|The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe|
|Hosted by||Dr. Steven Novella|
Cara Santa Maria
|Genre||Science and skepticism|
|Original release||May 4, 2005 - present|
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.
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, 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. 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.
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.
The show's theme music is "Theorem" by the San Francisco rock band, Kineto. 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.
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:
|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|
|June 29, 2005||5||Michael Shermer||Founder of The Skeptics Society, author of Why People Believe Weird Things|
|September 7, 2005||12||Steve Milloy||Founder of junkscience.com|
|October 6, 2005||15||Chris Mooney||Author of The Republican War on Science|
|July 5, 2006||50||Gerald Posner||Author of Case Closed|
|July 12, 2006||51||Neal Adams||A proponent of the hollow and expanding earth hypotheses|
|October 4, 2006||63||Michael Shermer||Founder of The Skeptics Society, author of Why People Believe Weird Things|
|December 13, 2006||73||B. Alan Wallace||The president and founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies|
|January 31, 2007||80||Teller||One-half of the illusionist team Penn and Teller|
|February 7, 2007||81||Adam Savage and Tory Belleci||From the Discovery Channel show MythBusters|
|February 15, 2007||82||Christopher Hitchens||Journalist and literary critic, author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything|
|February 15, 2007||82||Matt Stone||Co-creator of South Park|
|February 21, 2007||83||Julia Sweeney||Former Saturday Night Live cast member|
|April 18, 2007||91||Susan Blackmore||PhD in parapsychology, skeptic, and author|
|July 25, 2007||105||Jimmy Carter||39th President of the United States, Nobel laureate|
|September 5, 2007||111||Bill Nye||"The Science Guy"|
|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|
|December 7, 2013||438||Susan Gerbic & Tim Farley||Founder of Guerrilla Skepticism on popflock.com resource & The creator of WhatsTheHarm.net|
|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"|
|December 15, 2018||701||Susan Gerbic||Founder of Guerrilla Skepticism on popflock.com resource discussing that project|
|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|
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." 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.
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. Other benchmarks include a 12-hour and 24-hour live show after reaching 4,000 and 5,500 supporters, respectively. 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.
A companion podcast, The Skeptics' Guide 5x5 (SGU 5x5 for short), described as "five minutes with five skeptics", consist of single-topic episodes which often delve into specific types of logical fallacy. 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.
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.