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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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Jul 21, 2016

So our sixth Skeptics on the Fringe draws to an end, and we celebrate with our now legendary last night party. Recorded on the 28th August 2015 we bring you our End of Fringe Binge!

Join us when as we invite friends and Fringe performers to do 10 minute turns and the best advice we can give to the audience is to keep a tight grip and expect the unexpected.

In this recording we hear from:

@mmaarrow
@BBWMelody
@stickybiscuits
@harrybakerpoet

We'll be back with some recordings of our 2016 Fringe later this year! Stay tuned!

Jul 21, 2016

After their amazing performance for us at our 2015 End of Fringe Binge, David Frank sits down with Sticky Biscuits to discuss their music, their influences and their slightly disgusting name.

@stickybiscuits

Jul 13, 2016

The time has come to release our 2016 Skeptics on the Fringe lineup, and we thought we'd try something a little different. Join 4 of our committee Ewan Leeming, Mark Pentler, Claudia Schaffner and Sean Slater as we preview the lineup, discuss the topics and take the piss out of Skeptics With A K a wee bit...

We'll be taking a break during August to actually run the Fringe show, which takes place from 6th-28th August. Every show starts at 7:50pm at the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street (just off the Royal Mile). Shows are free to attend, but we do ask for donations to help cover the cost of putting on events and running the society.

Skeptics on the Fringe is part of PBH's Free Fringe.

www.edinburghskeptics.co.uk/
www.twitter.com/EdSkeptics

 

Jul 6, 2016

Like science fiction in general, Star Trek is a show of ideas, with a number of episodes exploring such philosophical questions as: What is it to a person? What is it to be the same person over time and change? Dr Clio Bellenis entertained at our June monthly Skeptics in the Pub with a fantastic talk about the philosophy of Star Trek - a talk which included FAR too many clips from the show for us to be able to use without getting legal letters, sadly. She also asks if some of the characterisation in the show might be loosely drawn from Ancient Greek Philosophical ideas. Vulcans, for example might seem particularly Stoical!

Since we couldn't bring you the recording, here is our very own Claudia Schaffner chatting to Clio about her talk, along with some of our more infamous questions...

Dr Clio Bellenis has worked in the NHS all her life, as a child and adolescent psychiatrist for the last 25 years. She officially retired in October but hasn't managed to get away yet.

In 2006 She completed an MA in Philosophy with the OU, and learned that it is a way of thinking that doesn't come easy to someone with a scientific background! Her thesis was on the Theory of Mind and Autism.

Twitter: @CBellenis

Jun 29, 2016

After an excellent talk during our 2015 Fringe line up, we interviewed Thomas Hind a full 10 months later (!) to find out more about the physics (or not) behind all kinds of ghosts. We also find out about his father, who - remarkably - was an exorcist for the Church of England in their "Ministry of Deliverance" department. We are not making this up.

Thomas Hind is a former physicist turned science communicator turned comedian. He studied Physics at the University of Glasgow and followed it up with an MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh as well as briefly working at CERN

Twitter: @ThomasHind

Jun 29, 2016

In the most haunted pub in Edinburgh, we ask “What are ghosts made of?” and follow up by asking why do they haunt specific places? How do they move around and go through walls and throw things across rooms when nobody is looking?

The obvious answer is they don’t – but what if they did? How would it work?

All of these questions and more will be answered, interweaved with real life ghost stories from Thomas’ granddad’s 50 years as an exorcist with the Church of England. These will be debunked, bunked and debunked again and you might learn a thing or two about Quantum Tunneling theory in the process.

Thomas Hind is a former physicist turned science communicator turned comedian. He studied Physics at the University of Glasgow and followed it up with an MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh as well as briefly working at CERN

Twitter: @ThomasHind

Jun 22, 2016

Climate Change is the largest challenge facing the world right now. Each year Skeptics on the Fringe has looked at different aspects of climate change, such public policy, or how to measure its impact. This year we’ve invited one of Edinburgh’s PhD students to share with us her research into an unusual approach which may help us tackle it.

Under extreme conditions, such as high temperatures or pressures, materials behave differently to how they do at the conditions we experience everyday. For example, graphite transforms into diamond, oxygen becomes a metal and water ‘freezes’ at room temperature. In this talk, you'll find out what happens when you you squeeze ice and gases to high pressures, and how this may help combat climate change.

Mary-Ellen Donnelly is a final year physics PhD student at the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions in the University of Edinburgh studying what happens when ice and hydrogen mixtures are squeezed to high pressures.

Jun 15, 2016

Join EdSkeptics regular Kitty Johnstone as she sits down with Lucy Pickering to talk public toilets, knickers, and cottaging (yes, really).

Dr Pickering is a lecturer in medical anthropology at the University of Glasgow. She first got interested in toilets during fieldwork with countercultural Americans in Hawai’i, and having to get used to using a composting toilet. She has since published on composting toilets, and on toilet use in heroin use and recovery.

She has recently shifted her focus towards public toilets in the UK and the ways in which people manage being out and about in public through their access to toilets. She is committed to increasing access to public space through public toilet provision and highlighting the ways in which toilet access can be a hidden form of inequality in the UK today.

Twitter: @AwfullySensible

Jun 15, 2016

Why do fringe goers spend so much time looking for a loo? Why can’t we just wee in the street? Where do homeless people wash? In seeking to answer these and other questions, Lucy explores that most mundane of objects: the toilet. Today every home has one, but they are increasingly vanishing from our streets. In their place have appeared toilets in department stores and cafes, pay-to-use toilets in stations and the like. But is a toilet in a shopping mall public? Who can easily use it? Who can’t? By bringing together the history of hygiene with contemporary urban planning (and a little bit of sociology), Lucy explores how toilets – and in particular public toilets – profoundly shape our lives and the societies we live in.

Dr Pickering is a lecturer in medical anthropology at the University of Glasgow. She first got interested in toilets during fieldwork with countercultural Americans in Hawaii, and having to get used to using a composting toilet. She has since published on composting toilets, and on toilet use in heroin use and recovery.

She has recently shifted her focus towards public toilets in the UK and the ways in which people manage being out and about in public through their access to toilets. She is committed to increasing access to public space through public toilet provision and highlighting the ways in which toilet access can be a hidden form of inequality in the UK today.

Twitter: @AwfullySensible

Jun 8, 2016

Smart people don’t like the idea of IQ testing. Even though the tests are some of the most useful measures we have in psychology, they have a toxic reputation: mention IQ in polite company and you’ll be accused of being an elitist, or perhaps worse.

This talk will first make the case that IQ scores are meaningful: we’ll discuss the evidence from a century of research in psychology, neuroscience, genetics, and medicine. Then, we’ll discuss the history of the ‘IQ controversy’. Why are these tests so maligned? How much of the criticism is deserved? What does the future hold for the science of human intelligence?

Stuart Ritchie has spoken for us on topics ranging from Shakespeare to pornography. He is a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychology Department at the University of Edinburgh, researching how intelligence changes across the lifespan, and how it relates to genetics, the brain, and education. His research has been published in journals such as the Current Biology, Journal of Neuroscience, and Psychological Science.

Stuart has a book that was published around the time of this talk: Intelligence: All that Matters, and he's on Twitter at @StuartJRitchie

Jun 1, 2016

After delivering the first talk of our fantastic Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016 lineup, we sat down with Dr. Sarah Clement to talk some more about GMOs and her own journey into skepticism.

Sarah has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Environmental Science. After discovering she was less interested in understanding ""the environment"" as a separate entity, independent from society, her career has focused on examining the space where social and ecological systems overlap. She has worked as a researcher examining the biophysical, social and policy dimensions of environmental problems since 2002.  

Sarah was born and raised in the US, where she awkwardly grew up in a small Midwestern town as an atheist and a natural skeptic. It wasn't until she moved to Australia, however, that she discovered there was not only a term for her constant questioning, but an entire movement. She became active with the Perth Skeptics as one of its organisers. She now resides in the UK; and after her lifetime tour of the colonies, she likes to think she's returned to the motherland.

https://about.me/saraheclement
If you want to look at Sarah's GoodReads list, you can find that here

Jun 1, 2016

Genetically modified crops have been hailed as both a saviour and villain. The media has put a spotlight on the two extreme ends of this polarised debate, with agricultural corporations on one side and internet celebrities like Food Babe on the other. This talk focuses on that neglected grey area in-between, including what we know about the environmental impacts and how we might translate scientific data and societal values into pragmatic public policy.

Sarah has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Environmental Science. After discovering she was less interested in understanding “the environment” as a separate entity, independent from society, her career has focused on examining the space where social and ecological systems overlap. She has worked as a researcher examining the biophysical, social and policy dimensions of environmental problems since 2002.

Sarah was born and raised in the US, where she awkwardly grew up in a small Midwestern town as an atheist and a natural skeptic. It wasn’t until she moved to Australia, however, that she discovered there was not only a term for her constant questioning, but an entire movement. She became active with the Perth Skeptics as one of its organisers. She now resides in the UK; and after her lifetime tour of the colonies, she likes to think she’s returned to the motherland.

https://about.me/saraheclement
If you want to look at Sarah's GoodReads list, you can find that here

May 25, 2016

Join our very own David Frank as he quizzes Dr. Eric Stoddart from the University of St. Andrews on surveillance, his thoughts about theology and Big Brother, and the name of his first pet. He's totally not going to break into his email. Honestly...

Eric Stoddard grew up in Aberdeen where he also went to university - both for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Moving into academic positions later in life he's been at the University of St Andrews for the past ten years. Since about 2008 he has been researching surveillance and publishing largely on the ethics of this everyday phenomenon. With a colleague from Sweden he is currently developing an international research network to focus specifically on issues of surveillance and religion.

https://ericstoddart.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk
https://twitter.com/es61andrews

May 25, 2016

Our next Science Festival 2016 talk addresses the subject of Big Brother. It's easy to be alarmist about the spread of surveillance technologies into many areas of everyday life. Orwell's 'Big Brother' is a popular image but it doesn't really get us too far in taking a sober critical stance towards surveillance in its multi-faceted guises. There's a lot of value in drawing on privacy rights as a way of challenging extensive technological systems that treat us as objects from which data is scraped and on which basis we are then categorised and acted upon. However, Dr. Eric Stoddart is suggesting that thinking about our (in)visibility - the skill we have in managing our visibility in relation to people and institutions - gives us an additional dimension to addressing significant concerns about cultures of surveillance. Considering (in)visibility also takes us quickly into questions of social justice where surveillance is disproportionately targeted at already marginalised groups of people. This means we start thinking about the negative (and possibly positive) effects of surveillance upon the Common Good. Surveillance isn't all bad so we need a critical approach that doesn't spiral into alarmist panics. He will explore what just such a response might need to look like.

Eric Stoddart grew up in Aberdeen where he also went to university - both for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Moving into academic positions later in life he's been at the University of St Andrews for the past ten years. Since about 2008 he has been researching surveillance and publishing largely on the ethics of this everyday phenomenon. With a colleague from Sweden he is currently developing an international research network to focus specifically on issues of surveillance and religion.

https://ericstoddart.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk
https://twitter.com/es61andrews

May 18, 2016

With massive apologies for not having anything for you this week, Mark rambled on for about four minutes about the podcast and Edinburgh Skeptics in general, along with gratuitous begging and a story about bin bags.

We'll be back next week. Promise.

May 11, 2016

 

EdSkeptics regular and podcast co-host Kitty Johnstone sits down with Charles Paxton to talk all things Bigfoot and cryptozoology in general in this interview recorded during our 2015 Fringe run.

Charles Paxton is an aquatic biologist with an interest in the hard science behind reports of sea monsters. He has published papers on amongst other things whales, guppies, catfishes, penguins, Antarctic seals and British freshwater fishes.

Gordon Rutter is a writer, lecturer, photographer, organiser of the Edinburgh Fortean Society and friend to Edinburgh Skeptics.

May 11, 2016

We’re delighted to welcome back Skeptics on the Fringe regular Charles Paxton for this week's podcast episode who has talked to us previously about his research into sightings of Nessie and Gordon Rutter who co-ordinates the Edinburgh Fortean Society. Only Gordon wasn't there due to an unfortunate wedding-related mix up (not his own, don't worry).

This year they ask can we distinguish between truth and lies in accounts of cryptozoological entities? They went to Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens to find out... 

There's also an interview with Charles available alongside this podcast, courtesy of EdSkeptics regular and podcast co-host Kitty Johnstone.

Charles Paxton is an aquatic biologist with an interest in the hard science behind reports of sea monsters. He has published papers on amongst other things whales, guppies, catfishes, penguins, Antarctic seals and British freshwater fishes.

Gordon Rutter is a writer, lecturer, photographer, organiser of the Edinburgh Fortean Society and friend to Edinburgh Skeptics.

May 4, 2016

After wowing us with what can only be described as a performance/talk, we sat down with Alan McClure during the 2015 Fringe run to talk to him some more about his work.

Alan McClure is a singer-songwriter from Galloway, south-west Scotland, whose lyrical depth has been noted by journalists and fellow musicians alike.

A published poet and author, he brings humour and insight to his songs while keeping one ear on the need for a strong melody. Most often seen performing with his band The Razorbills, who were described by Roots magazine as “refreshingly individualistic … quirky and brassy”, he has also recorded and released five solo albums, the most recent of which, according to R2 magazine, “…confirms his status as a profoundly interesting writer.”

http://www.alanmcclure.co.uk

May 4, 2016

A poet should be prepared to have his head in the clouds, but he has the right to choose whether those clouds are the abode of angelic choirs, or are columns of perfectly sculpted water vapour refracting the light of a mid-sized star.

Join a critically acclaimed poet and songwriter as he discusses the inspirational side of science and seeks beauty and grandeur in a deity-free universe. It's not often we get to have music at our events, but when we do we make sure it's good.

The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the quality of it in this podcast, as Alan's booming voice and aggressive chords clipped like a mofo. Sorry about that. Also I had to record my intro on a phone. Only the best here at EdSkeptics Towers! We interviewed Alan as well, and thankfully that came out clip fine. You can get it along with this podcast.

Alan McClure is a singer-songwriter from Galloway, south-west Scotland, whose lyrical depth has been noted by journalists and fellow musicians alike.

A published poet and author, he brings humour and insight to his songs while keeping one ear on the need for a strong melody. Most often seen performing with his band The Razorbills, who were described by Roots magazine as “refreshingly individualistic … quirky and brassy”, he has also recorded and released five solo albums, the most recent of which, according to R2 magazine, “…confirms his status as a profoundly interesting writer.”

http://www.alanmcclure.co.uk

Apr 27, 2016

After an excellent talk as part of our 2015 Fringe run, Claudia Schaffner sat down with Myles Power to talk about the bonkers world of AIDS denialism.

Myles Power runs the educational YouTube channel powerm1985. He’s originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, but has spent a large potion of his adult life living in Manchester. He is a chemist who has over 8 years of experience working in a research lab, which has given him the skills he needs to research and debunk virus psuedoscience theories. He has discussed some of the theories on his YouTube channel including AIDS denialists, 911 truthers, the anti-vaccination movement and homeopathy to name a few. He is also one of the founding members of the podcast The League of Nerds which he co-hosts with James from The History of Infection.

Twitter: @powerm1985
Web: https://mylespower.co.uk

Apr 21, 2016

Photoshop is a popular piece of graphics software used to alter photos and create digital art. It allows realistic images to be created in more detail than ever before, but to what end? Can we trust the pictures we’re shown by politicians, the media, advertisers, or even our friends? How are images manipulated, and what happens when things go wrong? Where is the line between ‘art’ and ‘digital fakery’, and how can we tell? A professional photoshopper gives her view!

Miss Twist has been part of Edinburgh Skeptics since 2010 as emcee, roving mic, poster girl, and giving talks on subjects ranging from clothing to astrology and Christmas kitsch. She has been a catwalk model, auditioned for ‘Star Wars’, and has spent far to much time using Photoshop. This last thing makes her extremely skeptical of any pictures she sees…

https://misstwists.wordpress.com/

Apr 3, 2016

To go along with the recording of Prof. William Naphy's excellent talk for us as part of this year's science festival, he sat down with our very own David Frank to talk some more about his thoughts on gender, as well as bravely attacking our Bear vs Tiger question.

Having received degrees in Latin and Historical Theology from US institutions, Professor Naphy moved to Scotland to complete his doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews in Reformation History. Subsequently, he worked at New College (Edinburgh) and the University of Manchester before taking up his post at the University of Aberdeen in 1996. He is the author of numerous works on early modern history including 'Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation', and 'Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality'. He has appeared frequently in television documentaries including 'Art and Soul' presented by Richard Holloway (Primus Emeritus, Scottish Episcopal Church) and is regularly interviewed on television, radio and print media relating to issues of sexuality and gender in history and contemporary society.

Professor William Naphy @ The University of Aberdeen

Apr 3, 2016

For our first Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016 podcast, we're pleased to bring you a talk by Prof. William Naphy. This event was easily our most attended event in years, with 100+ people in attendance.

Prof. Naphy's talk examines cultures which historically and contemporaneously have more than two genders. In particular, the talk considers how these societally constructed genders are understood within their society and the socio-cultural gender roles associated with them. Prof. Naphy also suggests that these traditional non-binary understandings of gender are being eroded and changed by Western concepts of sexuality which have developed in a strictly binary understanding of gender.

Having received degrees in Latin and Historical Theology from US institutions, Professor Naphy moved to Scotland to complete his doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews in Reformation History. Subsequently, he worked at New College (Edinburgh) and the University of Manchester before taking up his post at the University of Aberdeen in 1996. He is the author of numerous works on early modern history including 'Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation', and 'Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality'. He has appeared frequently in television documentaries including 'Art and Soul' presented by Richard Holloway (Primus Emeritus, Scottish Episcopal Church) and is regularly interviewed on television, radio and print media relating to issues of sexuality and gender in history and contemporary society.

Professor William Naphy @ The University of Aberdeen

Mar 16, 2016

Michael Head's talk for our 2015 Fringe run was one of my (hello, Mark here) personal favourites. An entertaining and interesting look into the arguments for and against vaccination. We don't think we're giving too much of a spoiler away to say that the correct answer is to vax... Join Claudia Schaffer as she talks to Michael in more depth the subject, including why we need all that mercury in our vaccines.

Michael Head is a research associate in infectious diseases at University College London and a visiting academic in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Southampton. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web.

Twitter: @michaelghead

Mar 16, 2016

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Michael Head is a research associate in infectious diseases at University College London and a visiting academic in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Southampton. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web.

Twitter: @michaelghead

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