The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


2011 Episodes

December 13th: Interview with Scott Hannahs

This week’s guest on Skepticality is Dr. Scott Hannahs, the Director of DC Field Instrumentation and Facilities National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Find out a bit about what it is like to work with the worlds most powerful magnet, what types of experiments require such a powerful bit of scientific equipment, and what discoveries and research come out of the science of magnetic fields.


November 29th: Interview with Joseph Lazio

In this episode of Skepticality, Derek speaks with Joseph Lazio, project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. Learn about what this next-generation radio telescope will be searching for and discover how it will address some of the fundamental questions in astrophysics, physics, and even astrobiology.


November 15th: MonsterTalk meets Skeptiko: The Psychic Detective Finale

In September of 2008, Ben Radford appeared as a guest on the podcast Skeptiko, hosted by Alex Tsakiris. During that interview, he agreed to take up Alex’s challenge to investigate the best case of the efficacy of psychic detectives. What followed was months of research, numerous interviews and a follow-up which ended in acrimony. Now, three years after the initial challenge, Skepticality presents a discussion between the hosts of MonsterTalk (Blake Smith, Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow) and Alex Tsakiris about Skeptiko, the interface of skeptics and believers, and the matter of whether or not Ben’s investigation disproved the psychic’s claims.


November 8th: Interview with A.J. Mass

This week on Skepticality, Derek interviews A.J. Mass (a staff writer for ESPN, and card dealer in Atlantic City) to discuss his new book How Fantasy Sports Explains the World: What Pujols and Peyton Can Teach Us About Wookiees and Wall Street. From the Last Supper to Star Wars, winning advice about almost any facet of life can be found almost anywhere, especially when you pay attention to reality and the current known odds.


October 25th: Interview with David Daigle

This week on Skepticality, Derek interviews David Daigle, a leading member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) preparedness team to talk about the CDC’s ‘Be Prepared’ Zombie campaign which has been rolling out since May 2011. Daigle relays information about how the CDC keeps track of upcoming threats to citizens be it a pandemic, food contaminations, and even disastrous massive storms.


October 11th: Interview with Jennifer Hancock

This week on Skepticality, Derek sits down with Jennifer Hancock to discuss her newest book, Jen Hancock’s Handy Humanism Handbook. In this work, Jen attempts to give people a quick, easy, book which describes the philosophy of Humanism and how it relates to culture and personal happiness.


September 27th: Interviews with Daniel Loxton and Ann Druyan

This week on Skepticality, Derek talks with Daniel Loxton about his new book Ankylosaur Attack!, as well as the award for his previous book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be. As an additional bonus, Derek spends some time with writer, producer, and science advocate, Ann Druyan about her past work promoting science, and her recently announced work on the sequel to the highly popular television miniseries, Cosmos starring Neil deGrasse Tyson (coming in 2013).


September 13th: Educating vs. Debunking: What’s the Difference?

Fresh off of Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack, Derek brings you the first of the audio recordings from the Skeptic events that took place over this past Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. Enjoy this recording of one of the lively panel discussions: “Educating vs. Debunking: What’s the Difference?” The panel was moderated by JREF president, D.J. Grothe, with panel members: Barbara Drescher, Kylie Sturgess, Matt Lowry, and Brian Hart.


August 30th: Interview with Cathy Davidson

This week on Skepticality, Derek talks with author and professor Cathy N. Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) about her recently released book Now You See It. The book tells the fascinating story of how our understanding of human attention and learning can be used to enhance and change the manner in which we teach in the modern era.


August 16th: Extreme Fear: Interview with Jeff Wise

Fear is a complex and a mysterious force that can, at times, sabotage our ability to think clearly, drive us to blind panic, or give us seemingly superhuman speed, strength, and powers of perception.

This week on Skepticality, Derek talks with author and daredevil Jeff Wise, contributing editor for Popular Mechanics and Travel + Leisure about his latest book, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, which recounts Jeff’s “I’ll Try Anything” adventures as well as the science that illuminates the complexities behind our body’s responses to fear.


August 2nd: Interview with Bill Nye “the Science Guy”

It’s safe to say that a generation of science enthusiasts were inspired by and knowledgeable about the wonders of life on earth (and beyond) by the man best as Bill Nye “the Science Guy”. In recent years, William Nye’s concern about our changing planet has garnered him new monikers, like Bill Nye “the Climate Guy”, and as Executive Director of The Plantary Society, Bill Nye “the Planetary Guy”.

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk with “that guy”, William Nye (who recently was a featured guest at The James Randi Educational Foundation’s 2011 Amazing Meeting 9), about the challenges facing a new generation of science educators on television and in the classroom. They also discuss his new project that promotes literacy in algebra entitled “Solving for X.”


July 18th: Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson

This week, devotees of the skeptical community gathered in Las Vegas to participate in the James Randi Educational Foundation’s 9th annual Amaz!ng Meeting. In this week’s Skepticality, just off the plane from the conference, Derek & Swoopy share their interview with TAM 9 keynote speaker, author & astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.


July 5th: Interview with Richard Wiseman

Author and psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman has gained an international reputation as a skeptic for his research into luck, deception, the paranormal, humour, and the science of self-help.

This week on Skepticality, Professor Wiseman talks with Swoopy about his latest book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There and reveals how the research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences has produced remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and everyday beliefs.


June 28th: Interview with Matthew Chapman

For over 30 years Matthew Chapman (the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin) has written and directed major motion pictures, as well as authored notable books of his own on the topic of evolution, namely: Trials of the Monkey—An Accidental Memoir, and 40 Days and 40 Nights—Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, Oxycontin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania.

This week on Skepticality, Derek talks with Matthew Chapman about his independent film The Ledge (starring Liv Tyler and Terrence Howard), in which a battle of philosophies between a fundamentalist Christian and an atheist escalates into a lethal battle of wills.


June 14th: Report from Atlanta SkeptiCamp 2011

As the international skeptical community gears up for another season of conferences presented by established organizations like: the Skeptics Society (Science Symposium), the James Randi Educational Foundation (The Amazing Meeting), and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICon), a new generation of skeptics are also finding the critical thinking movement in their own back yards at local meet ups called SkeptiCamps (community driven, informal ‘un-conferences’ born of people’s desire to share and learn in an open environment).

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy report from Atlanta SkeptiCamp 2011 and share one of this year’s SkeptiCamp talks by Skeptic History contributor Tim Farley appropriately entitled “Don’t Start a Blog or Podcast,” on the topic of how to handle the vast amount of skeptical content created by blogs and podcasts, and how to stand out if you decide to jump into the fray.


May 24th: The Believing Brain

Over the past 30 years, Skeptics Society founder Dr. Michael Shermer has questioned how and why humans believe what we do in all aspects of our lives—from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics and social beliefs.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Shermer about his new book, The Believing Brain a compendium of the research and neuroscience that reveals how our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen and ultimately why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not our beliefs are based in reality.


May 17th: The Humanist Approach to Happiness

In 1765, the author of an anonymous article in a French Enlightenment periodical spoke of “The general love of humanity…a virtue hitherto quite nameless among us, and which we will venture to call ‘humanism’, for the time has come to create a word for such a beautiful and necessary thing.”

In this episode of Skepticality, Swoopy speaks with author and Humanist Jennifer Hancock about her book The Humanist Approach to Happiness. The book is a practical guide to living an ethical, compassionate and happy life, and outlines critical thinking and common sense human solutions to everyday human problems.


May 3rd: The Art of Human Hacking

Skeptics are well versed in the many tools of the trade used by charlatans and hucksters to defraud their victims. Some of these same tools—elicitation, pretexting, influence and manipulation to name a few—are also used by hackers, spies and identity thieves to obtain information illegally.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Christopher Hadnagy, author of Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking which examines the maneuvers (and the science behind them) used to deceive unsuspecting victims. The book also addresses ways to reduce our own susceptibility to the hackers and security threats in our every day lives.


April 19th: Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It

Each year 45 million Americans diet to lose weight, spending $33 billion on weight-loss products—and yet, 68 percent of Americans are now classified as overweight or obese. If the prescription to eat less and exercise more, or maintaing a calorie deficit is all it takes to lose or maintain a healthy weight, why are so many of us fat and getting fatter?

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes about his most recent book, “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” which looks critically at the science of adiposity (hundreds of years of scientific research and data about the best ways to avoid obesity and obesity-related illness). Taubes also debunks the myth that losing weight is all about the calories.


April 5th: Catastrophes!

The 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan on March 11th, 2011 is being reported as one of the five most powerful earthquakes since seismological records began being kept in 1900. The awesome destructive power of our constantly changing world is highlighted by these kinds of disasters on a fairly regular basis, but does the understanding of when and how these events may happen change the way humans are choosing to live on dangerous planet Earth?

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Donald R. Prothero, professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles and a lecturer in geobiology at Caltech about his new book Catastrophes! Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and other Earth-Shattering Disasters which discusses not only the dangers we face from geographical challenges but also those that affect us all: overpopulation, and global climate change.


March 22nd: How We Consume & Respond to Media

What was it about iTunes that changed the way we buy music? How can political candidates use social media to their advantage, and what makes the game “Angry Birds” so addicting? This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Charles L. Mauro, a Certified Human Factors Engineering Professional and founder of MauroNewMedia, which is producing groundbreaking research on how we consume and respond to media (including television, web, mobile and virtual platforms), how we engage in social networking, and why sometimes we can’t seem to stop.


March 8th: The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould

Of the scientists who have left their mark on science, skepticism and indeed the Skeptics Society few are more quotable or prolific than the late Stephen Jay Gould. This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Richard York co-author (with Brett Clark) of The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould, which offers a unique look at Gould not only as a paleontologist and evolutionary theorist but also as a Humanist—and one of the most prolific science historians of our time.


February 22nd: The Upside of Irrationality

Skeptics are all too aware of the irrationality of human nature and society, and turn to critical thinking to live more happily. But could there be benefits from the commonplace irrationalities of everyday life? Cognitive psychologist and behavioral economist Dan Ariely argues that there are.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Professor Ariely (author of the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational) about his latest book, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. Find out how experiments illuminate the unexpected roles of irrational decision-making in daily life, and in shaping the world around us.


February 8th: The Secret Lives of Cells

How we live, how we function, how we reproduce and how we age are all explained by the smallest and yet most complex of living structures — the cell.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Lewis Wolpert, Professor Emeritus of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College London and author of The Unnatural Nature of Science and Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief about his newest US release, How We Live & Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells. This basic primer on cellular biology deftly examines the invisible world of all living things, from our evolutionary past, to stem cells, cloning and the future of regenerative medicine.


January 11th: Sleights of Mind

In order to accomplish amazing illusions and magic tricks, performers of prestidigitation must be well versed in the art of deception; thus, it is not surprising that many of the world’s most renowned skeptics are also world-class magicians.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Dr. Stephen L. Macknik and Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde, co-authors of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions (with Sandra Blakeslee). Both are laboratory directors at the Barrow Neurological Institute and columnists at — experience they bring to their multi-year, world-wide exploration of magic (with a team of advisors including Jamy Ian Swiss, the late Jerry Andrus, and James “The Amazing” Randi). Can ancient principles of the conjurer’s trade be explained using the latest discoveries of cognitive neuroscience? Find out in this episode!


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