The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe
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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe
Skepticsguideweb.png
Presentation
Hosted byDr. Steven Novella
Jay Novella
Bob Novella
Evan Bernstein
Cara Santa Maria
GenreScience and skepticism
UpdatesWeekly
Publication
Original releaseMay 4, 2005 - present
Websitewww.theskepticsguide.org

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (SGU) is a weekly podcast hosted by Steven Novella, MD, along with a panel of "skeptical rogues." It is named to evoke The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and is the official podcast of the New England Skeptical Society. The show features discussions of recent scientific developments in layman's terms, and interviews authors, people in the area of science, and other famous skeptics. The show also includes discussions of myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, the paranormal, and many general forms of superstition, from the point of view of scientific skepticism.

Hosts

The original lineup of the podcast consisted of Steven Novella, Evan Bernstein, Perry DeAngelis, Robert "Bob" Novella and Jay Novella. Rebecca Watson joined in March 2006. DeAngelis died in 2007 shortly before his 44th birthday. Watson departed the show at the end of 2014,[1] and Cara Santa Maria joined the cast in July 2015.

Until 2018 there were no full-time employees of the podcast, although that was in part due to a defamation lawsuit filed by Edward Tobinick that consumed financial resources that would have otherwise been available.[2] In 2018 Jay Novella, who had previously both been one of the cast and managed the podcast's website, was employed full-time as a result of reaching a Patreon target of 3,000 donors.[2]

Production

SGU live recording at CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas. From left to right: Rachael Dunlop (guest), Evan Bernstein, Jay Novella, Steven Novella, Cara Santa Maria, and Bob Novella.

The show is prerecorded via a Skype conference call. Each caller records their own audio and then the individually recorded tracks are mixed together when Steven Novella edits the show in post-production. British comedian and skeptic Iszi Lawrence provides voice-over introductions for the show and certain segments.

Segments include interviews, discussions of significant but largely unknown figures in science, short games and puzzles played with the audience or between the panellists, and accounts of relevant events in the news that relate to skepticism. Shows last about 80 minutes, although on September 23, 2011, SGU produced a 24-hour-long podcast with contributions by skeptics from around the world. It was referred to as SGU-24.

Theme music

The show's theme music is "Theorem" by the San Francisco rock band, Kineto.[3] The theme was acquired from the Podsafe Music Network. Prior to the November 2, 2005 show, Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science" was the show's theme.

Guests

Many Skeptics' Guide episodes contain interviews. Often the interviews feature well-known scientists or skeptics, for instance Massimo Pigliucci or Joe Nickell. Rarely the guests are proponents of fringe or pseudoscientific views. Some episodes have guest rogues, such as Bill Nye, participating in the entire podcast. Notable guests include the following:[4]

Show Date Episode Guest Description
Frequent guest --- James Randi A Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic, founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation
Frequent guest --- Phil Plait An American astronomer and skeptic, former president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, known as "The Bad Astronomer"
Frequent guest --- George Hrab Musician, skeptic podcaster
Frequent guest --- Richard Saunders An Australian skeptic, podcaster and professional origamist[5]
June 29, 2005 5 Michael Shermer Founder of The Skeptics Society, author of Why People Believe Weird Things[5]
September 7, 2005 12 Steve Milloy Founder of junkscience.com
October 6, 2005 15 Chris Mooney Author of The Republican War on Science[5]
July 5, 2006 50 Gerald Posner Author of Case Closed[5]
July 12, 2006 51 Neal Adams A proponent of the hollow and expanding earth hypotheses[5]
October 4, 2006 63 Michael Shermer Founder of The Skeptics Society, author of Why People Believe Weird Things[5]
December 13, 2006 73 B. Alan Wallace The president and founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies[5]
January 31, 2007 80 Teller One-half of the illusionist team Penn and Teller[5]
February 7, 2007 81 Adam Savage and Tory Belleci From the Discovery Channel show MythBusters[5]
February 15, 2007 82 Christopher Hitchens Journalist and literary critic, author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[5][6]
February 15, 2007 82 Matt Stone Co-creator of South Park[5]
February 21, 2007 83 Julia Sweeney Former Saturday Night Live cast member[5]
April 18, 2007 91 Susan Blackmore PhD in parapsychology, skeptic, and author[7]
July 25, 2007 105 Jimmy Carter 39th President of the United States, Nobel laureate[5][8]
September 5, 2007 111 Bill Nye "The Science Guy"[5]
November 14, 2007 121 Paul Kurtz Committee for Skeptical Inquiry founder and chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism
July 16, 2008 156 Neil deGrasse Tyson An American astrophysicist and science communicator
August 26, 2008 162 Richard Saunders An Australian skeptic, podcaster and professional origamist
October 8, 2008 168 PZ Myers An American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the Pharyngula science blog
January 15, 2009 182 Michio Kaku Theoretical physicist
April 22, 2009 196 Seth Shostak An American astronomer and senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute
May 13, 2009 199 Rusty Schweickart An American Apollo astronaut
October 28, 2009 219 Mark Edward Mentalist
March 25, 2010 245 George Hrab Musician, skeptic podcaster
August 11, 2010 265 Rhys Morgan Teenage consumer advocate
May 9, 2011 304 Jon Ronson Author of The Psychopath Test
November 19, 2011 331 Neil deGrasse Tyson An American astrophysicist and science communicator
December 3, 2011 333 Rhys Morgan Teenage consumer advocate
September 8, 2012 373 Billy West Voice actor on Futurama and other shows
September 29, 2012 376 Pamela Gay Astronomer and podcaster
October 20, 2012 379 Jamy Ian Swiss Close-up magician
November 17, 2012 383 Bruce Hood Psychologist and author
December 1, 2012 385 Banachek Mentalist and director of the JREF Million Dollar Challenge
January 5, 2013 390 Massimo Pigliucci Philosopher and author
January 26, 2013 393 Zack Kopplin Educational activist
March 2, 2013 398 Jon Ronson Journalist and documentary film maker
May 11, 2013 408 Don McLeroy Creationist and former member of the Texas State Board of Education
June 22, 2013 414 Daniel Loxton Illustrator and editor of Junior Skeptic magazine
June 13, 2013 417 Paul Offit Pediatrician and vaccine advocate
August 10, 2013 421 Michael E. Mann Climatologist
August 24, 2013 423 Sanal Edamaruku Author and founding president of Rationalist International
August 31, 2013 424 Cara Santa Maria Science communicator
October 12, 2013 430 Marty Klein Sex therapist and author
November 9, 2013 434 Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas Science writers and Podcasters
November 16, 2013 435 Gerald Posner Journalist and author[9]
December 7, 2013 438 Susan Gerbic & Tim Farley Founder of Guerrilla Skepticism on popflock.com resource & The creator of WhatsTheHarm.net[10]
January 11, 2014 443 Mark Crislip Medical doctor and podcaster
January 25, 2014 445 Karen Stollznow Linguist and podcaster
March 1, 2014 451 Michio Kaku Physicist and science communicator
March 15, 2014 453 Jennifer Ouellette Science writer
April 5, 2014 456 James Marsters Actor and musician
May 3, 2014 460 Elise Andrew Founder and maintainer of the "I Fucking Love Science" Facebook page
September 27, 2014 481 Daniel Dennett Philosopher and cognitive scientist
July 21, 2018 680 Bill Nye "The Science Guy"[11]
December 15, 2018 701 Susan Gerbic Founder of Guerrilla Skepticism on popflock.com resource discussing that project[12]
March 9, 2019 713 Susan Gerbic Founder of Guerrilla Skepticism on popflock.com resource discussing New York Times coverage of psychic sting operation on Thomas John[13][14]

Recognition

The Skeptics' Guide won the 2009 Podcast Awards in the "Education" category, and the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 Podcast Awards in the "Science" category.[15]

It was also a 2014 "Dose of Rationality" Top 10 Podcast,[16] and a 2010 Physics.org Best Podcast nominee.[17]

Sponsors and membership

On July 30, 2013, Dr. Steven Novella announced that the SGU would begin offering membership and airing sponsors. Novella went on to say that the money raised would go into funding skeptical activities, including but not limited to, development of skeptical educational content and web-series such as "Occ The Skeptical Caveman". The addition of sponsors is not permanent, according to Novella, they shall be removed "if 4% of listeners support the SGU through membership at an average of the $8 per month level."[18] Though membership has begun, the SGU continues to publish a free weekly sponsored podcast. Membership entitles one to an ad-free version of The SGU, extra content, and discounts to NECSS (The Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism). Membership range from $4/month to $200/month.[19]

Additional financial support from listeners is provided through Patreon. The SGU has established several goals after achieving a certain number of financial supporters. A major benchmark was reached in 2018 with 3,000 Patreon supporters that sustained enough predictable income for a full-time employee.[2] Other benchmarks include a 12-hour and 24-hour live show after reaching 4,000 and 5,500 supporters, respectively.[1] These live shows may be located on the most complete and accurate reproduction of the Starship Enterprise Star Trek: The Original Series set, which was built by James Cawley and can be seen on the SGU Patreon page introduction video.[2]

SGU 5x5

A companion podcast, The Skeptics' Guide 5x5 (SGU 5x5 for short), described as "five minutes with five skeptics",[20] consist of single-topic episodes which often delve into specific types of logical fallacy.[21] SGU 5x5 did not appear regularly and there were no episodes between January 26, 2011, and February 8, 2012. There have been no episodes released since May 9, 2012.[22]

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe book

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake is a 2018 book written by Steven Novella and co-authored by the other current co-hosts of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast--Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein. It also contains posthumous material from former co-host Perry DeAngelis. The book is meant to be an all-encompassing guide to skeptical thinking. In an interview with The European Skeptics Podcast, Jay Novella describes their approach to writing the book from the "point of view of an alien species observing the earth from a skeptical perspective using critical thinking," reminiscent of the podcast's namesake The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.[2]

References

  1. ^ Watson, Rebecca (December 27, 2014). "Why I've Left SGU". Skepchick.org. Skepchick. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "TheESP Ep. #160 - Jay Novella & The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe". soundcloud.com (Podcast). March 4, 2019. Event occurs at 1:16:26. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ "Kineto's Myspace page". Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved 2011.
  4. ^ "Episode list". theskepticsguide.org. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast archive, archived from the original on May 3, 2013
  6. ^ Gerbic, Susan. "An Interview with CSICon Speaker Bob Novella". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. Archived from the original on January 14, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "SGU Episode 91". sgutranscripts.org. SGU Productions. Archived from the original on November 24, 2017. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ "Larry King needs a new format". The Herald Tribune. January 21, 2008. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved 2008.
  9. ^ "SGU Episode 435". SGUtranscripts.org. SGU Productions. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "SGU Episode 438". SGUtranscripts.org. SGU Productions. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ "Podcast #680 - July 21st, 2018". theskepticsguide.org. SGU Productions. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Podcast #701 - December 15th, 2018". theskepticsguide.org. SGU Productions. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "Podcast #713 - March 9th, 2019". Facebook.com. SGU Productions. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ "Podcast #713 - March 9th, 2019". theskepticsguide.org. SGU Productions. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ "Podcast Award Winners 2005-2014". The People's Choice Podcast Awards. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ Sacerich, Robert (July 9, 2014). "The 2014 "Dose of Rationality" Top 10 Podcasts!". Rationality Unleashed. Archived from the original on November 20, 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ "The physics.org web awards 2010". Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on December 4, 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ "The SGU and Skeptical Activism". Neurologica Blog. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  19. ^ "Member Subscription". The Skeptics Guide To The Universe. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  20. ^ "The NESS". The New England Skeptical Society. Archived from the original on March 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  21. ^ Strohmeyer, Robert (December 15, 2009). "The Web's Most Illogical Arguments". Computerworld. IDG News Service. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  22. ^ "List of SGU 5x5 podcast episodes". Archived from the original on February 7, 2015. Retrieved 2015.

External links


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