SGU Episode 912

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SGU Episode 912
December 31st 2022
2021 YIR - 860.png

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SGU 911                      SGU 913

SGU 860 ← YIR episodes SGU 964

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


IC: Ian Callanan, SGU tech-guru

Quote of the Week

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. Fortunately, my parents believed that girls should do as well as boys, so off I set.

Audrey Evans, American pediatric oncologist

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Thursday, December 22nd, 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: ...Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening everyone!

S: ...and we have a special guest this week, Ian Watermelon Callanan. (laughter) Ian, welcome back to the SGU.

IC: Destroyed my intro. Hey, you guys.

S: You don't have your intro yet? So Ian, if you don't know, is the tech guru behind the SGU engine. Last year, your first year when you joined us for the year-end review? You've done it a couple of times?

IC: I think second.

S: Second, so this is the third time?

IC: Because I remember getting it right last year. No big deal, [inaudible] (laughter) So that's all I remember.

S: Yeah, so we're going to make this a regular thing. Have Ian on to close out the show. Last show of the year. It's coming out right on December 31st. We're recording it just before the holiday, so the Rogues have a week off. I give you guys a week off every now and then, even though we have a show out every week. 52 shows a year.

E: Thank you. Thank you, Stephen.

IC: Thanks boss.

J: You know, it's good timing because right now I really need a week off.

C: Me too.

J: So a lot of us got sick from going to Arizona. We're not sick of Arizona. We got sick in Arizona. We all caught a bad cold.

E: Caught the Tucson flu-son.

B: Not Bob.

J: Most of us did.

IC: Not me. Evan did not.

C: Actually, only two of us did.

J: No, Rachel did.

C: Oh, and Rachel. And Rachel.

S: Anyone check with George?

J: A few of us got sick. Apparently Cara and I were working the hardest.

C: Yes, that's why.

E: Is that what that was?

C: Absolutely why.

B: Or you were the weakest.

C: Blaming the victim over here, Bob. It's terrible.

E: Yeah, right.

B: The weakest immune system.

J: When Cara and I die from disease, Bob, you're going to feel really bad.

B: Yeah, but I get your stuff.

C: I get your stuff. (laughs)

J: Oh, my God. (laughs) Now we know what it's all about with Bob.

2022 Year in Review (2:17)[edit]

S: So at the end of each year, we do our Year in Review. So this is our 2022 Year in Review, where we go over the good and bad, skeptically and otherwise, of the previous year. This is kind of a weird one. I generally like even-numbered years, only because I have an even-number bias.

C: Huh. I didn't know that.

S: Oh, yeah. Discussed that on the show before.

C: Oh, OK.

S: It's one of my-

IC: That's odd.

S: That's odd. (laughter)

B: Nice one.

E: That was Ian, not Evan, by the way.

IC: Basically the same.

S: Yeah, I'm very aware of it. I'm very self-aware of it. But all things being equal, I prefer even numbers over odd numbers.

E: That's, that is interesting. I'll have to remember that when we're playing poker.

S: It's a weird obsessive-compulsive thing that I've had my whole life, since I was a child.

C: But is it your only one?

S: Yeah, pretty much. I'm trying to think if I have any other things like that.

E: Any other quirks? Any idiosyncrasies?

B: How does it manifest itself?

C: I do have a client with actual obsessive-compulsive disorders who also has a number thing. So it's not uncommon. But obviously this client also deals with a lot of other compulsions.

S: So how does it manifest? When I'm setting the temperature, I always set it to an even number. Except for five. Five's are okay. That's the only good odd number.

C: I've heard that before too 5, 10, 15.

S: Yeah, because it's a math thing. I feel it divides evenly into things, so it's good.

IC: Do you hate prime numbers or something?

S: Prime numbers are an abomination.

IC: Oh, boy.

E: They're the devil's work. No doubt about it.

S: 17? Don't get me started.

E: Please. 23? Ugh, get out of here. The only thing I have maybe similar like that, and I think we've talked about this before on the show, is that I have a calendar in my head of how the months line up in a row and go off to the left and the right. And the same with decades. Decades go in tens. And every 10 years, I take a right-hand turn or 90-degree turn and then take another 90-degree turn after another 10 years. It's really, it's always been that way. As long as I can remember.

S: At the end of a year, do you fall off a cliff or something?

E: No. Nope. I just take the left, go to January, and January starts the new direction.

C: I feel like we need a new word for that because I know a lot of people, they lump it into synesthesia. People who have sensory stuff around calendars, they see calendars with certain colors or textures or directionality to them. But I don't think that that's, that really isn't synesthesia.

B: It's got an initialism. It's W-A-S.

S: Weirdo shit?

B: Weird ass shit.

C: I think it's interesting though. It's the way that you conceptualize. It's like you're interesting.

S: I think it has to do with fantasia, just your ability to imagine things.

C: Right.

E: Yeah, yeah. It's just the picture that my mind draws when I think about it.

S: Right.

E: It just lays it out that way.

C: Yeah. Your conceptualizations are very visual, and it sounds like yours are very directional as well.

E: Yeah.

C: That's cool.

E: If I go to August of 1975, I know exactly what that looks like in my head on my calendar.

C: Yeah, but some people would, people who study synesthesia would lump that in. They would say that it's a similar phenomenon.

J: I visualize a year like the wheel. So the winter is at the bottom, summer is at the top, and spring and fall are on the sides.

S: Well, that's the analemma. I visualize that because it directly relates to the position of the sun in the sky.

C: I don't do that either, though. Again, it's just that same grid that was a week, there's just 52 of them.

S: Yesterday is great. Yesterday was the winter solstice, right? The 21st.

B: Oh, shit. I missed it.

S: That is the shortest day of the year, which means for the next six months, the days are going to be getting longer.

B: Yes. About a minute a day, isn't it?

S: Yeah, we're going up the analemma. That's awesome.

J: Evan, you usually are the one that reminds us that it's the longest day or the shortest day of the year.

E: Yes. Today is the second shortest day of the year. There you go, Jay. One of them.

C: (laughs) Thanks for the reminder.

E: There's your reminder.

J: That's pretty good. I mean, you already, you think about it, we're in New England, most of us, Cara's in Florida. The worst part of the winter hasn't come yet, but you could say, but the days are getting longer. That feels good.

S: That's something. It's something.

J: Yes.

S: This weekend, we're going to get hit with an Arctic blast. It's coming from many nations.

C: Yeah, the whole country is going to be pummeled. Even in Florida, I think the lows this weekend are going to be in the 40s or something, which we are not used to.

S: In Colorado, at one weather station, the temperature dropped by 61 degrees in one day. 61. Can you imagine?

E: Yeah, they were measuring it minute by minute, I heard. They could see it down.

J: That's massive.

Favorite Science News (6:54)[edit]

S: Hey, let's talk about our favorite science news of 2022.

E: Woo-hoo!

S: Who has something they'd like to vote for as their favorite science news?

J: Well, I-

E: Jay does.

J: I do. I am so excited. I was so excited about the topic I'm going to tell you that I called Bob just to geek out yesterday on how excited I am.

E: Something about meatballs.

J: I have covered a couple of news items this year about artificial intelligence. One of them was Midjourney, the art creation software that Steve and I have been feverishly using. I'm pounding on that thing all the time. And ChatGPT, which is an artificial intelligence chatbot created by OpenAI. These two things this year, both of them and two very different kinds of artificial intelligence have blown me away. I am completely, first off, I'm heavily entertained by them. I just find it fascinating. The things that Midjourney has come up with over the last three or four months that Steve and I have been playing with it, it's just unbelievable how good the results are of this art program. You put in a prompt, you tell it what you want to see, you can give it commands that are specific to Midjourney, like you can tell it the aspect ratio and lots of different things without going into the extreme details. And it has created some of the nicest artwork I've seen. In the big scheme of things, I'm not an art expert, but it makes beautiful things. It makes a huge variety of things. When you look at all the stuff that other people are making on Midjourney, when you use it, you use it on Discord. You can just see images going by of other people's creations and it's fantastic. I highly recommend you playing with it for free. I think you get like 200 requests from it for free. And ChatGPT is open to everyone. They have it in beta testing right now. It's open to anybody that wants to use it. And I have been trying to find some parameters on what this thing is capable of. And I've asked it, at this point, probably over 100 questions, just getting a sense of what it can do. And I got to tell you, it's not just good at natural language. Its responses sound very human and sound very, I don't want to say conscious because that's not a good way to put it, but it just comes out written very well. It's easy to read and it does seem like a person wrote it.

S: It does, but I also find it to be a little soulless, if you know what I mean. There is no real creativity behind it.

J: Right. It's very factual.

S: It's very clinical, very dry.

J: Yeah, it is. I agree. And that's definitely something I think that could be, with enhancing the program, they can add a little personality to it.

S: Yeah, exactly. There's no personality. It seems like it would be a good place to start for research. You wouldn't want to turn this in as your essay, but if you start there just to say like, summarize this topic for me, it actually gives you pretty good information.

B: Yeah. So I'm going to second this. This wasn't necessarily my top science news, although it's close. I agree, Jay, absolutely. And I'll remind you that I covered both this ChatGPT and DALL-E, DALL-E 2, before you this year. I saw it coming before you did. So I'll just say, yeah, natural language processing, ChatGPT, it's impressive as hell. To me, this year was the first year where there was this wave of, not quite disruption, although we are talking about the coming disruption, but the first time where it really hit the gen pop, right, Jay? Where a lot of people like, oh shit, wow, look at this. Now AI has had an impact for many years, but it's more behind the scenes impact. This is the first year that it seemed to me that it reached a subjective threshold where it's like a lot of people were talking about it. And this is just, it's going to be more and more and more. And we may be picking an AI related item every year. I'm curious to see. So that, the natural language processing is impressive as hell. I've been messing around with it. And the text to image generators, DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion are just three of them. Increadibly impressive. And just thinking about what they are going to be like in a decade, and then, or how about 20 or 30 years? What the hell is it going to be? Hard to predict, obviously, but something that we are going to keep an eye on for the rest of our lives. And what other tools are going to come out? How long is it going to be until it's text to movie, text to short movie, describe a movie? I think the people that are going to be in demand are going to be the people that can massage those prompts to have incredible finished products, whether it's text, images, or short, or even movies at some point.

IC: But Jay, are they actually making it? Or are they just stealing art from the backs of artists who take the time and years of dedication to actually invent these styles, or these drawings, or anything like that? Is this actually making art?

J: Well, they are unique, meaning that the artwork doesn't exist anywhere else. It's not, it is making, it's definitely taking information from thousands, hundreds of thousands, potentially even more of artwork that it's analyzed.

C: It's not crediting them.

IC: It isn't crediting. Do you think this is just a sly way to overly capitalize on artists' expression and then get rid of them and not pay them for their work?

J: In the short term, I think a lot of artists have said to me that they think it's an amazing tool, an idea generator. But let's face it, guys, artificial intelligence is in its absolute infancy right now. When this technology gets more nuanced and has a much stronger ability to do what it's doing, it's going to create, right now it's creating beautiful, what I would consider, artwork from a person who digests artwork. I'm not a creator of artwork, but when I look at it, it's like pornography. When I look at it, I consider it the thing that it is. And I'm seeing things that are gorgeous, that are useful. And that's today. 5-10 years from now, we're going to have chatbots that are going to be doing work that a human can't do. Because as I said in the news item, was it one or two weeks ago? Oh, maybe, no, it hasn't been put out yet, Steve, has it?

S: No.

J: I'm going to talk about ChatGPT in a future episode that we already recorded. In five years, say, it's going to be able to do things that a human can't do. Like it can read an entire code base that a company is using that would normally take tens of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people to maintain. And it would be able to retain the entire code base in active memory and then make judgments on how to do things that a human mind just can't do. So it is just a matter of time. People can naysay it and say it's borrowing, it's not making unique stuff. This is a temporary position that it's in. And it's been improving so much that Steve and I have seen the improvements over the last three months. I've seen it get better and become sharper and make more sense.

S: But I will say though that I think that even the art generation, just like the text generation, while it's impressive in its power, it is also still ultimately soulless. What is being created, by that I mean what is being created lacks original creativity. That's not what the algorithm does. That is not what the AI is doing. It is generating from existing stuff, which is again, it's very useful, it's very powerful, but it doesn't replace humans as creators. Not at this point. And I don't know that we're incrementally away from that either. I do think there was an absolute turning point, an inflection point this year with AI. They definitely have been able to really increase, improve its capability in this respect. What you end up with, the chat GPT, I could see that as a core of a fantastic digital assistant. You know what I mean? Where it can fetch stuff for you, summarize things for you, write code for you, do things like that. It's not at the point yet. And again, I don't know that extrapolation of the current algorithms will get us there to the point where it's replacing human creativity. But we'll see. We'll see where it goes. Again, I think in 5, 10 years, it could be incredible what it can do. It'd be exciting to follow it closely. So Cara, what was the top of your science news item list?

C: Yeah, so I mean, obviously I added to my list these improvements that we've been talking about in AI and how they've become very kind of consumer friendly over this year. But I had a couple of other things. And I don't know, maybe I'll tell you both and you can say which one you guys agree with or disagree with. I think up there for me this year was both the images that we were getting from the James Webb Space Telescope.

S: Absolutely.

E: That was on my list.

C: Yeah. And also the DART asteroid planetary defense.

S: That was also on my list as well.

C: Which is funny because I don't do a lot of space or science on the show. I usually talk about kind of like human psychology, neuroscience, journalism, things of that nature. And just other things that I find interesting, biology, evolution, ecology. But yeah, those stuck out to me more than anything else because they're just so visual. They were so like sci-fi come to fruition. They just were out in front of pretty much everything else.

S: Yeah, I added Artemis to make a space trifecta with James Webb.

C: There you go.

E: Certainly.

S: Of those three, I mean James Webb is the most awe-inspiring. The images that we're getting back from the James Webb Space Telescope is amazing. And yeah, we're definitely going to look back at this year as this was the year when James Webb got going and it was a total success and the pictures are incredible. The DART though might be the most important of the three when you think about it.

C: Right.

S: A proof of concept that we can deflect asteroids might just save the Earth one day.

C: Yeah. I think about the DART thing as like, and you mentioned Artemis too. And that's not to say that I'm like, eh, I didn't put Artemis in the list because it's not cool or interesting. And it's definitely not been there, done that, but there's a component of been there, done that to it. And I think with James Webb, it's similar. It was a massive iteration. It was a huge leap, but still an iteration on previous technology and knowledge. Whereas DART was a proof of concept. We've talked about doing this. We didn't know if we could actually pull it off. And it seems like it was successful. Like yes.

S: Beyond expectations even.

C: Yeah. Like beyond expectations. Yes, when we actually sent the thing up there, it exploded to smithereens on contact, which was expected. But the asteroid was bumped off course and off course enough to potentially not crash into Earth if that were our concern. Obviously, we weren't concerned with this particular one. But that's amazing to know that we can do that in the future.

S: And then Artemis mission going back to the moon. This is the year that we're on our timetable. Up until now, it was just being forever put off into the future. You know what I mean? We could have talked about it 10 years ago. Yeah, we're going back to the moon. But now that Artemis I has launched, it feels like we're on a timetable to the moon.

E: And for a little while there, it felt like it may not happen this year because of all the setbacks and delays several times. I mean, this thing, I think the first attempt was supposed to be late August. And it got scrubbed. And the next time it got scrubbed and you're in November and then you head towards December, you're thinking, maybe this isn't going to happen just yet.

B: That's what I was saying in 2018.

S: Right. All right, Ian, what do you got?

IC: Well, I was going to talk about DART, but then I thought who cares? You flew something into a big space rock. Big deal. I'm talking about a paradigm shift in the way that navigation could happen in the future for our fishy friends. And specifically, this is goldfish driving a water-filled car experiment where they trained goldfish in this inverse submarine to go towards a pink area of the room. And then they would get a treat and kind of identify that goldfish obviously don't have a three second memory. They learned after a couple of days that they would just dart directly towards it and get a treat. And then they actually put them out into the human natural world, quote unquote, and they could navigate to this pink object.

E: They could become Uber drivers. That's awesome.

IC: Yeah. That's the modern tech world we're going towards. But I don't know. I think it's just kind of fun to that little science things when you do stuff like that. It also changes perception, I think, on that the animal world isn't just like a bunch of dumb little mobile plants.

E: That's for sure.

B: Yeah, right? Mobile planets I love it.

IC: Yeah. So that's basically my story. It's a quickie.

S: There's a lot of fun quirky studies that come out throughout the year. Yeah, I know we're kind of focusing on the big picture stuff. But yeah, it's fun to remember there's a lot of cool little science news items throughout the year.

E: And animals come up regularly during the course of the show. I know we've talked about raccoons. We obviously talked about birds.

S: Cat domestication came up this year.

E: Yes, it did. Oh, and the bear, right? The bear on the back porch came up. So many different things.

S: Bob, what was the top of your list?

B: I think in terms of just pure excitement, the fusion news last month really did it. It was just the culmination of decades and decades of hard work and another huge proof of concept because we had never reached that point where we got more in than we had deposited onto the hall room. And it may turn out to be just a footnote, right? It may not to be ultimately that that specific event may be more of a footnote than you think because I think there's going to potentially be scaling problems and there's going to be delay issues and it may be problematic and it may not be – I don't think – my guess would be that it's not necessarily the way we're going to achieve fusion. Magnetic confinement probably has a better opportunity. But still, I mean, the fact that they actually did that and succeeded and after so much work, it was an incredible event and something that I've been looking forward to for a really long time. And now I'm just really looking forward to the next steps that happen and seeing where we go with magnetic confinement and who knows, maybe acoustic confinement too could be something that's even the best of all worlds if that method even – if there's anything even to it. It looks promising. But yeah, so I just absolutely love that news and jumped all over it.

S: Yeah, it is exciting as well. But I do think we're going to be looking back on this like we look back now on – or the high temperature superconductivity in the 1980s. Yeah, that was a breakthrough but all of the hype didn't come to fruition. We weren't right around the corner from room temperature superconductivity which is what everyone was predicting back then. And similarly, we're not right around the corner from commercial fusion energy. We're still – I still think we're 50 years away. But again, this was one of the milestones along the way. Absolutely. Very important. Evan, you have anything we haven't mentioned yet?

E: Yeah, yeah. I'll bring this up because this was an interesting year when it came to, well, UFOs and UAPs. There was a lot of news on it over the course of the year and primarily because for the first time since 1969, Congress held public hearings about unexplained – well, what used to be called unexplained aerial phenomena which has recently changed to what? Unexplained anomalous–

S: Unidentified anomalous phenomena.

E: Oh gosh. So even that took – even that had an evolution if you will over the course of this year. But it wasn't even just Congress that came out and spoke about this or had hearings and experts testifying and all these things. There were other government reports that were released. The Navy had things to say about it. A few other government agencies, defense intelligence analysts had come out in June and made some statements about it and certainly about the videos that got released and there was a lot of commentary about those, especially what were called the Navy, the US Navy videos that were dated back to 2004 that became declassified and became a big topic of conversation. NASA got involved with UAPs as well. June 2022, they announced the formation of a study team to identify UAPs from a scientific perspective. Of course, there was plenty of fodder for the people who believe that these things are of an extraterrestrial source because among them, the Navy came out and said that basically if we were to release a bunch more of these videos which we have, it will harm national security so they sort of hide under that blanket and of course they get accused of being – covering up for alien activity. So all throughout the year, there was plenty of news surrounding UAPs and us being the Skeptics Guide to the Universe we definitely took focus on that and all the attention it was getting. By the way, new high resolution scan of extraordinary UAP image, the most compelling image of a UAP to date, do you remember that one? In which it was a picture from 1974 of, someone was taking a – from an airplane, a picture of the ground, just usual surveying picture and there was a disk basically, something that was perfectly circular and round. They said it's the greatest image ever and it was so ridiculously nothing. That was the absolute best.

B: It still was the best ever.

E: And it was still the best ever, the clearest thing ever. This is clearly an artifact having to do with the instruments or the technology at the time that was being used. Something physical got in the way of the lens. It's just so obvious. But that's the best that the extraterrestrial crowd have as far as what they think UAPs actually are. So once again, the evidence piles up against the extraterrestrial causes for these things and the evidence continues to mount in that direction.

B: It's all blobsquatch.

S: I always love when someone declares some piece of evidence like that, the best evidence we have because it anchors it. It's like, OK, I'll buy that. That is the best evidence you have and it's crap.

J: It's crap.

E: It's totally worthless.

S: All right. So I had all of those things on my list. I had the fusion AI, Artemis, Dart, James Webb. I had a couple of other things I think worth noting. So remember this year we imaged the black hole at the center of the galaxy. First time we did that.

E: Oh, yeah.

B: Yeah, yeah.

C: That was this year? I thought it was last year.

E: No, that was this year.

S: That was this year. First time we took a picture of a black hole.

C: I think we actually did it last year. I think it only was just released this year.

B: Would you say take a picture of a black hole?

S: Well, you know what I mean.

C: We produced a picture.

E: We constructed the image.

C: Constructed an image.

B: Yeah, I know what you mean, but you know.

E: Yeah, it was with a 110 camera. We dropped it off at the photo mat and got back on there.

IC: Bob just saved us 20 emails. So that's good.

S: Another one was we discovered Ice Age era footprints in Utah. Remember that?

E: That's right.

S: And that really pushed back the direct evidence of the oldest, the first incidence of people in the Americas, in that region.

E: By about how much, Steve? About 7,000 year push?

S: Yeah.

E: Not insignificant.

S: Not insignificant. I mean, there's been indirect evidence, mainly tools and things like that, but this was like, this was footprints. This is a family, a whole family of humans. These would be modern humans walking through wetlands. And we have there are many footprints preserved. Some were discovered and then they did, Bob, you'll like this if you remember, they did a ultrasound scan of the ground and found all the other tracks just by scanning the ground.

B: Yes.

E: Brilliant.

B: Loved it.

S: And then the other thing I had on my list was just collectively all the global warming news over the last year. There's a lot of stuff that came out.

B: Good stuff.

S: Good and bad. But this was, there was just a lot of science really just supporting, really nailing down a lot of the basic facts of global warming and predicting with more precision what's likely to happen in the future, but also showing that, yeah, we're basically squandered our time. We're basically out of time at this point. Probably impossible to keep it below 1.5 C peak at this point. There was a recent study, but we didn't talk about it on the show even, but it looked at hundreds of simulations of what we do and what the result would be, like pathways. What if we do this in terms of—

B: Kind of like Dr. Strange.

S: Yeah, basically. They did, they Dr. Strange'd the future of global warming and they, out of like these hundreds of pathways, there was only literally two or three that would keep warming below a peak of 1.5 C and they would require—

B: To restart to be alive?

S: Absolutely massive investment right now. Basically we would have to do everything that we could possibly do. It's just not going to happen. So it's pretty clear that we're going to end up—if we do well, if we make further investments and commitments, etc. 1.6 to 1.8 is probably where we're going to end up. And if we do nothing, it'll be like 2.4. We'll be screwed. So that seems pretty clear. But on the other hand we've made really good advances in geothermal energy and in closed loop pumped hydro storage, which we talked about just last week as the show comes out, and other things like that, that really makes it seem like we have the technology. It is there. We're making good advances in, this is sort of related to this, but worth a separate mention. There were some good breakthroughs in solid state lithium ion batteries. Not quite there yet. Hopefully sometime in the next couple of years we'll be able to—it'll be on our list that we have commercially viable solid state lithium ion batteries. But this year we got really close with a couple of significant breakthroughs. That will just, in one jump, double battery capacity in terms of per weight and per volume.

J: Man, we've been waiting for that.

S: Yeah, we definitely need that kind of jump.

B: Double, man. That's sweet.

S: And that's just to start. You know what I mean?

B: Have you heard recently, the recent talk about massless batteries?

S: Massless batteries?

B: Massless batteries. They call it massless because you're essentially removing the weight, the mass equation of the battery itself because they're making batteries now. They're decent batteries. They're only 20% in terms of energy density of the best batteries we have, but they're structurally amazingly strong. So basically what you could have is an electric car where the frame of the car is the battery itself. And so you're essentially removing the weight of the batteries, which is extensive. I mean, those electric cars often need to be actually made beefier to deal with all the weight of the batteries. So when you remove all that, then not only is the car lighter, but then you have much greater range and you don't need the amount of batteries. So that's... Now, of course, they can make them a little bit more energy dense. But even now, there may be some applications where... I mean, imagine if your house, the frame of your house-

S: Was a battery.

B: Was a battery. That's a sea change, I think. That's a real dramatic change.

S: We talked about electric planes.

B: Oh, perfect for planes. Perfect for planes.

S: Yeah, the plane is the battery.

E: It would have to be.

S: Yeah.

E: For weight reasons and other things.

B: Yeah, keep an eye out on that. I will be. That's fascinating stuff.

IC: It seems like it'll make cars easier to explode. In movies, at least.

S: Yeah, it would have to be incredibly stable.

Best of the SGU in 2022 (31:27)[edit]

S: The next topic is the Best of the SGU in 2022. (Cara laughs) You guys have any bits or interviews or anything that the SGU did in 2022 that sticks out for you?

C: I have a favorite moment. And I think it was this year, and I'm going to be so mad if I'm misremembering it. It was last year. What time is it at the North Pole?

B: Oh my God.

S: That whole thing was funny.

E: That was great.

C: I can't. I go back to it all the time. I feel like we even referenced it when we were out of town this past weekend.

B: We have. Yeah, it's become a thing.

E: It's become SGU canon.

C: I love you, Jay.

J: I still don't quite get it. (laughter) It's every time. It's every time.

C: And no time.

S: Yeah, so you just got to pick one.

J: That's why they should come up with a North Pole time.

C: But they did. It's just like Greenwich Mean Time, isn't it? I can't remember which one they picked.

J: Well, I have a favorite interview. Last year, we interviewed David Copperfield on the show with Richard Wiseman. No, that was last year.

IC: This year.

E: No, he said last year.

J: Last year. But this year, we interviewed David Copperfield with Bill Nye at Nexus, and I know that that wasn't an SGU episode, but it still is-

S: It was a really good interview.

J: It still is a fantastic interview. Very intimate, and there was a lot of really cool inside information from the two of them about their experiences with things. And I just got such an unbelievably good feeling when that interview wrapped. I was like, damn, that was really, really good. I enjoyed that. I've watched it one other time afterwards, and I liked it even more the second time because I kind of had an expectation of topics to come and things like that. But they just both did a wonderful job talking to each other and kind of poking into each other's worlds and picking each other's brains and that type of thing. It was fascinating.

IC: Yeah, all the SGU events for me, like the six hour show, extravaganza and the private shows that we just did. Those were fun. Whenever we do stuff in the studio, like PVZ, all that stuff is like super fun. I'm not saying this for job security. (laughter)

S: No, the six hour show was a lot of fun. That was definitely a highlight of the year, SGU-wise for me.

B: When did that come out?

S: Earlier in the year, but it came.

IC: It was like September.

S: Yeah, those six hours went by fast.

E: Oh, it was nothing. I mean, because 11 years prior to that, on that date, we had done a 24 hour show. That was something. Yeah, the six hour show. Great, great. I don't want to put it down or anything, but six hours we can do without a problem. It's just not a problem.

C: What?

IC: Four times over.

E: Well, four times back to back. That's the challenging part.

C: Six hours was challenging too

E: Six hours was challenging too, Cara, yes it was.

C: Thank you.

E: Definitely was. Wait, wait till we have to do a 24 hour.

C: I don't think I've ever. I've done 12 hours with you guys. Have I done a 24 with you guys?

S: No.

J: No. And you probably never will, Cara, because I don't know if I'm going to accept that.

C: Thank you, Jay. I love you, Jay.

IC: No, we could have a sleep cam. We could film Jay sleeping. It'll be awesome.

C: I'm totally down to do a 24 hour show if I can sleep for a huge chunk of it. That sounds great.

B: We took, well, everyone but me and Evan took two hour sleep breaks. I remember when we did the 24 hour.

S: Yeah, I took one two hour power nap.

C: That's not enough.

E: Bob and I did the whole thing.

C: What? Why?

E: Yeah, we did. We stayed up the whole time.

B: Because we can.

C: Guys, we're not teenagers anymore.

IC: We'll just pre-record a video of you, Cara, and you could just run it on a loop.

C: That would be great. Or you know what we could do is we could just use an AI. Let's just have it.

IC: Absolutely.

C: Cara will be AI. I'll be there in spirit. It can say whatever it wants to say. I don't even care.

E: Cara, don't you... But how do you know what you sound like after being awake and being part of something for 20... On that 22nd or 23rd hour?

C: Because I did that way too many times when I was in college. I just feel like-

E: You didn't record yourself.

C: I went to Arizona for a weekend and got sufficient sleep. We did, what was it? Four shows in three days.

E: Yes.

C: Is that about right? Four shows in three days. Rubbed elbows, kissed babies, took photos, had a jolly old time. And I got brutally ill because I'm feeling very old right now. There's just something about this year-

S: You're pathetic and weak.

C: Post-COVID.

IC: You're on your knees and your back, and I had a-

C: I don't know what to tell you guys.

J: We talked about this. Let me summarize the discussion.

C: Okay.

J: We talked about why would we put everyone at risk and our audience at risk staying up that long? It's not a healthy thing to do. You could just do two 12-hour shows over a two-day period and not have to do any of this stamina-based podcasting. Why do that? I would rather-

C: Right? It's just like weird big dick flicks. I don't get it.

J: Yeah, I don't plan doing it?

C: I agree.

E: Bob explain it to them. (laughter)

B: It's like a stunt. Like, oh my God, they're doing it. Can they do it? Who's going to look goofy when they're so sleepy, Steve? I'm not saying we have to do it. I'm just saying Evan and I are-

J: Well, I will say this. I'll tell you guys what we should do. Our patrons would like to see us produce content that veers a little bit away from the typical SGU content. Like the watermelon thing [link needed], that type of stuff. There's a lot of fun things that happen when-

IC: That wasn't produced.

J: No, but that's what I'm saying.

C: Yeah, that was not intentional.

E: No, no, no.

IC: It was deproduced.

J: In the chaotic noise of us doing other stuff, lots of fun things happen, and they become these very memorable moments. Remember the whole thing with Ian? You guys remember that? (laughs)

IC: No.

E: Remember it?

J: I just think we should do a 12-hour show and have three or four hours of it be non-news item related stuff. We should do other things and get other information out there, have other fun events go on. I loved it.

SGU back out on the road (37:30)[edit]

E: I agree. I agree. Cara you mentioned it in Arizona, so that brings me to just the fact that we did get back out on the road between the extravaganzas that we did and the live recordings of SGU, the private show pluses that we did, and being able to go back and meet people in the analog world again with our audience. Those are very special, special events for me, and I cherish every one of them.

C: Yeah, I agree. It was so nice to see everybody. So nice to see all the listeners, but also so nice to see all of you. I never get to see you guys.

S: Yeah.

E: Yes. Anytime we can all be together, it's special. It really is.

S: It brings its own energy to the show and the interaction.

B: Oh, there's nothing like a live tape, a live recording of us together. They're just the goofiest and funniest.

J: When we all get together, when we do these trips and we do a bunch of shows together, we're all working very hard. We're all on a tight schedule, but inside the bubble, which is this collection of people, including George and Ian and Evan's daughter, Rachel, came with us this time. Inside that bubble, we are having a great time. It's fun. It's fun to work hard and have common goals. We're having these unexpected meals in certain locations, and what are we going to eat here, and what's going to happen? I love all that.

S: And Jay and I only had one fight, so it was pretty good.

J: It wasn't even a fight. That was nothing.

E: And again, it was-

S: It was a pseudo fight. It was a kerfuffle. We had a little kerfuffle.

J: You can't do stuff like this with it being like, oh, everybody's so happy. It's like something's going to go down. There's always going to be conflict.

S: I know. I mean, yeah, yes, it's wonderful being together, but pulling off four shows in three days takes work. All right.

Listeners' Favorite Episodes (39:17)[edit]

S: Jay and Ian, did you guys get any feedback from the listeners on any of the forums?

IC: We have a bunch of them, so let's go back to best episode. I mean, they're just numbers, but some of them have some specification. 869 with the discussion on sex versus gender. Thank you for mainstreaming something us anthropologists have known forever.

C: Oh, nice.

IC: Very cool. 873 was live from NYC, so they like that. Somebody said, don't make me pick, so that means all of them. When Bob was confronted about his coffee addiction, that was a good one.

B: Oh, yeah.

IC: And 871 was an interview with Michelle Lipkin. Another one that was voted on. And then we have news items and other ones that we will get to in a second. Those were the favorite episodes.

Skeptical Heroes[edit]

Anthony Fauci (40:05)[edit]

S: Shall we move to the Skeptical Hero of the Year?

J: I picked Dr. Fauci.

C: Oh, that's a great pick.

J: Well, I wanted to talk about him because he's retiring.

S: Yeah. Retired this year.

J: This month, this month, I'm not sure what the date is going to be. But he had a pretty impressive career. I mean, first of all, he's been a professional since 1940. Or I'm sorry, he was born in 1940. And he, yeah.

S: But he was born a professional.

J: He came out with a stethoscope.

S: In fact, the headline that day said, Dr. Fauci, born.

J: He is an American physician. He's also a scientist. He's an immunologist serving as the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Diseases. And the chief medical advisor to the president, to the current president until he steps down. He was the advisor to seven US presidents. And talk about the freaking coronavirus. He played a key role in the US and their fight, our fight, collective fight against the coronavirus. He was at the front line making a lot of decisions and doling out very necessary information. So he said, I am announcing today that I'll be stepping down from the positions of director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation. Immunoregulation.

S: Immunoregulation.

J: It's a long word. I had to get my way through it. As well as the position of chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. This man has 50 years of government service. There's been some ridiculous controversies about him and all this crazy stuff that happened over the last few years. It's all complete nonsense. This is a person that has helped the United States and the world in so many freaking ways. Do some reading about him. You could start at Wikipedia and go off to other places. He has an incredible career, very, very intelligent man. And he's not stopping. He wants to move on and do other things. I think after 50 years of government service, he wants to probably focus on some other stuff. He says he still has a lot of energy and he's very into the work that he does. So I really, god, I would love to personally thank him for what he's done.

S: He's a real hero. And he did all this while just suffering, being demonized and attacked by the forces of pseudoscience just because he was the front man. They focused on him, just made up awful lies about him. He just weathered it with a smile. He really showed a lot of character throughout the whole pandemic. Anyone else want to talk about Dr. Fauci? Should we move on?

C: Fauci's the shit. I love Fauci. I'll miss him.

Richard Saunders (42:40)[edit]

S: I'll go next. I vote for, for Skeptical Hero of the Year, Richard Saunders.

B: Yeah.

E: He's on my list, Steve.

S: Yeah. And Richard, not just because he's an awesome guy and he's our longtime, very close and personal skeptical friend, but because this year he completed a 12-year project, right? We talked to him about this on the show a couple months ago, the Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project. He analyzed almost 4,000 published paranormal predictions made by over 200 people claiming paranormal powers in Australia. He led a team of volunteers to get this done. That was really a Herculean task. 12 years. I mean, you got to give him props. Anybody who completes a 12-year project for skepticism deserves to get recognized for that. So that was a solid piece of skeptical work by our friend Richard.

E: Oh yeah, absolutely. Definitely. He's just done great work over the course of the years, not just in this particular project, but he's kept the Skeptics Zone podcast going now. It's one of the longest running skeptic podcasts out there. And he's just continued, he has had personnel changes, people have come and gone, but Richard has been the rock behind it all.

S: He's the anchor for that podcast.

Skeptical podcasting (44:00)[edit]

E: Yeah, absolutely. It kind of, if I may, lead it to my little list I made of Skeptical Heroes for the Year. And in general, in a general sense and all, and then I will call out some specific ones, I think skeptical podcasting in general is my hero of the year. I'm not talking about us, I'm talking about the community of podcasters that have done this frankly for quite a long time. Some of these people have been doing this practically as long as we have, and they just continue to do the work. And without the fanfare, without the level of thanks that frankly they all deserve, Cara, I count you definitely among those in your Talk Nerdy podcast is just tremendous. I can't recommend it highly enough for people. It's so informative, it is so diverse and introduces me to so many topics that I don't know where else I would have frankly heard about a lot of the things and people that you have on the show. So really kudos to you for keeping Talk Nerdy going as well as you have. I'm also going to include George with the Geologic podcast, continues to be so entertaining and so much fun. He has never taken his foot off of that pedal and he continues to put out really, really quality, quality work. I'm going to mention a couple of others. I know some actual science ones that we're very fond of. There's This Week in Science has been around. Astronomy Cast continues to go strong. Fraser Kaye and Pamela Gaye are doing awesome work there. 60 Second Science is still going strong. I remember we were talking with them back in 2005 about podcasting. Another one that doesn't get much talk, Brains On, it's a good kids science podcast.

C: Oh, it's my friend Sandin's show.

E: Yes, yes. It's so much fun. Isn't that a great, great show?

C: Yeah.

E: It deserves props. The podcasters definitely deserve some more attention. There's another one, Science for the People that I think we've mentioned in the past but definitely deserves. And of course we said Richard Saunders, Skeptics Zone. There's Point of Inquiry. Point of Inquiry continues to go even though they've had lineup changes over the year. Skeptoid is continuing to go strong. Oh No! with Ross and Carrie. That is an underrated show. I love Ross and Carrie. They're hilarious. They do a lot of groundwork on the ground investigations into many paranormal and pseudoscientific things. It's great. Monster Talk is also another one that's been around for a long time. And Squaring the Strange. Skeptics with a K as well and the Friendly Atheist. I'm sorry if I missed you but those are the key ones that popped into my mind. So continue to do the great work, all you podcasters that are out there doing this work. It's often thankless but it does not go unrecognized and you have very loyal audiences and I know you wouldn't have been doing it this long unless you really, really had a passion for doing this the way we have a passion for doing what we're doing and we want everybody to succeed and continue with lengthy success.

S: Yeah, I like that Evan because it really aligns with the fact that if you think about any important social movement, it achieves its goals, number one, because of persistence. That's the most important ingredient. There's no quick fix to big social change and just, and we're fighting an uphill battle, you know what I mean? And it's hard to even see. We've talked about like are we making a difference? What would the world be like if we weren't here? You'll never know. But just showing up day after day, week after week, year after year, despite all the uncertainty and just, again, despite all the forces arrayed against science and reason, that's, if it's, anything's going to make a change, just straight up persistence, you know?

E: Absolutely. There's few things that compare or can be as really be as effective for change. Stick-to-itiveness set your goals, stick to them and just continue to see it through. Makes it easy that I'm doing this with my best friends in life, certainly. So if you can do a project like that with people who are very close to you, that's all the better.

S: Could you imagine doing this with people you didn't like?

E: Right, or tolerated or kind of always see eye to eye with on a lot of things it would be more like nah.

S: I have to say, I always, this is usually the funnest two hours of my week recording the show with you guys.

C: And you mean three hours. (laughs)

S: I look forward to it.

S: Oh, absolutely.

E: It's still my number one.

S: A third hour is not fun. (laughter)

E: So good job all the podcasts out there. Continue to do the good work.

S: All right. Who wants to go next?

Cara's character & growth (48:49)[edit]

B: I'll go next.

S: Do it.

B: So I often have no idea what to talk about on the show and for this end of the year thing.

C: Same.

B: I'm like, I forget what happened two weeks ago. Last week is pretty clear. We're two weeks ago and we're at beyond. It's like, what happened? What did we do? So I threw it out there and I got on Reddit and on our subreddit and I got some great answers and one really, I really loved that I want to read. And this is from GoldSticker and he or she says: "Is it me or has Cara had the most character development throughout the years? In part because she's been working through her PhD and you can hear her professional growth coming through in the podcast. And to your point, her ability to go toe to toe with Steve, I get super amped when Steve and Cara get into it, not just because of high intellect, but also because they do a good job demonstrating how opposing sides should argue. They work to understand each other, make their case and fully accepted their differences with little emotional friction. But the other part is her personal growth that she's dealt with her own issues, mental and physical, and has discussed them openly on the show. Her recap of her surgery was effing amazing and it meant a lot to me as I became father to a daughter at the same time. I'll raise that kid to view Cara as a hero." And then it's ending with the ending made me giggle. "But before I go too hardcore fanboy, her sci-fi knowledge blows. Go watch a Star Wars." (laughter)

E: Not everyone is great at everything.

C: Exactly. Come on. And I have watched Star Wars. I'm sorry it didn't stick.

E: But how about those Harry Potter movies?

C: Right. Yes.

S: But that's true, Cara. So many people commented this year on just your straight up courage, really fearlessly just putting it out there. And we both know you have to be very careful before you self-reveal to clients, patients, to the world. And you did a really good job of using your personal, really painful personal experience to inform our listeners. And so many people responded, especially from people who were going through similar things, how helpful that was.

C: I was pretty surprised how many people were like, I just had the same diagnosis and now I'm navigating that with a little bit of knowledge. I mean, it's heartbreaking, but it definitely made it worthwhile because it was scary. It was scary to open up about that.

S: So I'm grateful our listeners brought that up because I definitely think you need props for that.

J: What's interesting, Cara, like you and I talking about mental health issues, then you talking about your other health issues, and then we get a response, a good pulse of people that are out there that happen to be going through similar things. It just goes to show you, there's a lot of people out there and people are going through things and whenever we bring up something that someone is going through, it's very likely that someone's going to be dealing with it.

S: It's going to resonate with someone?

J: And that's why I find talking about these issues so freaking important. The one that Cara and I share is the mental health issues and our success at using the mental health industry to help us, to help in our personal lives, in medication and therapy. We push it pretty hard, I think. I think whenever we have a chance to talk about it, we talk about it. But it's important for us to do that because there are people that they might not have other people to talk to about it or they might not have an easy way to get information. It might just be something that's uncomfortable for them to talk about, but it's good for them to hear people talk about it. You know what I mean?

C: Yeah, absolutely. For sure. And I mean, I think that's, it's exactly what Steve was talking about when we have our own clients, this idea of sort of self-disclosing is a really tough thing, especially for therapists. When do I tell them where I'm coming from? Because this isn't about me, this is their hour. And when do I actually reveal certain things that maybe help, not just improve rapport, but help validate somebody's experience. And I think that that's really ultimately why I felt like it would be helpful for me to be public about my AIS diagnosis and my hysterectomy. I'm now going to completely deflect.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy (52:54)[edit]

C: I'm going to pull an Ian right now and tell you that I too, Bob, struggle to come up with like the skeptical hero, the skeptical jackass. Whenever we do this at the end of the year, I'm like staring blankly. I'm like feverish.

E: Oh, I got a good jackass.

C: Internet searching. I know I always have too many jackasses. But for the hero, I figured I would go a little bit more global. And yes, I get it. This isn't necessarily a skeptical hero, but I do think I could make a case because he has really engaged in a lot of evidence-based policy. But I think across the board, my kind of larger hero of the year would have to be Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

B: Yeah.

S: Yeah. I actually was almost going to bring him up, but I thought it was what was the [inaudible]?

C: Right, like too broad.

S: But he is my hero of the year. Absolutely.

C: Absolutely.

S: That guy he's 100% deserved to be person of the year.

C: I think so too. I mean, and it's oftentimes we struggle. I don't want to say we struggle, but there is this pressure, expectations, self-obligation, whatever you want to call it, when you have a voice and a platform to do right by the people that are listening to you. And so here on SGU, we know we have a large voice and we know we have a large platform. And we know that a lot of people who are skeptical thinkers are coming to us to learn and to find community. And we live in the United States. And so we're constantly kind of grappling with this idea of like, do we have a very Americo-centric perspective? Should we broaden that perspective and be as global as we possibly can? I think one of the things that Zelensky did so effortlessly, because he is so humanistic, there's something very, very authentic and humanistic about him as a leader, is that he got the world to listen. And he showed the world the humanity of his people in a way that not many leaders are capable of doing. Because he himself is not, I mean, yes, he's a politician and yes, he was like an actor. He was like a TV star.

S: He was a comedy star.

C: Yes. Yeah, like a comedy guy. There's all this, and I think he's a lawyer. That's how he was trained. But like ultimately, what comes through every time he speaks is his humanity. And I think that you can't help but connect to somebody who's so authentic in that way. And when we connected to him from obviously all corners of the globe and saw that the suffering that his people are dealing with, but also the way that he is so one of them, he's not above them, he's not separate from them. He is one of them. I think that there was something fundamentally human that drew a lot of people together. And I know he just recently addressed Congress as well. And so obviously he's like fresh on the mind. But I figured I'd be remiss if I didn't mention him as my hero of the year. And yes, there are, I could point to some cool skeptical things he's done with like policy and stuff, but ultimately it's bigger than that.

S: Yeah. What impresses me the most about Zelenskyy is he is a reminder that history can turn, it's not inevitable. It can turn on one courageous person and that the individual does matter when it comes to the course of history. That is an important lesson. Whatever the context. All right, we got Ian left.

Mark Bankston (56:14)[edit]

IC: Okay. Not necessarily a skeptic, but working on behalf of a skeptic, I would say this is Mark Bankston, who was the lawyer who prosecuted Alex Jones in Texas. Just anything that brings Alex Jones down is hilarious. And I think I love the quote when he got the whole cell phone record and he's like "Do you realize your attorney's messed up and sent me your entire data copy of your entire cell phone"? Like that is so funny to me. I mean, he is a lawyer, so that's a bit of an ewww no offense to our lawyer listeners, I'm just kidding. (laughter) But he is, yeah, I think he's a good hero so that's fun.

S: Yeah, yeah. All right. Awesome.

Listeners' Skeptical Heroes (56:57)[edit]

S: All right, Ian, before we move on, any votes from the listeners?

IC: Yes, we have a bunch. A lot of people actually said very similar ones with Fauci. We got Ed Yong, who I think predicted or like, not predicted, but was the scientist that was maybe at the forefront of saying, hey, COVID is a serious thing and you better watch out.

C: Oh, I think they're talking about Ed Yong, who is the, yeah, he's the science writer who probably did some of the best coverage of COVID for the Atlantic over the course of the pandemic.

IC: There's the, Nancy Chabot, I believe is how you pronounce her name, the DART coordination lead from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Svante Pääbo, or Peebo, I think.

C: Pääbo. I think it's Pääbo.

IC: Pääbo, you're right. I think it's Pääbo. We got a vote for Jon Stewart. Okay. Richard Saunders, hey, shout out. We have Cara Santa Maria.

C: Aw.

IC: Jay Novella, Steven Novella.

C: Aw.

IC: Jon Oliver.

C: Jon Oliver!

IC: Bill Burr. Bill Burr is pretty based, but you know, I don't know-

S: He's funny.

IC: -what he said recently, but he's pretty cool.

IC: Bill Burr Baggins?

S: More cynical than Skeptical, but.

IC: Yeah, that's true, but he's funny.

C: But Jon Oliver, he's been doing so many good skeptical desk pieces.

S: He has, yeah. He's done a great job.

IC: And also we had the CFI legal team for bringing lawsuits to CVS and Walmart for selling homeopathy.

E: That's a good point.

C: Yeah, get it.

E: They did do good work there.

IC: And then finally {{w|United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack|January 6th Committee}, so I guess we're already there.

C: Yes. Yes.

Skeptical Jackasses (58:32)[edit]

S: All right, let's turn to the Skeptical Jackass of the year. I'm going to start. I have two, and they're not surprising. I struggled. I wanted to find somebody new who really broke through this year.

E: But some are just worthy.

S: So I settled on two old friends. One is already mentioned, Alex Jones.

E: Yeah, top of my list.

S: Having a very bad year, and he deserves it, and he deserves worse. And just his pushback against reality when it comes to the Newtown shooting. It's just disgusting. And he remains disgusting. He's a disgusting human being.

B: But I don't think he deserves worse. I mean, 1.5 billion, that's about right.

E: Yeah, but then he goes ahead and claims bankruptcy.

B: Which a judge struck down, right?

S: Yeah, yeah.

B: Judge said, nope, no bankruptcy protections.

S: I want to see him destitute.

C: Yeah, that's the thing. He's still actively hiding all of his money. And this is a problem.

B: Well, forensic accountants found, what, $250,000,000?

E: Yeah, they can only play that game so long. Plus, if they really do find things that are hidden, he's subject to other crimes and penalties.

C: But the real sad thing is that money can't solve. I mean, yes, sure, we want to hit him where it hurts, and where it hurts is his money. And that's everything he's ever done, was just to make more and more money. But like-

S: He should be in jail.

C: Yeah, like this man should suffer.

E: He's a fraudster. He's a fraudster.

S: And my second choice is, who do you think?

E: Elizabeth Holmes.

B: Musk.

C: Elon Musk.

S: No.

E: Elizabeth is my second choice. Go ahead.

S: Dr. Oz.

E: Oh, Dr. Oz.

S: Dr. Oz.

C: Almost forgot about him. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, yeah.

S: For his failed Senate bid, and all of the intellectual compromises he had to make in order to do that. Not surprising, but again, I think he deserves a vote for Jackass of the Year because of that. So, Cara, let me guess, Elon Musk?

C: I have a tie.

S: Okay.

C: Who do you think is tied with Elon Musk? Think biggest jackass of the year, global, not so much globally, but like-

S: Vladimir Putin?

C: Yes, he's a skeptical jackass, but he's like just the jackass of the year in general.

J: Trump?

C: Kanye.

B: Oh, God, yeah.

E: Of course.

S: Yeah.

C: Of course. Such a jackass, lest we forget. Yeah, I think these were the two, Elon and Kanye, I think the reason that I bring them up is because they were sleepers. People who were in the know, they always knew because they were always leaving these breadcrumbs and these hints. But this is the year that they just said the quiet part out loud.

S: Yeah, definitely.

B: Oh, man.

S: Yeah. I mean, Musk it's amazing how quickly he tanked, what reputation he had. I think maybe it's with both of them and maybe they're saying the quiet part out loud. I've read a lot about that. And I think one of the analyses that made sense to me was these are people who are not surrounded by anyone who will give them a reality check. They are surrounded by sycophants and yes men. And eventually that completely erodes any, I think, humility. And so I think what we're seeing is the effects of a complete and utter lack of humility.

C: Yeah. In the past, the people around them, they were always sycophants, but they were doing damage control. And this year, they just couldn't, their damage control couldn't outpace the damage.

S: Yeah. All right. Who else? Who wants to go next?

J: Well, let me give you more details about Alex Jones. Let's kind of flesh this.

C: You're like, we're not done with Alex Jones.

E: Get back here, Alex.

J: Let's flesh this bastard out because this guy can only be classified as a villain.

C: Oh yeah. He's a super villain.

J: He is an absolute force of evil. First of all, we don't even know if this whole thing is a character or if he's truly, if it's true if he's acting in a true nature to himself, which I find mildly entertaining and kind of scary at the same time. So he's famous for saying that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a complete hoax that was perpetrated by the government to basically push people into changing guns, gun rights.

B: Yeah. How'd that go? How'd that work out?

J: He was a 9-11 truther inside job done by the US government. He said that all of these things, there's crisis actors and things like that going on where he thinks that people are completely faking all this stuff. Meanwhile, even to this day, he's still broadcast on 100 stations nationwide. He's still got a massive traffic on his website, InfoWars. During the coronavirus, what did he do? He started to sell his dietary supplements and stupid preventative treatments and all this stuff for the virus. Both of, all these products have no scientific evidence whatsoever. It's just a disgusting money grab. Now let's finish off, I'll tell you more about him by reading something that he said. This is very telling, better than me just continuing to tell you these details about craziness. He said: "When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton had personally murdered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear standing up against her."

B: Wow.

J: Yeah, you heard me right. "Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children. I can't, I just can't hold back the truth anymore."

E: I mean, you don't have to be not a fan of Hillary, but my gosh, I mean, what the hell is that?

S: I don't think he believes a word he says. That's my personal opinion.

C: It's all just shock.

S: It is all theater.

C: Shock value.

E: Total. And he has an audience that eats it up, unfortunately.

IC: And yet he even pushed back on Kanye. So who's the bigger a-hole?

C: Thank you.

B: Yeah, that was weird to watch that.

E: Oh my gosh. When you can out freak Alex Jones, that's, that's horrific. Kanye.

S: Bob.

E: Who is it, Bob?

B: I mean, I had just Jones and Musk. Nothing more, nothing more to add to those two bozos.

E: All right. Yeah.

S: All right, Evan, you got somebody?

E: Well, yeah, I mentioned her before. Elizabeth Holmes. Yep. 11 years in prison following being found guilty in her trial defrauding investors in her blood testing company. Finally, this has come to fruition. She duped investors. She duped patients. She duped doctors. She duped everybody under the sun. The whole thing. Here we go. Here's what the judge says. "This is a fraud case where an exciting venture went forward with great expectations and hope misrepresentations, hubris and plain lies" and it's about straightforward as you can say, as you can say it. She knowingly misled doctors and patients about the product that Edison machine, which the company claimed could detect all kinds of ailments by just analyzing a few drops of blood. Total, total crankery.

S: Yeah. So it's an interesting story on a couple of levels. First of all, I have to note that the decision against her was for defrauding investors, not patients.

E: I know.

S: She couldn't be held accountable for defrauding patients. It was only the investors that got the legal action against her. But I have to say, I called it as soon as I heard about her claims long before there was any lawsuits or anything. I wrote about it just based entirely on the science of her claims. They're just demonstrably absurd. Anyone who's at all familiar with how medical science works could tell you. You can't just start to come and say, I'm going to have a hundred scientific breakthroughs. It just doesn't work that way. And so it, what she was saying had to be bullshit. So I was utterly unsurprised when that's what it turned out to be, but it is, I'm glad that she got her comeuppance, but it is disappointing that it was because for defrauding investors and not the patients who were harmed by her.

E: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I agree. Steve, it's unfortunate that that part didn't legally wash out in the judgment, but still she is going to jail and she earned it. I'm also going to put this out there. This is something we did not talk about in 2022, but this guy doesn't get a break as far as I'm concerned. Sam Bankman-Fried or Fried.

C: I knew you were going to, that's why I left it for you.

E: Okay. I mean, to be continued with this guy, but he's now in custody here, although he just made bail today, $250 million bail from the US from the charges. And you know, FTX, I think we all know about this FTX to fund his crypto trading firm, Alameda Research. They raised over $8 billion is the, is the amount of supposed fraud in this case. He has not been found guilty by anyone yet. These are the accusations. So we're going to leave it. This will resolve at some point, maybe 2023, we'll have to come back to it. And maybe we'll have someone on the show who knows a lot more about the finer details of the legal aspects of it. But this guy, eight counts of fraud could face up to 115 years in prison. He and his co-conspirators made illegal campaign donations were tens of millions of dollars all in all in the wild plus so much misuse of other funds in so many other ways. And this guy more to come on him, but he has to get a mention, I think.

S: Yeah. It's a wild West. All right. Ian, what do you have personally? And what do it, did our listeners vote for?

IC: I think you guys hit a lot of the good ones. Good, bad ones. I'd be like, I mean, not to get too political, but like the Marjorie Taylor green and Lauren Bobert party is kind of fun.

S: They're conspiracy theorists.

IC: Yeah, they're conspiracy. But it's also fun that they're fighting together against each other so that it's maybe a good jackass time. In terms of what the listeners, one person actually voted Elon Musk for the hero, but then a significant amount voted for him as the villain. (Cara laughs) So we also have Dr. Oz. That's great. I think and well deserved. We have a special mention of Elon Musk for his recent accusation of Fauci.

C: Yeah, that was brutal. Oh, he like basically like put a target on Fauci's head.

B: What?

C: Yeah. You're right. Didn't he like Photoshop something? I'm going to look up the tweet.

IC: There's Alex Jones. Shout out again. Trump, especially with his little NFT dump, which is cringe.

E: Well, yeah, that's cringe.

IC: Oh, somebody said Mr. T and I was like, what did Mr. T do? They meant Trump.

S: I pity the fool.

E: He is a fool.

C: Evan, the tweet was my pronouns are prosecute/Fauci.

E: Oh, yeah.

C: So it was like not just a hit on Fauci, but also on like the entire trans and like non-binary communities, just everything. He couldn't be shittier to more people in-

S: In one tweet.

C: -one, two, three, four, five words. Yeah, exactly.

IC: Yeah, that's pretty much it.

In Memoriam (1:09:49)[edit]

  • Kendrick Frazier, Nichelle Nichols, Paul Farmer, Yves Coppens, Sidney Altman, Richard Leaky, Frank Drake

S: All right, everyone, we're going to move on to In Memoriam. So every year we like to recognize people in the movement and scientists and intellectuals who we lost this year. I like to focus on people, either there's got to be a personal connection or you read a lot of lists of celebrities who died this year. But we want to focus on the scientists, the people who contributed to this intellectual journey that humanity is on, who ended their personal journey this year. So I want to start with somebody, we actually just, this is fairly recent, we talked about on the show, Kendrick Frazier, who was the editor of Skeptical Inquirer, a career skeptic who dedicated his life to promoting scientific skepticism, working for CSI. We knew him, we met him at a lot of conferences and such. Super nice guy, very down to earth and a great skeptic. So we will note his passing this year. There is one celebrity I want to mention. Usually we don't mention just celebrities unless there's a personal connection to us. Nichelle Nichols died this year. So the Bridge crew loses one more. I think we're just down to, it's just Kirk, Sulu, and Chekhov at this point. Cara, I know you're really, we're distraught by that.

C: Well, but also wasn't she also one of the first strong black women characters on television? Everything about her, and she was pro-STEM for young women and just kind of was a-

E: Ambassador.

S: She was a trailblazer. Yeah. And then she-

C: A role model. And she was just such a role model for so many young women.

S: Yeah, absolutely. I'll go through a few scientists and if there's anybody else that you guys want to add to the list, let me know. So Dr. Paul Farmer, who died at 62, he was a very globally activist in spreading healthcare to the poor and the needy. He founded Partners in Health, international organization. Again just sort of trying to connect doctors to the poor and the needy. Paleontologist who co-discovered Lucy, Yves Coppens, died at 87. You guys remember Lucy?

C: I had the other one. I had her other discoverer on my podcast.

S: Oh yeah?

C: But not him. When you said his name, I was like, wait, wait.

S: Oh, not the one I did. Yeah. So yeah, so Lucy's just one of the most famous hominid fossils. A really nearly complete specimen if you count bones on one side as counting for the other. All considered, like you could reconstruct most of the skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis, one of the very early human ancestors. We learned a ton about the evolution of hominins from this one specimen. Nobel laureate Sidney Altman died at 82 this year, discovered that RNA had enzymatic abilities, kind of a critical discovery to genetics and the functioning of RNA. And paleoanthropologist, oh, there's two paleontologists. Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey died this year.

B: Wow.

C: Okay.

E: Leakey, oh boy.

S: Yeah. Son of Mary and Lewis Leakey. But again, activist, not only a paleoanthropologist, but he really was an activist his whole life for African wildlife. Setting up preserves and advocating for the protection of African wildlife. Just really had an amazing career.

C: We need to make sure we don't forget Frank Drake, of course, the astrophysicist and astrobiologist, famous for his work with SETI, for so much of his work. Developing the Drake equation, of course. He worked with Sagan on the Pioneer plaque. He was part of the Voyager record. I mean, this man contributed so much to our understanding and our appreciation of kind of our place in the universe. And he survived by a lot of incredible family, but I actually know his daughter, Nadia Drake, pretty well. She's a brilliant – she has a PhD in genetics, but she's a brilliant science journalist and has contributed for years to a column in National Geographic.

S: So there were hundreds of scientists who died this year. We can't list all of them. So those are the ones that stuck out for me. Anybody else want to mention anyone that was important to you who died this year? Celebrity, scientist, anyone? Politician?

SGU Listener & contributor Daniel Murphy (1:14:38)[edit]

E: There is somebody who I think deserves mention. His name is Daniel Murphy, and although he's a listener – was a listener of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, among other science podcasts, and he was a very, very – I'd say significant fan of the show and a contributor. He actually has – had donated many times to the causes and to the efforts that we had put on over the year. We met Daniel several times over the course of the TAMs and other conferences that we would go to, and he was always just a pleasure and a delightful person to speak with, to talk with, and he always had extremely high praise for us. Now he technically, as best as I can tell, he actually died on December 31st, 2021, but it was after we had recorded last year's show. And so even though technically he died the last day of 21, I wanted to make sure he got – not missed this time around in our acknowledgments.

S: There's always a few people who die in the cusp.

E: Right on the cusp.

S: Between when we record and the end of the year.

E: Yeah.

S: All right. Thanks for bringing that up, Evan. All right, guys. Well, let's move on to science or fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:15:53)[edit]

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

SOF statistical breakdowns[edit]

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. So this is the last science or fiction for the year, and we're going to start, as we always do on this episode, by going over some statistics. Are you guys ready for this?

E: No. I have a feeling I did terrible.

C: No.

S: I included the episode that hasn't aired yet because obviously we had a couple of listeners who very nicely-

E: Why would you do that? I got those wrong. (laughter)

C: Didn't we all?

S: -collated the stats for us, but I had to add in the episode they haven't heard since they were not privy to it. All right. We'll start with Bob, who got 27 correct out of 53 participations. I don't know how that turned out to be 53. They must have included the one from the end of last year.

C: Oh, but also, Steve, if you included both of the ones we just recorded-

S: I did, only the one that's going to air.

C: Oh, okay.

[talking over each other]

S: I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing. Relax. So Bob, you're at 50.9%. So you broke 50%. That's good.

E: That's good, Bob.

B: Yeah, whatever.

C: Yeah, that's great.

S: Evan, 26 out of 49 for 53.1%.

E: Oh my gosh. Better than I thought.

S: Jay, 29 out of 50 for 58%.

C: Ooh, Jay.

S: And Cara, how do you think you did?

C: Around how Jay did probably. I'm assuming you're going in order, so slightly better.

S: 35, 48. 72.9%, Cara.

E: Yeah.

C: Jeez.

S: You always underestimate how well you do. 72.9%.

C: Yes, because the hard beats are so hard. What about you, Steve?

S: I had 0%. I played one game and I lost. So I was at 0%.

B: You suck.

E: We got to get you in the game, up to bat a few more times.

S: Yeah, yeah. You guys should cover more often. So I guess for a few.

E: Yeah, put me down for a couple this coming year, Steve.

S: Yeah, okay. There's some other ways to break this down, however. So we could go by the percentage correct based on when they went in the order, when you guys went in the order. So the first person, the person who went first was correct 46% of the time. Second, 54%. Third, 61.2%. Fourth, 72.7%.

E: Wow.

C: Nice. I mean, to be expected.

E: That is – wow, how linear can you get right there?

S: And on a few times when we had five people, the fifth person going was correct 100% of the time.

E: Oh, that's amazing.

J: Wow.

C: That's really cool.

B: How many times is that though?

E: A fifth person?

C: Probably not-

S: Probably only a couple of times. Yeah, probably only a couple of times. Now, so the emailer said, so there is a clear advantage to going later in the game with last and fifth being the best spots.

E: Apparently so.

S: However, he is committing a fallacy and making that conclusion. What is the false assumption he's making?

J: That going later increases your chances.

S: No, but what – that's the conclusion. But there's a premise. There's a false premise in there.

IC: Jamblers.

S: It's an unstated premise. It's not an-

C: That somebody is getting it right before you?

S: No. The unstated premise is that the order is random. The order is not random. I decide when you guys go. Now, I try to mix it up to make it fair. But I also – if I think you have an advantage, I will make you go last.

E: Sure.

C: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You do that a lot.

E: It's a topic about Thanksgiving. Jay is going last.

S: Yes. If it's like a psychology thing, I'll make Cara go last. If it's an astronomy thing, I'll probably make Bob go last.

E: If it's a tax thing, they never have.

S: Tax thing, you never know. So he was assuming that going last caused you to have an advantage, but it's more that if you have an advantage, I make you go last.

C: Right. Interesting. And it's probably – I would assume the variance is kind of in both counts.

J: You see how complicated this gets?

S: No, I do think it's both, mainly because there's a dose response, right? It's a linear – it's not just that last position. It is – but I also – I also think if I think you're the person who's most vulnerable, I'll make you go first.

C: For sure.

E: It's the only way to blind us during this game.

S: Yeah. We've tried that. It just wasn't as fun.

E: Too cumbersome. Yeah, right. It doesn't – the dialogue goes over.

S: All right. So here is the stats on who went first. Bob went first 20% of the time. Cara 22%, Evan 26%, Jay 22%. Not a bad distribution. Not a bad distribution. I'm freewheeling it. So that's pretty good. The person going last was Bob 14%, Cara 30%. So you do have an advantage going in that last position.

B: Wow, that's big.

E: Cara bias there?

S: Evan 22%, Jay 28%.

C: So that – I mean that could be some contribution to me and Jay's higher wins.

S: It could be.

C: But also like you said, sometimes you put us last because you're afraid that we have more knowledge about the topic.

S: Right, right, right.

C: So that could also advantage us.

S: I do look at the stats and it does influence me a little bit for the following. It's like if things get a little bit too out of range, I do correct a little bit.

E: There's no perfect formula. I mean let's face it.

S: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's all based on what's going to be the most fun and interesting. And then finally, the first answer was correct 40% of the time. The second answer 32% of the time and the third answer 28% of the time.

E: Interesting.

S: So again, the emailer said – so if you went in doubt, guess the first answer. What's the fallacies? I mean I think they were joking. But I mean the fallacy there is that past performance is a prediction of future performance. Now the order of which one is correct is random. I literally roll a die and whatever it is, that's what it is.

C: How funny.

S: Because that you can't randomize things subjectively. You know what I mean? I would definitely be biased and-

E: You've tested this die that you roll for accuracy and–

S: Yeah, it's just a regular D6. It's fine. And every year it's a different number. It's a different number that's – I think last year it was more number three I think or whatever, number two. But it is completely random.

E: It's all random.

S: It's all random. Because otherwise if you tried to randomize something yourself, you would do things like not pick the same one three in a row and then you would basically know that–

C: You would commit a bunch of weird fallacies in your attempt to randomize.

S: So I just roll a die. So always interesting. Now you have one more episode this year. Right now.

J: Right now.

E: So this will count.

S: This will count. We'll adjust the percentages. We'll see how you guys do. Is everyone – Now Ian, you actually had a couple – I think you went once last year and you were at 100%.

E: All right, Ian.

C: Good job, Ian.


IC: Out of one. One of one. (laughter)

SOF items[edit]

Theme: Science news items from 1922

Item #1: In 1922, physicians Frederick Banting and Charles Best of Toronto Canada injected the first patient with insulin, a 14-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes who would have died without the treatment.[1]
Item #2: In 1922 Walter Heerdt, Bruno Tesch, and others developed hydrogen cyanide as a pesticide, under the brand name Zyklon B.[2]
Item #3: In 1922 Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri independently developed the Boveri–Sutton chromosome theory, identifying chromosomes as the carriers of genetic material.[3]

Answer Item
Fiction Chromosome theory
Science First insulin injection
Cyanide as pesticide
Host Result
Steve clever
Rogue Guess
Chromosome theory
Chromosome theory
Cyanide as pesticide
Chromosome theory
First insulin injection

S: All right. We have three items this week and the theme for this week, now I mix it up. Usually at the end of the year show I do some kind of end of the year themed thing. So sometimes I'll do items that we've covered earlier in the year or news items that we didn't cover earlier in the year. For the first time though, I'm going to do a 100-year shift. So these are three items about 1922.

B: No way.

C: Oh man.

E: No problem.

S: See how much you, this is always – trying to place things in history is always interesting.

E: The answer is flappers. (laughter)

S: OK. Three science news items about 1922. Here we go. Item #1: In 1922, physicians Frederick Banting and Charles Best of Toronto, Canada, injected the first patient with insulin, a 14-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes who would have died without the treatment. Item #2: In 1922, Walter Hurt, Bruno Tesch, and others developed hydrogen cyanide as a pesticide under the brand name Zyklon B. And item #3.

B: That was 22 as well?

S: Yep. The theme is 1922. And in 1922, Walter Sutton and Theodore Bovary independently developed the Bovary-Sutton chromosome theory, identifying chromosomes as the carriers of genetic material. All right. Cara, since you are winning this year, you get to go first.

C: How dare you?

IC: Actually, I'm winning. No big deal.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: Okay, so I don't know off the top of my head which of these really sticks out. Okay, so 1922, I'm really trying to like put myself in what was going on in 1922, what did laboratories look like, what kinds of discoveries were happening to them, all from memory. So basically insulin, hydrogen cyanide as a pesticide, which I know the least about.

S: You recognize the name Zyklon B?

C: I recognize Zyklon B. I've definitely heard that name, but I know the least about when that would have been or if that is – I don't think you would pull one over on us and like use a different formula. This probably was discovered. It probably was discovered by these guys or developed. But like I don't know if it was 1922 or if it was like, I don't know, 1960. And then Walter Sutton and Theodore Bovary independently developing the Bovary-Sutton chromosome theory, identifying chromosomes as the carriers of genetic material. I feel like we knew that before then because I feel like Mendel was like in the mid-1800s, and I know that he didn't know about genes, but it was Darwin first was saying there's something that's being passed on and we don't really know what it is. And then Mendel was like there are these discrete packets of information, look, the bees are wrinkly, and now they're not, and now they're wrinkly again. But nobody knew what genes were, and I feel like Mendel was in the mid-1800s, so I feel that would have happened sooner. So I don't know. That's the one that sticks out to me as being a little bit off. I think it's too late for the Bovary-Sutton chromosome theory, but I could be way off on the pesticide too. But I'm going to put my nickel down on the chromosomes, the third one.

S: Okay. And Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: Did you just pick the last one, Cara?

C: I did. I did.

J: I'm going to go with Cara.

S: Any particular reason?

J: Statistically making the correct decision.

C: Based on – oh, this is terrible. Don't base anything you do right now on anything that Steve read previously, like science or fiction. And remember I'm sick, Jay. I'm very sick.

J: But I'm sick too. That's why it makes perfect sense.

S: All right. Evan?

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Frederick Banting and Charles Best. Do all these have multiple people associated with them? It looks like they do.

S: Most scientific discoveries do.

E: Okay.

C: Yeah, that's true.

'E: Of course, of course. Insulin, huh? Who injected the first patient with insulin? Would that have been 1922? That could have been earlier maybe. 14-year-old boy. I don't know. I know nothing about this. 1922 though. Why do I have a feeling though insulin was around earlier than that? This would have been the first time a patient got injected with it? It seems a little off. The second one, Walter Heard and Bruno Tesch and others developed. Oh, boy. The pesticide and then Zyklon B, of course, the gas used in the concentration camps.

S: So not the 1960s.

E: Right.

C: Right. So that's what I was missing. Shit.

E: 1922. Under the brand name Zyklon B. I don't know about this one either.

C: Shit. I did not make that connection at all.

E: Gee whiz. I don't know. Steve, I don't know any of these. And even the last one. I mean, I wasn't alive. Don't blame me. Gosh. I guess I'll be different just for the sake of being different. I'll say the Walter Heard and Bruno Tesch, they may have developed something, maybe a pesticide or something, but I don't know if it was Zyklon B specifically. I think theirs in there is the fiction part of it. I don't know. But that's what it is.

S: OK, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: So among the rogues, I'm last, finally.

C: No, Jay hasn't gone.

B: Jay hasn't gone either.

C: Wait-

E: Jay went.

C: Just went really fast.

B: So that brings me to a paltry 14.6% in the fourth position. So I thought about thanking you for that, but I decided against it, Steve. So I will say, let's see. Yeah, 1922, insulin. Yeah, it could be. Hydrogen cyanide, 1922 as well. That could be. That seems like a reasonable time. The third one, though, the chromosome theory, 1922, just seems too late to me. So I mean, I would have thought late 1800s, certainly before 1922. So that's why I'll say that's fiction.

S: OK, and Ian, you get to go last.

Ian's Response[edit]

IC: Does this mean you think I know more about all these items than anyone else? Sugar.

S: If that makes you feel better.

IC: Given that I replaced all of Steve's dice with trick dice in the house, I'm going to say that it's number one. I don't know. You know what? I must be ignorant because I thought Zyklon B was like a planet or something sci-fi. (laughter) I'm going to be different as well and be I'm going to go with number one and say that it's not insulin.

E: All right.

C: Boy, look at that. No sweep for Steve.

S: So do you think insulin is earlier or later than 22?

IC: I would say it's earlier.

S: All right. So yeah, we're all spread out. I like to see that. Bob Jay and Cara think that the chromosome theory is too late. Evan thinks that Zyklon B was not developed by these guys or something different. And then Ian thinks that insulin was, did you say earlier or later?

IC: I mean, the only thing is that you still have to carry vials or you did for a while of insulin and shoot yourself up. So maybe it is later. It's just like so kind of archaic. I'm going to say later.

C: Wasn't it produced from like rabbits?

IC: Maybe. I don't know.

S: Horse pancreases actually.

C: Oh, horse. Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S: Here we go. Well, I guess we'll take them in order since we're all spread out.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: In 1922, physicians Frederick Banting and Charles Best of Toronto, Canada injected the first patient with insulin, a 14-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes who would have died without the treatment. Ian, you think this one is the fiction. Everyone else thinks this one is science. And this one is science. Sorry, Ian. Yeah, 1922. Yeah, so we knew about insulin before then, but they had to purify it. And these are the other people did that. These are the first physicians to actually inject it into a human being. It had been studied in animals beforehand. And the first injection only worked temporarily. This is, again, type 1 diabetes prior to this was a death sentence. You go into a diabetic coma and you die. That's it. You're basically not making any insulin and you can't live without insulin. So this 14-year-old boy was basically in a diabetic coma. They injected him with insulin. It brought his sugar down a little bit, not enough. Then they gave him a second injection and he basically completely normalized his blood sugar and he came out of it. So we now know that.

J: Science is amazing.

S: You know, you're not going to take somebody out of a diabetic coma with one injection of diabetes. Essentially, the insulin helps the sugar get into the cells. So the cells, all your sugar is in the blood. It's not getting into the cells. And so you give them an injection of insulin. And yes, some of that blood sugar is going to go into the cells, but they're starved. So you know, you need to keep doing that until you renormalize things. So typically we put people on an insulin drip and just keep giving it to them until we normalize their blood sugar.

B: What if you give too much.

S: Then you tank their blood sugar and then that's the opposite problem. That could kill them too. Put them in that, get a seizure or something. So then you just give them some—you just give them sugar, right? The treatment for that is sugar.

C: Yeah, because—yeah, then it'll just use it.

B: If you need a treatment, I guess that's a good treatment. Sugar!

S: So absolute revolution. Absolute revolution.

B: Oh my God, that must have been so amazing.

S: And so at first, we were just purifying it from the pancreases of animals and mostly horses. And then of course, later on, we developed recombinant insulin. Basically, I think it's yeast. We have yeast cranking out insulin.

B: That's sweet.

S: That was another revolution.

B: Yeah.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: Okay, let's go on to number two. In 1922, Walter Hurt and Bruno Tesch and others developed hydrogen cyanide as a pesticide under the brand name Zyklon B. As Evan pointed out, Zyklon B was the—what was—that is the gas that was used in gas chambers in the concentration camps. That's—that's why that name is famous. But it was developed as a pesticide, right? And it's Zyklon B because this was a revised version of Zyklon A. They had—they just—they tweaked it and so it was the second iteration, Zyklon 2.0 as it were.

C: It's weird, Ian. I didn't know that either. I didn't make that connection at all and this is like—I feel like this is new. I had heard the word but this feels like new information. Jay and Bob, you guys knew that?

J: Knew what?

S: The Zyklon B was the—

C: Zyklon B was the gas.

J: Oh, yeah. I mean, I learned it like several times in school.

E: I watched a lot of World War II stuff.

C: So interesting.

E: I mean, it comes up all the time.

S: I watch a lot of World War II stuff.

C: Yeah, I guess I don't watch a lot of World War II stuff but I'm also wondering if there's been a generational shift in like how much detail is given.

S: Maybe.

E: Could be.

C: When we learn about this kind of stuff in school that there's fear of getting too graphic or too detail-oriented with kids.

S: Which is a mistake, I think.

IC: We're demonizing corporations.

C: I agree but—

E: In Hebrew school, we learned about this when I was seven years old.

C: Oh for sure.

S: Yeah, of course. So the question is, is 20 years too big a gap? This is like 20 years before it would have been used. So Evan, you think this one is the fiction. Everyone else thinks this one is science. And this one is science. Sorry, Evan. Yeah, so that was the delay. It was developed 20 years before it started to get used in the concentration camps. And now it's absolutely famous for that reason, not as a pesticide. It was used for de-lousing too. And interesting—

E: That's where the Holocaust deniers come in.

S: Yeah, that's what I was going to bring up. The Holocaust deniers will say that the concentration of hydrogen cyanide on the walls of the gas chambers was, I think, like only 1% of what you would find in a de-lousing chamber. And therefore, the implications, it was negligible and therefore not used to kill people. But they leave out the fact that lice are much less susceptible to cyanide. And it takes 100 times the concentration to kill lice as it does to kill people. They always just leave that little fact out there and just create an implication of a conspiracy rather than providing all the facts that you could see. It makes perfect sense. They also will measure the amount on walls that are now exposed to the environment. So yeah, it kind of washes away over decades. But if you sample walls that are still intact on the inside, absolutely a lethal dose for humans.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: OK, all of this means that in 1922, Walter Sutton and Theodore Bovary independently developed the Bovary-Sutton chromosome theory, identifying chromosomes as the carriers of genetic material is the fiction. Why is it the fiction? Does everybody agree that it's because it actually happened earlier?

C: Earlier. That's my guess, is earlier.

S: Then when do you think it happened?

C: What did Bob?

J: I bet you it's late 1800s makes sense.

C: Yeah, late 1800s.

IC: I'm going to say they didn't independently do it. They did it dependently.

C: I feel like you would have to change at least one other thing. But yeah, I'd say late 1800s.

S: 1902. It was 20 years earlier.

B: Close to the 1800s.

S: Yeah, so you were right. It was too early. Yeah, that was too late rather. So but yeah, remember though that Mendel's work was forgotten and had to be rediscovered. So there was a delay. That's why it wasn't the middle of the 1800s. But we didn't know. We didn't know. We knew that even when we knew conceptually that something like genes existed and was being passed on, the units of inheritance, we didn't know physically what was the substrate. And then so then it was discovered, well, it's the chromosomes. And for a long time, the thinking was that proteins were the substrate of inheritance, proteins until it was demonstrated that it was-

B: Not a bad guess. Proteins are everywhere.

S: Yeah, nucleic acids. Yeah, not a bad guess, but we didn't know. That just happened to be a wrong hypothesis. And it was eventually proved that it was the DNA, which of course makes up the chromosomes.

E: And then the DNA denialists came along.

S: Yeah.

E: Said, no, it was proteins, damn it.

S: All right, so good job, guys.

J: Thank you, Steve.

IC: Thank you. I got a chocastitis. I don't know. Something's wrong with him.

E: You and I will have to talk later. There will be puns.

S: Evan, give us the last quote of the year. Last quote of 2020.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:38:28)[edit]

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. Fortunately, my parents believed that girls should do as well as boys, so off I set.

 – Audrey Evans (1925-2022), British-born American pediatric oncologist

E: The last quote of 2022 by another scientist who unfortunately we lost in 2022. Here's what she said. "I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. Fortunately, my parents believed that girls should do as well as boys. So off I set." Audrey Evans, born March 6th, 1925, died September 29th, 2022. Pediatric oncologist who is known as the mother of neuroblastoma.

B: Whoa, nice.

E: And one of the co-founders of Ronald McDonald House. Now, she was known as the mother of neuroblastoma because of all the advances, research, and work that she did for this type of cancer. After years of treating this type of cancer, she reduced the mortality rate caused by neuroblastoma by about 50% and currently the survival rate is above 85% thanks to her. In fact, there is something called the Evans Staging System for Neuroblastoma. It is named for her.

S: Awesome.

B: Sure it's not named after you?

E: Oh, yeah. Well, of course. Yes, asterisk. I'm fond of that name.

End-of-year reflections (1:39:32)[edit]

J: Hey, Steve.

S: Yeah.

J: I think every year I say something about the hard work that you put in and how-

E: He says work harder.

J: Without your leadership and persistent banging on the table to get us to do everything that we have to do to get this show done, it wouldn't get done. I mean, by Steve's force of will like the spice. He's like a mentat. You make force of mind, whatever. Remember that?

IC: Name that reference. Come on.

J: But I wanna thank you, Steve.

B: Dune!

J: I wanna thank you for taking me on this amazing journey which is the SGU. From the very beginning, I never thought in a million years that we would be what we are and be able to do the things that we do and I owe it all to you.

S: Thank you, brother. It is a fun journey to take with all of you guys, with my family and friends, my close friends. You guys are all family.

E: We're family. I mean, let's face it. We are family.

C: Yeah.

S: It is a family. Yeah, I mean, this would be so, I could do this by myself, but why? It wouldn't–it would be really boring. You know what I mean? The collaboration is fun, getting together is fun. As I said, like this is like the funnest two, three hours of my week chatting with all you guys even though it's virtual. It's still great to get together with everybody. And what's more fun to talk about than science and critical thinking?

E: Oh, my gosh.

S: Seriously.

E: Absolutely.

B: Our voices will be on the internet until the post-apocalypse.

S: I have to tell an anecdote now about this. So we were driving to the airport. All the guys were in the car. Well, no George, no Cara, but the guys from Connecticut were all in the car. And we had a driver to take us to the last leg so we wouldn't have to park at the airport. And so we're just having a typical conversation. We were chatting about what we were gonna be covering on the upcoming live shows that we were gonna do. We were talking about fusion. We were talking about the ChatGPT and a bunch of other stuff about Artemis all the good stuff. And about 40-50 minutes into the ride, we're getting close to the airport. The driver, do you know him personally, Ian? I know you helped him with the ride.

IC: No. He's like a mutual.

S: He was just a random guy. Yeah. So he's just like, who are you guys? He's like, I have to say–

B: I thought he said, what are you guys?

S: Oh, yeah. What are you guys? This is the most interesting–

B: No, he said who.

S: I think this is the most interesting conversation I've ever heard. And he was just fascinated by the whole thing. Who the hell talks like that? So we told him, yeah, well, we do this for a living, basically. We've been doing it for 17 years, having conversations like this and making it interesting. And it was fun because we were just chatting. We weren't doing a show, but it was the same conversation. You know what I mean? Which I think has always been the strength of our show–

B: Yeah, for sure.

S: –is that it is like we're just having a chat among friends who are interested in science and critical thinking and that sort of thing.

B: And just cool sci-fi stuff.

IC: Yeah. Shout out to Tim. You'll hear this after you've been through several hundred episodes. You'll eventually hear it.

E: He was a nice guy.

IC: And speaking of it, shout out to our patrons and listeners who keep this thing afloat.

E: Yes. Here, here.

J: Yeah, our patrons have an awesome thing going on in Discord, by the way. I mean, I keep talking to Sharon, who is one of the mods on Discord. What a community. The SGU has a vibrant, happy, and very discussion-heavy community going on. And we really appreciate every single patron that we have out there on or off Discord. I mean, we really couldn't do it without you guys. It means the world to us that you believe in what we're doing enough to become a part of it in a sense. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Happy New Year. And to the rest of you guys, it is my honor to work with all of you.

E: Likewise.

S: It really is.

B: Likewise.

S: And I agree. Again, this would be a pretty empty exercise if we weren't part of a bigger community, if there weren't people out there who were giving us feedback, sending us emails, being part of the discussion. I think there's a lot of negative things you could say about social media and the impact it's had on the world. But I think the one big positive thing is that it turns communication into a dialogue. You know what I mean? We're not just lecturing. We're not talking at people. We're having a dialogue and it's part of a broader discussion and dialogue, whether it's in the comments or on over email or on the Discord or on Facebook.

E: That's the best way to learn.

S: Yeah. And we consume a lot of that. We are taking all that feedback. It's constantly being directed back into the show. And that's, again, the other thing that has made this an awesome ride is just the community of critical thinkers and skeptics out there that we're interfacing with. Really, really happy with the community that we've helped to build.

E: Here, here.

J: Roger that.

Acknowledgements & Signoff (1:44:27)[edit]

S: All right, guys. Well, congratulations on another year. We've basically completed 17 years of the SGU. We're going into year 18.

E: Oh, my gosh, yeah.

B: Oh, man.

S: Yeah.

J: Bring it.

E: Yeah, let's do it.

S: It is amazing.

S: We're two years away from our 1,000th episode.

E: Oh, my gosh.

B: That we gotta do something.

E: 1,000? Eat your heart out, Joe Rogan.

B: Something special, like broadcast naked something.

IC: I have one thing from the listeners for the year in review. They love Bob's innuendo, gird your loins. So maybe that'll do the merch.

C: No, they don't. They're lying.

B: Drop a little Gird Your Loins in Bob's face.

B: I have my finger on the pulse of awesomeness.

C: Ewww, stop.

S: That would be a good T-shirt. [inaudible] Gird Your Loins.

E: Gird Your Loins with the SGU.

C: No.

E: Cara gets a veto over that, I think.

S: It just means to tie up your tunic. That's all it means, Cara.

C: Yeah, it's totally how Bob's using it.

S: I know.

E: Adjust your loin cloth.

B: It has so many meanings. That's why I love it.

S: All right. Well, thank you all for joining me this week and this year.

E: Yes, great year.

J: It's our pleasure.

C: Thanks Steve.

IC: Thank you.

S: And thank you for joining us, Ian. And Ian, we have to recognize all of the hard work that you do. I know it's mostly behind the scenes.

IC: I know you're going to cut this out. I know. It's fine.

S: I'm not going to cut it out. I know you want to be the man behind the curtain, and you never want the spotlight to be focused on you. I get it.

E: But here it is.

S: It's your deep professionalism, and I respect that. But every now and then, we have to acknowledge all of the, not just the hard work that you do, but the real expertise that you bring to the technology.

B: And the all-around awesome tea-drinking guy you are.

E: Yeah, you're just fun to be with, too.

J: I love working with you, Ian. I also love eating with you. You're so much fun to have a meal with, man.

IC: Thanks, guys.

S: And again, it's not just that, but you've become a really close friend. Again, the people we end up working with, it's not just that they're working for us. It's that they really become part of the family.

B: Yeah, they got the whole package.

E: Family.

S: Yeah, they're absolutely part of the family. Because we have to we're goombas. We've got to work with family.

IC: That's true.

J: And while we're talking about Ian, we can't forget Kelly, who has been an intern, tempered for you for us.

B: Kelly has been great.

E: Thank you, Kelly.

C: Thanks Kelly.

J: Kelly has taken on a lot of the stamina-based work that I do. She does a lot of social media. She's been going through some emails. And I just really appreciate her, and she is awesome. She's helped us in a lot of ways.

E: Thank you for the baked goods, too. They're delicious. Thank you.

S: Since we're spreading the love, we also have to acknowledge one of our primary partners in crime, George Hrabb.

IC: Oh, yes.

E: Yes. Here, here.

S: George is also a great friend, again, somebody that we consider to be family that we met through skepticism. He is the leader of our live events. When we go on an event weekend where we do the extravaganza George completely runs that. That is all him. And he is, whenever we need anything like real creative, he's our go-to guy. He's just such a funny, creative guy with a great skill set. So he's been a fantastic addition to SGU activity.

J: I love working with George.

S: Yeah.

J: I love–

S: Just love hanging out with him, too.

J: Talking to George is so much fun. I like the group dynamic that we have, and George adds a lot to it. And I particularly love when we're doing the extravaganza and George is out front. We're sitting in the chairs behind him and I just always have this moment where I'm like, oh, my God, this guy is so funny. I love working with him so much. He makes me laugh, I think, more than anybody I know.

B: He's a funny bastard. Holy crap. He comes out with stuff. We're like, holy crap, that was funny.

S: All right. Well, thanks again, everyone.

J: All right, Steve. This is it for real.

S: This is really it. And until next week and next year, this is the 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]

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