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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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Dec 21, 2016

Note: Sorry about the first twenty minutes or so. We got a new mixing desk and I rather stupidly plugged the recorder into the wrong socket. Stick with it - Mark

This week we're trying something a bit different. Yes it's a round table chat. No it's not about the week's skeptical news...

Over the past year our committee member Heather Pentler has been investigating all sorts of woo - including healing, alternative medicine, all that malarkey - and she's built up quite a collection. The one thing that really caught her eye was something that is - as far as we can see - not very well known within the skeptical community. So we decided to tell you about it.

Join Mark Pentler and Claudia Schaffner alongside Heather as we delve into Theta Healing's training manuals to investigate what it actually is, what it claims to do, and how it all seems to be set up.

The recording is split into two parts, so we'll have another episode on this coming up next week.

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

Dec 7, 2016

After dazzling us with tales of the life of the professional science communicator (both bad and good. There was definitely some bad) he sat down with our own Mark Pentler to talk some more about the art of science communication and how difficult it is in this post-truth world.

Ali was born and raised in a small village on the East coast of Scotland called Edinburgh, and at 17 ran away to the bright lights of the sprawling metropolis known as Glasgow. After gaining a degree in microbiology, Ali again ran away to the life of a travelling performer, though the cruise ship rather than the more-traditional circus.

His career as a science communicator began with a stint at Glasgow Science Centre and a regular freelance presenter for STV's The Hour as the face of "Weans' World of Science", working with luminaries such as Grant Stott and Michelle McManus. Perhaps his proudest moment was her eureka moment of understanding space weather and aurorae. He subsequently worked at Edinburgh International Science Festival and has recently been originating the role of Science Engagement Officer at the National Museum of Scotland, developing new programming to go alongside their exciting new Science and Technology galleries.

He has an excessive fondness for cheese, tea, running and the Madeiran wall lizard.

Twitter: @sir_ali_floyd
Blog: Ali Floyd | National Museums Scotland Blog

Dec 7, 2016

With the rise of the science centre as an educational experience a new profession has arisen: the professional, full-time science communicator. Distinct from researchers who carry out engagement as part of their work and unwilling to be teachers, these people roam the Earth, dispensing wisdom and fun, often with a healthy dose of foam and fire. But, 15 years on from the Millennium projects that spawned them, what state is the industry in? Are they providing a clarity beyond more traditional academics, or have they created a whole mystic lore of their own? Join Ali Floyd, Science Engagement Officer at the National Museum of Scotland, as he explores some of the not-quite-truths he has experienced in the business.

Ali was born and raised in a small village on the East coast of Scotland called Edinburgh, and at 17 ran away to the bright lights of the sprawling metropolis known as Glasgow. After gaining a degree in microbiology, Ali again ran away to the life of a travelling performer, though the cruise ship rather than the more-traditional circus.

His career as a science communicator began with a stint at Glasgow Science Centre and a regular freelance presenter for STV's The Hour as the face of "Weans' World of Science", working with luminaries such as Grant Stott and Michelle McManus. Perhaps his proudest moment was her eureka moment of understanding space weather and aurorae. He subsequently worked at Edinburgh International Science Festival and has recently been originating the role of Science Engagement Officer at the National Museum of Scotland, developing new programming to go alongside their exciting new Science and Technology galleries.

He has an excessive fondness for cheese, tea, running and the Madeiran wall lizard.

Twitter: @sir_ali_floyd
Blog: Ali Floyd | National Museums Scotland Blog

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 26, 2016
Here is part 2 of our QED 2016 podcast special for you containing four more excellent interviews with some skeptical figures from the UK and internationally.
 
Joining us for this episode are András Pintér, Jelena Levin & Pontus Böckman from the European Skeptics Podcast (0:51) magician Paul Zenon (14:09), UK skeptic Myles Power (25:34) and Australian broadcasting legend Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (37:44).
 
We hope you've enjoyed our QED 2016 specials and we'll be back to normal service next week.
Oct 19, 2016

QED 2016 has been and gone by the time you read this, but Edinburgh Skeptics were there in force to soak up the atmosphere in a very rainy Manchester.

During the weekend ace reporter Mark Pentler was able to catch up with some of the speakers at the conference and find out a bit more about their QED experience, their lives, and how they're helping to promote the skeptical cause.

You'll hear from YouTube superstar Captain Disillusion (01:06), Oxford-based science communicator Sally Le Page (15:30), QI Elf Stevyn Colgan (24:32) and ex-naturopath Britt Hermes (37:26).

Join us for more interviews from QED next week in part 2!

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

Oct 12, 2016

Join Claudia Schaffner as she chats to Robin Tudge about his tours of North Korea, how not to be an idiot if you're there, and what the people and the country is really like.

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

Oct 5, 2016

Rumit Somaiya has spent the past 25 years touring casinos throughout the world with his team. Their aim is simply to overcome the ‘House Advantage’ using all cerebral methods available, in order to amass fortunes. Most people don’t understand the maths of gambling and sadly addiction is a major issue.

Rumit spoke for us at our September Skeptics in the Pub event and while his massively-visual talk wasn't really podcastable (seriously, he turned the Banshee Labyrinth into a casino), we were keen to grab him for our 10 Questions segment to learn a little bit more about a topic that isn't usually at the front of the minds of skeptics... He'll also tell you about his new maths-based project which aims to educate the masses about the reality of betting.

Twitter: @rumit2186

Sep 28, 2016

Well, we did say that EdSkeptics regular Rumit Somaiya's talk would be out this week, but due to "scheduling conflicts" (heh) it will be delayed another week. We're really happy to bring you a great interview as an alternative, however, as newly-crowned committee member Heather Pentler talks to our old friend Michael Marshall about the media bring crap, weird medical claims and athletes' obsession with woo.

Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

Find out more at http://goodthinkingsociety.org/ or by following him on Twitter @MrMMarsh and @GoodThinkingSoc

Sep 21, 2016

On this week's podcast we're going back to the Spring for the last talk from our Science Festival programme. How do we know that DNA is a double-helix? Why is diamond beautiful but graphite is boring, when they are both made of carbon? Why are there no room-temperature superconductors? These are all questions from the field of materials physics, and their answers are what drive our understanding of everything from flexible computer screens, advanced drug delivery, and how powerful the next generation of iPhone will be. 

This talk will look at the techniques that scientists use to look at materials on the atomic level, and how this knowledge helps us to better understand the materials we already know, so that we can dream up new materials to tackle the problems of the future. 

Dr Andrew Princep grew up in Western Australia where he graduated from Curtin University of Western Australia with an Honours degree in Nanotechnology in 2008, before completing his PhD in Physics at UNSW Canberra in 2012 and finally taking up his current position as a Postdoc at Oxford University.

https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/princep

Sep 14, 2016

Homeopathic solutions are so dilute that there is often only 1 active molecule for every 10^60 molecules of water, or, to put it another way, if you took enough homeopathic “medicine” to equal the mass of the Earth, you would have a 1 in 5 Billion chance of getting 1 active molecule.

Here at Skeptics on the Fringe we do things differently, and for our second podcast from this year's Fringe we guarantee that 100% of your time with us will be entertaining, informative, and pure, Undiluted Brilliance.

We kicked off our 2016 Fringe run by sharing our stage with some of the other acts that appeal to the Open-Minded, the Curious, to Scientists, Geeks and Skeptics.

Dan Simpson: Twitter
Matt Winning: Twitter
Fran Day: Twitter
Stephen Lingham: Twitter

Sep 7, 2016

Before wowing two full rooms of people with an impassioned defence of reason, logic and the scientific method, Prof. David Nutt sat down with our very own Claudia Schaffner for a little chat.

David Nutt is a psychiatrist at Imperial College London. Here he uses a range of brain imaging techniques to explore the causes of addiction and other psychiatric disorders and to search for new treatments. He has published over 400 original research papers, a similar number of reviews and books chapters, eight government reports on drugs and 28 books. He is currently the President of the European Brain Council and Founding Chair of DrugScience (formerly the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD).

He broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television. In 2010 The Times Eureka science magazine voted him one of the 100 most important figures in British Science, and the only psychiatrist in the list. In 2013 he was awarded the John Maddox Prize from Nature/Sense about Science for standing up for science.

Twitter: @ProfDavidNutt

Sep 7, 2016

We're back! Finally! And we have a brilliant talk for our first episode after the Fringe - Professor David Nutt! We had two full rooms (main and overspill) for this event - our most attended event in ages - and it was a treat to hear somebody of his calibre entertain and enthral us with his thoughts.

His talk explores the inconsistencies and injustices that emerge from the un-scientific methods we use to control alcohol and other drugs. He explains how there are more rational and functional approaches and encourage Scotland to rise to the challenge of breaking out of the current flawed position.

David Nutt is a psychiatrist at Imperial College London. Here he uses a range of brain imaging techniques to explore the causes of addiction and other psychiatric disorders and to search for new treatments. He has published over 400 original research papers, a similar number of reviews and books chapters, eight government reports on drugs and 28 books. He is currently the President of the European Brain Council and Founding Chair of DrugScience (formerly the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD).

He broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television. In 2010 The Times Eureka science magazine voted him one of the 100 most important figures in British Science, and the only psychiatrist in the list. In 2013 he was awarded the John Maddox Prize from Nature/Sense about Science for standing up for science.

Twitter: @ProfDavidNutt

 

Aug 3, 2016

As we approach our busiest month we wanted to give you a parting gift until we return in September. This week we have a recording of a talk by one of our committee - David Frank - about the tricks of the trade used by massive global cigarette companies in their advertising - especially in the face of strong legislation. David delivered the talk as part of our monthly film nights in conjunction with the British Science Association before the film Thank You For Smoking.

Don't forget! If you're in Edinburgh or close to it, or if you're going to be here during the Fringe, you should check out our Skeptics on the Fringe 2016 line up. We'll be doing nightly talks between the 6th-28th August at the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street. All events start at 7:50pm.

Twitter: @TheDF
http://www.davidfrank.com.au

Jul 29, 2016

It’s time for our Summer Skeptacular Fundraiser With @AshWhiffin @stephenlingham & @gussiegrippers. We have a great line-up of comedy, poetry, insects and pelvic floor exercise for you, recorded in mid July as we prepared for the 2016 Fringe run.

Ash Whiffen - who loves insects, particularly the ones that eat dead bodies - will be telling us about ‘Maggots, Murder & Museums’. Stephen Lingham – our Resident Poet - will be doing stand-up poetry which is provocative, funny, controversial and thought provoking spoken word that explores contemporary ideas surrounding free speech. Finally, Elaine Miller, physiotherapist, comedian, mother of three and recovered incontinent shares the wonders of the pelvic floor, her talk involves poo, pee and orgasms in men and women. There is, however, no show and tell.

Every year we put on a vast selection of talks at ‘Skeptics on the Fringe’ and the only way we’re able to do that is through PBH’s Free Fringe. Without PBH and the free fringe crew, we would never be able to afford to put on a show without finding £1000s.

PS: Sorry it's late...

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