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2008 Episodes

December 16th: Numb3rs

Rarely is mathematics a major plot component on American television. The exception, of course, is the current hit prime time CBS television drama Numb3rs.

We all use math every day: to predict weather, to tell time, to handle money. Math is more than formulas and equations: it’s logic. It’s rationality. It’s using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know.

So begins every episode — astonishingly — of one of the consistently highest rated programs in its time slot. Now in its fifth season, Numb3rs has helped pave the way for a whole new generation of science-based programming on American television.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Cheryl Heuton and Nicolas Falacci (the creators and Executive Producers of Numb3rs) about the challenges of creating a fictional TV drama chock full of real science and mathematics.

DOWNLOAD 26MB MP3

December 2nd: Undercover Skepticism?

Over the past several episodes, Skepticality has endeavored to showcase an eclectic range of skeptical activism. Our recent guests have overwhelmingly agreed that everyone has something to offer — and that “activism” comes in many flavors.

This week, Derek & Swoopy talk with bloggers Kate Holden & Tiana Dietz, who recently had an unorthodox adventure at the well-known Intelligent Design think tank The Discovery Institute. These unapologetic rabble-rousers discuss the controversial tactics that took them where few skeptics have gone before.

DOWNLOAD 20MB MP3

November 18th: The Long Tail of Skepticism

What can regular skeptics actually do to enhance the appreciation of science and skeptical inquiry?

This question has been an ongoing theme for Skepticality, and this week’s guest has one answer to propose. In his audio essay, “Raising Our Game: The Rationale to Embrace Skepticamp,” software architect Reed Esau argues that “Skepticamps” (self-organizing peer conferences of intimate scale) can harness the potential of the “long tail” of the skeptical movement — offering a voice to all of us who have passion and expertise to share but who cannot take on the role of a “professional” skeptic.

These meetings are an experiment in the structure of a movement, and they are capturing the imagination of many new skeptics. What are the true implications for skeptical organizing? Is the advent of social networking technologies really the moment when everything changed?

Skepticality presents the essay in audio format, followed by Swoopy’s feature interview with Reed. Rounding out the discussion, Swoopy talks with Whatstheharm.net creator Tim Farley about his role in encouraging Skepticamp.

DOWNLOAD 26MB MP3

November 4th: Election 2008

On Tuesday, November 4th, Americans finally headed to the polls. By the time you read this, the outcome of this important U.S. election will be decided. But for some, the question remains: under the new administration, can nontheists, science advocates, and critical thinkers expect better representation in government?

In recognition of Election Day 2008, Skepticality is pleased to present a talk by Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America (the only Washington, DC lobbyist working on behalf of skeptics, rationalists and nontheists), entitled “Pastafarian, Zoroastrian, Atheist — Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

DOWNLOAD 28MB MP3

October 21st: Derek & Swoopy Discuss Paranormal TV

On this week’s episode of Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy explore the good, the bad, and the scary among television’s current crop of offerings — from Psychic Kids to The Mentalist. Also, in a lead up to her favorite holiday, Swoopy ponders the pros and cons of being a skeptic on Halloween…

DOWNLOAD 25MB MP3

October 7th: A Skeptic in Congress?

With less than thirty days left until (U.S.) Election Day 2008, Skepticality checks in with noted skeptic Lt. Colonel Hal Bidlack (U.S. Air Force, Retired) — the Democratic Party’s 5th Congressional District candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Swoopy talks with Hal about the challenging and expensive process of seeking public office in the United States, and how the recent upset of financial markets is shaping this election season. Hal also explains how his study of the U.S. Constitution and experience as the nation’s premier Alexander Hamilton scholar lends valuable insight even in 2008.

DOWNLOAD 18MB MP3

September 23rd: Dragon*Con Panel on the Future of Skepticism

This week, Skepticality rounds out its Dragon*Con coverage with the Skeptrack panel inspired by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton’s op-ed essay, Where Do We Go From Here? Daniel also joins Swoopy to share his thoughts upon hearing the panel discussion, and about skeptical trends.

Panelists for this conversation about the future of skeptical activism include the JREF’s James Randi and Jeff Wagg, the Center for Inquiry’s D.J. Grothe and Benjamin Radford, skeptical musician George Hrab, Australian skeptic Dr. Karen Stollznow, Secular Coalition for America lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown — and by popular demand, new JREF president Dr. Phil Plait.

DOWNLOAD 38MB MP3

September 9th: Skeptics Invade Dragon*Con 2008

The hosts of Skepticality are recovering from their spectacularly successful “Skeptrack” events at Dragon*Con 2008: four days of lively discussion featuring guests from some of the most prominent skeptical organizations around the world. Included were James Randi and Dr. Phil Plait from the JREF, Dr. Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society, Benjamin Radford and D.J. Grothe from the Center for Inquiry, and Richard Saunders and crew from the Australian Skeptics — to name only a few.

For those who participated in this groundbreaking weekend, we look forward to hearing your stories. For those who could not attend, Skepticality brings you the first of several recordings from last week’s panel discussions, beginning with James Randi and D.J. Grothe discussing “Why Magic is Important.” This in-depth discussion of the entwined histories of magic and skepticism reveals how creating illusions can illuminate the truth.

DOWNLOAD 26MB MP3

August 26th: Can Skeptics Tame the Internet?

Misinformation is everywhere, but nowhere has it proliferated more than on the internet. A Google search for “homeopathy” or “UFO” returns a landslide list of mystery-mongering websites. Yes, there are a few skeptical web resources too — but a non-skeptic can be easily misled online.

On this episode, Derek & Swoopy talk with Tim Farley, a skeptic applying his 20-plus years of software development experience to the creation of advanced tools and techniques for fighting the battle against misinformation on the World Wide Web.

Tim’s popular websites include the Skeptical Software Tools blog “Skeptools” (which uses Web 2.0 techniques to aid the spread of critical thinking information online), and WhatsTheHarm.net, which has collected the stories of over 225,000 people who have been injured or killed as a result of supernatural and pseudoscientific practices from alternative medicine to hypnosis to faith healing.

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August 12th: The Return of the Bad Astronomer

Long-time listeners may recall that Skepticality’s very first interview guest was Bad Astronomy author and popular science blogger Dr. Phil Plait.

This past week the James Randi Educational Foundation (one of the leading organizations promoting critical thinking and examination of pseudoscience) announced that The Bad Astronomer himself will be the new JREF President.

Now, Dr. Plait returns to Skepticality to tell Derek & Swoopy not only about interesting advances in privately-funded space travel and the future of NASA under a new presidential administration, but also about exciting developments in his own career — including his new role at the JREF, changes for Bad Astronomy, and Phil's impending trips to the Galapagos and Dragon*Con 2008.

DOWNLOAD 37MB MP3

July 29th: Rationalist Rap

The mainstream rap and hip hop communities are known not only for a way with words and penchant for controversy, but also for occasional drama. Rapper Greydon Square is no exception.

On this week’s episode of Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy hang loose with Greydon and talk about his musical influences, being embraced by the atheist community — and why this Compton native (raised as a legal orphan by the Department of Children & Family Services of California) refuses to be a product of the system. (This episode contains some mature content and brief explicit language.)

DOWNLOAD 31MB MP3

July 15th: Lori Lipman Brown & Banachek

Continuing from last week’s interviews recorded at the “Amazing Meeting 6” conference, Derek & Swoopy talk with secular lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown and her father Mel Lipman (both secular humanists with backgrounds in law and government).

They also speak with mentalist Banachek, who has been responsible for putting more magic and mentalism on American television than any other magic consultant in the world.

While the paths of these skeptics seem widely divergent, Derek & Swoopy learn that their common decision to further skepticism within their chosen professions illuminates many similar truths…

DOWNLOAD 50MB MP3

July 1st: Adam Savage & Neil deGrasse Tyson

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy return from the desert with highlights from “The Amazing Meeting 6” conference in Las Vegas (hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation).

Joining them are two skeptics who are changing the face of popular science: MythBuster Adam Savage, and astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In his third appearance on Skepticality, Adam discusses his evolution from artist and model maker to skeptic and television scientist — as well as thoughts about his life after MythBusters. The incomparable Neil deGrasse Tyson (Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, current host of Nova Science Now, and the only astrophysicist to be named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive”) talks with Swoopy about getting the United States back on track as science innovators. (He also sets the record straight about Pluto.)

DOWNLOAD 39MB MP3

June 10th: The Doctor Is In!

Swoopy talks with Skeptic magazine’s resident expert critic of alternative medicine, “SkepDoc” Dr. Harriet Hall. Dr. Hall talks about her recent memoir Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly, which details her life as a family practice specialist, flight surgeon, pilot, and career Air Force officer. (She retired in 1989 as a full Colonel.)

Dr. Hall also discusses her recent regular contributions to Skeptic magazine and the Science-Based Medicine blog, which is quickly becoming an invaluable source for in-depth, quality articles investigating questionable medical practices (not only in alternative medicine but within conventional medicine as well), illuminating the mysteries of medical science — and even insight into how doctors think.

DOWNLOAD 30MB MP3

May 27th: What the Fossils Say & Why it Matters

Just this week, the discovery of the 300-million year old Gerobatrachus hottoni (“Hotton’s elder frog”) confirmed the previously contentious inference that modern frogs and salamanders evolved from one group of ancient primitive amphibians. The dispute arose because of a lack of transitional forms; but, like so many “missing links,” this newly discovered fossil sealed the gap.

The fossil record is one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution, yet it continues to come under attack by present-day creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design. This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with eminent paleontologist and professor of geology Donald R. Prothero about his bestselling Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. This comprehensive book explores not only the rich mosaic of fossil discoveries and transitional forms, but also the very nature of science — and the “monkey business of creationism.”

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May 13th: Don’t Be Such a Scientist

Over the past several episodes, Skepticality has interviewed some of the notable scientists featured in the new pro-Intelligent Design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This week, the last word on the controversy goes to Dr. Randy Olson, the biologist-turned-filmmaker whose 2006 documentary Flock of Dodos: The Evolution – Intelligent Design Circus examined the communication breakdown between the science community and the rest of the world on the subject of evolution.

Dr. Olson strives to improve the reputation of science in the court of public opinion, where the Religious Right and Intelligent Design movements continue to wedge their way in by “teaching the controversy.” On his Shifting Baselines blog, Dr. Olson was one of the first scientists to express concern that the well-funded Expelled was likely to succeed in selling its message to a tremendous number of people. The “dodos” of the blogosphere responded with incredulity.

At the request of many Skepticality listeners, Swoopy spoke with Dr. Olson about his controversial opinions — and about his new film, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy.

DOWNLOAD 38MB MP3

April 29th: Eugenie Scott talks Expelled

The contentious pro-Intelligent Design film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is now in its second week of wide release, and the controversy is far from over. This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Eugenie Scott about her participation in Expelled, her thoughts on seeing the film — and the “Expelled: Exposed” website, created by the National Center for Science Education (where Dr. Scott serves as the Executive Director).

Beyond the Expelled frenzy, Dr. Scott talks about her work with the NCSE, the future of science education, and what the average person can do to improve the public perception and understanding of science.

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April 15th: The Profit of “Free” and the Insight of the Blind

This week on Skepticality we talk to two good friends, both skeptics and podcasters making an impact in their areas of expertise.

Author Scott Sigler sent a shot across the bow of mainstream publishing when, after first giving away his novel Ancestor for free as a PDF, the printed retail version then broke the Amazon.com top 10. As a result, Scott earned himself a seat at the table and a deal with Crown books. We talk to Scott about his new novel Infected — released on April 1st and already a bestseller.

DOWNLOAD 51MB MP3

April 1st: Dawkins & Shermer on “Expelled”

In the upcoming pro-Intelligent Design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (starring comedy actor Ben Stein), several notable scientists speak in support of science and evolution, including evolutionary biologist (and outspoken atheist) Richard Dawkins, science blogger PZ Meyers, and Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer.

As Swoopy finds out this week when she talks with Shermer and Dawkins, Expelled is not the film these scientists agreed to be a part of — nor were their experiences at advanced screenings what they expected…

DOWNLOAD 41MB MP3

March 18th: Toxic Water?

Last week, a widely circulated Associated Press story reported that “a vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.”

Derek & Swoopy look beyond the headline hype in their interview with Dr. Shane Snyder, who published his first study on “Screening of Drinking Water for Possible Endocrine Disrupting Compounds” over ten years ago. As a doctor of Environmental Toxicology and Zoology, Dr. Snyder has devoted most of his career to studying the evidence of chemical, environmental and pharmaceutical compounds in the water supply — and what harm, if any, it poses to the organisms that utilize it.

DOWNLOAD 29MB MP3

March 4th: Doubting Dave!

Can a kids’ science and critical thinking television program be both entertaining and informative? The award-winning Mystery Hunters, beginning its fourth season, is proving that it can. On this week’s Skepticality, Swoopy talks with David Acer — known to fans of Mystery Hunters as “Doubting Dave,” the skeptical scientist who helps the junior members of his team (Araya Mengesha and Christina Broccolini) investigate paranormal mysteries.

David is a close up magician, comedian, and actor and writer for children’s educational programs including Popular Mechanics for Kids and Prank Patrol. David shares his thoughts about how to make debunking myths entertaining, and explains why it’s difficult to get quality kids’ science programs on TV in today’s climate.

DOWNLOAD 37MB MP3

February 19th: The Irrepressible Dr. Karl

This week on Skepticality, science educator and skeptic Michael McRae interviews one of Australia’s most recognizable scientists, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, who is known to most Aussies simply as “Dr. Karl.” Dr. Karl is the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney, as well as a proud recipient of the Ig Nobel prize. He is also a popular science commentator on radio and television, and a bestselling author of 26 books — including his most recent, Please Explain, which gives the facts on everything from why we yawn, to the history of near death experiences.

DOWNLOAD 26MB MP3

February 5th: Triple Insight

In this week’s Skepticality, Derek talks with Dr. Phil Plait (a.k.a. “The Bad Astronomer”), Alison Smith (founder of the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society), and author Michael A. Stackpole (leader of the Arizona Skeptics) about the recent Amazing Meeting 5.5 conference on the topic of “Skepticism & Activism.” These distinguished guests also reveal details of their plans for 2008, and Phil sheds some light on possible impending Death from the Skies — the subject of his soon-to-be-published second book.

DOWNLOAD 29.4MB MP3

January 22nd: Markets & Monkeys

Our brains are constantly bombarded with messages about how to behave, what to buy, and whom to trust. How do we parse these messages, and how do our choices affect the world economy? This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy discuss how economic and evolutionary theory speak the same language, and how our hardwired human biology affects modern economics, with Skeptic Society founder Dr. Michael Shermer (author of The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics).

DOWNLOAD 34MB MP3

January 8th: Church-State Update for the New Year

Skepticality welcomes 2008 with an update from the Secular Coalition for America’s Lori Lipman Brown — the only lobbyist dedicated solely to the concerns of secular humanists and non-theists and to the preservation of the separation of church and state. Lori talks with Derek & Swoopy about why 2007 was the best year yet for the SCA, the top issues on the agenda for 2008, and how the current presidential candidates stack up on the issues important to skeptics.

DOWNLOAD 31MB MP3

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