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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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Jan 22, 2018

Before her talk on the dangers of the Jehovah's Witnesses and cults in general our chair Mark Pentler sat down for a conversation with Lydia Finch to learn more about her life both in and out of the church, along with some silly stuff as well to lighten the mood a bit...

Lydia Finch was born and raised a Jehovah's Witness (JW), but left the organisation at age 18 over twenty years ago. Recently, she has directed her attention to the harmful practices of JWs and other cults, such as shunning, child abuse, and the forbidding of blood transfusions.

Twitter - @FinchLydia

Jan 22, 2018

[A few tech issues on this one, folks. Sorry about the audio quality]

Cults and Skepticism: How one ex Jehovah's Witness fell into the 'trap of independent thinking'

Historically the purview of atheist, secular, and humanist organisations, Ms. Finch wants to expose the workings of these cults to the scientific and skeptical communities and show why although, Jehovah's Witnesses are considered a small fringe religion, their policies should concern the wider community.

Lydia Finch was born and raised a Jehovah's Witness (JW), but left the organisation at age 18 over twenty years ago. Recently, she has directed her attention to the harmful practices of JWs and other cults, such as shunning, child abuse, and the forbidding of blood transfusions.

Twitter - @FinchLydia

Jan 14, 2018

On a cold and raining late-December evening EdSkeptics chairperson Mark Pentler sat down with ex-Beagle 2 team member Dr Dean Harris to talk about space, the perils of going to Mars, and whether a failure is really a failure if you learn from it. Also some silly stuff...

Dean started his career working on the British-built Beagle 2 Mars at Leicester University. Although it was declared lost, 11 years later the craft was found to have made it in one piece to the Martian surface and most probably conducted some science. It was immediately declared the winner of the interplanetary hide and seek competition 2004-2015. He enjoys reading science fiction (hard, not soft), trolling conspiracy theorists on the internet and generally not to taking life too seriously.

Jan 14, 2018

In the early 21st century, a group of British adventurers, scientists, engineers and explorers launched a mission to Mars. The mission was called Beagle 2 and was led by the late Professor Colin Pillinger. The mission attempted to answer one of the most profound questions asked by humanity (and David Bowie): Is there life on Mars? Beagle 2 was expected to land in 2003, but fell silent. A core of enthusiasts continued the hunt for Beagle 2 and, 11 years later, it was found. Beagle 2 had not crash landed and recent analysis suggests that it may still be operating today. We will tell the amazing story of how the UK became the third nation in history to land on Mars with the help of a group of Christmas-jumper-wearing-boffins, led by a mutton-chop wearing farmer, who designed a probe on the back of a beer mat and knocked it up in a shed.

Dean started his career working on the British-built Beagle 2 Mars at Leicester University. Although it was declared lost, 11 years later the craft was found to have made it in one piece to the Martian surface and most probably conducted some science. It was immediately declared the winner of the interplanetary hide and seek competition 2004-2015. He enjoys reading science fiction (hard, not soft), trolling conspiracy theorists on the internet and generally not to taking life too seriously.

Jan 6, 2018

Before her talk for us as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 Deborah Hyde sat down with Heather Pentler to talk about her love of vampires and her skeptical history...

Deborah Hyde wants to know why we believe in things that probably aren't there. What's the story behind the folkore of the macabre, from fairies to ghosts to werewolves to vampires? Using history, folklore and psychology, she has spent many years writing, talking and broadcasting to shine a light on the dark half of our psyches.

Editor of The Skeptic Magazine - http://www.skeptic.org.uk
http://www.deborahhyde.com
Twitter - @jourdemayne

Jan 6, 2018

The Vampire has fascinated Western Europe from the early 1700s, but the tradition was a real part of Eastern European lives for a considerable time before that. In the last three centuries, the icon has been taken up in art of all kinds – literature, film and graphics – and it has had a lasting effect on fashion and culture. But what is the authentic story behind tales of the predatory, living dead, and can we understand a little more about being human by studying these accounts? We will look at recent attempts to understand the folklore and try to work out how an Eastern European ritual made its way to late nineteenth century New England, USA.

Deborah Hyde wants to know why we believe in things that probably aren't there. What's the story behind the folkore of the macabre, from fairies to ghosts to werewolves to vampires? Using history, folklore and psychology, she has spent many years writing, talking and broadcasting to shine a light on the dark half of our psyches.

Editor of The Skeptic Magazine - http://www.skeptic.org.uk
http://www.deborahhyde.com
Twitter - @jourdemayne

Jan 2, 2018

Before her talk for us on the relationships that people have with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Dr Louise Todd sat down with Heather Pentler to talk more about her research and how it came about, plus her thoughts about events and festivals in general and their future.

Dr Louise Todd is a lecturer and researcher in Festival and Event Management based in the Tourism and Languages subject area at Edinburgh Napier University. Having previously studied and worked in the arts, Louise’s relationship with the Fringe started in the 1990s as an audience member and seasonal festival worker. Louise has since gone on to research the Fringe, firstly while undertaking her PhD, and has since published her research into stakeholders’ experiences, roles and relationships with the Fringe. Louise is currently investigating visual portrayals of Edinburgh as the festival city.

http://www.napier.ac.uk/louise-todd

Jan 2, 2018

Edit: had to take a few clips out of this one. Sorry!

Often skeptics are charged with only concentrating on hard, physical sciences. Well, that shouldn't be the case. Recorded during our 2017 Edinburgh Fringe run, this talk from Dr Louise Todd is the perfect antidote as we hear her describe her research into the Fringe itself...

Everyday branded products, from instant coffee to cars, have long been imbued by marketers with human traits as a means of appealing to consumers’ self-image. Indeed an interpersonal relationships metaphor is applied to some products, with them viewed as people – such as friends, partners, family members and even enemies. Since its origination in 1947, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has grown in a relatively organic way to become the largest and most renowned festival in the world. Louise's talk will consider if a phenomenon like the Fringe is considered in similar interpersonal terms by its consumers as they organise, attend, support, and participate in their various stakeholder roles, from audience members to performers, and beyond.

Dr Louise Todd is a lecturer and researcher in Festival and Event Management based in the Tourism and Languages subject area at Edinburgh Napier University. Having previously studied and worked in the arts, Louise’s relationship with the Fringe started in the 1990s as an audience member and seasonal festival worker. Louise has since gone on to research the Fringe, firstly while undertaking her PhD, and has since published her research into stakeholders’ experiences, roles and relationships with the Fringe. Louise is currently investigating visual portrayals of Edinburgh as the festival city.

http://www.napier.ac.uk/louise-todd

Dec 22, 2017

Is Martin Corley a big fat liar? Will his knowledge of speech disfluency manage to trick our host Danny Robertson into accepting his answers as the God's honest? Find out in this week's 10 Questions @ The Fringe!

Martin Corley is Head of Psychology at Edinburgh University. His research centres on the information that is normally overlooked in human speech, from the particular ways in which the mouth moves to make sounds, to the "ums", "ers", and self-corrections that pepper our everyday conversation. He has supervised over 20 PhD students and published over 50 academic papers (including one on equine medicine, for some reason).

Twitter: @martincorley

Dec 22, 2017

How does the way you speak influence others' judgements?

What is it about the way that someone speaks that makes you think they're lying? In this talk, Martin presents a series of experiments looking at speech disfluency ("um" or "er") and how it affects listeners' judgements. In particular, he shows that judgements are affected *fast*: Listeners may have made their minds up long before the speaker has even got to the "lying" bit of what they're saying. He goes on to explore the basis of listeners' judgements: Are they using a simple rule where "um" -> "lie", or are they taking circumstances into account? And... are they right? All to be revealed in 40 mins of cognitive psychology, including lego journalists.

Martin Corley is Head of Psychology at Edinburgh University. His research centres on the information that is normally overlooked in human speech, from the particular ways in which the mouth moves to make sounds, to the "ums", "ers", and self-corrections that pepper our everyday conversation. He has supervised over 20 PhD students and published over 50 academic papers (including one on equine medicine, for some reason).

Twitter: @martincorley

Nov 30, 2017

Before her talk for us on the wonders and the dangers of plastic Dr. Madeleine Berg sat down with Claudia Schaffner to discuss her career and current job, her work with Edinburgh Skeptics on their cinema nights and her adorable-sounding guinea pigs.

Coming from a geosciences background, Dr Berg completed a PhD in geology before deciding to use her experience in science research and communication in a more applied setting. She now works at Fidra, an environmental charity based in East Lothian, on projects focused on ways to reduce sources of marine plastic pollution.

She continues to fuel herpassion for science communication through volunteering with the British Science Association Edinburgh branch.

http://edinburghbsa.weebly.com/

Twitter - @BSAedinburgh

Nov 30, 2017

When plastic was invented, it was hailed as a wonder material, promising to completely transform our lives, which indeed it has. None of us can truly imagine a life without this hygienic, durable and flexible material. But as a society, we're beginning to realise the consequences of the plastic world we have created, as our environment, wildlife and even potentially our bodies accumulate plastic waste. How big is the problem of plastic pollution? What's the solution? Should we swear off plastic entirely and revert to all 'natural' materials? In this talk from the 2017 Fringe Madeleine will be delving into this plastic soup of issues and considering whether plastic plays a role in a sustainable future.

Coming from a geosciences background, Dr Berg completed a PhD in geology before deciding to use her experience in science research and communication in a more applied setting. She now works at Fidra, an environmental charity based in East Lothian, on projects focused on ways to reduce sources of marine plastic pollution.

She continues to fuel herpassion for science communication through volunteering with the British Science Association Edinburgh branch.

http://edinburghbsa.weebly.com/

Twitter - @BSAedinburgh

Nov 16, 2017

Let it not be said that we don't pull out all the stop at Edinburgh Skeptics. All the way from Kansas we welcome Dr. Grant Ritchey. Before his excellent talk for us on dental pseudoscience we sat down with the Skeptical DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) to hear about his "favourite" dental quackery, his journey into skepticism and his made-up-on-the-spot superpower.

Author, Science Based Medicine blog (www.sciencebasedmedicine.org)
Co-host (with Dr. Clay Jones) of The Prism Podcast (www.prismpodcast.com)
Twitter - @skepticaldds

Nov 16, 2017

Most of us are familiar with unproven and pseudo-scientific medical practices, but they are also prevalent in the dental field. From misinformation about fluoride, mercury in fillings, and “toxic” root canals, to fringe treatments such as oil pulling, cranial osteopathy, and acupuncture, there is a plethora of dental pseudoscience out there.

In this talk, dentist and science based medicine activist Grant Ritchey will discuss so-called “alternative” dental practices, and how the dental consumer can equip him/herself with the tools necessary to make educated, science based dental health decisions.

Author, Science Based Medicine blog (www.sciencebasedmedicine.org)
Co-host (with Dr. Clay Jones) of The Prism Podcast (www.prismpodcast.com)
Twitter - @skepticaldds

Nov 1, 2017

Before her talk for us on how to we sat down with Hayley Stevens to talk women in skepticism, smug people in skepticism, and her thoughts on dismissing things without checking them out first (especially when investigating the paranormal). Plus we learn how one of the country's most recognised members of the skepticism community got into it in the first place.

Described as 'the Scully end of the Mulder-Scully X-Files spectrum' by The Times, Hayley Stevens has been investigating ghosts and monsters for over a decade, ever since she was a teenager. She has entertained audiences all across Europe with her talks on investigating the paranormal and her writing can be found in Skeptical Inquirer, The Skeptic, Paranormal Magazine and on her award-winning blog, 'Hayley is a Ghost'.

'Knows what [she] is talking about,' Dr Steven Novella, Skeptics Guide To The Universe

Web:hayleyisaghost.co.uk
Twitter: @hayleystevens

Nov 1, 2017

A Skeptic’s Guide to Ghost Hunting offers an entertaining, funny and at times scary introduction to the world of modern paranormal research. Audiences have laughed, gasped and even cried...

Lifting the lid on sham ghost-hunting claims, showcasing the latest not-so-amazing paranormal evidence, and exposing the tricks of the trade, paranormal researcher Hayley Stevens will show how not all is what it seems when it comes to things that go bump in the night. 

Described as 'the Scully end of the Mulder-Scully X-Files spectrum' by The Times, Hayley Stevens has been investigating ghosts and monsters for over a decade, ever since she was a teenager. She has entertained audiences all across Europe with her talks on investigating the paranormal and her writing can be found in Skeptical Inquirer, The Skeptic, Paranormal Magazine and on her award-winning blog, 'Hayley is a Ghost'.

'Knows what [she] is talking about,' Dr Steven Novella, Skeptics Guide To The Universe

Web:hayleyisaghost.co.uk
Twitter: @hayleystevens

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.

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