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.

Myths and Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport – Robert Llewellyn

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Myths and Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport – Robert Llewellyn
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In the last 10 years consumer production models of EVs have become more readily available. In spite of data which shows EVs are more efficient than fossil fuel vehicles, with reduced CO2, emissions and particulates, in a recent policy U-turn, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kicked back the date for full transition to EVs to 2035, eliciting heavy criticism from the world’s major car manufacturers, who had already invested billions to meet the original deadline. There’s also been a significant uptick in anti-EV media headlines. Pervasive stories about EVs have returned. Aren’t they too expensive? Too heavy? With dangerously flawed batteries? Can our energy infrastructure even cope with the demand? Are they really ‘greener’ anyway? With 2023 global fossil fuel subsidies at a mind-blowing $7 trillion (IMF data) it’s no surprise there’s been pushback. In this talk, Robert Llewellyn aims to get us up to speed on progress during the last 10 years of electric vehicle production. They’ll aim to demonstrate how the barriers to electric transport are primarily psychological, not engineering.

Robert Llewellyn is a British actor, presenter and writer, famous for his thirty-year stretch as the rubber-masked mechanoid Kryten in the much-loved science fiction comedy, ‘Red Dwarf’. With his interest in engineering, Robert then turned his hand to presenting the long-running TV gameshow, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ and also ‘How Do They Do It?’ and ‘Carpool’. In 2010, after being blown away by early Electric Cars, Robert launched Fully Charged, a YouTube channel focussing on the future of electric vehicles, of all shapes and sizes, and clean energy. Fully Charged has exceeded 55 million views around the world and Robert was recently acknowledged as ‘Tech Legend’ at the T3 Awards.

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

How cholesterol skepticism became a pseudoscience – Dr Christopher Labos

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How cholesterol skepticism became a pseudoscience – Dr Christopher Labos
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There was a time when you could be skeptical about cholesterol’s role in cardiovascular prevention. There was uncertainty about causality, diet seemed to have little impact and the drugs were either ineffective or potentially dangerous. But then things changed. Medications improved, genetic causes of high cholesterol became clear, and the cardiovascular benefits of cholesterol reduction were demonstrated in multiple trials. So how did cholesterol denialism become a thing and why has it become the latest pseudoscience? By reviewing the history of the “cholesterol controversy,” Dr Christopher Labos will show how this scientific debate played out in a real time over the span of the 20th century and why the best description of the cholesterol controversy now is that there isn’t one.

Dr. Christopher Labos is a cardiologist with a master’s degree in Epidemiology. He is a columnist with the Montreal Gazette and Medscape, featured on the Sunday Morning House Call on CJAD radio, and has a regular TV segment with CTV Montreal and CBC Morning Live. He is an associate with the McGill Office of Science and Society and co-hosts the award-winning podcast “The Body of Evidence.” He is the author of “Does Coffee Cause Cancer?” published by ECW press, a story about food epidemiology and why food headlines are usually wrong. He occasionally practices as a cardiologist so he can buy groceries. To date no one has asked him for his autograph.

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

First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time – Dr Emma Chapman

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First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time – Dr Emma Chapman
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Astronomers have successfully observed a great deal of the Universe’s history, from recording the afterglow of the Big Bang to imaging thousands of galaxies, and even to visualising an actual black hole. There’s a lot for astronomers to be smug about. But when it comes to understanding how the Universe began and grew up we are literally in the dark ages. In effect, we are missing the first one billion years from the timeline of the Universe.

This brief but far-reaching period in the Universe’s history, known to astrophysicists as the ‘Epoch of Reionisation’, represents the start of the cosmos as we experience it today. The time when the very first stars burst into life, when darkness gave way to light. After hundreds of millions of years of dark, uneventful expansion, one by the one these stars suddenly came into being. This was the point at which the chaos of the Big Bang first began to yield to the order of galaxies, black holes and stars, kick-starting the pathway to planets, to comets, to moons, and to life itself.

Incorporating the very latest research into this branch of astrophysics, this talk sheds light on this time of darkness, telling the story of these first stars, hundreds of times the size of the Sun and a million times brighter, lonely giants that lived fast and died young in powerful explosions that seeded the Universe with the heavy elements that we are made of. Emma Chapman tells us how these stars formed, why they were so unusual, and what they can teach us about the Universe today. She also offers a first-hand look at the immense telescopes about to come on line to peer into the past, searching for the echoes and footprints of these stars, to take this period in the Universe’s history from the realm of theoretical physics towards the wonder of observational astronomy.

Emma Chapman is a Royal Society research fellow and fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, based at Imperial College London. She is among the world’s leading researchers in search of the first stars to exist in our Universe, 13 billion years ago, and she is involved in both the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands and the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Australia, a telescope that will eventually consist of a million antennas pointing skywards in the desert.

Emma has been the recipient of multiple commendations and prizes, the most recent of which was both the 2018 Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship and STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellowship, two of the most prestigious science fellowships in the UK. She won the Institute of Physics Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize in 2014, and was runner-up for the UK L’Oreal Women in Science award in 2017. In 2018 she was also the recipient of the Royal Society Athena Medal.

Emma is a respected public commentator on astrophysical matters, contributing to the Guardian, appearing on BBC radio and regularly speaking at public events. Among others, she has spoken at Cheltenham Science Festival, the European Open Science Forum and at New Scientist Live.

You can buy Emma’s book at https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Emma-Chapman/First-Light–Switching-on-Stars-at-the-Dawn-of-Time/24856473

Emma is on platform formerly known as twitter at https://twitter.com/DrEOChapman

Emma has been involved in challenging and ending sexual harrassment in science. You can find out more about her work in this area here: https://dr-emma-chapman.com/diversity-work/

Information on the LOFAR telescope is available at https://www.astron.nl/telescopes/lofar and the Square Kilometer Array at https://www.skatelescope.org

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

Tourette Syndrome: Sounds, movements and myths. – Adrienne Hill

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Tourette Syndrome: Sounds, movements and myths. – Adrienne Hill
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During her presentation, Adrienne will delve into the myriad myths surrounding Tourette Syndrome, the intriguing TikTok Tics phenomenon that started during the pandemic, and the pseudoscientific “cures” targeting vulnerable parents who seek to support their children. Be ready with pencil and paper to experience what it is like to live with TS+.

Adrienne, a retired high school mathematics teacher, has been a volunteer educating teachers, students and community members about Tourette Syndrome and its comorbid disorders (TS+) since 2005. She is a board member and educational consultant for the Tourette OCD Alberta Network. Her personal journey as a mother of three children includes two who have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome +. Beyond her involvement with the network, Adrienne actively contributes as a board member to Susan Gerbic’s nonprofit organization, “About Time.” She also volunteers as a Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia editor and is a regular reporter for “The Skeptic Zone” podcast. Her written work has been featured in publications like The Skeptic (Australia) and Skeptical Inquirer magazines.

https://cumming.ucalgary.ca/resource/tourette-ocd/tourette-ocd-alberta-network

https://www.zonegiggler.ca/

This episode includes the empathy exercise, for which you will need a pen and paper, and this section of a poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carrol:

 The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'

But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
      Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
      And all of us are fat!'
No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
      They thanked him much for that

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

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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.