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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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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...

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

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