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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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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

Mar 9, 2016

Science and art are thought of as unlikely bedfellows, but there's more that links them than you might think.

After her excellent talk for us as part of the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, Claudia Schaffner talks to Dr Mhairi Stewart about her work trying to communicate science through art projects.

Oh, and the Australian joins in...

Dr Stewart started her scientific career as a molecular parasitologist fascinated at the intricate weapons and defences such small creatures can use against us. She came to realise however that her real passion lay in communicating research in innovative and creative ways.

She lives near St Andrews with her artist husband Gary Erskine and two cats named after literary characters, Meg and Mog.

Twitter: @scienceartreach

Mar 9, 2016

In 1959 distinguished scientist and novelist, C.P. Snow proposed that the practice of defining intellectual activity as either science or arts was impeding our ability to solve the world’s problems by creating two cultures.

55 years on we will explore what the ‘Two Cultures’ have to contribute to each other and if they have learnt to collaborate, communicate and combine to become a third culture, or if the void is as wide as ever.

Dr Mhairi Stewart started her scientific career as a molecular parasitologist fascinated at the intricate weapons and defences such small creatures can use against us. She came to realise however that her real passion lay in communicating research in innovative and creative ways.

She lives near St Andrews with her artist husband Gary Erskine and two cats named after literary characters, Meg and Mog.

Twitter: @scienceartreach

Mar 2, 2016

Are chimps people too? A court in America recently ruled that chimpanzees should be regarded as ‘persons’, giving them basic human rights. But with rights come responsibilities. Could a chimp ever be guilty of a human crime?

In this podcast we interview Lewis Dean about his research into this controversial area.

Lewis gave us a challenging talk about animal and human intelligence in the Science Festival last year, and we’re delighted to welcome him back to the Fringe.

He is a primatologist interested in the evolution of human culture and cognition. By examining how different primate species (including chimps, capuchin monkeys, lemurs and humans) solve puzzles and learn new skills he seeks to shed light on why it is that while other species seem to have rudimentary traditions, humans have a such complex culture.

Web: culturedprimate.wordpress.com/about/ | Twitter: @lewisgdean

Mar 2, 2016

Are chimps people too? A court in America recently ruled that chimpanzees should be regarded as ‘persons’, giving them basic human rights. But with rights come responsibilities. Could a chimp ever be guilty of a human crime?

Lewis Dean examines what we know about the mental abilities of our closest evolutionary cousins, what we still have to find out and why researchers continue to draw different conclusions from similar data. By exploring this research he’ll ask: should chimps have human rights? Could a chimp commit a human wrong?

Lewis gave us a challenging talk about animal and human intelligence in the Science Festival last year, and we were delighted to welcome him back to the Fringe.

He is a primatologist interested in the evolution of human culture and cognition. By examining how different primate species (including chimps, capuchin monkeys, lemurs and humans) solve puzzles and learn new skills he seeks to shed light on why it is that while other species seem to have rudimentary traditions, humans have a such complex culture.

Web: culturedprimate.wordpress.com/about/ | Twitter: @lewisgdean

Feb 24, 2016

After her excellent talk and investigation into the remedies peddled by alternative medicine practitioners (which you can download along with this podcast), Heather Pentler joins her husband - EdSkeptics podcast producer Mark Pentler - for possibly the most self-indulgent 10 Questions podcast ever. We're so sorry...

Heather Pentler is a long-time member of the skeptic community, having first been involved with the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and later on becoming part of the video crew at QEDCon. As a humanities dropout and not a scientist, Heather likes applying skepticism to areas where it would not normally be applied, although she still has a passion for science, evidence and facts.

She has lived and moved all over the country, spending her formative years in East Lancashire, before finding her way to Edinburgh with her husband. She still coos at all of the pretty buildings when she gets off the bus.

Twitter: @LadyPenny

Feb 24, 2016

Well, this was an odd one to edit. Today's Skeptics in the Pub talk comes to you courtesy of my wife Heather Pentler. We also have a 10 Questions interview with her which you can download along with this podcast.

Since being diagnosed with a chronic condition, Heather has been snooping into the dangerous advice given by various alternative medical practitioners. Her talk will take you through her experiences and how and why this advice is so harmful.

Heather Pentler is a long-time member of the skeptic community, having first been involved with the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and later on becoming part of the video crew at QEDCon. As a humanities dropout and not a scientist, Heather likes applying skepticism to areas where it would not normally be applied, although she still has a passion for science, evidence and facts.

She has lived and moved all over the country, spending her formative years in East Lancashire, before finding her way to Edinburgh with her husband. She still coos at all of the pretty buildings when she gets off the bus.

Twitter: @LadyPenny

Feb 9, 2016

After telling us about the future of biodegradable materials in her Skeptics on the Fringe talk, we interview Fern Sinclair and hear more about the subject. We also speak to Seth Amanfo, who also did a talk for us, but which we were unable to record. His research is incredibly interesting, however, touching on Malaria research and the diagnosis methods available.

The pair talk to us about what its like to be young researchers in the scientific world, including the challenges of balancing the amount of work involved, and the pressures of needing to produce results.

Both Fern and Seth are research students at the University of Edinburgh. You can find more about their work at the following links:

Seth: http://pig.bio.ed.ac.uk/people/seth/
Fern: https://greenmaterialslaboratory.wordpress.com | @GreenMatLab

Feb 9, 2016

Medical devices, cars, clothes, toys, kettles, toothbrushes… Everyday commodities that we all take for granted. Everyday objects that are sourced from petroleum resources. Resources that are running out. Resources that contribute to global waste build-up and can cause serious detriment to the environment and wildlife. The development of new to the world biodegradable materials is key. With a simple dance this research can be explained. So join us to see how traditional ceilidh dancing transfers to science.*

* The dance doesn't work well on a podcast... Hopefully Fern's narration will help you visualise it...

Fern’s passion for Science began during her school years in Aberdeenshire. She went on to graduate with a first class Master of Chemistry degree from the University of Edinburgh which included one years industrial experience in the USA.

Following graduation, Fern was awarded a prestigious Principal Scholarship from the University which provides four years fully funded research and focuses on entrepreneurial development. She is currently in the second year of her PhD working for Dr Michael Shaver of the Green Materials Laboratory.

Twitter: @greenmatlab
Web: greenmaterialslaboratory.wordpress.com

Feb 3, 2016

A special interview for you this week, with apologies for the sound quality. Phone recordings, eh?

David Frank talks to skeptical cartoonist Polyp about his new Kickstarter project "thINK the Book". He talks about the content of the book, the trouble he's had getting it published, and his own life and skepticism.

The book will be a mix of one off vicious panel gags and several longer cartoon 'short stories'. As well as the collected cartoons themselves, the book is peppered and buffed up with juicy skeptic quotes from the likes of Carl Sagan, Thomas Paine, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Charles Darwin... and so on. Religion, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories get the full treatment from Polyp.

For details on how you can help fund the project, visit: http://www.thinkthebook.org - there are links on there to the Kickstarter page. The project is currently at 63% funded, so there's still room to grow! Polyp's own website is at http://www.polyp.org.uk

 

Jan 25, 2016

Before we celebrate our atavistic winter solstice festival of choice based on our cultural or family heritage (or go home and get pished as you might call it) we like to let our hair down, kick up our heels, open the mic and have a good party.

This episode we have a series of short talks for your listening pleasure from our 2015 event, and we're only a month late with it!

  • Podcast co-host David Frank talks about growing up as a Jew at Christmas
  • Our chair Ewan Leeming gives us his Christmas Quiz
  • Dave Colville is talking about replicating psychology studies
  • Skeptics regular Tracey Joliffe will be enlightening us on 'The 12 Lays of Christmas' as she summarises some interesting bugs we can catch (STIs)

Your compere for the evening is the inimitable Twist!

Jan 19, 2016

Media dons and science journalists are regularly publishing emotive and dramatic headlines about the purported negative effects of screentime on child development. In particular scaremongering links have been drawn between technology use by children and young people and the increasing rates of diagnosis of autism. In this talk Sue uses scientific evidence and draws on personal testimonies to pick apart the claims made in the papers and expose the truth about the impact of technology on children today. 

Sue Fletcher Watson holds the post of Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She is an associate of the Patrick Wild Centre for research into autism, fragile X syndrome and intellectual disabilities and of The Salvesen Mindroom Centre to understand and resolve learning difficulties. Sue is interested in the application of psychological research methods to questions with clinical, educational and societal impact. Sue’s current work focuses on: intervention for children with autism, especially using technology; outcome measurement for early intervention studies; longitudinal follow-up of at-risk groups especially infants born preterm.

Follow Sue at

http://www.dart.ed.ac.uk/  

And @suereviews

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