Show cover of Skeptics in the Pub Online Podcast

Skeptics in the Pub Online 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 will 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 will release an episode from the archive.


Does life know about quantum mechanics? – Professor Jim Al-Khalili
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.
70:48 05/02/2024
Born to dance? The evolutionary origins of music making – Dr Jacques Launay
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.
92:25 25/12/2023
Dangerous Products: In The Home & In Our Stomachs – David Frank and Virginia Ng
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.
97:10 18/12/2023
Resisting Incarceration: Prisons, Activism and Abolition – Professor Phil Scraton
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.
104:25 13/11/2023
A Dog’s World – Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans – Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff
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 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 and his Twitter is @MarcBekoff The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
89:58 06/11/2023
Jewish Space Lasers – Mike Rothschild
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
75:06 30/10/2023
Pseudo-Archaeology: Fake news and new fakes – Mirko Gutjahr
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 The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
84:11 21/08/2023
Too dangerous to publish? Navigating the high-stakes nature of AI research – Rosie Campbell
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.
82:15 13/08/2023
The Human Cosmos – Dr Jo Marchant
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
91:38 06/08/2023
The Patriarchs: How men came to rule – Angela Saini
Award-winning science journalist Angela Saini goes in search of the true roots of gendered oppression, uncovering a complex history of how male domination became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present. Travelling to the world’s earliest known human settlements, analysing the latest research findings in science and archaeology, and tracing cultural and political histories from the Americas to Asia, she overturns simplistic universal theories to show that what patriarchy is and how far it goes back really depends on where you are. Despite the push back against sexism and exploitation in our own time, even revolutionary efforts to bring about equality have often ended in failure and backlash. Saini ends by asking what part we all play – women included – in keeping patriarchal structures alive, and why we need to look beyond the old narratives to understand why it persists in the present. Angela Saini is an award-winning journalist based in New York, known globally for her work on race and gender. She has presented science programmes on BBC radio and television, and her writing has appeared in National Geographic, Wired, the Lancet and Nature. She is the author of four books, including Superior: The Return of Race Science, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, which has been translated into fourteen languages. Both are on university reading lists across the world. Her latest book The Patriarchs, on the origins of patriarchy, has been hailed as a highlight for 2023 by the Financial Times, Guardian and New Statesman. Angela has a Masters in Engineering from the University of Oxford and has been a Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Humboldt Foundation in Berlin. In 2020 she was named one of the world’s top 50 thinkers by Prospect magazine. She has delivered distinguished lectures and keynotes at Oxford, Yale, Princeton and CERN in Geneva. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
89:37 30/07/2023
Planetary Protection: Guardians of the Galaxy or lame science-party poopers? – Dr Jennifer Wadsworth
What is planetary protection? Is it even important? Because it sounds like it’s either an incredibly exciting space battle strategy from Independence Day or an exceedingly dull health and safety class that future generations will be subjected to. In reality it’s kind of both (except that thankfully it’s not from Independence Day). I’m a space scientist who recently finished my postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center, California, where I spent my time developing new ideas to help in the often-overlooked field of planetary protection. I’ll (hopefully) convince you of its importance for our continued exploration of the solar system and how it can even be applied to help solve some of our problems here on Earth. Jennifer Wadsworth is an astrobiologist who did her PhD at the University of Edinburgh and recently completed her postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center, California. She’s particularly interested in how microbes can survive extreme radiation environments … or not, as the case may be! She enjoys long walks on the beach, and subjecting bacteria to a plethora of lethal conditions. For science.
71:50 23/07/2023
Lost and found in the Science of Emotion – Dr Dean Burnett
Why can’t we think straight when hungry? What’s the point of nightmares? And why can’t we forget embarrassing memories? Emotions can be a pain. After losing his dad to Covid-19, Dean Burnett found himself wondering what life would be like without them. And so, he decided to put his feelings under the microscope – for science. In this talk, Dean takes us on an incredible journey of discovery, stretching from the origins of life to the end of the universe. Combining expert analysis, brilliant humour and powerful insights into the grieving process, Dean uncovers how, far from holding us back and restraining logic and reason, our emotions make us who we are and allow us to think at all. Dean Burnett, 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. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
105:06 02/07/2023
Unidentified Flying Objects: Are there any images that require an extraterrestrial explanation – Dr Steve Barrett
As a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Physics, my research interests span all aspects of imaging, image processing and image analysis. This includes medical imaging (biophysics), scanning probe microscopy of atoms, molecules and surfaces (nanophysics), microscopy of earth materials (geophysics) and astrophotography. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
87:11 18/06/2023
A critical perspective on what cognitive science can tell us about first impressions and stereotypes – Dr Lou Safra
In this talk, I will present the key findings on first impressions and stereotypes offered by cognitive science. By presenting the main experimental designs that are used to product these results, I will question the limits and issues of this research and discuss how we can ensure a safe use of these results Lou Safra holds a PhD in cognitive science awarded by the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris in 2017. She is currently assistant professor in political psychology at CEVIPOF-Sciences Po and an associate researcher at the Institut d’Études Cognitives (Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives & Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives et Computationelles, École Normale Supérieure, Paris). The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
93:01 30/05/2023
How to Make the World Add Up – Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers – Tim Harford
When was the last time you read a grand statement, accompanied by a large number, and wondered whether it could really be true? Statistics are vital in helping us tell stories – we see them in the papers, on social media, and we hear them used in everyday conversation – and yet we doubt them more than ever. But numbers – in the right hands – have the power to change the world for the better. Contrary to popular belief, good statistics are not a trick, although they are a kind of magic. Good statistics are not smoke and mirrors; in fact, they help us see more clearly. Good statistics are like a telescope for an astronomer, a microscope for a bacteriologist, or an X-ray for a radiologist. If we are willing to let them, good statistics help us see things about the world around us and about ourselves – both large and small – that we would not be able to see in any other way. In How to Make the World Add Up, Tim Harford draws on his experience as both an economist and presenter of the BBC’s radio show More or Less. He takes us deep into the world of disinformation and obfuscation, bad research and misplaced motivation to find those priceless jewels of data and analysis that make communicating with numbers worthwhile. Harford’s characters range from the art forger who conned the Nazis to the stripper who fell in love with the most powerful congressman in Washington, to famous data detectives such as John Maynard Keynes, Daniel Kahneman and Florence Nightingale. He reveals how we can evaluate the claims that surround us with confidence, curiosity and a healthy level of scepticism. Using ten simple rules for understanding numbers – plus one golden rule – this extraordinarily insightful book shows how if we keep our wits about us, thinking carefully about the way numbers are sourced and presented, we can look around us and see with crystal clarity how the world adds up. Tim is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of The Next Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy, Messy, and the million-selling The Undercover Economist. Tim is a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4’s More or Less, the iTunes-topping series ‘Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy’, and the new podcast ‘Cautionary Tales’. Tim has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House. He is an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Tim was made an OBE for services to improving economic understanding in the New Year honours of 2019. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
87:13 15/05/2023
Women, Wellness, and Woo – Dr Alice Howarth
We all want to be well, right? Whether you’re a bit run down and just need a pick me up to get through the next working week, you’re suffering symptoms of a long-standing condition that you just can’t figure out or you’re reaching an age where you want security in your long-term health. The wellness industry has become ever more popular in an age where chronic illnesses can go undiagnosed for years and access to medical support for mental ill-health is either prohibitively expensive or subject to long wait times. Women and other marginalised people are sometimes dismissed or overlooked in healthcare – where resources are already stretched and spending time really listening to a patient can be difficult even without biases. To fill the gap, we often turn to the wellness industry; an amorphous, indefinable collection of well doers, businesses and practitioners who offer patients control over their health, empowerment to make medical choices that suit their needs and the gentle ear of a practitioner who’s always willing to listen. But does the wellness industry really provide answers? Are women really empowered by the range of choices available to them? Is there really a solution to “wellness”? Dr Alice Howarth is a scientist and skeptic who is also disabled and chronically ill. She’s spent years navigating the healthcare system while trying to learn how to manage her health conditions at the same time as working in academia and juggling a bunch of roles in the skeptical community. As a podcaster with Skeptics with a K and writer for The Skeptic, Alice has researched a wide variety of wellness industry hacks and products and practitioners, and the reasons people might feel encouraged to make use of them. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
90:35 30/04/2023
Food Therapy: How our psychology affects how we eat – Pixie Turner
How does food make you feel? We need food to survive, but often we don't stop to think about why we eat the way we do. From birth, we are shaped by our early psychological environment, which ultimately affects what, where, when, and why we eat. Are your parents really to blame for everything? Can you actually eat your way out of depression? Or is it perhaps a bit more complicated than that. Pixie Turner is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) and psychotherapist (MBACP), and director of The Food Therapy Centre, where she specialises in food and body image issues. She is the author of several books, including 'Food Therapy' which was released this year. In 2020–21, she co-hosted (alongside cardiothoracic surgeon Nikki Stamp) 'In Bad Taste', a podcast that casts a critical eye over the content and claims of health documentaries. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
84:28 16/04/2023
Halloween Special: I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! – Richard Wiseman and Chris French
October 31st is Halloween - traditionally the scariest night of the year (although we're a bit more scared about what might happen in the US election a few days later). All things considered, it’s pretty safe to say that this has been a slightly unsettling year for lots of people and the last thing we need right now is a bunch of ghosts and ghouls turning up and causing havoc on Halloween. Fear not, however, because we're pleased to say that ghosts don’t actually exist. But if ghosts aren’t real, why do so many people believe that they’ve seen one? How can we explain the supernatural experiences people have reported? How do places develop a reputation for being haunted? What are those things that go bump in the night? Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and author. For years, he has researched the science behind the paranormal. He will be discussing the natural explanations behind the supernatural and showing how the paranormal is perfectly normal. Richard will be Interviewed by his good friend Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths. Professor Richard Wiseman has been described by a Scientific American columnist as ‘…one of the most interesting and innovative experimental psychologists in the world today.’ His books have sold over 3 million copies and he regularly appears on the media. Richard also presents keynote talks to organisations across the world, including The Swiss Economic Forum, Google and Amazon. He holds Britain’s only Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is one of the most followed psychologists on Twitter, and the Independent On Sunday chose him as one of the top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live. Richard is a Member of the Inner Magic Circle, a Director of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and has created psychology-based YouTube videos that have attracted over 500 million views. He also acts as a creative consultant, including work with Derren Brown, The Twilight Zone and the hit television show, Brain Games. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
101:24 02/04/2023
From f#ck to microorganism – why do words sound the way they do? – Dr Shiri Lev-Ari
One of the characteristics of language is that there is no relationship between the way that words sound and their meaning. For example, there is nothing window-like about the word window, and it is named with completely different sounds in other languages, from fenêtre in French to shubak in Arabic. In this talk, I will discuss cases where the sounds of words are not arbitrary. I will start by showing what characterises the sounds of swear words across the world’s languages. I will then discuss which languages have more words whose sounds express their meaning, and why that is the case. I will end with an example that illustrates that our intuition regarding whether the sounds of certain words express their meaning can be very wrong. Dr. Shiri Lev-Ari is a cognitive scientist studying language from a social perspective. She is particularly interested in how language evolution is shaped by the social needs of the society. She holds a PhD from The University of Chicago and is currently a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
72:42 26/03/2023
The Bloody Work of Naturopaths – Britt Hermes
Naturopathy is scary! For three years, I practiced as a licensed “naturopathic doctor” in the United States. The overwhelming majority of naturopathic care relies extensively on dubious alternative therapies, rather than established protocols based on medical and scientific research. In this Halloween-themed talk, I share the experiences that led to my interest in natural medicine, some spooky naturopathic practices, and how I became the most hated naturopath in the world. Britt Hermes is a writer, scientist, and a former naturopathic doctor. She practiced as a licensed naturopath in the United States and then left the profession after realizing naturopathy is a pseudoscientific ideology. Since this time, Britt has been working to understand and communicate how she was tricked by alternative medicine, so others do not repeat her mistake. She now writes to expose issues with naturopathy, the current rising profession in alternative medicine. Her work focuses on the deceptions naturopathic practitioners employ to scam patients and contrive legitimacy in political arenas. She hopes her stories will protect patients from the false beliefs and bogus treatments sold by alternative medicine practitioners. Hermes is currently living in Germany where she is completing her doctorate in evolutionary genomics. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
73:45 19/03/2023
The social and cultural factors influencing attitudes to abortion – Lora Adair and Nicole Lozano
Scientific approaches to understanding reproductive choice - the decision to have a child, the decision to terminate a pregnancy, etc. - typically position decision-makers as rational. Attention is paid to economic forces of change (e.g., industrialisation, rising costs of living, globalisation), to explain why people are having fewer children relative to previous generations. What is missing is a description of the internal, psychological process when someone is making a choice about their reproduction, their family constellation, and their future. Are these choices rational? Do people really view children as a calculus of financial gains and losses? We explore these questions by emphasising the role that our social world plays in shaping our reproductive decisions and attitudes. Specifically, we explore the kinds of things that are important to women as they navigate their own reproductive choices. In interviews with 29 women in the UK, we find that practical concerns (health, financial resources) and relational concerns (anticipated support from others) are both critical in the decision to terminate a pregnancy. In a cross-cultural study, we find that judgments of other people’s reproductive choices are shaped by several factors - people living in places with greater gender inequality and more restrictive abortion legislation, are less likely to support the decision to abort. Our findings can help us understand reproductive choice - and the judgement and stigmatisation of reproductive choice. Ultimately, this research can help us empathise with people’s experiences. Dr. Lora Adair is a senior lecturer in psychology at Brunel University London, a member of the Centre for Culture and Evolution, and lead of the Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships working group. Her research applies feminist and evolutionary theory to investigate topics relevant to romantic relationships, intimate partner violence, and reproductive decision-making. Her research is highly engaged with the West London and broader UK community, through advisory work with NHS CCGs and research collaborations with reproductive health clinics. She is a member of The Bridge, a women’s health community advisory group and serves on the editorial board for Culture and Evolution. Dr. Nicole Lozano is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Angelo State University. Nicole leads the Cultivating Advocacy, Relationships and Equity (CARE) Lab at Angelo State using feminist and intersectional qualitative methods to explore people’s relationships with gender, parenting, trauma, and reproductive decision making. Nicole has secured approximately $250,000 in grants for a variety of research work, including exploring STEM education, reproductive health care, creativity and parenting, and developing feminist teaching methods. In addition to her research, Nicole maintains a part-time clinical practice utilising telehealth, focusing on high functioning clients experiencing depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
96:20 12/03/2023
Ethical realism in a universe without free will – Aaron Rabinowitz
Skepticism and ethics are both essential features of a life of flourishing, but what should skeptics and critical thinkers know about ethics, and how should those beliefs motivate us to action? Philosopher Aaron Rabinowitz will put forward the case that skeptics should believe that ethics is real and free will is not, and will argue that adopting these two beliefs gives us the tools we need to improve the world through applied skepticism in a way that’s compassionate without being toothless. Aaron Rabinowitz is a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University, and host of the Embrace The Void and Philosophers in Space podcast. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
84:50 05/03/2023
Mental Health Pseudoscience on Social Media – Carrie Poppy
Trauma, gaslighting, narcs, multiple personalities, and the rest of the human mind. Where better to learn about these things than TikTok, Instagram and Twitter? Carrie Poppy (Oh No, Ross and Carrie) takes you on a tour of some of the most popular social media pseudoscience, how to spot it, and what you can say when you see it. Carrie Poppy is an independent journalist who investigates fringe science, anomalous experiences, and psychology. She co-hosts Oh No Ross and Carrie, a podcast wherein she and her friend Ross try out all kinds of strange treatments, fringe theories, and secretive groups. Carrie's bachelor's degree is in philosophy (University of the Pacific) and her master's degree is in journalism (University of Southern California). She is working toward her Topics in Human Behaviour graduate certificate from Harvard Extension School, where she is also a recurring guest lecturer in Pseudoscience and Mental Health. She is co-editing a psychology textbook for Routledge and for three years has been writing a deeply-reported, disturbing and occasionally hopeful book about the trauma industry. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
98:40 26/02/2023
How the sex trafficking panic leads to Qanon conspiracy theorists – Brooke Magnanti
As the US Presidential election draws near, the world has become fascinated with the seemingly new phenomena of Qanon and other wide-ranging conspiracy theories taking over social media and mainstream politics. However, the genesis of these groups is years old and comes from a surprising place: the global anti-sex trafficking movement. Brooke Magnanti discusses what happens when well-meaning causes are sidelined by bad stats and bad faith actors seize the opportunity in the service of a more worrying trend. Brooke Magnanti is a scientist and author. She is writer of the bestselling Belle de Jour series of books, which were adapted into the hit ITV show "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" starring Billie Piper. She is also the writer of crime thrillers The Turning Tide and You Don't Know Me. Brooke was born in west central Florida in 1975. She earned a Ph.D. in the Forensic Pathology department there, specialising in human decomposition and postmortem identification. She has worked in forensic science, epidemiology, chemoinformatics and cancer research. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
90:32 19/02/2023
Ivermectin for COVID-19: A Tale of Science Gone Wrong? – Jack Lawrence
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a host of scientific triumphs but also numerous failures and declining reputations. One such example is the antiparasitic medication ivermectin, which had previously gained a reputation as a highly effective "wonder drug" but has since faced much controversy during the pandemic. Initially hailed as a potential miracle cure for COVID-19, further examination revealed that ivermectin had little effect on the disease. Jack Lawrence, played an instrumental role in uncovering signs of research misconduct in several high-profile ivermectin for COVID-19 studies after stumbling upon fabricated data in a major ivermectin study during a university assignment. Following his discovery, Jack teamed up with a group of scientific data sleuths to examine further ivermectin studies. In his talk, Jack will outline the history of ivermectin and the lessons we can draw from its rise and fall as a potential COVID-19 cure. He will also take us behind the scenes of his journey into the world of scientific fraud and how he spotted what passed the notice of many. Jack Lawrence obtained a Master’s degree from St George’s, University of London in July 2022. His research was focused on improving pancreatic cancer treatment options. He currently works on projects to improve research integrity and transparency. During the COVID-19 pandemic Jack discovered scientific misconduct and fraud in several influential papers purporting to show strong benefits for using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
67:26 12/02/2023
Confessions of a Former Fox News Christian – Seth Andrews
Seth Andrews is best known as host of the popular website, podcast, and online community, The Thinking Atheist. He is a broadcaster, storyteller, author, activist, and public speaker. However, rewind a few years and you’d meet a very different Seth Andrews. As a former evangelical Christian he was once a captive of right-wing media, and Fox News in particular. In his new book he examines the Fox News culture, its influence on public opinion, and how it fuels public outrage, bigotry, and fear. Join us for an open discussion with Seth where we’ll dip our toes into this murky pond, and perhaps find out how he escaped. You can also take the opportunity to ask your own questions. To find out more about Seth: Website: Facebook: Twitter: The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
97:20 05/02/2023
Building bridges – how to talk to conspiracy believers – Ulrike Schiesser
In the last two years conspiracy theories seemed to have spread like a different kind of virus even to people, we would never have expected to be susceptible. Discussions have been unavoidable and ugly, we lost friends, saw family members drifting away and experienced an increasing radicalization. How to respond to conspiracy narratives? Why do people believe them in the first place? Are some more susceptible to it than others? What are good conversation strategies? Should you break off contact? What if it involves close relatives? How can we connect despite different world views? Ulrike Schiesser is a psychologist and psychotherapist working at the Federal Office for Cult Affaires (Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen) an Austrian state-run office who who deals with cults and various problematic developments in the field of esotericism, personality cults, authoritarian and monopolizing group structures and conspiracy theories. She does counselling of family members of conspiracy affiliated persons and public stakeholders and accompanies people through rethinking and change processes. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
72:58 29/01/2023
Take the Redpill: Understanding the Allure of Conspiratorial Thinking among Proud Boys – Samantha Kutner
Recent global events have led many to ask how far right groups like the Proud Boys are linked to Qanon, Lockdown Protests, Save The Children, and other disinformation vectors. In "Take the Redpill" her latest publication with @GJIA_Online, Samantha Kutner answers a different question: How does the Proud Boys redpill entry into recruitment make them susceptible to conspiracy theories? Samantha Kutner received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Nevada, Reno. She studies violent extremism and the gender dynamics of radicalization. Her research has been published in the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism Studies in the Hague and Georgetown University's Journal of International Affairs and referenced in Rolling Stone, Truth or Fiction, Miami New Times, The Daily Beast, and Nation of Change. As an independent consultant, Samantha provides training presentations informed by her ethnographic research with Proud Boys and Antifascists. To learn more about Samantha, her research, and Glitterpill, visit and follow her on Twitter: @ashkenaz89. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
107:12 22/01/2023
The Skeptics’ Guide to Vexillology – Dr Tom Williamson
Flags! They’re everywhere, from battlefields to Pride marches to the World Cup. But what secrets and mysteries do flags hold? Why do some people get upset if you say Union Flag instead of Union Jack? Are remainers right when they say they want their star back? Why do the bad guys have such well-designed flags? And just what does it mean to fly at half mast?Tom Williamson, whose fascination with the subject began with investigating his grandfather’s souvenirs, will attempt to answer these questions and more in this taste of vexillology, the study of flags. Every aspect of this diverse field will be covered, so look forward to history, politics and design. Flags: not just colourful pieces of cloth! Graduating with a PhD in Systems Biology from the University of Manchester, Tom Williamson has decided to do nothing with it whatsoever and instead spends his days designing tills for some of the UK’s biggest charities. When he’s not doing that, Tom is one half of the Retrospecticus podcast, a show that examines The Simpsons and the events in modern history that surround it. Outside of that, Tom developed the word salad generator Wisdom of Chopra, a website that was used to win an IgNobel prize. The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
86:26 15/01/2023
RETRO: Suffragettes Vs Velociraptors – How two of the coolest things in history have been misunderstood – Iszi Lawrence
The intriguing title of the talk pretty much speaks for itself, and absolves us of not knowing any more. However, if you've ever wondered which of them would win in a fight, then you'll finally get an answer!Iszi Lawrence is the Author of The Unstoppable Letty Pegg (Bloomsbury), presenter of BBC Radio 4's Making History, The British Museum Membercast, Terrible Lizards and The Z List Dead List Podcasts. She is also a comedian and voice of The Skeptics Guide To The Universe. To find out more about Iszi: Website: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: YouTube: The music used in this episode is by Thula Borah and is used with permission.
69:52 18/12/2022