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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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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

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.

Jan 11, 2017

For our December Skeptics in the Pub meeting we decided to try something different: An open mic! It was specifically aimed at people who thought they wanted to have a go at doing a skeptical talk but had never done one before. We had 7 speakers all doing different skeptical topics, and our committee member and host for the evening Heather Pentler had a buzzer (from the QI board game, no less!) to let people know when their time was up.

All 7 talks are presented here in their entirety for you, although the audio quality is a bit shit in places, for which we can (as always) only apologise and promise to do better next time.

You'll hear from:

Heather Pentler - Autism Myths
John Raven - Education, Hierarchy, and the Destruction of Life on Earth.
Tracey Jolliffe - 2 FameLab talks for practise :)
Ewan Leeming - What You See Is Not Quite What You Get
Stefano Bosisio - Where Do My Medicines Come From?
Dan Ridley-Ellis - The Christmas Tree Lecture (an unexplanation)
Mark Pentler - Audiophile Bullshit
Brian Eggo - Unpredicta-Bull: End of Year Summary
Dec 27, 2016

After last week's look at the purely bonkers practice of Theta Healing (registered trademark) join Mark Pentler, Heather Pentler, and Claudia Schaffner as we investigate Theta Healing's thoughts on racial DNA and religion, plus how mean cults can be about your personality.

If you enjoyed these two specials, do let us know either on social media or via email: podcast@edinburghskeptics.co.uk - and don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes!

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/

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