SGU Episode 952

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SGU Episode 952
October 7th 2023
952 LuSEE-Night 2025.jpg

This artist's rendering shows LuSEE-Night atop the Blue Ghost spacecraft scheduled to deliver the experiment to the far side of the Moon. (Firefly Aerospace)

SGU 951                      SGU 953

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


LM: Lars Martin, TRIUMF physicist

Quote of the Week

Reality denied comes back to haunt.

Phillip K. Dick, American sci-fi writer

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Bob's Halloween season, Steve's bear encounters[edit]

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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, October 4th, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Welcome to October everyone, or as I like to call it, Bobtober.

S: Bobtober?

B: Yes. It has begun.

E: The countdown is official.

S: Yeah, we basically lose Bob for a month. He gets lost in Halloween town.

B: Halloween town. Yeah, lost.

E: His body might, yeah, your body might be here at the podcast, Bob, but your brain is clearly in the graveyard somewhere else.

B: Oh yeah, man, so much going on and I just feel like it's not long enough. 30 days, 31 days is not enough time.

E: Nope. Oh well, here we go.

J: What's your, Bob, what's your favourite thing about Halloween?

B: Oh, how dare you ask me that question?

E: Wait, this is only an eighty minute show, Jay.

B: It's so hard to put into words. I'm not just so many things I love. It's hard to say-

E: Choose your favourite kid, right? That kind of thing.

B: -this is the best part. I guess, okay, I guess I can. The best part is creating something creepy and scary with my own two hands. Just creating things totally by myself and not having to buy it. Buying stuff is a huge part of Halloween for me, but creating something is probably the most rewarding. So I guess I can say that.

E: So Bob, when it comes to, when the day comes when you're in retirement, is that how you're going to fill a lot of your, your time doing these kinds of creations?

B: Oh, sure. I'll have more time to do that. And then when, and then I've thought of this, when the time comes that I can't even do that because I'm like wheelchair bound, that's when my minions come and help that I have been working on for decades.

S: By minions you mean your nieces and nephews.

B: Yes.

E: Okay. Maybe the creations you're building, you're going to bring them to life somehow, but that's another story.

B: Ooh, I may get there.

E: Artificial intelligence might help.

S: So guys, I have a bear update for you. A lot of people have followed it. Riveted by my bear story, a lot of email, but he did come back. The bear did come back. I just have it a couple of weeks ago.

J: When was this?

S: It was actually when we were at Dragon Con and I wasn't home, but we had somebody who comes to the house to feed the animals and house sit a little bit when we're away. And they called to say that the bear was back in the yard. And the thing that was different this time is that my dog Sagan was out in the yard when the bear got here. So the bear and our dog had a direct confrontation.

B: Is Sagan alive?

S: Sagan chased that bear out of the yard.

C: Yeah, not surprised.

S: Not surprised. That's what I figured was going to happen, but it was good to know that that's what did in fact happen.

C: That's scary.

S: Yeah, I mean, bears don't want to mess with a wolf, basically. I mean, you know.

C: No, it's just that like if a bear is, I don't want to say aggressive enough because that's not a fair word, but if a bear is unafraid enough to be spending so much time, and you're like so close to people, it may be unafraid of a wolf.

S: I mean, that's true, but generally black bears don't expend the energy and the risk confronting something that could potentially injure them unless they're defending cubs or they are defending food that they have in their possession. So if he's just sort of wandering in the yard and he has a dog going bananas, barking at him really aggressively, he's probably like, ah, it's not worth it because it goes to the next house. So that's what he did. He went into the woods.

E: Was any of this captured on a ring device or some other recording?

S: No, this one was not captured because I wasn't there. And then there haven't been any sightings since then. And we moved all the food inside, so I'm hoping that the negative reinforcement of like not having food available is also playing a part. And we're getting to that point now where the bears get very active before they hibernate because they want to bulk up and then, of course, then you won't see them for the winter. So I think we're getting close to that point now, although it's unseasonably warm here in Connecticut. It's 80s today, 80s in October. That's a little unusual.

E: Yeah. Anytime you're in the 80s after the equinox, it's, yeah, that's out of the ordinary.

News Items[edit]

S: All right. So guys, it's Nobel Prize time again. It always takes me by surprise. This always comes around faster than I think, you know what I mean?

C: Oh, yeah. Talk about taking you by surprise. I was in Stockholm last week, wandering around downtown Stockholm. I took a picture of the like Institute, there's like a plaza out front. Yeah. There's a plaza out front. I was walking around old Stockholm killing time before my flight and I was like, oh, this is where they do the Nobel. I took a picture. I didn't even realize that like it was happening right as I speak.

E: That's dynamite.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry (5:05)[edit]

S: All right. So I'm going to get started with the Nobel Prize in chemistry and we'll start by asking you all a question.

E: Oh, I like this.

S: Bob, give everyone else a chance to answer first.

E: Oh, come on.

S: What is it that determines what colour something is?

E: How it burns?

S: No, just the thing itself.

J: It's actually reflecting that colour back to you. Like it's the only color that it's not [inaudible].

E: Why is pigmentation pigmentation?

S: So it has to do with the, what frequencies of light it absorbs and reflects, right? And what determines that?

B: Well, that's, it's the arrangement of electrons. I mean, electrons. Ultimate.

S: Thank you, Bob. So it's basically the chemistry of the substance itself. So if it's an element is basically what element it is. And if it's a molecule, it's what arrangement of atoms it has. And essentially it's determined ultimately by exactly as Bob said, it's just the electrons, what electron shells that they have how many electrons in the outer layer, et cetera, because the electrons are the things that are sort of absorbing and radiating frequencies of light. Well, this year's Nobel prize in chemistry goes to three scientists, Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Aleksey Yekimov, who discovered that there's an entirely other layer to that question. That it's also the size of the molecule. It's the size of the substance, but only when you get down to the very tiny, where quantum effects become important. So they discovered what we call, and I know we've mentioned this before in the show, what we call quantum dots. And essentially these are quantum sized particles where the size of the particle determines the colour, not the chemistry of the particle. Some have likened this to adding a third dimension to the periodic table of elements, right? Where you're looking at the feature because the periodic table is laid out basically based upon the electron orbits. And that really determines everything about that pretty much in terms of the physical behaviours of the elements. But now it's like you have to also at the very, very small end of the spectrum, you have to know how big they are because that also affects it because quantum effects become important at the tiny, tiny sizes. So the first two scientists who won the award, Nobel laureates, basically made the same discovery or a similar discovery, but they weren't aware of each other's work. So Aleksey Yekimov in the early 1980s created size dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. He was interested in the phenomenon of coloured glass, and he noted that the particles of copper chloride produced different colour in coloured glass depending on how it was treated. And he's like, well, it's the same chemical. How could the same chemical have different colours? And so he experimented and eventually discovered that the size of the particles would also influence the colour of the glass, not just the chemical itself, and that it was working through quantum effects. A few years later, Louis Brus, who also made a similar discovery, but he was made the observation in particles floating freely in a fluid. Now Brus was not aware of Yekimov's research because Yekimov was operating in the Soviet Union in Russia and his work was not easily accessible by scientists in the West. They just didn't know about it, didn't know about his research. So they gave the award to both of them because they basically independently made the same observation. The size of the particles can determine the colour. And then Moungi Bawendi, so at this point, we now had two scientists who basically made the same observation, and the problem was that in doing these experiments, you could these nanosized particles, when you get down to like one to a hundred nanometers, somewhere in that range is what we're talking about, where this starts to become important. But we didn't have the ability, we didn't have the technology to make nanoparticles of that size that were of high quality and consistent in size. So the particles that they were working with had a lot of flaws in them and had a lot of variability. So they were really basing their observations on like the average size. But in 1993, Bawendi essentially came up with a chemical production procedure that can produce these nanoparticles that were very consistent in size and were almost perfect, were essentially without flaws. So that was the connection between the observation of Yekimov and Brus to a world in which we can use quantum dots in technology, right? So you guys are probably looking at this technology right now, because this is the technology that goes behind OLED monitors, and also not as much, but also some LED technology itself that adds better quality to LED lights. This is obviously hugely important to modern technology, and we're still on the steep part of the curve in terms of investigating quantum dot technology. So this could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells, encrypted quantum communication. This is a whole area of technology now, is quantum dot technology, based on the work of these three scientists. So the thing, just very quickly, so if you go a little bit deeper, like past the press release, what is it about the size of these nanoparticles that determines the colour? It's essentially you're down to the size of the wavelength of the frequencies of light themselves, of different coloured light. And the size at that level can impose limits on how big that wavelength can be. So if you have a particle that's big enough to basically contain, and I don't know if it's a harmonic frequency or something like that, but it contains a red wavelength of light, that's the colour that it would be. As you get it smaller, it shifts towards the blue, right? It would go from orange, yellow, green, blue. As you get smaller and smaller, it can only allow for smaller and smaller wavelengths, which are the higher frequency colours. Blue shifted towards the blue. So I'm sure that's not really what's happening. It's just the metaphor used to explain to those of us who don't have working knowledge of quantum mechanics, right? But that's how it's being described. So cool. So it's quantum dot technology. So a whole new technology adding this other dimension to the physical property of stuff. And in this particular case, the colour of stuff, which has a lot of technological applications. Very cool.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (12:29)[edit]

S: All right, Cara, tell us about the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

C: All right. So the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given jointly. So it was an exact 50-50 prize to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, who at the time were both working at the University of Pennsylvania on, this is the exact phrasing, their discoveries concerning nucleoside-based modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. So we've talked quite a lot about mRNA vaccines on the show. We've gotten into the nitty gritty. So I want to talk a little bit specifically about these two interesting individuals and their contributions. So Dr. Karikó was actually a biochemist. And Weissman, I guess, technically is an immunologist, a physician scientist. And they worked together. They're partners in crime, which I think is a kind of a cool thing, because sometimes what we see with Nobel Prizes is exactly what you just described, Steve, where different scientists are independently working on pieces of a puzzle. And either they discover them at the same time or their discoveries sort of build upon one another's in order to lead to a breakthrough. But in this case, we actually saw a scientist team working together. So for that reason, they are sharing the Nobel Prize. They've also won numerous other awards for their work. Obviously, this is not an esoteric thing. It's not a thing that you've probably never heard of. I think pretty much everybody on the planet has heard the word mRNA vaccine at this point. So maybe we can talk a little bit about kind of the history of vaccines, how vaccines have always worked throughout our history. We often will talk about weakened or inactivated viruses or live attenuated viruses as the source of the vaccine material. And these would be the types of vaccines that many of us have had or that we're used to hearing about, measles, mumps, rubella, yellow fever, polio, and others. And actually, what was his name, Max Thieler, I think, I'm not sure how to pronounce that, but he received the very same Nobel Prize in 1951 for developing the yellow fever vaccine. Do we know if there have been other vaccine Nobel Prizes? There must have been, right? Oh, maybe not. So 51, Max Thieler, that's all I'm seeing. So yeah, that's kind of a big deal. So weakened or inactivated or live attenuated viruses, we've talked about quite a bit. And those are a lot of the vaccines that we are used to talking about. And then came around recombinant protein technology. And this was used to build vaccines like hep B and HPV, so HBV and HPV, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus. And then we saw even further development, and this was only within the last few years into some interesting new viral vector technology, where these parts of the viral genetic code, which was developed as part of recombinant protein technology, is actually able to be carried into the cell more readily using a viral vector. And so that's how the Ebola, actually both Ebola vaccines were developed somewhat more recently. So whether we're talking about whole virus in the live attenuated or the weakened or inactivated virus vaccines, or just protein-based or vector-based vaccines, all of those different types of vaccine technology require cell culture. It requires doing a lot of cell culture. And it requires a lot of time, and it's quite expensive. Scientists have known since about the 90s that if we could develop a DNA or RNA vaccine, we could circumvent, we could kind of move past that cell culture step, and we could do something called in vitro transcription, where we're basically telling our own cells to produce the proteins necessary for this immune response. Okay, so just as a quick review for anybody who doesn't remember their high school biology classes, there's always a kind of a direction to the way that we make proteins, right? DNA to RNA to protein. First, DNA is going to transcribe to RNA, and then RNA is going to translate those codes to proteins. And that's the words come from like transcription translation is because when you transcribe going from DNA to RNA, there's only one base pair difference there. And then when you go from RNA to protein, it's basically like a different language, right? So it's transcription and then it's translation. And so the idea here is if they could do this sort of in vitro transcription where the code is already kind of given to you by the vaccine, and then your body produce these proteins, all would be well. The problem is starting in the 90s, scientists began working on this, including the two scientists who are sharing the Nobel Prize, Dr. Karikó and Weissman, but they ran into a lot of issues. First and foremost, the DNA route was thought to be an interesting route. So people started with the DNA route, but it proved to be like it might work sometimes in animals, but it didn't work well in humans. And one of the ideas for why that was the case is because it had to not only get through the cell membrane, but it actually had to get through the nuclear envelope as well, right? Because we had to reach where the DNA is, whereas with mRNA, all it had to do was get to the cytoplasm of the cell. And there's obviously much more kind of chance there for the production of those proteins. The problem is as they move forward with mRNA technology, we saw a bunch of issues. And one of the biggest ones was an inflammatory response, like a brutal inflammatory response that actually was rendering this technology not useful. And we see this a lot when we talk about advancements in physiology or medicine, that things that look good on paper and things that might work in sort of in the biochemistry, once they're put into practice, the body behaves the way the body's going to behave. So we're seeing these massive inflammatory responses. And a lot of people kind of gave up. They were like, this is never going to work. It's never going to pass into human trials because it's going to make people way too sick. But here's the breakthrough. Our intrepid scientists actually discovered that if they could, I guess you could call it synthesizing it. If they could change just a little bit, modify just a little bit the uridine, which was one of the bases in the mRNA, and make it slightly different, they called it pseudo uridine, all of a sudden, the body's immune system didn't recognize it the way that it did before, and it reduced the inflammatory response. It was basically abolished once those bases were modified in the mRNA. And all of a sudden, it made this technology viable once again. They published those initial findings in 2005, and then just a few years later, they started to show that not only was the inflammatory response reduced, but there was actually more protein production with these base modifications. So it was sort of a double threat. It reduced the inflammatory response, and it produced way more protein than the unmodified RNA did on its own because it reduced the activation of an enzyme that actually regulated protein production. So it was able to kind of go unchecked. So these two big outcomes were sort of watershed moments for the development of mRNA vaccines. So the technology began to pick up in 2010. A bunch of companies were working on this. It finally looked like it was going to be commercially viable. Vaccines against Zika were starting to be developed. You guys remember MERS, Middle East respiratory virus, which is quite similar to SARS, and they were showing really good outcomes. And then ultimately, as we all kind of know how history was written, the COVID-19 pandemic hit this technology was sort of in the back pockets of these pharma companies, and they were able to utilize it to develop a very fast vaccine, actually multiple very fast vaccines. I was trying to look for the number, but I can't find it probably because estimates are all over the place of how many lives have potentially been saved by the COVID-19 vaccines, which are based specifically on the technology of Dr. Karikó and Dr. Weissman and of course their colleagues. I'm seeing a lot of estimates at like 20 million plus within the first year, but what I do know is that over 13 billion vaccine doses have been given across the globe. So most of the things that I'm reading just say millions and millions and millions of lives have likely been saved.

E: Cara, I was able to find its Journal of Experimental Medicine in 2007 published a paper called Yellow Fever and Max Thieler, the only Nobel Prize for a virus vaccine.

C: Ah, there you go. That's why I couldn't find him. Yeah, so it's so interesting that anyway for virus vaccines, I guess we could say we've now got two Nobel Prizes delivered.

S: And of course, the anti-vaxxers have lost their mind, just going crazy.

E: Wait, wait.

C: Not surprised.

E: Hey Steve, you have to have a mind before you can lose it.

S: Yeah, that's true. So one guy, Dr. Robert Malone, David Gorski wrote about this.

E: I know that guy.

C: Oh yeah, this guy's like an actual physician, right?

S: Yeah, so he did research. He claims to be the true inventor of the mRNA vaccine because he did some work which added one little piece to the puzzle, right? He did work about the mRNA entering the cell. So okay, yeah, that was a nice piece of the puzzle.

C: Yeah, important. Very important.

S: He's now whining that he didn't get the Nobel and that these other people stole his work and he's the true inventor of the vaccine. Meanwhile...

C: Which, you can have it both ways.

S: Yeah, he's gone totally conspiracy theory anti-vaxxer at the same time. Because I guess he figures, well, if I'm not going to get the credit for it, I'm going to denigrate it. And then other anti-vaxxers are trying, they're like downgrading the importance of the Nobel Prize. Yeah, good luck with that. That's a good approach. That's a good approach. Losers.

C: It is true when I tried to search how many lives have been saved by the COVID-19 vaccine in the first page of Google results, sadly, is anti-vaxxer rhetoric saying like the vaccine actually saved no lives. So it's the conspiracies are alive and well, and yeah, this is just kind of fanning those flames again, but I'm glad I'm alive, so there's that.

S: I'm happily vaccinated.

C: Yeah.

Nobel Prize in Physics (23:57)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, Nobel Prize in physics.

B: Yes. Congratulations to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that this year's physics prize was awarded for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter. What do they accomplish to deserve this prize? I'm going to start with an analogy. Remember that famous story of the first motion picture ever made? The horse running. You know that one? Horses are basically too fast for people to easily discern if they ever have all of their feet off the ground at any point. Some people said yes, some people said no. It was kind of like this running thing that people argued about for quite a while, I think. And it took cameras using these special tripwires that would set the camera off at a specific time to basically illuminate tiny enough slices of time to solve that mystery. We've all seen it. We've all heard about it. And it was like no question that the horse was absolutely not touching the ground when its feet were all together. So this physics prize celebrates an achievement somewhat analogous to those horse images from the 1870s. Electrons do what they do so fast that we thought we'd never be able to discern much detail about them. In other words, we'd never be able to take images using brief enough laser pulses, which is kind of like the way you would do something like that. Even Heisenberg decades ago said that atoms operate at the femtosecond scale and electrons are even faster than that. We're never going to get beyond that. And so all of those people were absolutely wrong. Electrons exist in the attoworld, I'll call it. This means that they move and change energy on the scale of attoseconds. And attosecond is a stupidly tiny slice of a second. It's so tiny, a billionth of a billionth of a second. So here's the best way to approach this huge number with some level of appreciation. There are as many attoseconds in a second as there are seconds in the age of the universe. So it's a ridiculously tiny, tiny, tiny slice. And so they're trying to see things that happen in 10 attoseconds, 250 attoseconds. That's what they're trying to figure to find, to illuminate what's happening because that's when these major events happen at the scale of an electron. Haven't been able to do it until these guys, these three people, basically when their research kind of brought it all together. So by creatively manipulating laser frequencies, they made fundamental contributions to the science of attosecond spectroscopy. And this required significant innovations in laser science and engineering. Specifically, L’Huillier said that what she did was she discovered this new effect that arose as the result of interactions between laser light and atoms and the gas. Krausz created an approach that was able to isolate pulses of laser light that lasted 650 attoseconds. Amazing achievement. Agostini developed a different type of technique called the rabbit technique, which created pulses that lasted just 250 attoseconds. So all together, all of their research, the Swedish Academy of Sciences said that these are the three people, the fundamental people, that created these fundamental advancements in attosecond spectroscopy. It's been used for many years. This isn't something that just recently happened. In fact, one of the winners was like, man, I did this 20 years ago. Wow, I can't believe it took 20 years, but hey, that's how Nobel prizes work sometimes. But a lot of the advances we've seen since then and a lot of the advances we're going to see is directly because of these three people. I love the story with L’Huillier. In the Academy's 122 year history, she is only the fifth woman ever to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. So kudos, brava, fantastic. She said during the Nobel news conference, I'm very touched at the moment. As you know, there are not many women who get this prize, so it's very, very special as it should be. And the fun story is that she was teaching her class. She was actually lecturing a class and her phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing. It wouldn't stop. It kept ringing. She finally answered her phone and she got the news, hey, by the way, you won the Nobel Prize in physics. And then she's like, okay, thank you, hung up, and then kept on teaching, just finished her class. And she said, she said the last half hour of my lecture was difficult to do, as you could imagine. And so what can we expect to see from this type of the science is out of second spectroscopy? There's talk all over the place. They're talking about using out of second science and medical diagnostics, ultrafast switching for amazingly fast working electronics. They're talking about using this to study novel physical phenomena and different types of material. They're talking about using it in quantum information processing as well. I mean, and it all makes sense. And I think we're just barely scratching the surface here, right? Because we're ultimately talking about fundamental advance and studying electrons, electrons. How basic can you get? Electronics are everywhere. I'm surrounded right now. I'm surrounded by electronics everywhere. So I think the impact on electronics in general could be very dramatic, eventually, perhaps spinning off even more physics Nobel prizes in the future because of it. I think that's a pretty safe bet. So fascinating stuff. Read up on it online. Interesting stuff.

S: Yeah, cool. So we dealt with the nanoscale and the attosecond scale. Nobel prizes. And the mRNA scale. So this is a tiny Nobel is the Nobel year of the tiny. All right, cool. I think that is it reflects the state of technology in general that we are penetrating down.

E: Oh, definitely. And how much there is to explore at that scale as well. The unknown.

S: It's a new universe.

E: Yeah, it is. It's a universe unto itself.

S: All right. Before we go on to the rest of the news items, Kara, you're going to do a what's the word.

What's the Word? (29:49)[edit]

C: I am. And this one was recommended by a listener named John. John, I don't want to butcher your last name. I'm going to call you John K. And John said that he came across this in the translated work of Greek-French economist, sociologist, psychologist, and all around intellectual Cornelius Castoriadis, who I may be familiar with because of his work with existentialists. And the word that he came across was fulguration, fulguration. I've never used this word before, and I did not know it existed until it was recommended to me by John K. Any of you use the word fulguration before?

S: I don't know that I've used it. I've heard of it in the medical context.

C: Yeah. And I could see that. Right. OK. And so there are a couple of different definitions. So we'll go through those first. And by a couple, I actually mean a few. The first one is a fulguration is a flash of lightning. Oh, look at that brilliant fulguration.

B: Oh, wait, don't they call a fulgurite lightning that has hit like a sandy beach and creating these structures that fused sand? I think that's a fulgurite.

C: That is a fulgurite.

B: Yes.

C: I have one of those.

B: Excellent.

C: Oh, my gosh. Is there another word for that? Synonym. I'm looking this up as we speak. No, they call that a fulgurite. Oh, my God. That's so I had completely forgotten the name of that. Yeah, I got one when I was in Morocco. It's so cool. It's like one of my prized possessions. It's like glass from lightning striking sand.

S: Yeah, we found them on the beach before.

C: That's so cool.

S: We were in North Carolina, guys. We found.

B: Who?

E: Apparently you.

C: They look like little tubes of glass.

S: Yeah, they look like little tubes. Like, what is this? And we learned that it was fused sand from lightning strike.

B: And we didn't dsave it?

E: Or alien technology.

S: We put it in that case with all the shells that we found and we had that case that was full of shells. I think we put it in there.

C: I love it. Thank you, Bob. Thank you. I'm sure somebody listening was screaming that. So back to fulguration. So the first one, a flash of lightning, the second one, which is used in medicine is it's a type of electrosurgery. So basically using electricity to either cauterize or I mean, I pulled it up. It's a lot of different things to stop bleeding, to remove tumours, to bring these high frequency electrical currents through your skin towards very specific cells in order to do something with them, whether that is desiccation, coagulation or sectioning the tissue. And then finally, there is a third definition, but it's a definition that's no longer used. And that's the sudden brightening of a fused globule of gold or silver. When the last film of the oxide of lead or copper leaves its surface, but nobody uses it. Nobody goes, look at this fulguration. Well, let's look at the word itself. The word itself has some interesting roots. It goes back to the proto Latin, which the very first, I think, were there's full ghosts, which refers to brightness. The earliest kind of you utilizations there are about a shine, a glitter, a flash of brightness. And then as it evolved, it turned into this idea of lightning. And then it was used very likely in medicine for that same reason, because the cauterization tool is basically a mini kind of harnessed flash of lightning that's utilized for electrosurgery. And we see lots of related words. Bob, you just gave me the great one, the fulgurite. But of course, we also see words like fulminate. You guys know the word fulminate, right? And that comes from the exact same route, a discharge of lightning to hurl lightning at somebody or something. Fulgurie is also another related word and enfoldered, which I had never heard before. But something is enfoldered if it is mixed with or emitting lightning. I think that's also an obsolete usage. Nobody does that anymore. And foudroyant, that is very hard to say, f-o-u-d-r-o-y-a-n-t, foudroyant, has an awesome or an overwhelming effect, but it comes from the same route, that brightness and that lightning. So yeah, thank you so much to our listener, John Kay. What a great word.

S: Yeah, I like that word.

C: I love a word that's figurative and literal.

S: All right. Thank you, Cara.

C: Yep.

Radio Telescope on the Moon (34:39)[edit]

S: All right, Jay, tell us about a radio telescope on the moon.

J: The moon is going to have an incredible amount of activity in the coming years. You're aware of this, correct?

S: Absolutely.

B: Yes, hopefully. Moon base alpha.

J: The moon is set to become a hub for international space exploration. And this is because, if you haven't been reading the news, many countries have been ramping up their space programs. So right now we have the US, Russia, China, and India are putting money into trying to get to the moon in one way or the other. NASA's Artemis 3 mission, which we have currently scheduled for 2025, that'll be the mission that will supposedly land on the moon. Hopefully it will happen in 2025. This is by far the biggest effort to get people living and working on the moon's surface. And this will be the first time people will land on the moon since the Apollo missions over 50 years ago. But did you guys know that there is another moon mission that doesn't have anything to really do with Artemis? And it's a very special thing that they have planned here. So of all the sciences that can be done in outer space, there are things that science projects and research and things of that nature can be done on the moon and only on the moon. Because of the gravity and because of certain conditions that are there, things that they can't do in orbit around the earth or low earth orbit, just certain things that won't work. We really do want to conduct a lot of science on the moon. But there is a big project that's coming up very soon and it's one that they're very excited about and this has to do with radio astronomy. So NASA and the Department of Energy have a mission called the Lunar Surface Electromagnetic Experiment Night, or LuSEE-Night, L-U-S-E-E-Night. It's set to launch in 2025. And the mission is to listen to radio signals from space on the far side of the moon by deploying the LuSEE-Night Lander. It's an actual lander that they're going to put there. Now it's a robotic radio telescope observatory designed to function on the far side of the moon. Now this will enable scientists to study a period in cosmic evolution known as the Dark Ages of the universe. The Dark Ages refers to a period approximately 380,000 years after the Big Bang when the universe was filled with neutral hydrogen. This is the building blocks of the first stars and galaxies. During this time the universe transitioned into a cosmic dawn, marking the emergence of visible structures in the cosmos. That's when stars started to coalesce and then emit light and that's when our universe became visible. So the far side of the moon is a perfect place to observe the universe. Why is that? Well there's lots of reasons why. First its position as the moon is a natural shield that blocks radio waves coming from the earth, which makes it a wonderful place to put something that's going to be collecting radio frequencies. So they call it a radio quiet environment. Now this makes it possible for sensitive radio antennas like the one that's going to be with this new lander that they're doing. This will make it possible to detect radiation from the ancient universe without much interference. Now additionally lunar observatories can collect data during lunar nights, which last for two weeks and are free from interference caused by the sun's radio waves. So in the perfect conditions the sun is not illuminating the far side of the moon and of course it's on the opposite side of the earth at all times and that's when they can really collect some awesome data. The downside though, and I'm sure you guys know where I'm going with this, is that the moon is not very hospitable. There are extreme temperatures between day and night. During a lunar day temperatures can reach 120 Celsius, 250 Fahrenheit, even more. And the lows are minus 173 Celsius, minus 280 at night. And those temperatures can change very fast when the sunlight goes away. So that's a huge temperature shift. So they had to really engineer the hell out of this thing to be able to deal with constant change in temperatures like that. The far side of the moon, like I said, it never faces the earth and this makes direct communication with any equipment there impossible. You can't communicate with equipment that is on the surface of the far side of the moon from earth. So what do you do? Well you put a satellite around the moon and it's basically going to be a relay satellite. It's going to collect data when it's capable with the lander and then it'll transmit it to earth when it's on the earth side of the moon. Very cool. I wanted to mention this because it's outside of the Artemis project. I don't think a lot of people heard about it, but it has the potential to give us a ton of awesome information, reveal a lot of answers that we've been wanting but simply couldn't get from earth because with all the atmosphere on the earth, which of course there is a super, super minimal, almost non-existent atmosphere on the moon that will not get in the way at all, but you can't take these readings from the earth at all. And you can't take these readings even in earth's orbit because the earth and the sun and everything there's too much interference. We need this "quiet space" which is on the far side of the moon and that's where we're going.

S: Did you say when should this thing be operational if all goes well?

J: So I read two different dates. I think the 2025 date is the correct launch date and I don't know how long it'll take to become operational. What I do know though is this thing is complicated. It's actually, they're considering it robotic because it moves, it spins, it calibrates itself and does a bunch of different things while it's functioning. So it's a complicated lunar lander. It's got to land correctly. It's got to be in the right position, all that stuff. So it's not easy and they've been putting a lot of engineering into this thing to make it work. And of course, like I said, the temperature thing alone is complicated, makes the engineering very difficult. But they have the plan and they have, they picked the year 2025 and we'll see what happens. We won't be able to like the thing is how do we get to know that it landed correctly, right? We have to actually wait until it transmits data to the relay satellite and gets it back to us for us to really know what happened to it.

S: Yeah, they'll be waiting anxiously for that first ping.

J: Maybe it goes out there with the relay satellite and that satellite can tell us what happens on the landing.

S: Yeah, put the satellite out first, I would imagine.

J: Yeah, but I couldn't find any details about that. But more to come.

S: Still being planned. All right, thanks, Jay.

FEMA Alert Conspiracy (41:22)[edit]

S: So Evan, at 2.20 this afternoon, my phone went off, everybody's phone went off. What was going on?

E: What was going on? That was a test of the ESS, the Emergency Skeptic System. It was only a test. Now you imagine an emergency skeptic system, if that were a real thing, it'd be going off all the time. So it wouldn't it probably wouldn't do much good to be a test because we're always, always need to be skeptical of lots of things. But this reminded me, I don't know, back in the 70s, you'd be watching TV as a kid, maybe once a month or so, whatever program you were watching, suddenly pause for a test of what was then known as the Emergency Broadcast System. You guys remember that, right?

S: Oh, yeah.

C: I remember that. That wasn't just the 70s.

E: Yeah. I mean, for me, it harkens back to-

C: I think that happened well into the 90s. Because I definitely remember that in my childhood, for sure.

E: What it means is that they're simply testing a system in which if there were an emergency, it's the broadcast frequency at which they would make an announcement with more instructions on what you had to do. And a lot of times it has gone off in certain geographic regions, it's been regional, but it's never been national. It's never been implemented beyond just being a test nationally. In other words, no national emergency has ever really arisen from it, but the tests occur on a very regular basis. They were common occurrences. I don't ever recall them being controversial for any reason, but hey, that was in the age of analog bliss with no internet acting as a megaphone for reality-challenged people. But now we're in the digital world where things like testing emergency systems, well, they're not limited to just the radio waves or analog TV signals, computers, smartphones, all things digital and analog need to be part of the system in order to reach the most amount of people possible. It's no longer called the Emergency Broadcast System, by the way. The official title, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which sends out messages via the emergency alert system, the EAS, and the Wireless Emergency Alerts, the WEA. So EAS and WEA replace the Emergency Broadcast System effectively nowadays. And look, hey, it's our nation's public warning system. And it's designed to allow, if there were a national emergency, the president would be able to speak with people within about 10 minutes during an emergency via specific outlets and text communication and so forth. Today, Steve, as you said, was test day, October 4th, 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time. Wireless phone customers all over the United States whose phones were on received a message saying this is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed. I happened to also have my television on to see what that message was going to be. And it was effectively the same, but I believe on television they called it the Emergency Alert System. So yes, the tests all came through as advertised. Federal law requires this system be tested at least once every three years. The last nationwide test was August 11th, 2021. Overall, this is the seventh test of the EAS and WEA system. But it's only the second time that cell phone alerts have been tested. So it's a little new to most people. Still not 100% used to it like we used to be decades ago when we would hear it regularly. Now has there ever been a, I'm sorry, can we move on? And of course, when the federal government is running something, there must be a sinister evil purpose to it cloaked in lies and guises. So say the numerous conspiracy theorists that make their presence known every day on the internet. And there was no shortage of those with this particular event. There's just a couple of claims I was able to glean from various news reports about today's system test. Here's claim number one. This is pulled right from social media, stuff that's going around and a lot of people are clicking on. Here we go. "An emergency broadcast system test on October 4 will send a signal to cell phones nationwide in order to activate nanoparticles such as graphene oxide that have been introduced into people's bodies through, you guessed it, the COVID vaccine."

S: The COVID vaccine.

C: COVID vaccine. Oh, all the Nobel Prize stuff's coming together.

E: I know, right? It's like planetary alignment time or something.

C: Quantum dots in there.

S: The atosecond signal is going to activate the quantum dots in the mRNA vaccines.

E: Oh my gosh. They basically revealed their entire nefarious plot to us all in one day.

S: Coincidence?

E: I think not. Another video is going around. This is a woman claiming the test will somehow switch on technology that has been introduced into people's bodies, obviously also talking about the vaccinations. The emergency broadcasting system under FEMA is going to be activated. It's not a test. It's going to be sending these high frequency signals into cell phones, radios, televisions, the intention of activating nanoparticles, including graphene oxide. All right. Graphene oxide's coming up a lot. The NIH, I had to look it up, NIH. Graphene oxide induces cell toxicity through plasma membrane damage, generation of reactive oxygen species, ROS and DNA damage. Ooh, this sounds bad, Steve. Are there nanoparticles such as graphene oxide in COVID vaccines?

S: No.

E: Okay. So how they put these things together is truly remarkable. I guess years worth of building up these conspiracy theories, you have to have some kind of outlet for them eventually and what's been building up basically for three years. Okay. Now this is the moment in which everything will finally be activated and the sinister plans will come true. All right, Bob, how about this one? I saw a zombie and I thought of you.

B: Four foot one. What?

E: Zombies, Bob. Is there a zombie apocalypse activated by 5G towers on the way? Yeah. So this was some QAnon influencer who's followed by 50,000 people shared a post at the end of September. The message cites a supposed military experts claim that the COVID-19 vaccine contained sealed pathogens, including E. coli bacteria and the viruses Marburg and Ebola, all of which can be released by an 18 gigahertz 5G frequency.

C: Wait, how does it? What?

S: They apparently packaged the virus inside nanoparticles in the vaccine and the 5G signal is going to signal the release of the virus. And if it doesn't kill you, then it's going to delete some select genes and turn you into a zombie.

E: Exactly.

B: Zombie.

C: These fools should have won the Nobel Prize for that because that sounds complicated.

S: There needs to be a Nobel Prize in bullshit.

E: Well, there's kind of the IgNobels, but that's not exactly the same thing. Not exactly the same thing, although they've gone there sometimes, totally blasting some totally crazy things. But there's things you can look, hey, there's also advice on what people could have done today to prevent this from happening to them. Well because you can shut off your cell phone the day of the test, as part of it. The test lasted for up to 30 minutes. So effectively, if you decide to shut your phone off and say you turn it on five minutes after the two 20 mark to 25, you'd still get the signal. You had to wait a full 30 minutes if you wanted to fully bypass the test coming coming to you.

C: Could do what I did and leave the country.

E: Oh, you didn't get those?

C: I didn't do on purpose. But yeah, I never got the signal.

E: That's interesting. OK, that's interesting to know. So it was, I guess.

C: You had to be in, I guess, connected to a U.S. tower or something.

E: I suppose so. Yeah, that would that would make sense.

S: But that makes no sense because the not that any of this makes sense. But if you don't have your phone on, the 5G signal is still going through you. You know what I mean? There's no phone to detect the signal doesn't mean the signal isn't there.

C: Right. It's like, yeah, it's out there.

S: That's like in case of bear attack close your eyes and that way you can't see the bear. And therefore it's not there.

E: But if for some reason, I don't know, you didn't want to take turn your phone off or whatever reason. All you had to do was purchase a Faraday bag from one of many survivalist outfits.

B: Faraday bag, not a cage, but a bag?

S: Made out of tinfoil?

C: Yeah, exactly.

E: I mean tinfoil isn't perfect, but hey, with a word like Faraday, how can you go wrong with that? Because it blocks electromagnetic fields in those devices. Oh, and you can also if you don't have a Faraday bag and you're out of tinfoil, just put your phone in the microwave because your microwave, according to some people, acts like a Faraday cage blocking electromagnetic radiation, which I don't think is entirely true.

C: I think the door of the microwave blocks microwaves. Isn't that what they're getting at?

E: Here's another. Oh, it goes on. I mean, I got more, but I'll just give you one or two more. Another conspiracy theorist. They anticipate total internet blackout with the sending out of the signal. You have to withdraw all your money from your bank accounts. Hopefully you did that before the system goes down. Yeah. And oh, here's one. Someone said their landlord sent a text message to all of their tenants and all the tenants in the building saying that he was going to be shutting the power off to the apartments for several hours because of this. And he was afraid that there would be too much damage and chaos as a result. So he wound up shutting the power off to his tenants. You can see how this goes just beyond an individual kind of having some thoughts about this and actually your thoughts like this impacting other people directly.

C: That's your signal to move out of that building.

E: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Get out, get out while you can. How about this? What kind of malware this corrupt government will be downloading to your phones with this test? Do these tests send malware to my phone?

S: If they wanted to upload malware to your phone, they would do it and it wouldn't signal you that they're doing it.

E: But maybe my favourite one is this guys. One social media user pointed out the digits in the military times for the announced start and end to the test. They are 1420 and 1450. If you add that up, if you add those numbers up 1420, 1450, I guess adds to 17.

S: There you go.

E: Which is the letter Q, the 17th letter of the alphabet. QAnon, it all ties together. Oh my gosh.

C: Why didn't we see it before? Because we weren't looking for it.

E: And I only scratched the surface. There was much, much more to see.

J: Ev, what's going to happen when we all don't turn into zombies?

C: Well, we all just didn't. That's like such a good question, Jay. And it kept coming up for me the whole time. Why do these conspiracy theorists always pick things that are easily debunkable and measurable?

S: Because it doesn't matter. People will just double down. They'll come up with something else. They'll say, well, it's delayed or because so many people were talking about it, the government's going to do, or this is a false flag operation, whatever. It doesn't matter. Reality is irrelevant.

E: Reality challenged.

S: Then that's what happens. We all know when prophecies fail, people double down. The scales do not fall from their eyes.

E: And there have been instances in history when the prophecy doesn't come true that people get hurt badly and fully as a result. So these things are not always victimless and they shouldn't be just fluffed off.

S: Oh, I mean, telling people to withdraw their money from the bank, like if people actually listen to that, that's what a run on the bank is. That could be financially devastating.

C: And turning off the power, what if there was a storm? It's getting cold in a lot of places. It's unseasonably hot in a lot of places. That can be harmful to people's health.

E: Yeah, a person needs to keep their insulin medicine cold or whatever in your refrigerator, ghost town or something. Who knows? Could be any sort of occurrence.

S: Yeah, that could have wrecked everyone's frozen foods three hours in an 80 degree weather day, no power. That's malpractice. All right, Jay, it's Who's That Noisy time.

Who's That Noisy? (54:04)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
Peter Popoff, American televangelist, charlatan, debunked clairvoyant, and faith healer

J: All right, guys, last week I played This Noisy.

[evangelist's screaming speech]

C: Jesus.

E: Oh my gosh, I laugh every time, but then I think about what I'm laughing at and then I get kind of disgusted with myself for laughing at it.

J: I mean, it's funny, but it is also horrifying. So a listener named Evil Eye, who you must have heard this name many times before, wrote in, said, "Not sure if this is right, but I want I want it to be Steve Martin as the preacher in Leap of Faith." I haven't thought about that movie in a long time. And if anybody could pretend to be this guy, it would have been Steve Martin. But that that's not correct.

E: Was that movie based loosely on this guy, though? I seem to recall something like that. I think that could be the case.

J: Based on characters like this. Yeah, I haven't seen it in so long. I don't remember all the details. So another listener named Michael Blaney wrote in and said, "Hi, Jay. Hi, right now, right now. Sorry to say I don't know who this is. So I'm going to just make a guess. But I will say I am a Genesis fan and the song Jesus, He Knows Me was the band's critique of the hypocrisy of the televangelists. So I got to list this as one of their inspirations. So here goes. Was it Jimmy Swagger?" Jimmy Swagger, of course, is an excellent guess. Not correct, though, because the person who actually whose voice I did play, I think has much more bluster and balls than Jimmy Swagger. A listener named Simon Edwards wrote in and said, "Dear rogues, my name is Simon from Leicester, pronounced Lester." Sorry. Okay. (Cara laughs)

E: I think it's Leester.

C: It's Lester.

J: He gave me. He gave me. Oh, okay. Thank you. Leech Chester. Anyway, United Kingdom. I just don't have it, guys.

C: Lester's a weird. It's a really weird. It's like you just have to know that that's how you pronounce it.

E: Wooster.

C: Because it looks like Leich Chester.

J: So he says, "I've been listening to the show since 2009 and this is my first time entering. Who's that noisy? My maiden guess is James Brown." Do I love that guess. Oh my god, it laughed when I read that. Like, yeah. I mean, in another reality, James Brown would have made an awesome televangelist. Awesome. But that is not who it is. Another listener named John Setterfield wrote in and said, "My guess is the late not so great Ernest Angley." This is not Ernest Angley, who is another televangelist. But it does have a similar look to who this actually is. So the person who won this week is a listener named Adam Slagle. And he identified this. Now, who is this, Steve?

S: Popoff.

Listener email about cult[edit]

J: Peter Popoff. And then I got another email. And I'll tell you all the details, but I just wanted to read this to you. I got another email from a listener named Dwayne Lill. And Dwayne wrote in and said, "I feel fairly confident that the most recent Who's That Noisy Voice belongs to a famous charlatan, Peter Popoff." And then he goes on, "I was born and raised in a white nationalist cult called Christian Identity. Through the movement, my family had ties to extremist personalities such as Pete Peters, Timothy McVeigh, Bo Gritz, Randi Weaver, and others. It was a worldview I was groomed from birth to evangelize for. And if it wasn't for stumbling upon James Randi's excellent work and exposing fraudsters of all kinds, but specifically charismatic religious crooks, I might never have broken free of what I now understand to be a sick, shameful, and hateful system of beliefs. I love the show and would like to let you know that the work you guys do has also helped shepherd me away from the supernatural towards the demonstrable. I've been listening since the beginning and each member of the SGU has had a hand in nurturing my better nature. Please give the crew a high five for me." So interesting. I mean, first of all, we got to give it to Randi. Let's tell the story now, guys. Peter George Popoff, born July 2nd, 1946, is a German-born American televangelist, charlatan, debunked clairvoyant, and faith healer. He was exposed in 1986 by James Randi for using a concealed earpiece to receive radio messages from his wife who gave him the names, addresses, and ailments of audience members during Popoff-led religious services. Now Popoff, of course, was falsely claiming that God revealed this information to him so that he can cure them through faith healing. And then the guy went bankrupt. Then he comes back in the 90s. After Randi exposed him, he went bankrupt. He comes back in the 90s and he has a Miracle Springwater that he was selling and he made more money again. And apparently he's, I think he's still doing it. You know, as Randi would say, these are unsinkable rubber duckies, it doesn't matter that Randi fully proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this guy was cheating and he was not being talked to by God, that he was had an ear receiver in and his wife was reading the prayer cards of the people would fill out I have arthritis and I'm from, my name is blah blah blah from blah blah blah. And then he would read it. He would say it like as if the information is miraculously coming to him from God. And then he did that right now! and he would put his hand on people and heal them. And what he's doing, what he did was he robbed people of their money, gave them false hope, diverted them from getting medical help because he's saying that they're cured. And he actually hurt people in the process because he's making them do things physically that a lot of them shouldn't have been doing.

E: Like throwing away their medications.

J: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, he would tell them to throw away their medications and things like that. Terrible. I mean, the guy is as low as you can get and Randi destroyed him.

E: Yeah, and revealed it on Carson, on Johnny Carson, national television.

J: Yeah, so what Randi did was he brought his crew to one of Popoff's live demonstrations, which was packed with people, and they scanned the radio frequencies because Randi had an idea of how he was doing this. And Randi was right. There was a transmission that was being picked up by an earpiece and he recorded the transmissions and then did a full expose on this guy and obliterated him temporarily. And I think I told you guys last week I was I was watching some videos of Randi. I've been really missing Randi lately. And because we did get to know Randi very well and got to do a lot of different things with him over the years. And I thought I'm going to throw one in there for Randi just to remind everyone. James Randi was a massively influential person on us. I do highly recommend that you go on YouTube and just put his name in and look up a couple of his TV shows. He did some really amazing things, really interesting stuff, was an activist for the vast majority of his life fighting pseudoscience. And he came up with the million dollar challenge where he would get a check for a million dollars and he would pay that to anyone that can prove that they have some type of whatever could be a supernatural power. They could be any one of the plethora of pseudosciences out there that make that make claims. You, of course, had to prove that you could do it. And you know what? Nobody could.

E: And we even ran some preliminary tests of applicants for the million dollar challenge. So we worked with the JREF directly in that capacity.

B: And they were fun.

J: That was before TAM. And then at TAM, like they would do some live testing of people that would be like I could whatever. There was all different people making claims and they would do a like a live demonstration. Can you do exactly what you're saying? And then they couldn't they never could do the magical thing that they claim that they can do. And then they always later came up with excuses about why it didn't work. Like there was no like, hey, maybe I can't do this or they whatever, whatever their story is. But Randi did a hell of a job over the years of ferreting out all of these fakes and cheats and people that are scamming other people and educating people on it. And he's incredibly fun to watch. So take a look at the YouTube video.

New Noisy (1:02:37)[edit]

J: All right, guys, I got a new noisy from a listener named Olaf Simmons.

[crackling/clacking, as of a track]

If you guys think you knowwhat this week's Noisy is, or you heard something cool, you can email me at


NotaCon (1:02:59)[edit]

It's NOTACON. What? It's NOTACON. Wait, no, what is it? It's NOTACON. I understand. It's NOT A CON. But what is it? It's NOTACON. A con that's NOT A CON. Oh, right. Clever. NOTACON. The first ever in-person convention held by your friends at the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. That's right. In-person live interaction with a mind-blowingly fun schedule. Mind-blowingly fun schedule? Really? Like what? Here, read this. NOTACON will feature super Q&A. Huh? There's never enough time for a decent Q&A at conferences, so this time, we're starting with one. Think of your most insightful, interesting, and burning questions. And you know what? Ask them anyway. S.G. University? Yes. The Rogues will present eight unique 10-minute micro mini courses teaching you something incredible and completely useful that you'll remember for the rest of your natural life. Truth or durr? Sure. Think you know the SGU? Here's your chance to prove it. It'll kind of be like science or fiction about how tall Jay actually is. S.G. Chew? Oh, man. The first ever kitchen competition featuring three Rogues in a head-to-head live cooking battle. Think Guy Fieri, but less peroxide highlights. Oh, I get it. S.G. Chew. Fun, right? What else? Well, there's gonna be an insanely 80s sing-along, a special appearance by NSP's Ninja Brian, a very rare live geology podcast, plus guest Rogues Andrea Jones-Roy and Brian Wecht, and a real chance to mingle, hang, chat, socialize, hobnob, and hang out. Okay, I'm convinced. Well, it's almost sold out, so get your tickets now. November 3rd and 4th in White Plains, New York. Go to Say that again? Only if you say it with me. Okay. Save it for the 80s sing-along. Okay. The SGU presents NOTACON. Get your tickets today.

NZ skeptics 2023 conference (1:05:01)[edit]

S: We have a quick announcement on behalf of the New Zealand skeptics, our skeptical friends down under. They will be holding the 2023 conference in Dunedin on November 24th and through 26th, November 24th-26th. So they're gonna have some local speakers plus international guests like usan Gerbick, Melanie Trisik King. The venue is Toitu, the Otargo Settlers Museum, right in the heart of Dunedin city center. So they say this is a great opportunity for fun, informative weekend with like-minded people, assuming you're a skeptic. You can get more information about tickets and special accommodation deals at the website, and that is Skeptics with a K.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (1:05:47)[edit]

Email #1: Red Dye and ADHD[edit]

S: All right, guys, we have one email this week. This one comes from David from Massachusetts, and David writes, I have a son with ADHD and my wife mentioned eliminating red dye from his diet due to some info she found. I did some research and found conflicting results. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you and keep up the good work. So have you guys heard this that food coloring in general or red dye in specific can either exacerbate or cause ADHD?

J: I'm surprised. I've never heard of it, though.

C: Yeah, I've heard of it being like toxic or having some sort of-

E: Even back in the 70s when they got rid of the red M&Ms because there was talk of some health hazard due to red dye.

B: And is that why I can't find red M&Ms?

E: Well, you can-

B: Damn.

S: This is a controversy that has been raging for four decades, at least, as you say, like from the 1970s. The idea is that kids get all hyperactive when they get exposed to certain foods. You've heard the sugar one, right? It's the same thing. It's also food colouring or highly processed foods or whatever. Since it's been a raging controversy for so many years, you might imagine that the research results are less than definitive because if they were definitive, it wouldn't be so much of a controversy. There's basically two kinds of research clinically to look at. There's toxicology research where there's looking at like what's happening in the body, but there's also just clinical research like what's happening to kids, when you expose them. There's two kinds of studies. There are challenge studies, right, where you challenge kids with food colouring or with red dye and then see, observe their behaviour. Unless studies are double-blinded, they're useless, right? So these kind of observational subjective things. How fidgety are the kids? These have to be double-blinded to be worth anything. So there's challenge studies. Then there's elimination studies where you take these things away and see if over time their behaviour improves, right? Now the elimination studies basically don't work, right? They've shown that there really isn't any significant benefit from eliminating these things from the diets of kids. I should also say, by the way, those two types of studies are also divided into children who have been diagnosed with ADHD and children who have not been diagnosed with ADHD, because it's possible that this effect only occurs in children with ADHD, or it could be that it only occurs in kids who don't have it because it's just not observable in kids otherwise, or it could be irrelevant, it could be both, right? But the challenge, the elimination studies have basically not shown a significant benefit. The challenge studies show mixed results, and the most recent systematic review I could find, which found basically they're 50-50. Half showed some effect and half did not. So it's like the very definition of mixed results. But here's the thing, the effect size, again, isn't huge anyway. Again, the results are kind of all over the place. They're very, what we call, heterogeneous. So there isn't a clear signal here. So it's, a lot of people are not ready to say that the research is finished. There's always somebody who thinks if we do a bigger, better study, we're going to get statistical significance. And again, there's always this tantalizing sort of results or some positive results. So it's enough to keep this sort of question alive and keep the research alive. And yet, there's also just continued studies that are well-designed and negative that keep the scientific community from agreeing to reject the null hypothesis, that there is an actual effect going on here. So, yeah, that's why, David, you have found conflicting results, because there are conflicting results, and there are conflicting opinions. And those conflicting opinions pretty much follow the same pattern, depending on the group's philosophy. I think I've spoken recently, although this might have been on TikTok about the fact that the FDA follows a certain philosophy, and the FDA is like, there's no problem with dye. We've reviewed all the evidence, it's fine. They follow a risk versus benefit kind of approach to this sort of thing, whereas the European Union follows a precautionary principle approach. So if there's any evidence of a potential problem, even just like a hazard, even without demonstrable risk, they say be cautious. And I know California has their own review, and they follow the EU model, where they basically look for hazard, not risk. So that's another reason why you're going to get conflicting opinions about what the reviews of the evidence say. It depends on what philosophy you're finding. So for me, looking at all of this, I would say, yeah, we can't rule out that there's some minor effect here, but it can't be very big, or otherwise it wouldn't still be controversial after 40 years. So it's probably not anything you have to worry about too much. Probably you just want your kid to have an overall good diet and not try to micromanage it too much in terms of these ingredients.

C: And that's a question I'm interested in your take on, Steve. Some of these food dyes are banned in European countries, and they're still commonly used in the US. And whether the evidence is solid or tenuous, I guess the main claim here is why do we need to dye our food with petroleum-based synthetic dyes instead of just using food additives as colourants? Why is it necessary? And is that a precautionary principle question? You know what I mean?

S: Yeah, it's a separate question. That's actually more of a risk versus benefit question.

C: It is, yeah. What's the benefit except that it makes your food bright?

S: Yeah, there is no biological benefit. There's a marketing benefit. But you could argue that our experience and enjoyment of food does depend on what it looks like. So it actually does affect, even though it's purely a psychological placebo effect, if you will, it does affect our actual perception and enjoyment of food. And if the fact is, companies use it because it does affect their bottom line. People will buy soda more if it's... All soda is clear. You know that, right? If it weren't dyed, it's clear. And I have actually... There are some brands, I don't know if they're still out there, but there are some brands that don't dye their soda.

B: It's weird.

S: It's weird. The lime soda looks the exact same as the root beer, looks the same as the... Orange soda should be orange, you know what I mean?

B: Sorry, yes it should.

C: But also the thing is, there are a lot of dyes out there that aren't petroleum-based, that are plant-based dyes, but they cost more. It's more expensive to make them.

S: Yeah, yeah.

E: Imagine that's a big factor.

S: No, it's perfectly legitimate. That's an industry question versus a individual user question now. It's like, should we just err on the side of, well, we can't put this to bed. Can we just use the natural stuff that doesn't have this controversy? But the thing is, you're assuming that the controversy will go away when that happens. And I'm not willing to make that assumption because that's not the history, because people just move to the next thing. And that's what's been happening for the last 50 years or so.

C: And individual users can make those choices.

S: Individuals can make those choices, right? But that's why David's trying to make that choice. He's like, I can't figure it out because there's so much conflicting information out there. But just to put the difference between the FDA approach and the European Union approach into perspective, remember that the EU bans GMOs based upon this exact same principle. And in my opinion, that's pure pseudoscience. It is pure pseudoscience.

C: Right, because I think the benefit of GMOs massively outweighs any risk that we're talking about. With dye, I don't know if I would make the same calculation, but yeah, I 100% agree with the GMO.

S: Yeah, I agree too, but just to put the different approaches into perspective. If you take that precautionary principle approach and not a risk versus benefit approach, you shouldn't be eating half the stuff you're eating. You know what I mean? Seriously. I wrote an article once for Science Based Medicine that's like, everything causes cancer. Because there were studies that show somebody went through, they did a study where they went through a cookbook, looked at every single ingredient. And a majority of the ingredients are supposed to either cause cancer or prevent cancer. Which of course is silly. Like all of our food can't be causing cancer. You know what I mean? I just don't think it's a good approach. I think we need to look at risk, not hazard. And I think that's a much more practical approach and evidence-based approach. All right. Well, we have an interesting interview coming up with an actual real life scientist. So let's go to that interview now.


Interview with Lars Martin (1:14:49)[edit]

S: Joining us now is Lars Martin. Lars, welcome to the Skeptics Guide.

LM: Hi guys.

S: Now Lars, you are a physicist. You work at the Department of Physical Sciences at Triumph. You emailed me to give us some more information about the piece we talked about two weeks ago, or I think it was last week, on the antihydrogen. So you're actually involved with that research, right? So tell us about your research.

LM: Yeah. So I'm a detector physicist on the Alpha G experiment.


LM: Which means the experiment runs at CERN, yes. The detector was actually designed and built here in Vancouver and then shipped to CERN. We eventually found bugs in it, then we shipped it back, and we shipped it back to CERN. So it's a pretty involved setup considering that the detector is almost three meters long. So I work on this Alpha G experiment. The experiment aims at measuring the effect of gravity on antimatter, specifically the effect of gravity between regular matter and antimatter, because really the only gravity we've ever measured is the gravity between matter and matter. We have no way of measuring gravity between antimatter and antimatter because we just don't have enough antimatter. But of course, we're trying to see how antimatter reacts to the gravitational field of the Earth.

S: Right. Yeah, the gravitational field created by matter and how that interacts with antimatter. So tell us about the experiment itself. I believe when I talked about it, it was part of the science fiction from last week, I said that it was the first time that they isolated electrically neutral anti-hydrogen. You said that's not technically true. They've done it before, just never in this type of experiment.

LM: Yeah. So Alpha first trapped, created trapped anti-hydrogen in 2010. That was in the first apparatus. Then a new experiment was designed based on what was learned from this setup in order to actually do measurement of physical phenomena, specifically things like microwave and optical spectroscopy. So they did that with what is called the Alpha 2 apparatus. We were always interested also in investigating the effect of gravity. So they did a kind of a proof of concept experiment there, but it was clear that we would need a dedicated setup in order to be sensitive enough to really investigate gravity to the extent that we're interested in.

S: Right. So this experiment allowed for you to see how the anti-hydrogen would behave in a gravitational field, right? So what did you have to do to make that happen?

LM: As you're probably aware, gravity is by far the weakest of the fundamental forces, at least that we can even see on a macroscopic scale, which means, for example, if you wanted to investigate the effect of gravity on a proton, say, the effect would be equivalent to what you get from, I believe it's something like 10 to the minus 7 volts per meter or something like that. So you would have to control electric and magnetic field to an extreme amount in order to even see the effect that gravity has.

B: I've always heard that when you're investigating such a tiny realm, in many cases you could just ignore gravity. It's so tiny that you could just basically not even think about it in many different types of experiments because it's so weak at that scale.

LM: Yeah, exactly. So there's really not much hope to maybe ever measure the effect of gravity on charged particles because of this huge discrepancy. So what we did instead is we do not measure the effect of gravity on antiprotons, but we combine the antiprotons with positrons, which is anti-electrons, to create anti-hydrogen atoms. So being atoms, they're electrically neutral, which means this effect of stray electric or magnetic fields is not a problem.

S: But you're still able to confine it in a magnetic field.

LM: Yes. So the hydrogen atom, and by extension the anti-hydrogen atom, has a magnetic moment of one half. That means it can exist in two states, quantum mechanically. One is parallel to the magnetic field, one is anti-parallel to the magnetic field.

B: So it's a superposition then?

S: Yes, it is. But when you make the measurement, the atom will either be in the parallel or the anti-parallel state, which means one of them gains energy if there is more magnetic field present. The other one loses energy when there's more magnetic field present. So that means one of these two states, if you put it in a magnetic field, it will seek the minimum. So if you can make a magnetic field that has a higher absolute magnitude of magnetic field on the outside of your vessel, but a lower magnitude in the middle, then those atoms will go into the middle and be confined as long as their energy is low enough.

S: I see. Cool. Right, because otherwise the anti-hydrogen would go floating off. You wouldn't be able to do experiments on it. So you just want it to respond to the gravitational field of the earth. So you're basically just seeing if it's going to fall up or down?

LM: Yeah, that's right. So we now have this neutral anti-hydrogen in our magnetic trap. The magnetic trap is cylindrical and vertical. So we're trying to have the top and the bottom of the trap as far away from each other as we can, basically, in order to have a better handle of telling the difference. And we then open the top and the bottom of this magnetic trap by slowly lowering. So now if those are both at exactly the same magnetic field and you lower them together, then our simulations show that you should see if gravity has the normal value in the normal direction, you should see about 80% of the anti-atoms escaping at the bottom of the trap and about 20% escaping at the top.

B: And that's about what you saw, right?

LM: That is about what we see, yes. You still get them coming out of the top because they have substantial thermal energy. So they're basically a gas that fills this entire volume of the trap. So when you lower those potential walls, it can still escape in both directions.

B: And you detected the fact that they went up or down based on hitting the side of the apparatus and annihilating, right? And you detected those annihilations and there was more annihilations below than above, basically, right?

LM: That's right. Yeah. So when the anti-hydrogen hits a regular atom, the positron annihilates, but we don't care. But the antiproton annihilates as well. And the energy or the mass of the antiproton and by that the annihilation energy is high enough that several new particles get created. Those particles that get created are pions, which exist as positively and negatively charged pions and neutral pions. But the charged pions are charged particles at relativistic velocities. So when they travel through a detector, they make a nice signal. The charged particle hitting matter will always create ionization that you can see relatively easily. So in our case, the detector is what's called a time projection chamber. So it's a gas filled volume. Your charged particle travels through the gas, creates ionization along the track, and you can then collect this ionization by applying an electric field. And if you segment your electrodes, it'll tell you where the ionization was. And then there's one more piece of information, and that is at what time exactly this ionization arrived at your electrode. So the segmentation of your electrode gives you two coordinates of your ionization event, and the time gives you the third coordinate. So you now have a 3D collection of points in space that give you the track that the pion traveled.

S: So why is this interesting? In other words, what does this tell us about the universe, the fact that anti-hydrogen falls down?

LM: It tells us...

B: Einstein was right.

LM: Basically, probably once again that Einstein was right. Yeah, it is a kind of a confirmation of what we were all expecting. It's not like anyone was really expecting it to fall upwards, but it is a fundamental characteristic of antimatter that has never been measured before. So just for that reason, it is interesting.

S: And does that mean that anti-gravity is not possible?

LM: There's a little bit of debate on that, I believe. Not in the sense that anyone necessarily really expects it to be possible, but it is my understanding that since most of the mass of the antiprotons actually comes from the binding energy between the quarks rather than the quarks themselves, and only in the antiproton, only the quarks are replaced by anti-quarks. The binding energy is still binding energy. So that means, again, by my understanding that...

B: It's the gluons, right?

LM: Yeah, the binding energy is bound up in gluons. Or that's one of our models, yes. To my understanding, that means if you replace all the quarks in a proton by anti-quarks, only those... Even if they experience a full repulsive gravity, so minus G, it would fall upwards at the full acceleration, that would still be swamped by the binding energy falling down.

B: Does that mean that we could never tease out the potential fact that the anti-quarks can do experience anti-gravity? Because the binding energy is basically always going to be there. You're not going to pull apart a proton and tease out all the quarks. Basically, you can't do that. Will we ever be able to determine that the anti-quarks experience anti-gravity? Because the binding energy is always swamping it.

LM: Since you can calculate the relative contribution of these things, in some ways, if you can measure the gravity on anti-hydrogen to enough precision, then you can-

S: Yeah, you can tell if the anti-quarks are subtracting from or adding to the gravity of the binding energy.

LM: Yeah, exactly.

B: Right. But is that precision even reasonable? Is it even practical?

LM: As far as I understand it, it's not that extreme. It is still pretty extreme. Or at least, I've seen quite varying numbers. I think there's some disagreement with the different models that people are using for this kind of thing. I think I've seen something like 10 to the minus 7 or something like that. Maybe even 10 to the minus 4. But I think I've also seen 10 to the minus 12. Soit's-

S: Not currently known?

LM: Yeah. Well, at least not to me.

S: So if it's possible... We don't know now. We do not know if anti-quarks by themselves would fall up or down. Again, because they're being swamped by the binding energy, which is most of the energy in the proton, and that falls down. But if it is true, if we do find out that anti-quarks fall up, does that open the door within the laws of physics for macroscopic anti-gravity? This may be outside your realm of expertise, but I guess that's the bottom line that I think the public would be most interested in. Is it allowed by the laws of physics to have our flying cars?

LM: Not directly, I believe. As Bob mentioned, you cannot isolate quarks. With quarks themselves, there's nothing you could do to apply this as a technology. It would basically open the doors in so far maybe that it just tells you that a repulsive gravity is in principle possible. So then, whether or not that can be achieved, especially using regular matter, because even if you can do it with anti-matter, you can't really build your car out of anti-matter. So you would still need to figure this out.

S: Clearly, this is not easy or practical or anything, but it sounds like it's still an open question whether or not the laws of physics are keeping the door cracked open a tiny bit. Basically, we're talking about science fiction. Is it theoretically possible that some super advanced alien technology might have figured out a way to exploit this tiny little crack in the laws of physics that allow for the possibility of anti-gravity?

LM: I don't want to promise that. I don't even want to admit to that level.

S: I'm happy with it being currently unknown.

LM: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people would even say it's excluded, but again, I think there is at least some amount of discussion still available.

B: This was a little surprising that they determined that the anti-atoms experienced an acceleration that was about only 75% of what normal matter experiences. Were you aware of that? What's your take on that? Is that just because the experiment wasn't precise enough to really determine with high confidence?

LM: That 75% comes with an error bar that extends all the way to one.

S: Yeah, it overlaps one.

LM: Right now, we cannot distinguish this from completely normal.

B: Okay, so my understanding is that in the future, what they're planning on doing is they need to increase their accuracy to find out how precise is that acceleration in Earth's gravity? How close is it to normal matter? Is it basically identical or is it off by some amount that could be interesting? I mean, that could be the anti-quarks revealing themselves. The other critical thing that they want to do is they want to probe the internal structure of the anti-hydrogen atom and see what's going on in there. Apparently, ATLAS has two different machines, each one designed to address each of those, the exact acceleration and the internal structure of the anti-hydrogen atom.

LM: I think you said ATLAS there when you meant alpha.

B: Okay, sorry.

LM: The Alpha-G apparatus that we have right now is designed to measure the gravitational acceleration to our design goal is 1% accuracy. Then there's other experiments that are going on partly also in the Alpha-G apparatus and partly in the Alpha-2 apparatus that are doing, again, things like optical spectroscopy and microwave spectroscopy, basically revealing or investigating if the anti-hydrogen atom or how identical to the regular hydrogen atom the anti-hydrogen.

B: Right. It's probably the same. It's going to be boring. Yeah, it's the same, but hopefully, fingers crossed, there could be some differences that could be quite interesting. We'll just see what happens.

LM: Yeah, probably mentioned somewhere else before that. We already know that there is something different between matter and antimatter. There's some reason why the universe is made of matter.

B: Yes, it's the baryogenesis anomaly. That's one of the huge mysteries of physics. I think a lot of scientists hope that this experiment could help with that mystery, but so far, it doesn't look like it's that much of a help.

LM: Yeah, from what I've read, gravity is not enough. So even if gravity was, the symmetry was maximally broken for gravity, it would still not be enough to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry.

B: Yeah. Okay. Yep, that was one of my questions for you. Thanks for answering it.

S: All right, Lars. This was really, really helpful. Thanks for helping us tease apart this interesting physics. Keep us updated with any other breakthrough findings of your research. We'll bring you back on to get the update.

LM: All right. Thanks for having me.

B: Thanks, Lars.

S: Good night.


Science or Fiction (1:32:12)[edit]

Theme: The Nobel Prize

Item #1: Four Nobel laureates won their award while they were imprisoned.[6]
Item #2: The 1926 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Johannes Fibiger was the only one ever to be rescinded – he discovered that round worms cause cancer in mice and rats, but a mere three years after the award was given his findings were completely refuted.[7]
Item #3: The Following people never won a Nobel Prize: Dmitri Mendeleev, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Jules-Henri Poincaré, and Mahatma Gandhi.[8]

Answer Item
Fiction Only Nobel rescinded
Science Laureates from prison
Surprising non-winners
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Only Nobel rescinded
Surprising non-winners
Only Nobel rescinded
Only Nobel rescinded

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

S: Each week, I come up with three science news items or facts, two real, one fictitious, and I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. You have a theme this week. The theme is the Nobel Prize. So three things about the Nobel. I think I may have done this before. I haven't done it in the last few years because I checked, but I think I may have done this before. But anyway, are you guys ready? Here we go. Item number one, four Nobel laureates won their award while they were imprisoned. Item number two, the 1926 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Johannes Fibiger was the only one ever to be rescinded. He discovered that round worms cause cancer in mice and rats, but a mere three years after the award was given, his findings were completely refuted. And item number three, the following people never won a Nobel Prize, Dmitri Mendeleev, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Jules Henri Poincaré, and Mahatma Gandhi. So if any of them have ever won a Nobel Prize, that's fake. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Four laureates won their award while they were imprisoned. Well, these would have been peace prizes, I'm assuming, probably not medicine or physics. Let's hope. How long has the peace prize been around? Is it like one of the more recent ones? In other words, like middle 20th century as opposed to early 20th century, maybe while they were imprisoned. That definitely sounds correct to me. The second one about the Nobel Prize in Physiology, this person was the only one to ever have theirs rescinded. And it was about roundworms. Discovered that roundworms cause cancer in mice and rats, but a mere three years afterwards, the award was a rescinded Nobel Prize. Has there been a rescinded Nobel Prize? I know there have been some questionable people, that's nicely putting it at the two of one Nobel Prize. I don't recall there ever been one rescinded that doesn't ring a bell in my head. I'm kind of thinking that one's the fiction. Because I mean, the last one here, I mean, what? I mean, you could kind of go with that one. It probably has the greatest chance in a way of being fiction because of all of these names, but if one of them won, it makes it fiction. But these are obviously big names in history. Did Mahatma Gandhi, that would be the one that might throw me off there, but I will stick with my gut feeling. And I think the one about the rescinded Nobel Prize is going to turn out to be the fiction.

S: Okay, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Rescinded prizes doesn't bother me nearly as much as guys the people that were imprisoned. I mean if they're in prison, you're not going to award it to them. Just like, oh, wait, I'd like to give it to this guy, but yeah, no, he's in prison. So that's out. I mean, right. It's not just an automatic, like disqualification, but then again, there's no mention of, a year. I mean, it could be 115 years ago, potentially where it was just, just a different Academy basically. But I think I'm going to go with three. I think, I thought Gandhi won the Peace Prize, so I'll just, whatever, say that's fiction.

S: Okay, Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: So the first one about four Nobel laureates who won while they were imprisoned. Yeah. I mean, I agree with Ev on that. Like, sure. I would think of all the people that have won and for how long this has been going on, that that's not unlikely. The second one, this is the idea that this, that a Nobel prize was rescinded. Now I don't think that they, I don't think that they can be rescinded. Hmm. Okay. Let me go to the third one, the following people. Yeah. I mean, okay. I mean, I, it's hard. The last one is very hard because I just flat out, like that's a lot of people and I, I might be able to guess on a couple of them, but all that entire list is very difficult. But I don't think that Nobel prize can or ever has been rescinded. So I think that's the fiction.

S: And Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: Yeah. I mean, I think I have to go with Evan and, and Jay on this one because it totally makes sense that four Nobel laureates could have won while they were in prison, especially if they were falsely imprisoned, if they're political prisoners, like they were they had some sort of cause they would have won a peace prize and their own government imprison them. Yeah. So, and then that long list, I can imagine that, yeah, there are a lot of people on it that, and obviously that's not even a long list because those are all like dudes that people think of as being like famous dudes that should have won, but there's so many women that were overlooked for prizes. And so it doesn't surprise me that that list is there. So yeah, the one that kind of bugs me is the rescinded one. Cause I feel like there are a lot of Nobel controversies, like things where somebody was awarded one. And then later, like it found, like it was discovered that their findings, not that they were fraudulent or anything, but that their findings weren't actually the thing that like something else was found out later and they still got to keep their prizes. So I think I'm going to go with the guys and say that the rescincion, is that a word is? Is the fiction.

S: Okay. So you all agree with number one. So we'll start there.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Four Nobel laureates won their award while they were imprisoned. You all think this one is science and this one is science. So yeah, this all comes down to the peace prize. And I was just hoping that you wouldn't remember that one. And yeah, if you're thinking, if you, once you think about the peace prize, it makes perfect sense, right? Yeah. And you're right. These are people who were imprisoned politically, were political prisoners. So the four people were Carl von Ossietzky, Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Xiaobo, and Aleś Bialacki. So they were, yeah, they were basically all political prisoners, basically why they were being imprisoned. All right, let's move on to the second one.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: The 1926 Nobel prize in physiology and medicine to Johannes Fibiger was the only one ever to be rescinded. He discovered that round worms cause cancer in mice and rats, but a mere three years after the word was given, his findings were completely refuted. Bob, you think this one is science. Everyone else thinks this one is the fiction and this one is the fiction. Sorry, Bob. So everything in there is true, except it wasn't rescinded. So this Johannes Fibiger did win the 1926 physiology medicine prize for this discovery and it was very quickly completely refuted. He did die between those two points in time though. He won the award, died, and then they proved it completely false.

C: Oh, well, at least I guess he didn't never had to know.

S: But I don't think that would have mattered because those of you who said like, you bet there is no rescinding of the Nobel prize. So even when they make a mistake, which they, there have been a few like flubs over the years, like were they given it too soon or to science that in like like the guy who invented the frontal lobotomy got a Nobel prize and that did not age well. Some of these Nobel prize decisions did not age well. This one was just straight up refuted. Although, well I've read a number of references on this and it may be a little kernel of truth in there that some helminthic worms may be associated with a higher risk of cancer and certain types of cancer, whatever. But his findings, his specific research was refuted. Essentially, the diet he was feeding the rats in his study lacked vitamin A and that's what was causing their cancers.

C: I feel like, wasn't there like some study or some recent controversy around something?

S: That was, that was the GMO study.

C: Yeah.

S: That was the, yeah, that was the, they used the the sprog rats that tend to get cancer.

C: That just get cancer. (laughter)

S: It was a terrible study in many, many ways.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: This means that the following people never won a Nobel prize, Dmitri Mendeleev, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Jules Henri Poincaré and Mahatma Gandhi is science. None of them won. Yeah, the Mahatma Gandhi was the one, that was the one reason why I put that in there. You would think if anybody would win the Nobel Peace Prize, it would be him. But he didn't. Never got a prize.

B: I thought there was a scene in the movie where he actually, yeah, whatever. I don't care. I just don't care.

C: Oh, he was nominated.

E: Ah, Bob, it's October. Come on.

S: You got a couple of months to try to get your, try to get your, your percentage up because you are having a terrible year.

B: I don't care anymore. I'm not emotionally invested like I used to be. It's like, all right, it is what it is.

J: The hell you're not, Bob.

C: Bob, he was nominated five times.

B: There you go. See, five nominations is close enough to a win where I should get.

E: Right, like the Meryl Streep of Peace Prizes or something.

S: The Meryl Streep won plenty of-

B: Who did they choose besides Gandhi?

E: Did she win?

C: No, you're thinking of the, the woman who was in the soap opera.

E: The soap opera actress.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:41:45)[edit]

Reality denied comes back to haunt.

 – Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), American science fiction writer, from Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said 

S: Okay, Evan, can we have a quote?

E: A short quote, but a good quote. "Reality denied comes back to haunt." That is a line from the book, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, written by Philip K. Dick.

S: He's a good, I like him. He's a good writer.

J: Yeah, me too.

E: I have not read this book, so I had to look it up and I will put it on my to read list.

S: Yeah, I mean, my favourite thing of his is The Man in the High Tower, which eventually became an excellent TV series, which I recommend.

E: But yeah, reality denied comes back to haunt.

S: Yeah, denying reality is a bad idea.

E: History is replete with that.

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

B: Sure man.

C: Thank you.

E: Thank you, Steve.


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

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


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[9]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description


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