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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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Now displaying: Category: sotf2016
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

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

Feb 8, 2017

For our trip back to the Fringe this week we're hearing about the problems of communicating science (especially climate science) with James Mollard. Afterwards he spoke to our own Ewan Leeming in what became an uncooperatively noisy pub.

You can find more from James at https://diaryofaclimatescientist.wordpress.com/ or by following him on twitter @mollyman90

Feb 8, 2017

Why is there a significant difference between what the public believe about climate change, and what climate scientists are writing about? James Mollard discusses where mistakes have been made in both science and climate science communication to the public. It will include a discussion on why uncertainties can be the bane of science communication, explore the damage that has been done to climate science through the years, and will explain how scientists are altering their methods of communication in an attempt to try to educate the public about their research.

James took his undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, studying Geophysics and Meteorology, specialising in Climate/Environmental Science modules. Since then, he has moved to Reading University on a joint NERC/CASE award, in which he is analysing and improving the effect of carbonaceous aerosols in climate models. This work currently also has him working with the Met Office in Exeter.

You can find out more at https://diaryofaclimatescientist.wordpress.com/ or by following him on twitter @mollyman90

Feb 1, 2017

Despite Mark Pentler clumsily saying this is the last episode of our Fringe 2016 podcasts while forgetting that he often releases them out of order, it definitely isn't...

Recorded just before our Fringe edition of Devil's Advocate - EdSkeptics one-time regular-ish skeptical comedy panel show - EdSkeptics founder Keir Liddle joins current chair Mark Pentler to talk about the society, kids playing video games that are too young for them and whether video games will ever be taken seriously as a medium.

Keir Liddle is a PhD at the University of Stirling, and former president of Edinburgh Skeptics committee. He was one of the founders of the longest free skeptical festival in the world (Skeptics On The Fringe) and has a longstanding interest in psychology and video games. His favourite game of all time is the Legend of Zelda: A link to the past.

You can find out more by following him on twitter @keirliddle

Feb 1, 2017

This week we feature a Fringe 2016 talk and an interview courtesy of one of our old friends Keir Liddle.

Psychology plays an important part in video games from attract mode to risk and reward mechanics. Games are often designed around psychological principles designers sometimes take for granted. Games also are associated with a number of social issues: violence and misogyny. This talk will look at the psychology of video games and their wider impact.

Keir Liddle is a PhD at the University of Stirling, and former president of Edinburgh Skeptics committee. He was one of the founders of the longest free skeptical festival in the world (Skeptics On The Fringe) and has a longstanding interest in psychology and video games. His favourite game of all time is the Legend of Zelda: A link to the past.

You can find out more by following him on twitter @keirliddle

Jan 25, 2017

In this interview recorded during the 2016 Fringe our host Kitty Johnstone talks to Leonard Sym on the subject of radiocarbon denialism and its role in debunking theories like the Earth being 6000 years old. You know, the mad one.

Leonard teaches management, both commercially and in higher education. Current work includes management education at middle and senior management level within the oil industry, as well as the design and delivery of management training for a range of organisations throughout the world. He briefly studied Archaeology at Glasgow University as part of his first degree and has kept up an interest in the subject ever since. Over the last few years he has become increasingly aware of how our knowledge of the past has been increasingly attacked for religious reasons. This has inspired him to revisit the topic and defend the educated viewpoint.

Jan 25, 2017

 

This week we're going back to the 2016 Fringe to look at Radiocarbon Dating, especially when it pertains to questioning the claims of religious people that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

Join Leonard Sym as he takes us through this scientific field, and looks at how the dating system works, how it is calibrated, and how its limits of measurement have been pushed back to 50,000 years BP. We also have a great interview with Leonard where he goes into more detail about the subject.

Leonard teaches management, both commercially and in higher education. Current work includes management education at middle and senior management level within the oil industry, as well as the design and delivery of management training for a range of organisations throughout the world. He briefly studied Archaeology at Glasgow University as part of his first degree and has kept up an interest in the subject ever since. Over the last few years he has become increasingly aware of how our knowledge of the past has been increasingly attacked for religious reasons. This has inspired him to revisit the topic and defend the educated viewpoint.

Jan 19, 2017

If you enjoyed our own Dr Stephen Makin's talk on how to spot medical bullshit in the press and how to read a scientific paper, then grab this interview conducted by Heather Pentler. Stephen talks about the pressures doctors face to keep up with recent knowledge as well as talking about his own entry into skepticism.

Apologies for the delay on this one, technical gremlins were among us...

Jan 18, 2017

Every day the newspapers have stories about ‘the latest scientific breakthrough’. But how do you tell if the latest paper is novel and ground breaking, or just a load of nonsense?
Critically appraising scientific papers used to be a specialist skill, but it’s something anyone can do.

What is good quality evidence? What is statistically significant? Just what is a p value?

Stephen is a clinical lecturer in Geriatric Medicine at Glasgow University where his role combines research into aging and clinical practice, and has just finished writing up his PhD.

Dec 14, 2016

In our latest Fringe 2016 podcast PhD researcher Anna Temp joined us to discuss how human beings cope with working in extreme environments, specifically the people who were the subjects of her study on the Arctic island of Svalbard.

In a slightly busy pub near the University of Edinburgh Mark joins Anna to discuss the issues in more depth. She'll be talking about penguins, supermarkets, and burglary and how it all links back to the human psyche.

Anna is from Hamburg, Germany. When she was maybe 10 years old, her Dad gave her a book on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and that sparked her interest in explorers and remote areas. Eventually, it became her passion. She went to school in Germany and moved to the University of Buckingham, England, for her undergraduate Psychology degree. After that, she joined Edinburgh for their Human Cognitive Neuropsychology postgraduate course (don’t let this fool you: all we do is looking at behaviours and the brain). She loved Edinburgh so much that she stayed for her PhD…in Polar Psychology. In my free time She is the Head of Gryffindor of the Harry Potter Society and she also pole dances.

You can find out more here, or by following her on twitter @northpoleanna

Dec 14, 2016

This talk from our 2016 Fringe run focuses on the people who spent a year at the Polish Polar Station, Hornsund, Svalbard. Svalbard is where Northern Greenland is, just on top of Norway instead of next to Canada. It’s the world’s northermost settlement. Anna’s research participants spent the calendar year between July 2015 and June 2016 there. Imagine yourself being unable to go to the supermarket for a year. Unable to go to your family’s birthdays, Christmas, Easter…for the whole year. This is what the participants endured. Meanwhile, polar bears lurked outside, and for three months, the sun didn’t rise in the polar night. Anna will be talking about the effects this had on their mental health, their mood, their social connections and on their memory, attention and reasoning skills.

Anna is from Hamburg, Germany. When she was maybe 10 years old, her Dad gave her a book on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and that sparked her interest in explorers and remote areas. Eventually, it became her passion. She went to school in Germany and moved to the University of Buckingham, England, for her undergraduate Psychology degree. After that, she joined Edinburgh for their Human Cognitive Neuropsychology postgraduate course (don’t let this fool you: all we do is looking at behaviours and the brain). She loved Edinburgh so much that she stayed for her PhD…in Polar Psychology. In my free time She is the Head of Gryffindor of the Harry Potter Society and she also pole dances.

You can find out more here, or by following her on twitter @northpoleanna

Nov 30, 2016

In a surprisingly challenging and skeptical interview our own Claudia Schaffner grills Tristram Wyatt about the evidence for and against human pheromones, along with how we challenge bad science in the field (and in general).

Tristram is a founding fellow of Kellogg College and a senior researcher at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. The second edition of his single-author book Pheromones and Animal Behavior (Cambridge University Press) won the Royal Society of Biology’s prize for the Best Postgraduate Textbook in 2014. His next book, Animal Behaviour: A Very Short Introduction, will be published by OUP in 2017. His TED talk on human pheromones has had 1 million views.

Twitter: @pheromoneevo
Web: http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/people/view/wyatt_td.htm

Nov 30, 2016

A corporation interested in patenting ‘human pheromones’ for profit created a long lasting myth that has roped in many scientists as well as the general public. Tristram Wyatt will describe what went wrong and what would be needed to establish that we do have pheromones (chemical signals within a species). One of the most promising leads is communication between mothers and babies, not sex.

Tristram is a founding fellow of Kellogg College and a senior researcher at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. The second edition of his single-author book Pheromones and Animal Behavior (Cambridge University Press) won the Royal Society of Biology’s prize for the Best Postgraduate Textbook in 2014. His next book, Animal Behaviour: A Very Short Introduction, will be published by OUP in 2017. His TED talk on human pheromones has had 1 million views.

Twitter: @pheromoneevo
Web: http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/people/view/wyatt_td.htm

Nov 23, 2016

Before Fran Day entertained us with talk of particles, collisions and the end of the world she sat down for a natter with our own Claudia Schaffner.

Fran Day is a PhD student in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford. She is searching for hints of new particles by looking at the light from galaxies and galaxy clusters. Fran is a science comedian, using comedy to tackle topics ranging from quantum field theory to women in science.

Twitter: @FrancescaDay
Web: https://physicsfran.wordpress.com/

Nov 23, 2016

What do theoretical physicists do all day? It’s a funny story actually… Apocalypses and politics go hand in hand as University of Oxford physicist Fran Day takes a break from studying particles that probably don’t exist to take to the stage in a stand-up comedy spectacular that is witty, irreverent and occasionally surreal. Fran gets stuck in to how physicists are searching for new particles at the Large Hadron Collider and why it’s a good idea to study made up particles, with plenty of jokes along the way.

Fran Day is a PhD student in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford. She is searching for hints of new particles by looking at the light from galaxies and galaxy clusters. Fran is a science comedian, using comedy to tackle topics ranging from quantum field theory to women in science.

Twitter: @FrancescaDay
Web: https://physicsfran.wordpress.com/

Nov 16, 2016

Chris French is a bloody good bloke, so good he was the catalyst for Edinburgh Skeptics' birth. Unfortunately, he can't remember how... But not to worry! Kitty Johnstone has plenty of other things to ask him about, including ghosts, death, and the public's belief in the paranormal in general.

Kitty chatted to Chris before his talk for us during the 2016 Fringe, and you can download that talk along side this podcast.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He does a metric ton of other work and there's far too much to list here...

Twitter: @chriscfrench
Web: http://www.gold.ac.uk/apru/

Nov 16, 2016

Opinion polls repeatedly show relatively high levels of belief in ghosts even in modern Western societies. Furthermore, a sizeable minority of the population claim to have personally encountered a ghost. This talk will consider a number of factors that may lead people to claim that they have experienced a ghost even though they may not in fact have done so. Topics covered will include hoaxes, sincere misinterpretation of natural phenomena, hallucinatory experiences and pareidolia (seeing things that are not there), inattentional blindness (not seeing things that are there), the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, the possible role of complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound, photographic evidence, electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), and the role of the media.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He does a metric ton of other work and there's far too much to list here...

Twitter: @chriscfrench
Web: http://www.gold.ac.uk/apru/

Nov 10, 2016

Before her talk for us as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 Dr Kat Arney chatted to host and resident biologist Claudia Schaffner about all things genetics...

Dr Kat Arney is a science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more. She recently published her first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats (Bloomsbury Sigma), about how our genes work.

Twitter: @harpistkat

Nov 10, 2016

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We’re told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer’s. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the ‘recipes’ that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they’re turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library. With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Dr Kat Arney is a science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more. She recently published her first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats (Bloomsbury Sigma), about how our genes work.

Twitter: @harpistcat

Oct 12, 2016

Tours of North Korea are criticised for being Potemkin tours where the visitors are on a state conveyor belt to see ‘the best of the best’, and see nothing ‘real’. This illustrated talk challenges that criticism and asks what a tour can really tell us beyond the western narrative about the country.

We also have an exclusive interview with Robin alongside this podcast.

Robin Tudge is a writer and tour leader, specialising in North Korea where he been visiting since 2001. Originally from London, he has lived and worked in Chicago, Moscow, Beijing, and Hanoi, and is the author of three books.

Find out more by following him on twitter @robintudge

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