SGU Episode 96

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SGU Episode 96
May 23rd 2007
SGU 95 SGU 97
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.'
Thomas Jefferson 17431826, American Politician
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items ()[edit]

Dr. Novella on Skeptiko ()[edit]


Scientists Urge NHS to Drop Homeopathy ()[edit]


Boy Whos Parents Took Him Off Chemotherapy Dies ()[edit]


Scientology in Public School ()[edit]


Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Science is Made Up ()[edit]

Hi, I've been listening to your show for about 5-6 weeks now and I like it very much, and I thought I would take the time to re-iterate something that I find interesting that my friend told me at school. I don't know if you've head this theory before but it might get you thinking.

Basically he said that everything we know is made up. From the words we speak to everything we've learnt from science over thousands of years. I'll use the example of gravity. The fact that someone, somewhere at sometime came up with a theory of gravity then proved it with OUR means of scientific testing, proves that there is one single force that is pulling us downwards, towards the sun etc. But think that, that person completely made up the theory, if you think on a grander scale there could be hundreds, thousands of factors that make up what we call gravity that we just can't see or measure using our senses or the machines we build.

Now I'm not saying that gravity isn't gravity, the result we know (e.g. the gravitational pull), what we can't know for sure is the exact factors that make the end result. Unless we know what every molecule, force, atom (ect) in the universe is, and what it does, we cannot confirm that anything that science tells us is actually what it is.

I hope I've explained this well, if not then sorry for wasting your time.

One last note, Im only 16.

Nick Wild
Oldham, UK

Legislating Thought ()[edit]

I really enjoy your podcast and I never miss an episode. You guys are usually right on the mark with your comments, but I believe you collectively missed the mark (in Skeptic's Guide #93) regarding legislation in Philadelphia that makes it illegal to practice fortune-telling. I agree with you on several points: that generally these are sham artists who take advantage of gullible people, and it is tempting to want to shut them down along with all flim-flammers.

However, and although I haven't seen the language of the legislation in question, I think such a law is seriously misguided, and that it potentially treads on personal freedoms. People do believe in this stuff, after all, and if they are willing to pay for it, who is the government to say they cannot? Is a belief in spiritualism that far from believing in God? Or, for that matter, belief in polytheism, or in Scientology, or say, in the divine nature of chairs (which last time I checked are all perfectly legal in the U.S.)?

Also, one could argue that there is entertainment value in having your fortune told. How is having your palm read any different from going on a ghost tour or even to a Sylvia Brown lecture? Now, I dislike Sylvia Brown as much as the next skeptic, but do we really want the government to legislate the things that people want to believe in?

This reminds me of a previous discussion on your podcast regarding legislation in Europe that makes it illegal to promote the idea that the holocaust never happened. You guys eventually came around to reject this as a singularly bad idea. Well, in my opinion, so is the Philadelphia statute.

George Hulseman
USA/Asheville, NC

Update and article by Joe Nickell

Interview with Gareth Hayes ()[edit]

  • Gareth is an Australian living in China who gives the SGU a report on pseudoscience in China.

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: Scientists have developed a new so-called quasicrystal that is a superconductor at room temperature. Question #2: Scientists are building an enormous telescope partially out of ice crystals at the south pole. Question #3: UK Scientists have developed a lithium crystal capable of storing and releasing hydrogen that they claim will break the critical 300 mile range barrier for hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

This Week's Puzzle

Audio puzzle

Recorded by Kom'n Cents

Last Week's Puzzle
Remember me for memory is our finest art.
In Einstein's steady thoughts I shared his greatest mistake in my simple way.
I was worlds apart from those who took me.
Removed from water, through flame I was transfigured to stone.
Leaving the aborning odour of SETI

Submitted by Angus Dorby

Answer: Giordano Bruno
Winner: no winner

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.'- Thomas Jefferson 17431826, American Politician

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the 'contact us' page on our website, or you can send us an email to 'info @'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


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