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Edinburgh Skeptics Presents...

Welcome to the Edinburgh Skeptics Society podcast. We'll be bringing you talks from our guest speakers on a variety of topics in our Skeptics in the Pub podcast. There'll be talks from areas such as science, social issues, politics, and lots more, all with a view to promoting reason and critical thinking. You'll also be able to see what makes our guest speakers tick with our 10 Questions segment, and recordings of our Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Edinburgh International Science Festival events. Do make sure you rate or review us, and get in touch and let us know what we're doing right (or wrong!). Email us at podcast@edskeptics.co.uk
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Oct 18, 2017

With tales of moving plates, swirling magma and rabbits, Prof. Kathy Whaler from the University of Edinburgh tackles 10 Questions from Heather Pentler.

Kathy Whaler has been Professor of Geophysics at the University of Edinburgh since 1994. Her main research interests are using permanent geomagnetic observatory and low Earth orbit magnetic satellite data to study the origin and maintenance of the Earth’s magnetic field; the magnetic field of the near-surface rocks of the Earth and other solar system objects that reflects their composition and past history; and using electromagnetic induction to probe the electrical resistivity structure of the crust and upper mantle, particularly as part of multi-disciplinary projects in rifting environments. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the American Geophysical Union, a Past President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Price Medal.

Oct 18, 2017

Magnetic compasses may have been used by the Chinese as early as the first century AD, and natural magnets were known to the Greeks in classical times. Knowledge of the magnetic field has been routinely used in navigation (and measurements have routinely made) since the 18th century, soon after Henry Gellibrand discovered that it changed with time. 

Nowadays, the geomagnetic observatory network is supplemented by measurements from space – in November 2013, ESA launched a constellation of three low-Earth orbiting magnetic satellites. Why? – partly because we still need to monitor the magnetic field and its changes, but also because fundamental questions remain about its origin and the energy sources that maintain it.

Kathy Whaler has been Professor of Geophysics at the University of Edinburgh since 1994. Her main research interests are using permanent geomagnetic observatory and low Earth orbit magnetic satellite data to study the origin and maintenance of the Earth’s magnetic field; the magnetic field of the near-surface rocks of the Earth and other solar system objects that reflects their composition and past history; and using electromagnetic induction to probe the electrical resistivity structure of the crust and upper mantle, particularly as part of multi-disciplinary projects in rifting environments. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the American Geophysical Union, a Past President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Price Medal.

Oct 11, 2017

As well as full-length talks we're bringing you interviews with our Fringe 2017 speakers to find out what makes them tick and to grill them in forensic detail about their fields. First off is writer and history Prof Tim Whitmarsh. Tim sat down with our own Heather Pentler to discuss gods, cats, and atheists in the comfortable surroundings of the Royal Mile Radisson.

Prof. Whitmarsh is the author of *Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World*, described by the New York Times as ‘excellent’, by the Guardian as ‘brilliant’, and by his mother as ‘alright if you like that kind of thing’. As well as another 6 books (about Greek literature, thought and culture), he has written for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, and has appeared a number of times on BBC TV and radio. He has held professorial positions in the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter.

www.classics.cam.ac.uk/directory/professor-tim-whitmarsh

Twitter: @TWhittermarsh

Oct 11, 2017

Edit: You know when you've given the podcast gear to your vice-chair to do interviews at QED and you realise you needed it to record a welcome message for the very first Fringe 2017 podcast? Yeah, that...

It's a very special time here at Podcast HQ as we start to bring you some episodes from our 2017 Edinburgh Fringe lineup. Normally we'd start with our compilation evening Our Friends On The Fringe, but that must wait for another day (and because we forgot to ask if it was ok. Oops!). So our first release from this year's Fringe is historian and writer Professor Tim Whitmarsh.

Most people think of atheism as something modern and western, but in fact it has a rich, deep and weird history to rival any religion’s. In Tim's talk we’ll meet some of classical antiquity’s most brilliant and engaging characters, including Diogenes (who lived in a barrel) and Socrates (who didn’t). We’ll also reflect on what it means, for us now, to think of atheism as something with a history older than Islam and Christianity.

Prof. Whitmarsh is the author of *Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World*, described by the New York Times as ‘excellent’, by the Guardian as ‘brilliant’, and by his mother as ‘alright if you like that kind of thing’. As well as another 6 books (about Greek literature, thought and culture), he has written for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, and has appeared a number of times on BBC TV and radio. He has held professorial positions in the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter.

www.classics.cam.ac.uk/directory/professor-tim-whitmarsh

Twitter: @TWhittermarsh

Sep 29, 2017

In this episode of 10 Questions we sit down with Prof. Michael Dougan to ask some searching, evidence-based questions on Brexit. Are we really screwed? What's the process? And most importantly: how will Scotland fare?

Michael Dougan is Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Liverpool. He is an established academic authority on EU constitutional law and Joint Editor of Common Market Law Review - the world's leading scientific journal for European legal studies.

Michael's public engagement activities, including videos of his lectures on the EU referendum, received extensive media attention in the run-up to the ‘Brexit’ referendum and he continues to be a popular authority on the matter for individuals and groups all around the world.

Sep 29, 2017

The UK's negotiations on withdrawal from the EU are now underway. And so Leave campaigners are now facing a form of accountability they have never experienced before: the accountability of reality. What are the key issues in the UK-EU negotiations? What will be their likely outcomes? What will the Repeal Bill mean for democracy and accountability here in the UK? Our speaker will provide an overview of the current legal and political situation, leaving plenty of time for questions from the floor, to discuss the most important set of challenges facing the UK since 1945.

Michael Dougan is Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Liverpool. He is an established academic authority on EU constitutional law and Joint Editor of Common Market Law Review - the world's leading scientific journal for European legal studies.

Michael's public engagement activities, including videos of his lectures on the EU referendum, received extensive media attention in the run-up to the ‘Brexit’ referendum and he continues to be a popular authority on the matter for individuals and groups all around the world.

Sep 13, 2017

Edit: Bit low effort this one on my part. But next week... The Fringe! - Mark

For another trip back to 2017's Edinburgh International Science Festival we'll be hearing from Dr Lucina Hackman. Forensic anthropologists are crucial in helping to identify the deceased when there are limited clues to their identity. Dr Hackman's talk will examine how her work has helped give victim's their identity to assist with the investigation of crimes.

Dr Hackman is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification based in the University of Dundee. She runs postgraduate courses and teaches students in forensic anthropology. Dr Hackman is also a certified, practising forensic anthropologist and works regularly with investigators in this role.

Sep 6, 2017

Yes, it's us again. Remember us? We do podcasts and then take massive breaks to put on public festivals of science and rationalism. But we're here again! We'll have some podcasts from most of our Skeptics on the Fringe 2017 talks over the coming months and there's so much good stuff coming up. It'll keep you going for aaaages.

Before that we have a few other podcasts to put out from the Science Festival, starting with this interview with Niamh Nic Daeid. She'll be telling us all about her incredible career and her current research, as well as telling us about her dreams for the forensics future.

We sadly couldn't podcast Niamh's talk for pesky legal reasons, but you'll be able to hear more from her in a few weeks time on one of our Skeptics on the Fringe 2017 podcasts!

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid is Director of Research at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification and Director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science a £10million a year project with the remit to disrupt the forensic science ecosystem. She is a forensic chemist specialising in fire investigation, and the clandestine manufacture and characterisation of drugs of abuse. She is the current Vice Chair of the scientific advisory board of the International Criminal Court and is an advisor to the United Nations on aspects of New psychoactive drugs.

Jul 28, 2017

The morning after the birthday cake-infused Skeptics In The Pub before, Mark Pentler sat down with Paul Zenon to discuss the world of psychics and mediums in more detail. Plus they reminisce about Blackpool, the place where they both grew up. It's like Portabello, only with more Scottish people.

We're probably taking a break now before our month-long Fringe Binge - there may be time to squeeze in one last podcast. If you're good and eat all your dinner, obviously.

Jul 28, 2017

Edit: A birthday surprise at the end of this talk. The picture attached should hopefully provide some context...

From long-running TV series to sold-out theatre shows and premium rate phone 'advice' lines, the business of 'Love and Light' and talking to the dead is very much alive and well. How are psychics able to convince the public that their other-worldly insight is genuine? Why do people insist on believing, despite the lack of evidence of an afterlife? Paul Zenon presents a potted history of what of what Harry Houdini described as ’the filthiest profession in the world’, and takes a look at their methods, past and present.

Paul is possibly best known as a magician; after several series on Children's BBC in the 90s he became the pioneer of the UK's Street Magic genre, with a number of one-man C4 and ITV Specials. His career has spanned three decades and seen him performing for audiences in around forty countries while making hundreds of TV appearances as performer, presenter nd pundit; the latter relating in particular to his inside knowledge with regard to matters generally considered by the media to be 'paranormal’. His last visit to Edinburgh was to the 2016 Fringe, in his roll as Ringmaster in the Olivier Award-winning circus-cabaret show, La Clique. 

Consumer Protection Disclaimer: this talk is investigational and for the purpose of entertainment.

Jul 5, 2017

The podcast returns for one week only! (Probably. Hopefully a few more before the Fringe).

Join Mark, Sean & Heather as they go through each night of the Skeptics on the Fringe 2017 lineup and discuss the people, the topics, and generally lark about for 50 minutes.

Skeptics on the Fringe 2017 began in 2009 and is our contribution to the world's biggest arts festival. We bring a dose of scientific skepticism, critical thinking, and rationalism to the city during the month of August.

Skeptics on the Fringe will be at its usual venue - The Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street (just off the Royal Mile). We'll be in the Chamber Room at 7:50pm. Details of the complete lineup can be found on the usual places:

Website: http://www.edinburghskeptics.co.uk/
Twitter: @EdSkeptics
Facebook: We're on as Edinburgh Skeptics
MeetUp: http://meetup.com/EdinburghSkeptics/

May 18, 2017

In this interview with EdSkeptics Science Festival speaker Emma McClure we delve deeper into some of the issues with the reliance on certain types of forensic evidence, hear about her journey into skepticism, and find out what happened to her first pet - featuring special guest star Emma's mother.

Emma McClure is a solicitor specialising in prison and public law whose work sees her regularly representing prisoners during parole hearings and bringing judicial reviews against public bodies. She has given talks around the country on the way in which over-confidence in the veracity of forensic science can lead to miscarriages of justice and has gone undercover to investigate psychics, faith healers and Mind Body Spirit fairs.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @Emmemmemma

May 18, 2017

We're back but also we never really went away or something. For this double episode of the podcast we have a talk and an interview with prison lawyer Emma McClure. In this talk, she examines the issues with forensic techniques, highlighting the amusing, confusing and sometimes tragic consequences of failing to take a skeptical approach to evidence in the field of forensic science. 

Emma McClure is a solicitor specialising in prison and public law whose work sees her regularly representing prisoners during parole hearings and bringing judicial reviews against public bodies. She has given talks around the country on the way in which over-confidence in the veracity of forensic science can lead to miscarriages of justice and has gone undercover to investigate psychics, faith healers and Mind Body Spirit fairs.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @Emmemmemma

May 3, 2017

For the podcast this week we have some bonus content for you while we pin down some of our Science Festival speakers for interviews. We have a recording of a talk given at one of our monthly cinema nights.

Over eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, killing sea life. Now new evidence says it's entering our food chain with unknown health effects. Dr Mark Hartl - Associate Professor of Marine Biology, Director, Centre of Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology - discusses the implications. Microplastic contamination is now ubiquitous in the (marine) environment. Efforts to put mitigating government policy measures in place require a monitoring programme to establish baseline concentrations in order to gauge impact and effectiveness.

Follow Mark on Twitter at: @M_Hartl

Apr 27, 2017

(Sorry for the slightly dodgy audio... - Ed)

Time reasons scuppered our chances of having a nice chat with our old friend, QI Elf, and ex-copper Stevyn Colgan. So, to go along with his Science Festival 2017 talk we're dusting off the archives and bringing you a EdSkeptics classic - our interview with Stevyn from QED 2016.

Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, public speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He has, among other things, been a chef, a brewer, a comics publisher and – for three decades - a police officer in London, during which time he was set on fire twice, was sworn at by a royal, met two US Presidents and a Pope, was kissed by Princess Diana and let Freddie Mercury wear his helmet. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of UK universities and is a regular speaker at UK and international events such as TED, HybridConf, 5x15, QEDcon, the Ig Nobel Prizes, Latitude, the Hay Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe.

He has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows including Freakonomics, Do The Right Thing, Ex Libris, No Such Thing As A Fish, Little Atoms and Josie Lawrence’s Short Cuts. He is also one of the ‘Elves’ that research and write the multi award-winning BBC TV series QI and was part of the writing team that won the Rose D’or for BBC Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity.

Find him on Twitter @StevynColgan.

Apr 27, 2017

The podcast returns! And we're back with a corker - the first of our run of talks under  the banner of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. First up is QI Elf and ex-London copper Stevyn Colgan. Stevyn was a police officer in Scotland Yard for 20 years, as part of the Problem Solving Unit finding imaginative solutions to quell tensions in communities, from dog shows to lollipops.

Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, public speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He has, among other things, been a chef, a brewer, a comics publisher and – for three decades - a police officer in London, during which time he was set on fire twice, was sworn at by a royal, met two US Presidents and a Pope, was kissed by Princess Diana and let Freddie Mercury wear his helmet. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of UK universities and is a regular speaker at UK and international events such as TED, HybridConf, 5x15, QEDcon, the Ig Nobel Prizes, Latitude, the Hay Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe.

He has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows including Freakonomics, Do The Right Thing, Ex Libris, No Such Thing As A Fish, Little Atoms and Josie Lawrence’s Short Cuts. He is also one of the ‘Elves’ that research and write the multi award-winning BBC TV series QI and was part of the writing team that won the Rose D’or for BBC Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity.

Find him on Twitter @StevynColgan.

Apr 19, 2017

For our final trip down the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe memory lane we're heading back to 2/3rds through the run for our Mid Fringe Binge! We always have a few nights at the Fringe where we invite our old friends to come back and do something for us, plus we scout the Fringe to find some sufficiently nerdy or sciencey shows happening elsewhere to promote to our audience.

First we have some nerdy pirate-themed music courtesy of our old friends and Fringe legends Jollyboat. Arrrrghhhhhh! The boys have played for us many times and they never fail to bring the house down.

Then we find out how to lead a happy life courtesy of stand-up comedian, GP, Private Eye journalist and actual man-off-the-telly Dr Phil Hammond. And some Clangers.

We'll be back over the next few weeks with some recordings from our crime-themed 2017 Edinburgh International Science Festival talks. We hope you've enjoyed these Fringe podcasts, but it'd be even better to see you in person. We're planning our 2017 Fringe run right now, and we'll let you know what's going on later this summer.

Mar 22, 2017

For our last talk from the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe we're having a look at how online and offline spaces work both for and against democracy courtesy of Ella Taylor Smith. If we think of social media as spaces – like rooms – we get a new perspective on what’s going on and why. This talk looks at what people are doing when they’re doing democracy, in online and offline spaces. What is it about these spaces that makes them useful or worrying for our democracies? Spoiler alert – going to talk about spaces being public or hidden and who pays for what.

Ella Taylor Smith has been researching how people use/could use the Internet to get involved in democracy, since 2001, at Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Computing. Last century she moved to Edinburgh in 1988, where she went to Art College, then worked as a chef.

Mar 15, 2017

Many, many, many months after his talk, Claudia Schaffner sits down with Charles Cockell to talk in more detail about life throughout the universe. And how the hell we're going to find it...

Charles Cockell is Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the UK Centre for Astrobiology. His academic interests are life in extreme environments and the habitability of extraterrestrial environments. He is the author of the undergraduate text book, ‘Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe’ published by Wiley-Blackwell. He is first or co-author on over 250 scientific papers and he's Chair of the Earth and Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation he established in 1994. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Find out more at www.astrobiology.ac.uk

Mar 15, 2017

Will we find life elsewhere in the Universe and what are we really looking for? Why has this question suddenly become more interesting? In this talk from the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Charles Cockell guides us through the possibilities and tells us what could be out there and how we can try to find it.

Charles Cockell is Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the UK Centre for Astrobiology. His academic interests are life in extreme environments and the habitability of extraterrestrial environments. He is the author of the undergraduate text book, ‘Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe’ published by Wiley-Blackwell. He is first or co-author on over 250 scientific papers and he's Chair of the Earth and Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation he established in 1994. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Find out more at www.astrobiology.ac.uk

Mar 1, 2017

This week on the podcast we're bringing you details of our lineup of talks run under the banner of the 2017 Edinburgh International Science Festival. Join Mark Pentler and science festival curator for this year Heather Pentler as they take you night-by-night through the lineup. This year the theme is The Science of Crime. Expect lots of dead bodies and some truly remarkable techniques on display as we learn how science is being used to both secure and overturn convictions.

Our science festival lineup runs Monday to Thursdays from the 3rd-13th April at the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street. All events start at 7:30 and run until 9pm. Ish. Depends how good you are in the Q and As :-)

Check out the full line up on our website: http://www.edinburghskeptics.co.uk or on Facebook & MeetUp.

Feb 22, 2017

Before he gave us his experience of modern medical trials Prof. Peter Sandercock sat down with Mark Pentler to talk about the challenges of keeping up with current research, who is at fault for people's misunderstanding of trial results, and what can be done about it. We also delve into Peter's journey into skepticism.

Professor Peter Sandercock (Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University of Edinburgh) set up and ran the first International Stroke Trial (IST-1), the first ‘mega-trial’ in acute ischaemic stroke. More recently, he is the Co-Chief Investigator of IST-3, the largest-ever trial of ‘clot-busting’ thrombolytic therapy for acute ischaemic stroke with over 3,000 patients recruited. In this talk he will expose the challenges and explore the successes of clinical trials in the modern era and how they can bring us not only new treatments and new answers, but also new questions.

http://www.ed.ac.uk/clinical-brain-sciences/people/principal-investigators/prof-peter-sandercock

Feb 22, 2017

As part of our effort to reach out to more people in Edinburgh and the surrounding area, we recently partnered with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh for the first of what we hope will be a much-repeated event in the future. Two fantastic skeptical talks for an audience of people who had never really heard of us, and we're able to bring you one of those talks on the podcast this week. The College were incredibly gracious hosts and special mention must go to Iain Milne & Daisy Cunynghame for their efforts in making it possible.

Professor Peter Sandercock (Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University of Edinburgh) set up and ran the first International Stroke Trial (IST-1), the first ‘mega-trial’ in acute ischaemic stroke. More recently, he is the Co-Chief Investigator of IST-3, the largest-ever trial of ‘clot-busting’ thrombolytic therapy for acute ischaemic stroke with over 3,000 patients recruited. In this talk he will expose the challenges and explore the successes of clinical trials in the modern era and how they can bring us not only new treatments and new answers, but also new questions.

http://www.ed.ac.uk/clinical-brain-sciences/people/principal-investigators/prof-peter-sandercock

Feb 14, 2017

Yes, this one's early too! Claudia Schaffner sits down with this week's speaker - Dr Amanda Drake - to discuss the issues raised in her talk about the potential for environmental factors to affect our lives. We learn more about Dr  Drake's work and her motivations for entering this field of research.

Dr Drake studied medicine at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then undertook initial training in Paediatrics in Bristol, before moving to Edinburgh to undertake a PhD funded by the British Heart Foundation. She then completed training in Paediatrics in Edinburgh, specialising in Paediatric Endocrinology and becoming a consultant in 2007. She heads a research group in the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, studying interactions between in the environment and the epigenome, with a focus on the early life environment, obesity and diabetes.

Find out more at http://www.cvs.ed.ac.uk/users/amanda-drake or by following her on twitter @TeamDrakeUoE

Feb 14, 2017

A whole day earlier than normal (ahahah, what the hell? - Ed.), it's the Edinburgh Skeptics Podcast! This week we're going back to the 2016 Fringe to hear from Dr Amanda Drake, from right here in Edinburgh. In this talk Dr Drake will discuss the evidence for environmental factors having an effect on our body and the potential mechanisms which might link experiences in early life with later health outcomes, including changes in chemical marks on genes – so called ‘epigenetic modifications’. Finally, she will discuss how such effects may be transmitted across generations, so that the experiences of our grandparents may also impact on our health today.

Dr Drake studied medicine at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then undertook initial training in Paediatrics in Bristol, before moving to Edinburgh to undertake a PhD funded by the British Heart Foundation. She then completed training in Paediatrics in Edinburgh, specialising in Paediatric Endocrinology and becoming a consultant in 2007. She heads a research group in the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, studying interactions between in the environment and the epigenome, with a focus on the early life environment, obesity and diabetes.

Find out more at http://www.cvs.ed.ac.uk/users/amanda-drake or by following her on twitter @TeamDrakeUoE

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