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2009 Episodes

December 22nd: Christmas Magic?

The holiday season can be a stressful time for anyone, but for those parents raising their children to be critical thinkers and skeptics, there are some special challenges — namely, to Santa or not to Santa?

This week, on a special holiday episode of Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk with Heidi Anderson (whose article, “Skeptical Parenting: Raising Young Critical Thinkers” appears in the current issue of the Skeptical Inquirer) and her seven-year-old son Hollis. Young Hollis, it turns out, has his own opinions on Santa, science and truth…

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December 15th: Evolutionary Medicine (Part Two)

Insomnia; depression; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; sexual infidelity. Most of us have dealt with at least one of these issues in our lives, and no wonder — so did our ancient ancestors.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy welcomes back Dr. Willam Meller for a second round of discussion based on his book Evolution RX. How do the adaptations of early humans affect our emotions, behaviors and modern daily lives? Evolutionary medicine looks at those very questions.

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November 27th: Evolutionary Medicine

Water bottles, hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, antibiotics — ancient humans had none of these things. How did our ancestors adapt to their environment? Given the vastly different diet, exercise, and hygiene of modern humans, what impact do those ancient adaptations have today?

This ancestral health legacy is illuminated by the field of evolutionary medicine. On Skepticality this week, Swoopy talks with Dr. William Meller, MD about his book Evolution RX. He delves into the latest research in genetics, biology, and early human history to understand a wide array of human health conditions — and the ways in which our bodies have evolved to combat them.

DOWNLOAD 33MB MP3

November 10th: The Green Fairy Revealed

ABSINTHE. The very name of this anise-flavored spirit has become synonymous with the forbidden. Associated with marijuana and other illicit drugs, it is said to cause hallucinatory and psychoactive secondary effects, delusions, criminal tendencies, convulsions, tuberculosis and death.

At the start of the 20th century, these beliefs were reported by the media, widely promoted by the French wine industry, and spread via propaganda posters. This led to a ban on absinthe in Europe and the United States (lasting nearly 100 years).

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Cheryl Lins, owner of Delaware Phoenix Distilleries in Walton, New York, about how this once-accepted and popular drink came to be outlawed and misunderstood — and how it was eventually resurrected at the hands of skeptics and scientists.

DOWNLOAD 37MB MP3

October 27th: Welcoming MonsterTalk

Cryptozoological creatures like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Chupacabra have fascinated and inspired monster hunters for generations, providing endless reports of sightings, unverified film footage and blurry photographs to feed the public imagination.

Thankfully, this kind of speculation and storytelling has also given rise to a new generation of skeptical investigators who use the tools of science to dig into monster claims. This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk with Benjamin Radford, Dr. Karen Stollznow, and Blake Smith — the team from the podcast MonsterTalk.

DOWNLOAD 31MB MP3

October 20th: Don’t Be Such a Scientist

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy catches up with biologist-turned-filmmaker Dr. Randy Olson, whose latest book, Don’t Be Such A Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style deals with the image and communication issues facing scientists in the new media era.

Some of the book’s key messages (don’t be so cerebral; don’t be so literal-minded; don’t be such a poor story teller; don’t be so unlikable) are also on display in Dr. Olson’s newest feature film, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy. The new movie, a mockumentary that humorously relates just how hard it is to get a film about science made in style-conscious Hollywood, is the closing film at the Imagine: Science Film Festival in New York this week.

DOWNLOAD 34MB MP3

October 13th: The Man Behind The Men Who Stare at Goats

One of the refrains of skepticism is that reality is often more amazing than fiction. This is most assuredly true of the stories reported by investigative journalist, filmmaker and author Jon Ronson, who has delved time and again into the worlds of conspiracy theorists and extremists.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Jon Ronson about his experiences bonding with skeptics at the recent Amazing Meeting London conference, his bizarre cruise (and rare interview) with Sylvia Browne, and his 2004 autobiographical book The Men Who Stare at Goats (which will be released this November as a feature film starring Ewan McGregor and George Clooney).

DOWNLOAD 31MB MP3

September 29th: Pop Controversy

In this followup episode, Derek & Swoopy return from Charlotte PopFest. Unexpected local media backlash against the PopFest’s support for “evolutionists” reveal why events like this are so important.

Featuring short interviews with PopFest musician Jill Sobule; members of the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics; Keith Williams; and a local Charlotte skeptic who wrote a letter to to express concerns about WBTV Charlotte’s coverage of the PopFest.

DOWNLOAD 17MB MP3

September 15th: Pop for Science

In this episode, Derek & Swoopy review Dragon*Con 2009’s Skeptrack. Then, Swoopy talks with Charlotte PopFest organizer James Deem. Benefits from this unique music festival benefit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

DOWNLOAD 25MB MP3

August 25th: Columbine: True Horror and American Myth

On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on American society when they carried out their plan to kill as many of their high school classmates as they could. The very word “Columbine” has come to represent a specific brand of unthinkable horror: when children make a calculated decision to murder their teachers and peers.

In the chaos and aftermath of that April day, legends and misinformation quickly proliferated. A great deal of what was reported about Columbine was simply not true. Author Dave Cullen has spent the last ten years of his journalistic career studying the lives of the residents of Littleton Colorado as they were before, during, and after this shattering event. Cullen’s seminal book on the subject, Columbine, delves deep into the psyches of the killers, the victims, and their families to set the record straight not only about what really happened on that fateful day, but why. (DOWNLOAD 35MB MP3)

August 18th: Amaz!ng Interviews

This week Skepticality releases the entertaining wealth of recent audio Derek recorded at the James Randi Educational Foundation’s “Amazing Meeting 7” conference in sunny Las Vegas.

The diverse nature of modern skepticism is well represented in interviews featuring Jennifer Ouellette (author of The Physics of the Buffyverse) and magician Michael Goudeau (executive producer of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!). Best of all, Skepticality shares thoughts from one of the founding fathers of the skeptical movement: psychologist Dr. Ray Hyman.

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July 28th: Wild at Heart

Do animals mourn the loss of their mates? When a human child fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield zoo in 1996, why did a mother gorilla named Binti protect and cradle the child and help return him to the zoo staff? This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and author of Wild Justice. His book examines the differences and startling similarities between the observed morality and emotions of human and non-human animals.

Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Dr. Bekoff and his co-author Jessica Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility.

DOWNLOAD 32MB MP3

July 14th: TAM7 Field Report

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy recap The James Randi Educational Foundation’s Amazing Meeting 7 conference, which took place this past week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Derek recounts his many adventures as a TAM7 attendee, including his interviews and discussions with TAM Guests including Ray Hyman, Jennifer Oullette and MythBuster Adam Savage. Looking at this epic convention in a new way, Swoopy shares her impressions of following the conference from home via social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook and uStream.

DOWNLOAD 14MB MP3

June 30th: Scam School

“Don’t try this at home! …This trick just might kill you! … Fool your friends, amaze your family and scam your way to free drinks!”

These taglines and more invite the average college student to study with spiky-haired rabble rouser, Brian Brushwood — skeptic, author and award winning magician — via his popular podcast Scam School.

This week Derek & Swoopy talk with Brian about his work. Digging into the biggest scam of all, they reveal that Brian Brushwood is the epitome of the modern skeptic. Beneath the bar room bravado lurks the mind of well-studied, articulate critical thinker.

DOWNLOAD 23MB MP3

June 16th: Skeptics Mix Tape 2009

Think the best skepticism is the kind you can rock to? We’re pleased to offer you a unique collection of songs of science and skepticism — completely free! Assembled by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton, these free MP3s are available for download from Skeptic.com. All songs are G-rated (or close to it) and free for non-commercial personal or classroom use.

We’re immensely grateful to all of the artists who contributed songs for this project, from Jonathan Coulton, to Artichoke, to George Hrab, to Hard ‘n Phirm. Of special note, the offering from bluegrass trio Dirty Dishes was recorded especially for the Skeptics Society. Even more exciting is Coco Love Alcorn’s brand new song “Thinking Cap” — written specifically for the Skeptics Mix Tape 2009, and never available anywhere until today!

Also included are Public Service Announcements for use on radio or podcasts. We’ll be expanding this section soon, so check back often. Like this project? Tell people about it! Link to the Skeptics Mix Tape at www.skeptic.com/mixtape09, or share the page on Facebook.

DOWNLOAD 38MB MP3

June 2nd: Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs

Mass extinctions, rising temperatures, and changing glaciers may sound like current events, but Earth scientists are learning that this type of climate change is nothing new.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Donald R. Prothero about his new book Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet. Prothero discusses the links between the climate changes that have occurred over the past 200 million years. He contrasts the extinctions that ended the Cretaceous period (and wiped out the dinosaurs) with those of the later Eocene and Oligocene epochs.

Dr. Prothero also discusses “Ida,” a 47-million year old fossil the media is hailing as yet another “missing link.” Is Ida all she is hyped up to be — or is this Darwinius masillae just one more transitional fossil supporting the theory of evolution?

DOWNLOAD 30MB MP3

May 19th: The Great Psychic Detective Challenge

This week, Derek talks with paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford. Recently, the host of the pro-paranormal Skeptiko podcast challenged Ben to look into a “best case” psychic detective claim — supposedly a “slam dunk” that proves that paranormal detectives are real.

Is it true that skeptics just never research or comment on cases that are not in their favor? Ben put some detective work of his own into the case put forth by Skeptiko

DOWNLOAD 32MB MP3

May 5th: The Haunting of Richard Wiseman

This week Skepticality once again welcomes noted “Quirkologist” Richard Wiseman (Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom; and fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, or CSI).

Swoopy talks with Professor Wiseman about his recent paranormal investigations and the initial findings from his Hauntings: The Science of Ghosts project, presented as part of the 2009 Edinburgh International Science Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

DOWNLOAD 22MB MP3

April 21st: Skepticality 100th Episode!

This week, the original, pioneering skeptical podcast celebrates its 100th episode! The hosts of Skepticality take a lighthearted look back at past shows, reveal thoughts about future installments, and share well-wishes from their friends in the skeptical community — including Dr. Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer), George Hrab (Geologic Podcast), and Brian Dunning (Skeptoid).

DOWNLOAD 23MB MP3

April 8th: Confessions of an Alien Hunter

Why do we think aliens are out there? Is Earth really being visited? Will aliens really be short, gray, and hairless? What happens if we pick up a signal from another world?

These are just a few of the questions this week's guest tackles regularly, in his role as the senior astronomer for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

Dr. Seth Shostak talks with Swoopy about the ongoing search for life in the universe, as chronicled in his new book Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

DOWNLOAD 28MB MP3

March 24th: What Do I Do Next?

In 2007, Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton called for renewed focus on classical skeptical activism in an essay entitled “Where Do We Go From Here?” Released simultaneously as a PDF from Skeptic.com and as an audio essay on Skepticality, this article drew tremendous positive response. But many listeners wanted to know, what’s the next step? How does one become a skeptical activist?

This week, Skepticality and Skeptic.com are pleased to release the follow-up project, “What Do I Do Next?: Leading Skeptics Discuss 105 Practical Ways to Promote Science and Advance Skepticism.”

Daniel Loxton returns to tell Swoopy how a panel of 13 skeptics contributed almost 30,000 words of impassioned, in-depth commentary to this groundbreaking document — and how skeptics like you will take it to the next level.

DOWNLOAD 20MB MP3

March 17th: Skepticamp in Atlanta

This week’s Skepticality hits the highlights and plays excerpts from Atlanta Skepticamp. Topics from the two day “un-conference” included: raising children to be critical thinkers; homeopathy; the question of what organic food labels really mean; and (in discussion with the hosts of the American Freethought podcast) the role of new media in promoting the growth of the skeptical community.

Also, Derek & Swoopy check the skeptical events calendar to keep listeners updated on upcoming Skepticamps and other events for skeptics around the world.

DOWNLOAD 15MB MP3

February 19th: Fossils Under LA

Last week it was announced that a new excavation near La Brea has unearthed the largest known cache of fossils from the last ice age — including an 80-percent intact mammoth (named Zed). On this special edition of Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. John M. Harris, curator of the George C. Page Museum at Rancho La Brea in the heart of Los Angeles. Dr. Harris reveals how this wonderful story unfolded — and how this staggering find emerged from beneath one of the most developed places on Earth.

DOWNLOAD 18MB MP3

February 3rd: The Return of Ben Radford

This week on Skepticality we check in with author and paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford. A regular contributor to LiveScience.com and Managing Editor for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Ben talks with Derek & Swoopy about his recently completed fourth book and his investigations into weird paranormal mysteries — including UFO sightings in New Jersey, the haunted hotel where President Obama stayed prior to his inauguration, and the claims of police department psychics.

DOWNLOAD 28MB MP3

January 20th: International Year of Astronomy

The United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. Coinciding with both Galileo Galilei’s celestial discoveries in 1609 and the publication of Johannes Kepler’s Astronomia Nova (which described the fundamental laws of planetary motion), the International Year of Astronomy celebrates 400 years of discovery and exploration of our elegant universe. It is an unprecedented opportunity to showcase some amazing science — and to inspire cosmic wonder.

On this episode of Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk with astronomer, educator, and podcaster Dr. Pamela Gay about the many exciting global events people can enjoy during the International Year of Astronomy. She also shares her thoughts about the changing face of NASA, and about some thrilling recent astronomical discoveries.

DOWNLOAD 23MB MP3

January 6th: Back Inside The Discovery Institute

On a recent episode of Skepticality, guests Kate Holden and Tiana Dietz proposed their joint project, “Visit Discovery,” which encourages people to visit Seattle’s Intelligent Design think tank The Discovery Institute. Is there hope of fostering better dialog between advocates of science and proponents of Intelligent Design?

This week’s guest, Maria Maltseva, a Seattle skeptic and practicing attorney, talks with Derek & Swoopy about her own recent visits to The Discovery Institute, where her talks with Institute insiders yielded a wealth of interesting information.

DOWNLOAD 32MB MP3

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