a microphone."

E: Yes. I know about this.

J: "And got back these, sounds of hell." That's a real news item, by the way.

E: It is a thing. Yes, it is.

C: Sounds of hell.

J: I'm going to tell you, Rich, I think you're partially correct, because the sounds of hell were obviously stolen from somewhere else because they didn't actually, no sound engineer put together this cool sound of what hell would sound like. They just found a noise and thought it was provocative and said, let's use this. I'm pretty sure that's what happened. Anyway, another listener named Ben wrote in, said: "Hi, Ben here from Japan. Is it the sound from the deepest borehole in Siberia, allegedly recording the 70s series?" Multiple people are writing in about this hell sound.

E: Cool.

J: There's like six or seven people that were keyed in on that. I love it. So thank you both. That was like a, I liked remembering that, because that was a long time ago. Another listener wrote in, Shane Hillier, "Hey, Jay, was this week about 10,000 flamingos?"

C: Oh, neat.

J: That actually kind of does sound like a bunch of like large bird type animals. That's not correct, but that's a really, that's a good guess. Another listener named George Marquesine, Marquesinus, Marquesinus, my god. Marquesinus. Marquesinus! Thank you. George Marquesinus. "Hi, Jay. I reckon I have it this time. I think this week's Noisy is a colony of penguins in Antarctic. If I had to guess specifically, I'd guess emperor penguins." Another is a good guess. A whole bunch what do you call a bunch of penguins, guys? Anybody know?

E: Oh, a waddle.

C: A waddle would be good.

B: A huddle?

J: We'll go with that for the night. A waddle of penguins.

C: Yeah, a waddle of penguins. Let's go with that.

J: It is not. I have a close guess this week. Max Westman wrote in: "Hi, Jay. My guess for this week's episode 901 Noisy is some kind of husky convention. It sounds like hundreds of disgruntled huskies in a big room. Love the show, been listening for years." That's a really good guess, Max, because the actual answer is that this is a pack of Iberian wolves all howling together.

C: Oh, cool.

J: Yeah.

B: Oh, wow.

J: A pack. So there was probably a dozen or so.

C: I got to interject for a second. So yeah, pack of wolves. Evan was right. Waddle of penguins.

J: Yes. Thank you.

C: And flamboyance of flamingos.

J: Oh, that's perfect. So what these wolves do, according to the internet, is that they do this right before they're about to start hunting to disorient and scare their prey. So it's very coordinated. And they all just start doing it. And it's pretty interesting and also a little bit terrifying if you heard this. I mean, imagine hearing that close to you while you were out camping, as an example. That would not be a good sound, right? Any campers out there?

C: You've clearly never camped in a national park in Africa.

J: Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Yeah, there's lots of groups of animals making lots of sounds. So anyway, thank you so much, David, for sending that in. That was a really fun Noisy.

New Noisy (1:15:31)[edit]

J: I have a new Noisy for you guys this week. And this Noisy was sent in by a listener from Poland named John Pedraza. And I will say this. John says he's a 12-year listener. He was finally able to hear something that he thought sounded cool enough. And then he said, I am out in Poland feeding soldiers in the Ukrainian conflict.

C: Oh, wow.

J: Which is very commendable, very awesome thing to do because the world needs people that are on the good side for crying out loud. And he says, also for Bob, my friggin' birthday is Halloween.

C: Ah, what a good birthday.

B: Lucky bastard, that's awesome.

C: Yeah.

J: Yeah, that's a great birthday. OK, so let's do this. All right, I admit this week's Noisy is going to be very difficult to guess. It was such a cool, interesting sound. I wanted to play it. All right, ready?

[fast metallic repetitive sound that suddenly stops]

So if you think you know what the sound is or you heard something really cool this week, you can email me directly. You could send files to this email address. You could attach files. It's better than going through the website.

Announcements (1:16:46)[edit]

J: Steve, we have some great stuff coming up. I have been working on the extravaganzas because these are holiday-themed extravaganzas. These may very well be the very last holiday-themed ones we do and the very first because it just happens that we're doing this right before Christmas, and this has never happened before, and I probably won't let it happen again just because it's complicated. But anyway, we're having fun. There's lots of things that are going into this that make this holiday-themed, so please do join us. We also have two SGU podcast recordings. So each one of these is going to be happening in Phoenix and one is going to be happening in Tucson, just like the extravaganza shows.

S: And people ask, well, I'll point out, these are two completely different shows. The SGU Plus shows are different episodes. But also, this is really an expanded show. We're doing not just a live recording of the show. We're going to be doing interactive stuff with the audience, interactive games or segments or whatever. It's going to really be a much bigger thing than just watching the recording. And of course, we'll have plenty of time to hang out and sign books and take photographs and answer questions and do other stuff. So we really are trying to build this out into a much bigger thing, well beyond just the private recording. All right, thank you, Jay.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (1:18:07)[edit]

Email #1: COVID Vaccines and Bell's Palsy[edit]

S: So we have one email this week. This comes from Corey Meyer from Holland, Michigan. And Corey writes: "I have seen reports of an increased rate of Bell's palsy in people who have gotten a COVID vaccine or booster. I've also heard that COVID, the disease, has a higher risk of causing Bell's palsy and that it is only temporary if it occurs. Should I be concerned about this? And if it were to happen, what is the prognosis? Thanks. Love the show." That's actually a great question, Corey. Yeah, this has been coming up a lot, this question of, is there an association or correlation between Bell's palsy and either COVID or the COVID vaccine? First, for some background. So Bell's palsy is paralysis of one of the facial nerves, which is either the left side of your face or the right side of your face gets weak and it droops, and it's both the forehead and the lower face, both upper and lower. And technically, it's anything that happens from the facial nerve nucleus and the brainstem outward, like including the nerve. But most of the time, it's in the nerve itself, and it's specifically in the facial canal, which is a bony canal where the nerve exits through the skull. The reason why it happens there is because there's no room for the nerve to expand, so if you get a viral infection that happens to affect the nerve at that point, the nerve swells, it gets crushed in the bony canal, and that's where the damage occurs. The prognosis for this is pretty good. Most people recover well, although recovery can be partial, meaning you get most of your strength back, but you may be left with a little bit of asymmetry. The one side of the face is just a little bit weak. We usually characterize it as like, is this something that a neurologist will notice on a very careful, exquisite neurological exam? Is it something that the patient notices when they look at themselves in the mirror? Or is this something that another person would notice looking at them? And then beyond that, is there any functional limitation? Do people have trouble eating because they're drooling out that side of their face? Do they have trouble fully closing their eyes at night so their eyes are dry in the morning, et cetera? So that's it. In rare cases, people can have permanent severe paralysis. It really doesn't recover at all. And in most cases, people have pretty good recovery but may be left with some slight residual. So this is usually caused by a virus, again, about, I think, a third of the time or so. It's a herpes virus. So typically, we give steroids to reduce the swelling and we give an antiviral medication to treat the herpes viruses just in case that's effective. And we check for things like Lyme disease because this can also be a symptom of Lyme disease. So we want to make sure that we check for that so that we could treat it if that's what's going on. Now, there is a potential association between vaccines and autoimmune, acute autoimmune diseases because you're stimulating the immune system. That's always the fear. Generally speaking, generally, the incidence of that is very low, at the million-to-one magnitude. But with each new vaccine, we like to monitor that. In this case, there have been a lot of case reports about Bell's Palsy happening after the vaccines, but of course, those are case reports. That's anecdotal. What we need to do is compare the background rate of these events, like Bell's Palsy, with a cohort of people who are within 30 to 45 days after getting the vaccine. And we want to see if there's an increase above the background rate. That's what you need to see, an increase above the background rate. So the data for the last couple of years has been somewhat complicated for Bell's Palsy, but the most recent, most thorough study, involving millions of subjects. This was done in the UK and Spain, and involved one viral, like killed virus vaccine and one mRNA vaccine, so the two main types of vaccines, found zero signals, zero bump in the incidence of Bell's Palsy above the background rate. So I think right now, the best answer we have is that there isn't a huge correlation here. It's either zero or it's really tiny, less than a million to one. Too tiny to have been picked up statistically against the background rate. However, there is a solid association correlation with getting COVID itself. So the risk of getting Bell's Palsy is actually not low, it's pretty high with COVID. So even if there is a tiny risk from the vaccine that we're missing in the big data, your risk of getting Bell's Palsy is much greater if you don't get vaccinated because of the increased risk from getting COVID than if you do get vaccinated because the risk is small to none. So that's setting the bottom line answer is you really basically shouldn't worry about it, just get vaccinated against COVID. The risk versus benefit definitely favors getting the vaccine. All right guys, it is time for science or fiction.

Science or Fiction (1:23:22)[edit]

Theme: 19th-century pseudoscience

Item #1: Nipple piercing was popular among Victorian upper class women, as it was believed to suppress sexual desire and prevent pregnancy if the former function failed.[8]
Item #2: There was widespread belief that the speed and constant rattling noise of passenger trains caused people to go insane, resulting in violent outbursts.[9]
Item #3: Tobacco smoke enemas, literally blowing smoke up someone's ass, were popular mainstream treatments for multiple ailments from cholera to drowning.[10]

Answer Item
Fiction Nipple piercing to suppress
Science Trains caused insanity
Tobacco smoke enemas
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Trains caused insanity
Trains caused insanity
Nipple piercing to suppress
Nipple piercing to suppress

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake. And then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. We have a theme this week. The theme is 19th century pseudoscience. Weird stuff from the 1800s. All right, here we go. You guys ready?

J: Yes.

C: No.

S: Item #1: Nipple piercing was popular among Victorian upper class women as it was believed to suppress sexual desire and prevent pregnancy if the former function failed. Item #2: There was widespread belief that the speed and constant rattling noise of passenger trains caused people to go insane, resulting in violent outbursts. And item #3: tobacco smoke enemas, literally blowing smoke up someone's ass, were popular mainstream treatments for multiple ailments from cholera to drowning. Okay, Evan, you go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Nipple piercing, popular among Victorian upper class women, believed to suppress sexual desire and prevent pregnancy if the former function failed. Suppress? Oh, I see. Right. If you didn't, right. Oh, gosh. So quackery and women's health are like crazy. Hysteria, that whole thing. And having these women, electrocuting these women basically. Electroshock therapy and stuff. Oh, my gosh.

C: Pulling out the teeth.

E: As if it's not hard enough.

C: Oh, yeah.

E: Which means that if you're a Victorian upper class woman of this area and you were, I suppose, trying to suppress your sexual desire or your husband was imposing that on you or something, then nipple piercing doesn't seem to be something that was so out of line with all the other horrors that people were putting women through in that time. The second one about the speed and constant rattling noise of the passenger trains caused people to go insane, resulting in violent outbursts. Speed and constant rattling noise. So these are passengers on the train and they were resulting in violent outbursts. Well certainly that's never portrayed in any of the old movies or TV shows and things. I don't know or can't recall that that's ever been the case. But not that that's truth anyways. Resulting in violent outbursts, going insane. I mean, these are, this one's weird. This one's very weird. The last one is even weirder, but who knows. Tobacco smoke enemas, popular mainstream treatments. Oh, gosh, it's so ridiculous that, yeah, people were doing lots of different things to themselves that were crazy. And tobacco smoke and smoking was not, obviously the dangers weren't known at the time about that. It wasn't considered a health hazard. It was considered a health treatment in some cases. So to just turn it into something that you go in rectally, they were putting other things up there too. So the one that stands out to me is, I guess, being the most fictiony of these is the train one, the rattling of the trains causing people to go insane. Gosh, that would be a lot of insane people riding those trains and things and violent outbursts. I don't think so, fiction.

S: Okay, Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: That's so funny because I was coming to the same conclusion, but for a wildly different reason than Evan because I think the people riding trains and going postal or whatever, that that was cromulent. And I was like, it's almost too cromulent. Steve might have made this up. And the other two were so ridiculous to me. I am struggling with the nipple-piercing one. So for me, it's between the nipple-piercing one and the train one. I love the tobacco smoke enema story, and I think, we have these things in our common language, are you blowing smoke up my ass? And I'm like, maybe that's where that came from, you know? Could have been? So I kind of feel like that one could be science. I'm going to say that one's science. So, yeah, is it that people, there is a consistent rate of mental illness among, there's a background rate, and people are trying to understand why this person has psychosis and that person doesn't experience psychosis. And then people grasp at straws, and they try to go, okay, what's this person doing? Well, they ride the train a lot. I don't know. That could be why. And then the whole nipple-piercing thing, you would think that, but that's the thing about pseudoscience. You would think that after the fifth or sixth go at nipple-piercing, when the ladies are like, kind of dig this, this is working for me, that they would realize that this was not going to help with the wilding, but maybe not. So both of these are a little bit silly, but I feel like men also just didn't listen to women. Remember, there was, didn't doctors literally, the first vibrators were medical devices used on women to try and help them-

E: Treat their hysteria.

C: -with their hysteria. Yeah, exactly. And they were like, sure, I'll get treatment. This is great. I love going to the doctor.

E: Turned out to be something else.

C: Right. So I'm like, maybe the nipple clamps or the nipple piercings or whatever are the same thing. So I don't know. And Victorian, it's like, don't show your ankle, but who knows what's going on underneath there. So I'm going to go with the train like Evan and say that that one's the fiction because it's the least offensive.

S: Okay, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Yeah, I mean, it's just so hard to de-logic these and try to figure out what makes sense. Just roll the dice, you know? It's just maybe I'm just feeling so crap because I think my record's shit this year. And maybe for that reason, I should just go against my initial impulse. And my initial impulse was that at that time, such a nipple piercing would just be too abhorrent, I think. I don't know. It just seems like that wouldn't be something that they would do, especially for that end result. So what the hell? I'll say that's fiction.

S: And Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: Yeah, I'm going to go with Bob. I think the nipple piercing one, this doesn't seem like there is absolutely no reason to think that under any circumstance. I can't make an interpretation of that that even makes sense, so I'm going to go with that. You and me, Bob.

B: All right, Jay.

S: All right, you all agree with number three, so let's start there.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Tobacco smoke enemas literally blowing smoke up someone's ass were popular mainstream treatments for multiple ailments from cholera to drowning. You all think that one is science, meaning that it's pseudoscience, and that one is science, meaning that it's pseudoscience. Yeah, so at the time, tobacco, not only did they not know about the dangers of tobacco, but it was used by the Native Americans as a medicinal and it ran for other things, and that was taken up by Europeans when they went there. And so tobacco for a while was thought to be a medicinal treatment. It was used for lots of different things, and also enemas were not uncommon treatment modality, so tobacco smoke enemas. Yeah, so they thought it did a couple of things. First of all, let's say, for example, if you drowned, it would warm up your body because of the heat of the smoke. The nicotine would stimulate your heart, and it would displace the water out of your body. Now, the problem with that idea is that the water is in the lungs, and so blowing smoke into somebody's intestines is not going to do anything about it, so that was not a very physiologically valid thinking. But yeah, that was definitely a thing, and yes, the term blowing smoke up someone's ass comes from this practice. That is actually true.

B: Nice.

E: All right.

S: All right, let's go back to number one.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Nipple piercing was popular among Victorian upper class women as it was believed to suppress sexual desire and prevent pregnancy if the former function failed. Bob and Jay, you think this one is a fiction. Cara and Evan, you think this one is science/pseudoscience. And this one is fiction.

C: Oh, good job, guys.

S: Yeah, congrats, guys.

B: Nice, Jay.

J: I knew it.

S: But the question is which part of this is wrong because nipple piercing was popular among Victorian women.

B: Really?

S: But they did it because they liked it. They did it because they thought it made them more attractive.

E: Damn.

C: Same reason people do it today.

S: And it felt good. Also, genital piercings of other types are also popular. But they did it also as a display of wealth and power and the reason for that is because having your nipples or your genitals pierced requires impeccable hygiene. It was really something that was only practical for the higher socioeconomic classes.

C: You could take a bath every single day.

S: Yeah, you got to be able to take a bath every day. You got to keep that stuff clean. You got to trust who's doing the piercing. You got to have high-quality jewelry that you're putting in there. It really wasn't practical for the lower socioeconomic classes, so it became a way of distinguishing and displaying their wealth. Of course, that eventually flipped as it became more and more possible to have good hygiene, regular hygiene, and to have this be safe and not cause infections, et cetera. It proliferated to the lower socioeconomic classes, and then eventually having lots of body piercings, kind of like tattoos, became associated culturally with lower socioeconomic classes and not upper classes. So I guess it's kind of like the Sneetches.

E: Stars on Thars.

S: Then the other people did, so then they took it off.

E: That's crazy.

S: Then it all got jumbled up. I think that's eventually what happened as well, is that after the status flipped so that it became not desirable for the upper classes, then eventually I think now it doesn't really matter. I think anybody can get it of any class, and it's all just acceptable. Everyone's got stars on their bellies now.

C: It's funny because I wasn't even thinking in terms of piercings versus non-piercings, which of course that is the news item, but I was thinking in terms of sexuality versus chasteness and of course it makes sense because when you're elite, you don't have to do what everybody else does. The rules didn't apply to you the same way they apply to everybody else. So yes, the Victorian era we think of as being really chaste and prude, but elites were, watch any period piece, where they're talking about what goes on behind closed doors.

E: As inspired as any other human being.

S: Yeah, and they didn't think that it prevented pregnancy or reduced desire. I just totally made that part up.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: Okay, all of this means that there was widespread belief that the speed and constant rattling noise of passenger trains caused people to go insane, resulting in violent outbursts, is science, meaning that it's a pseudoscience. So yeah, that was a widespread belief. People were afraid of the speed of trains. At first they thought it would be physically dangerous, your organs would be crushed up against your spine, because 28 miles an hour was just crazy fast and the human body couldn't take it. Obviously we survived going 28 miles an hour. So then they thought, this emerged because there were cases of people who apparently had some kind of nervous breakdown or something on a train, and they thought maybe it was the rattling and the speed of the train that provoked it that actually caused it, not just irritated them, but actually caused them to become insane, a cause of insanity, which of course is silly in retrospect, thinking back on this. And this is one of those beliefs that then confirmation bias kicks in. So then every time anything weird happened on a train, it was blamed on this phenomenon, and people started looking for it, and stories would spread about it. It just became like any other cultural mythology, like the Korean fan death or whatever, anything like that. It was like, yeah, trains make people go insane. And that belief persisted for a long time in the 1800s, because let's face it, at that time, they had no idea. They had no idea about mental health and anything like that. They were really just grasping at any straw. All right, good job, Bob and Jay.

J: Thank you.

E: Good job, guys.

C: Yeah, yeah.

S: Okay, Evan, give us a quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:36:24)[edit]

In a way, everyone in this story is seeing Jesus in the Toast. We all want to see what we want to see. We are projecting our own selves. That’s what we do as humans, we look to make connections between different things. And sometimes, when those things align, we declare those connections "truth."
Geoffrey Gray, American author of Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B Cooper

E: "In a way, everyone in this story is seeing Jesus in the toast. We all want to see what we want to see. We are projecting our own selves. That's what we do as humans. We look to make connections between different things and sometimes when those things align, we declare those connections truth." Jeffrey Gray, the author of Skyjack, The Hunt for D.B. Cooper. And I bring up this quote because I watched on Netflix. What is this show called? It's Who is D.B. Cooper? They have a mini-doc on D.B. Cooper, and D.B. Cooper has always been a fascination to me. I don't know about you guys. I mean, yes, there have been multiple movies made on D.B. Cooper. Cara, are you familiar with the story of D.B. Cooper?

C: Oh, yeah.

E: Good. So transcends generations, which is nice. It is still the only skyjacking in history that has not been solved, according to the producers of the show. And there's an entire cult phenomenon that surrounds everybody's opinions and beliefs on who D.B. Cooper was, still alive, still dead, what ultimately became of him. Again, this took place in, what was it, 1979? He hijacked an airplane, had a briefcase on board with a bomb in it, supposedly, ordered the plane to land. They landed the plane. Passengers all got out. They loaded 200 grand in cash onto the plane along with some parachutes. The plane took off again with just the crew and D.B. Cooper in there. He took the 200 grand, strapped on one of the parachutes, jumped out somewhere over the wilderness of southern Washington and northern Oregon area and was disappeared. Only clues and crumbs have been left in his wake. Some of his money has been discovered here and there over the years, over time. There's all sorts of eyewitness accounts, but it's not been solved. It is the cold case of cold cases, they said. But that doesn't stop people from pursuing the hunt and having their own theories. And to this day, there is still plenty of people hunting or trying to figure out what happened to D.B. Cooper.

S: All right, thank you, Evan. And thank you all for joining me this week.

E: Thanks, guys.

J: You got it, Steve.

C: Thanks, Steve.


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[11]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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