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 Grand Unified Theory of Bullshit – Tom Curry & Cecil Cicirello

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
The Grand Unified Theory of Bullshit – Tom Curry & Cecil Cicirello
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The Grand Unified Theory of Bullshit suggests that no matter where it’s from, all bullshit smells the same. From Alternative Medicine to the insurrection in Washington, the underlying cognitive biases that make us all susceptible to grifters and bad actors are similar. No matter how silly or harmless bad ideas may seem at first, because they all reinforce and rely on bad thinking, they are all actually dangerous and harmful. In their new book “The Grand Unified Theory of Bullshit”, Cecil and Tom describe not only the harms of a variety of commonly held forms of grift and bullshit, but also offer a plan on what steps need to be taken in real terms to reduce your susceptibility to bullshit.

Tom Curry and Cecil Cicirello began the Cognitive Dissonance podcast in 2011 to cover news and current affairs from a skeptical, secular and political perspective. In 2022, they distilled what they’d learned from over 600 shows into their first book: The Grand Unified Theory of Bullshit, which they’ll be discussing in conversation with Michael Marshall.

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

Spotting science that just doesn’t add up – Dr Nick Brown

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Spotting science that just doesn't add up - Dr Nick Brown
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The skeptical movement rightly suggests that people should place more faith in peer-reviewed scientific articles than in YouTube videos or written claims made by random people on the Internet. However, science is not always particularly reliable either. In this talk, I will give some examples of how peer-reviewed scientific work that may attract a lot of public attention and even influence public policy decisions can contain remarkably elementary errors (not all of which are necessarily accidental). Some of these errors can be detected even by readers with relatively little mathematical or statistical expertise.

Ten years ago, Nick Brown was a British IT manager living in France. Now he is an Irish psychologist living in Spain. He received his PhD from the University of Groningen in 2019, with his thesis being entitled “Can Positive Emotions Improve Physical Health?” (spoiler: there’s no good evidence). His work on debunking bad science has been featured in The Observer and Science, but nobody has paid him any money for it yet.

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

Beyond the Hype: The Inside Story of Science’s Biggest Media Controversies – Fiona Fox

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Beyond the Hype: The Inside Story of Science’s Biggest Media Controversies – Fiona Fox
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The Director of The Science Media Centre, Fiona Fox, examines some of the stories that hit the headlines for the wrong reasons – Frankenfoods, Climategate and more – but tells a positive story of how over the last two decades more scientists have engaged openly with the press and how this has helped transform the way science is reported.

But Fox argues that not everything has moved in the right direction and highlights the way the government is exerting ever more control over the communication activities of publicly funded scientists – resulting in a worrying blurring of lines between scientific data and government ‘messaging’.

As founding director of the Science Media Centre, Britain’s independent science press office, Fiona Fox works closely with scientists, press officers and science journalists alike in order to improve the public’s access to and understanding of science. Fiona has received many accolades for her services to science, including an OBE, honorary fellowships of the Academy of Medical Science, the Royal Society of Biology and the British Pharmacology Society, and a special award for promoting openness in animal research. She has a blog on science and the media and writes for science publications and other media.

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

RETRO: How the UK can get to zero carbon – Chris Goodall

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
RETRO: How the UK can get to zero carbon – Chris Goodall
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The UK has declared a ‘climate emergency’ and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. So how do we get there? Drawing on actions, policies and technologies already emerging around the world, Chris Goodall sets out the ways to achieve this. His proposals include:

-Building a huge over-capacity of wind and solar energy, storing the excess as hydrogen.
-Using hydrogen to fuel our trains, shipping, boilers and heavy industry, while electrifying buses, trucks and cars.
-Building a huge over-capacity of wind and solar energy, storing the excess as hydrogen.
-Using technical solutions to capture CO2 from the air, and biochar to lock carbon in the soil.

This episode also includes a bonus Q&A that we recorded afterwards due to having so many excellent questions from our audience.

Chris Goodall is a businessman, author and expert on new energy technologies. His expertise lies in low carbon energy generation, low carbon heat, electric cars, storage and geoengineering.

His début book “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life” won the 2007 Clarion award for non-fiction. His second book, “Ten Technologies to Fix Energy and Climate” (2008), was one of the Financial Times’ Books of the Year. His other works include “The Green Guide for Business” (2010), “Sustainability: All That Matters” (2012) and “Switch” (2016).

His latest book, “What We Need to Do Now For a Zero Carbon Future” was published in February 2020.

Goodall operates the website Carbon Commentary. He has also written for The Guardian, The Independent, Abundance and the Ecologist. He has spoken at literary festivals around the UK, at the British Library, the Science Museum and many universities.

He is an alumnus of the University of Cambridge and Harvard Business School (MBA).

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

RETRO: How to name your element – Kit Chapman

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
RETRO: How to name your element – Kit Chapman
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Join journalist and science historian Kit Chapman on an adventure across chemistry as he shares the bizarre stories behind the names of the building blocks of science. Which element got its name thanks to a D&D monster? Why couldn’t a German team call the discovery after the nearby town? And how did Lemmy from Motorhead almost end up on the periodic table?

Kit Chapman is an award-winning science journalist with bylines in the Daily Telegraph, Nature, New Scientist and Chemistry World, among others. His first popular science book, Superheavy: Making and Breaking the Periodic Table, was shortlisted for the AAAS SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Kit is currently completing a PhD in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Sunderland.

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

RETRO: The age of antibiotic resistance – Sian Williams

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
RETRO: The age of antibiotic resistance – Sian Williams
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Cornerstones of modern medicine are at risk due to drug-resistant infections, with routine surgery, common illnesses and minor injuries becoming potentially life-threatening. People are already dying from drug-resistant infections, and as more drugs stop working, more lives will be put in danger. Everyone is at risk. Sian Williams will discuss the causes behind this major public health issue and how organizations such as the Wellcome Trust are helping to address the challenge.

Sian will also explore why we’re not seeing new antibiotics entering the market, the ethical dilemmas involved in the decision to prescribe new drugs, and how we could help GPs stop over-prescription of antibiotics.

Sian Williams is a Policy Officer with the Wellcome Trust’s Drug-Resistant Infections priority programme, a team with a £175m commitment to address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. The programme works with scientists and policy makers to advocate for and support evidence-based decision making globally. She earned a 1st class honours degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London.

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

RETRO: The Blinding Light of Sophisticated Pseudoscience – Jonathan Jarry

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
RETRO: The Blinding Light of Sophisticated Pseudoscience – Jonathan Jarry
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Alternative medicine proponents have become really good at building a body of research that looks more and more like good science to the casual observer. In the face of positive randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the skeptic’s approach has to become more sophisticated to crack this façade of believability. We will go through three cases that illustrate how convincing the evidence for pseudoscience looks and what’s actually happening under the bonnet.

Jonathan Jarry is a science communicator in Montreal, Canada with the McGill Office for Science and Society, dedicated to separating sense from nonsense on the scientific stage. He brings his experience in cancer research, human genetics, rehabilitation research, and forensic biology to the work he does for the public. With cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos, he co-hosts the award-winning medical podcast The Body of Evidence, which aims to contextualize findings in the realm of health research and answer the public’s most pressing questions about the biomedical sciences while also being funny and entertaining.

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

Off The Edge: Flat earthers, conspiracy culture, and why people will believe anything – Kelly Weill

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Off The Edge: Flat earthers, conspiracy culture, and why people will believe anything – Kelly Weill
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Since 2015, the long-running conspiracy theory of a flat Earth – that we live on a flat plane, under a flat dome, or on a planet circled by a ring of ice – has increasingly gained a foothold in the mainstream. What was once a concept on the fringes of society, seen as a long-running joke and kept to niche message boards, pamphlets, and blogs, is now a widespread idea held by millions of people, including politicians, media personalities, athletes, and celebrities. Where did this theory come from and why is it suddenly everywhere? Daily Beast extremism and internet journalist – and leading voice on online conspiracy theories –Kelly Weill will give a definitive and compelling history of the Flat Earth movement, from its origins in an 1800s English commune to its spread in the early 2000s with the rise of Facebook and YouTube to the recent disinformation campaign of the 2020 presidential election and COVID-19 pandemic.

Kelly Weill is a journalist at the Daily Beast, where she covers extremism, disinformation, and the internet. As a leading media voice on the role of online conspiracy theories in current affairs, she has discussed Flat Earth and other digital fringes on ABC’s Nightline, CNN, Al Jazeera, and other national and international news outlets. She lives in New York.

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

RETRO: The World According to Physics – Jim Al-Khalili

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
RETRO: The World According to Physics – Jim Al-Khalili
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Where does theoretical physics stand at the end of the second decade of the 21st century? Are we finally approaching the end of physics, when the rich tapestry of the universe will be revealed to us and we will finally understand the true nature of reality? If we are honest then we must admit that, while what we do know is dazzlingly impressive, there is much we have yet to grasp, from the nature of space and time to the meaning quantum mechanics. This whistle-stop tour of modern physics is an appraisal of what we know and what we have yet to figure out.

Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS is a quantum physicist, author and broadcaster and one of the best-known science communicators in Britain. He holds a Distinguished Chair in Physics at the University of Surrey where he teaches and conducts his research. He received a PhD in nuclear theory in 1989 and has since published over 100 research papers. He has written twelve books on popular science, between them translated into over twenty-six languages, as well as his first novel. He is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries and the long-running Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific. He is a recipient of the Royal Society Faraday medal, the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal and the Stephen Hawking Medal. His latest book, on which this talk is based, is The World According to Physics, published by Princeton University Press.

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

Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World – Kit Chapman

Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast
Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World – Kit Chapman
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Racing Green is a fascinating exploration of how science in motorsport extends its reach far beyond the track. The efforts of engineers to go a hundredth of a second faster ripples into our daily lives. We use the aerodynamics of a Formula 1 car to keep our food cool in the supermarket and stop skyscrapers wreaking havoc; we can thank crash helmets and rear view mirrors to keep us safe; and the cutting edge of our future – from electric and autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and virtual reality – began on the track. Motorsport is a testbed, the world’s fastest R&D lab. Including stories from Formula 1, Formula E, land speed racing and NASCAR, and interviews with an incredible cast of characters, from aerodynamicists to Formula E racing drivers, Racing Green is your insider’s guide to how the sport of today could save the world of tomorrow. With an emphasis on green technology, Kit Chapman explores incredible breakthroughs in electric batteries, graphene, hydrogen power, and biofuels. Despite its gas-guzzling past, the constant striving for efficiency and speed from the motorsport industry is driving green innovation. With the stratospheric rise of Formula E and Extreme E, will the drive to produce ever faster electric vehicles help to save our planet? A mix of travelogue and historical retrospective, Racing Green takes us around the world to explore the future of car development, from Silverstone to the Amazon jungle, and from Monaco to the Bonneville Salt Flats. This is a truly electrifying read.

Kit Chapman is an award-winning journalist and adventurer. He is a lifelong motorsports fan who has previously worked with Virgin Racing’s Formula E team to cover the chemistry and material science of their racing cars. With more than a decade of experience writing for titles such as Nature, New Scientist, Chemistry World, Physics World and the Daily Telegraph, his work has taken him to more than 60 countries as he seeks amazing tales from the cutting edge of science. He has interviewed more than a dozen Nobel prize winners, been inside the world’s fastest computer and once convinced an Oscar-winning actress he was a cyborg. Kit’s first book, Superheavy, was shortlisted for the AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science books.

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