Podcast

This is the podcast version of the Skeptics in the Pub Online live-streamed talks. We take the audio and give it to you in a nice easy podcast feed for you to listen at your pleasure. All of the talks are still available on our YouTube channel if you want to see any visuals/slides/etc. We release the live shows as we do them on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month and on weeks when there isn't a live show, we release an episode from the archive.

The science of mental health; how it goes wrong, how it’s treated, and the many misunderstandings in between – Dr Dean Burnett

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
The science of mental health; how it goes wrong, how it’s treated, and the many misunderstandings in between – Dr Dean Burnett
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Mental health awareness is a very big concern in 2021, particularly with the impact of the pandemic and lockdown. But while being aware that mental health can and does go wrong is important, very little attention is paid to how and why this happens. In his new book, Psycho Logical, neuroscientist, author, and former Psychiatry lecturer Dr Dean Burnett explores all that and more, using the latest science to explain what happens in the brain when mental health goes awry, how these problems and treated and why they work (or often don’t), and why the whole issue is so slippery and uncertain, and why stigma still endures despite everything. Dean will also be answering questions and challenging misconceptions about mental health flagged up by the SITP community, making this talk very unique.

Dr Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist, lecturer, author, blogger, podcaster, pundit, science communicator, comedian and numerous other things, depending on who’s asking and what they need.

Previously employed as a psychiatry tutor and lecturer at the Cardiff University Centre for Medical Education, Dean is currently an honorary research associate at Cardiff Psychology School, as well as a Visiting Industry Fellow at Birmingham City University.

However, Dean is currently a full-time author, previously known for his satirical science column ‘Brain Flapping‘ at the Guardian, which ran from 2012 to 2018. This led to his internationally acclaimed bestselling debut book ‘The Idiot Brain‘, which has resulted in several further books and even more interesting brain stuff.

You can buy one of Dean’s excellent books at https://www.hive.co.uk/Search?Author=Dean+Burnett (by buying from Hive you also support local indendent bookshops).

It’s okay to not be okay. Here are some helpful places to talk and get help when you need it. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help.

If you need someone to talk to there is a free active listening service at https://www.7cupsoftea.com they cannot offer advice but can be useful if you need soneone to talk to annonymously,

Dean is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/garwboy.
He writes a blog at https://cosmicshambles.com/words/blogs/deanburnett
and his website is https://www.deanburnett.com/.

The slides used by Dean are available here.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Does life know about quantum mechanics? – Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Does life know about quantum mechanics? – Professor Jim Al-Khalili
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Physicists and chemists are used to dealing with quantum mechanics, but biologists have thus far got away without having to worry about this strange yet powerful theory of the subatomic world. However, times are changing. There is now solid evidence that enzymes use quantum tunnelling to accelerate chemical reactions, while plants and bacteria use a quantum trick in photosynthesis – sending lumps of sunlight energy in multiple directions at once. It even appears that some animals have the ability to use quantum entanglement – what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” – as a compass to ‘see’ the earth’s magnetic field. In our research at Surrey we are discovering that life may even have evolved mechanisms to control genetic mutations caused by quantum tunnelling of protons between strands of DNA. Welcome to the exciting new field of quantum, biology.

Jim Al-Khalili CBE FRS is a distinguished professor of physics at the University of Surrey and a well-known author, broadcaster and science communicator. He received his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics in 1989 and has published widely on few-body quantum scattering methods to study nuclear structure, particularly as applied to the study of exotic nuclei. He has more recently focussed on the foundations of quantum mechanics, quantum thermodynamics and quantum effects in biology. He currently leads an international interdisciplinary research collaboration on the arrow of time in quantum mechanics. Jim is a prominent author and broadcaster and has written 15 books on popular science and the history of science, between them translated into twenty-six languages. He is a regular presenter on TV and hosts the long-running weekly BBC Radio4 programme, The Life Scientific. He is a past president of the British Science Association and a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal and Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medals, the Institute of Physics Kelvin medal and the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. He recently served as the only non-engineer judge on the QE Prize for Engineering and is a commissioner on the board of the 1851 Royal Commission.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Born to dance? The evolutionary origins of music making – Dr Jacques Launay

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Born to dance? The evolutionary origins of music making – Dr Jacques Launay
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What’s the point in making music? Is there a point? Although music surrounds us for a large proportion of our time it doesn’t seem to serve an obvious purpose, and this talk will explore that problem. Darwin suggested music could be involved in sexual selection, used to flaunt genetic fitness to potential partners, but there are also several alternative explanations, ranging from Pinker’s null hypothesis (it’s auditory cheesecake) to the Mozart Effect (music makes you clever). Spoiler alert – those theories are probably both wrong! This talk will primarily explore the role of music in social bonding, and whether music is best understood as the alternative to language.

Dr Jacques Launay is an expert in music and social bonding, and has worked on this from a range of perspectives, including the origins of music making, the health benefits of singing in choirs, and the neuroscience of moving to sounds.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Dangerous Products: In The Home & In Our Stomachs – David Frank and Virginia Ng

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Dangerous Products: In The Home & In Our Stomachs – David Frank and Virginia Ng
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The societal and scientific consensus says only irrational people fear things like WiFi, artificial sweeteners, and fluoridated water, but there have been legitimately dangerous products sold as safe in the past. ​Flammable, toxic, radioactive and generally bad for you, we’ll look at products throughout history that killed, injured and poisoned, and the marketing campaigns that went along with them. ​Plus, we’ll explore some formerly dangerous things that turned out to be fine, and things we know are bad for us that we consume anyway. ​Come along. It’ll be good for your health.

David Frank

David Frank is a marketer, a writer and a former radio show host. He is a former event organiser for Perth Skeptics in Australia, and Edinburgh Skeptics here in the UK. Pre-COVID he has toured talks across a dozen Skeptics in the Pub groups here in the UK, on such topics as “how to market yourself on online dating”, and “how big tobacco circumvents marketing restrictions” (the latter of which you can watch on his website). He has a Master’s of Science in Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University, and is currently based in Seattle. David is free range, organic, with no added hormones or unnecessary antibiotics.

Virginia Ng

Virginia is a food microbiologist and is the Director of Regulations and Food Processing at the Seafood Products Association in Seattle. She has a Masters of Science in Biological Sciences from California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, where she studied toxin formation and sporulation patterns in various Clostridium botulinum strains. In her day job, among other things, she is a sensory expert using organoleptic analyses to keep good quality seafood on the shelves. She has previously given talks on food preservation. ​Virginia’s favorite vices include ice cream, the extra dose of cosmic radiation that comes with flying, and movie marathons.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Resisting Incarceration: Prisons, Activism and Abolition – Professor Phil Scraton

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Resisting Incarceration: Prisons, Activism and Abolition – Professor Phil Scraton
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Since Michael Howard’s pronouncement that ‘Prison Works’ the prison population in the UK has doubled with the current Government planning to build several more multi-occupancy ‘Titan’ prisons to incarcerate thousands more men and women. This reflects an ill-founded commitment to what became a cross-party mantra. In what sense does ‘prison work’? Does the claim stand scrutiny? Or, as Jonathan Simon suggests, does locking away an ever-increasing number of women, men and children amount to ‘social warehousing’? Derived in three decades of activist work and academic research Phil Scraton will address the harms of imprisonment for those locked away, their families and their communities. He will critique the reformist ‘rehabilitation’ agenda and explore the potential for prison abolition. What would decarceration look like? What are alternatives and how would harms caused to individuals and communities by ‘criminal’ and ‘anti-social’ acts be addressed without the ‘punishment’ of incarceration?

Phil Scraton PhD, DLaws (Hon), DPhil (Hon) is Professor Emeritus, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast. He has held visiting professorships at Amherst College, USA, the Universities of Auckland, Monash, New South Wales and Sydney. Widely published on critical theory, incarceration and children/ young people his books include: In the Arms of the Law – Coroners’ Inquests and Deaths in Custody; Prisons Under Protest; ‘Childhood’ in ‘Crisis’?; Hillsborough The Truth; Power, Conflict and Criminalisation; The Incarceration of Women; Women’s Imprisonment and the Case for Abolition. He co-authored reports for the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (Children’s Rights) and the NI Human Rights Commission (Women in Prison) and a member of the Liberty Advisory Committee on deaths in custody. He led the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s research and was principal author of its ground-breaking 2012 Report, Hillsborough. Seconded to the families’ legal teams throughout the 2014-2016 inquests, in 2016 he published a revised edition of Hillsborough: The Truth. Consultant on, and contributor to, the 2017 BAFTA winning documentary Hillsborough, he holds a Leverhulme Fellowship addressing the unique work of the Panel and the legal processes that followed. In 2018, with Rebecca Scott Bray at the University of Sydney, he initiated a community-based international research programme on coroners’ inquests into deaths in custody. He was a member of the JUSTICE Working Party into inquests and public inquiries: When Things Go Wrong: The Response of the Justice System (2020). Also in 2020 he edited ‘I Am Sir: You Are A Number’: The Report of the Independent Panel of Inquiry into the Circumstances of the H-Block and Armagh Prison Protests 1976-1981. He is lead investigator for the Irish Council of Civil Liberties’ research project Deaths in Contested Circumstances and Coroners’ Inquests. Having refused an OBE, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in recognition of his Hillsborough research.

A Dog’s World – Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans – Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
A Dog’s World – Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans – Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff
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What would happen to dogs if humans simply disappeared? Would dogs be able to survive on their own without us? A Dog’s World imagines a posthuman future for dogs, revealing how dogs would survive—and possibly even thrive—and explaining how this new and revolutionary perspective can guide how we interact with dogs now.

Drawing on biology, ecology, and the latest findings on the lives and behavior of dogs and their wild relatives, Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff—two of today’s most innovative thinkers about dogs—explore who dogs might become without direct human intervention into breeding, arranged playdates at the dog park, regular feedings, and veterinary care. Pierce and Bekoff show how dogs are quick learners who are highly adaptable and opportunistic, and they offer compelling evidence that dogs already do survive on their own—and could do so in a world without us.

Jessica Pierce is with the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School. Her most recent book is Who’s A Good Dog? And How To Be A Better Human. For more information, go to www.jessicapierce.net.

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. His books include Dogs Demystified: An A-to-Z Guide to All Things Canine. His website is marcbekoff.com and his Twitter is @MarcBekoff

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Jewish Space Lasers – Mike Rothschild

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Jewish Space Lasers – Mike Rothschild
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For more than 200 years, the name “Rothschild” has been synonymous with two things: great wealth, and conspiracy theories about what they’re “really doing” with it. Almost from the moment Mayer Amschel Rothschild and his sons emerged from the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt to revolutionize the banking world, the Rothschild family has been the target of myths, hoaxes, bizarre accusations, and constant, virulent antisemitism. Over the years, they have been blamed for everything from the sinking of the Titanic, to causing the Great Depression, and even creating the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018 Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene took to social media to share her suspicions that the California wildfires were started by ‘space solar generators’ which were funded by powerful, mysterious backers. Instantly, thousands of people rallied around her, blaming the fires on “Jewish space lasers” and, ultimately, the Rothschild family.

Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories is a deeply researched dive into the history of the conspiracy industry around the Rothschild family – from the “pamphlet wars” of Paris in the 1840s to the dankest pits of the internet today. Journalist and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild, who isn’t related to the family, sorts out myth from reality to find the truth about these conspiracy theories and their spreaders. Who were the Rothschilds? Who are they today? Do they really own $500 trillion and every central bank, in addition to “controlling the British money supply?” Is any of this actually true? And why, even as their wealth and influence have waned, do they continue to drive conspiracies and hoaxes?

Mike Rothschild is a journalist and conspiracy theory expert whose work has examined scams, frauds, moral panic, conspiracy theories, and how their impact has gone from the online world into everyday life. He has written two previous books, including The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything, which examines the roots and the impact of the QAnon movement. Rothschild has been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times among many others to discuss conspiracy theories; has testified to Congress on the threat of election disinformation; and appeared in numerous documentaries and podcasts.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission

Pseudo-Archaeology: Fake news and new fakes – Mirko Gutjahr

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Pseudo-Archaeology: Fake news and new fakes – Mirko Gutjahr
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Light bulbs in antiquity? UFO landing sites in Peru? Giant pyramids in the Balkans? Authors like Erich von Däniken or TV shows like “Ancient Aliens” accuse archaeologists of hiding important discoveries and masking the truth. According to them the monumental buildings of the past were created not by our ancestors but by aliens or extradimensional beings. At first glance this appears harmless – fantasies written by science fiction authors. However, those claims are deeply rooted in creationist and racist ideas. In times when fewer and fewer people trust in science such views become more popular and thus give rise to right-wing esoteric ideologies. This talk sheds light on the problem of “pseudo-archeology” and will try to prove that real archeology is much more exciting – and true – than archaeological fantasies.

Mirko Gutjahr is an archaeologist and historian working at as a scientific advisor at “Luthergedenkstätten”, a Martin Luther memorial foundation with five museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites at three locations in Saxony-Anhalt. He also produces German language podcasts about curious facts from history. One of his podcasts has been translated into English at https://play.acast.com/s/secretcabinet

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

Too dangerous to publish? Navigating the high-stakes nature of AI research – Rosie Campbell

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Too dangerous to publish? Navigating the high-stakes nature of AI research – Rosie Campbell
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As AI becomes increasingly advanced, it promises many benefits but also comes with risks. How can we mitigate these risks while preserving scientific inquiry and openness? Who is responsible for anticipating the impacts of AI research, and how can they do so effectively? What changes, if any, need to be made to the peer review process? In this talk, we’ll explore these tensions and how they are playing out right now in the AI community. AI is not the first high-stakes, ‘dual-use’ field to face these questions. Taking inspiration from fields like cybersecurity and biosecurity, we’ll look at possible approaches to responsible publication, their strengths and limitations, and how they might be used in practice for AI.

Rosie Campbell leads the Safety-Critical AI program at the Partnership on AI, a multistakeholder nonprofit shaping the future of responsible AI. Her main focus is on responsible publication and deployment practices for increasingly advanced AI. Previously, she was Assistant Director of the Center for Human-Compatible AI at UC Berkeley, a Research Engineer at BBC R&D, and cofounder of Manchester Futurists. Her academic background spans physics, philosophy, and computer science. Rosie is also a productivity nerd and enjoys thinking about how to optimize systems, and how to use reason and evidence to improve the world.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.

The Human Cosmos – Dr Jo Marchant

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
The Human Cosmos - Dr Jo Marchant
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For most of human history, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are – our religious beliefs, power structures, scientific advances and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. And that disconnect comes at a cost. In her latest book, The Human Cosmos, Jo Marchant takes us on a tour through the history of humanity’s relationship with the heavens. We travel to the Hall of the Bulls in Lascaux and witness the winter solstice at a 5,000-year-old tomb at Newgrange. We visit Medieval monks grappling with the nature of time and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover how light reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are with Einstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same. A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search for extraterrestrial life. And we discover why stargazing can be really, really good for us. It is time for us to rediscover the full potential of the universe we inhabit, its wonder, its effect on our health, and its potential for inspiration and revelation.

Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist. She has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, London, and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College. She has worked as an editor at New Scientist and Nature, and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, Wired, Observer, New York Times and Washington Post. She is the author of Decoding the Heavens, shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, and Cure, shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.

The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission