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Skeptoid Wins the 2012 Stitcher Award for Best Science Podcast

by Brian Dunning, Dec 06 2012

Own Horn Tooted

“What is Stitcher?” I asked, in reply to the “Click here to set up your account” email. I’d gotten half a dozen complaints, via email and Twitter, from Skeptoid listeners who found that Skeptoid had disappeared from their Stitcher application. I’d had no idea what Stitcher was. My bad, it so happened. Stitcher is a free app that streams your favorite podcasts and other content, plus recommended similar content. And it turns out that, without my even knowing about it, a lot of my listeners already used it and loved it. It’s no flash in the pan; in fact, your next BMW, Chevy, or GM auto will have a Stitcher button to stream your favorite shows to your car stereo wherever you go.

So that’s Stitcher, a significant player in the Internet audio industry. This year they held their first annual Stitcher Awards for podcasts in a number of categories. When I saw the nominees for Best Science, I was intimidated to say the least:

  • StarTalk with Neil Degrasse Tyson, a commercial radio program
  • Science Friday, a radio program from National Public Radio
  • 60-Second Science, from Scientific American
  • Ask the Naked Scientists, from the British Broadcasting Corporation and Cambridge University
  • Skeptics Guide to the Universe – An independent show run by 5 people.
  • Skeptoid – An independent show run by 1 guy. (continue reading…)
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The Flat Earth and Pseudoskepticism

by Brian Dunning, Nov 29 2012
UN Flag

A hint from the Illuminati

This week my Skeptoid podcast episode was on the history of the Flat Earth Theory. By now most everyone knows that there really wasn’t a time when any governmental or scientific authority actually believed the Earth was flat, and most of us also know about the existence of a Flat Earth Society. But there is a fascinating, and sometimes quite dramatic, intertwinement of the two.

As I discussed, Flat Earthers have, for as long as they’ve been a movement, been of two basic varieties. There are the Biblical literalists who interpret certain Bible passages to mean the Earth is flat, and consider science to the contrary to be blasphemous. The second type consists of alternate science conspiracy theorists, cranks who think they’ve overturned Newton’s laws, and who point to the United Nations flag as a hint from the Illuminati as to the true shape of our world.

(continue reading…)

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Thanks for the Moments…

by Brian Dunning, Nov 22 2012

What more could a good skeptic ask for on Thanksgiving, but a private little mysterious sighting?

Like every year, I’m currently spending the holiday week camped out in a remote part of Death Valley with the family. We haul an offroad popup trailer to the middle of nowhere with the Jeep. The nights are clear and still and very beautiful, and last night after midnight I was standing outside after everyone else had gone to bed. I happened to catch a brilliant meteor zing past. (continue reading…)

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Why Appear in an Atheist Book?

by Brian Dunning, Nov 15 2012

This past weekend I did a photo shoot for Chris Johnson, author and photographer of the upcoming book A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God. Although I certainly make no secret of the fact that I am without religious convictions of any kind, I prefer to avoid the word “atheist” like the plague. It means too many things to too many different people, most of them negative; and I’ve always hoped to have as little negativity as possible in the work that I do. So why appear in an atheist book, if I don’t want to make a negative statement? Here’s a clip from the companion video that Chris shoots with each interview:

(continue reading…)

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Argumentum ad Monsantium

by Brian Dunning, Nov 08 2012

It’s my favorite new logical fallacy, the “Appeal to Monsanto”, the world’s largest producer of biotech agriculture seeds. This is the logic that compels many anti-GMO activists to reply to any argument in support of biotech crops with “So you love Monsanto?”

It’s so wonderful because it combines many other logical fallacies into one, and is thus a great time saver. For example:

  • It poisons the well (cloaks a viewpoint with negative weasel words) by associating the scary, evil word Monsanto.
  • It’s a non-sequitur (a logical association that does not follow). IF (a) THEREFORE (b). IF (genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance) THEREFORE (I love Monsanto).
  • It’s a straw man (misrepresenting what I said into something that’s easy to argue against). If I had actually said “I love Monsanto”, then plenty of rational arguments are available to show that’s a bad idea.
  • It’s an ad hominem attack on my argument (the argument is wrong because of who the person is that made it). Whatever I said about biotech must be wrong since “I love Monsanto”.
  • It’s a red herring (an irrelevancy to distract from the subject under discussion). Monsanto does not necessarily have anything to do with any given science-based discussion of the merits of what can and should be done with direct genetic manipulation. (continue reading…)
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The Impossible Sailing Machine

by Brian Dunning, Oct 18 2012

Yesterday I was fortunate to be invited to attend a talk at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco given by Rick Cavallaro, driver and principal of the curious cart shown here. It does something that even experienced aerodynamicists say is impossible: powered only by the wind, it beats the wind going directly downwind. (continue reading…)

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A Token Skeptic vs. the HuffPo UFO Machine

by Brian Dunning, Sep 27 2012

Today I went on HuffPost Live for a conversation about UFOs: whether they’re alien spaceships, whether the government is covering them up, etc.; more or less, the usual stuff. Here is the video (and here’s a direct link if the embedded video isn’t working for you):

(continue reading…)

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Homeland Security Buying Ammunition (Again)

by Brian Dunning, Sep 20 2012

News on the conspiracy websites is once again reporting that the US Department of Homeland Security is making huge purchases of ammunition, which they believe is to be used against American citizens. For the entire decade I’ve been following the conspiracy theorists, they’ve been predicting the imminent war on the American people by the American government. That this prediction has always failed to come true every time it’s been made has not seemed to suggest to any of them that perhaps the idea should be reviewed.

This particular report from our old friends at InfoWars cites a purchase of 750 million rounds of ammunition in addition to a previous purchase of 450 million rounds. Evidently it has not occurred to anyone at InfoWars to consider reasons for this other than a war on the citizens. (continue reading…)

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Stirling Engine

by Brian Dunning, Sep 13 2012

Just a quick fun thing today, a view of my new Stirling engine:

This is a just a simple little toy one that I found on Amazon for $40, but if you look at the related videos on YouTube, you’ll see that many people have built much more sophisticated engines, including many that are capable of useful work. (continue reading…)

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Do Ghosts Exist?

by Brian Dunning, Aug 30 2012

Ignorance and Want from A Christmas Carol, John Leech, 1843. Public domain image.

Since so many of my acquaintances know me as “that skeptic guy”, it’s not rare for one of them to challenge me with an experience they had, often reporting something like a ghost experience and saying “Disprove THAT, Mr. Skeptic.”

Of course, this completely misrepresents what I do, and where the process of skeptical science leads us. I’m far less qualified than my friend to prove or disprove his ghost experience; I wasn’t even there. In fact I’m always a little disappointed to find that my friends think I’m obsessively out to tell people that they’re wrong. If there is one thing that obsesses me, it’s the challenge of finding solutions to interesting mysteries — and telling people that they’re wrong is not relevant to that process. Proving alternate explanations wrong is collateral damage when a mystery is eventually solved, but it’s never the goal. (continue reading…)

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