Skeptics with a K: Episode #089


Welcome to 2013! Featuring diets, dogs, measles and elves. Plus chance, cancer, sunshine and scientology. Building space cathedrals in the New Mexico desert, it’s Skeptics with a K. You were not there!

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  1. #1 by Annika Victoria on January 10, 2013 - 21:49

    Yesss! My favourite thing about every second Thursday is downloading your podcast. Keep on being amazing!

  2. #2 by B. Root on January 11, 2013 - 08:42

    Wanted to give a bit of feedbak about the choke hold in Skyfall. If I recall correctly Bond chokes the guy out with a rear naked choke, and the guy passes out,but the reason is not, as Marsh seems to think, that his breathing is blocked. The purpose of any choke hold is to block the arteries in the neck, thus depriving oxygen from the brain, which leads to rapid loss of consciousness. It only takes a few seconds and is much quicker way to put someone to sleep than trying to asphyxiate them. It won’t kill the opponent but when they are asleep it is much easier to take care of them, or in Bond’s case, just let them slip down and drown. I was actually quite impressed how accurate and inventive the scene was. Shame that the rest of the movie was shite.

  3. #3 by Glynn on January 11, 2013 - 10:41

    James Bond, when in the water could have crushed the arteries supplying blood to the brain OR have crushed the vagus nerve both potentially fatal.

    By the way, your ‘highway to the dangerzone’ gag was criminally overlooked in my humble opinion.

  4. #4 by Carl F on January 12, 2013 - 17:35

    Hi guys,

    I share your reluctance to believe there is any reason that untrained dogs would know why the “odour” of the cancer they were smelling would be anything for them to be anxious about.

    However, there is some precedent to analysis of breath being used to detect cancer before the start of treatment (see link – it is an open access article).

    http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v103/n4/full/6605810a.html

    The authors expose breath samples taken from newly diagnosed patients to an electronic detector coated with various compounds. The compounds on the detector interact with the organic substances in the test subjects’ breath, altering the signal being sent back to the recorder.

    This doesn’t identity the compounds, but does allow the researchers to apply statistical analysis to features of the electronic signals from the detector sample to see if there is a difference between patients and controls.

    It is a fairly small study by a group who are trying to market their invention’s edge over other techniques (such as mass spectrometry) which can directly identify compounds but has some issues getting breath samples into the machine reliably. It would take years to get this kind of test proven and accepted, on the other hand it is certainly not the only study in this area.

    As such, I think it is entirely plausible that some chemical component of the breath could be used to detect cancers, no matter where they are in the body. As for training dogs, I would say it isn’t impossible but that if a machine can be designed to do this it would be much more high-throughput than putting a sniffer dog in every GP’s office.

  5. #5 by Jaska on January 12, 2013 - 21:11

    Oi! You talked about James Bond choking someone under water: this is done not by restricting airflow (aka “rapechoke”), but by restricting blood flow to the brain. Look up Brazillian Jiu jutsu or judo for reference, maybe try it :) It takes only few seconds to black out from a proper choke.

  6. #6 by Jaska on January 12, 2013 - 21:12

    PS. Greetings from Finland, a huge fan. (A crappy example of chokes: http://youtu.be/xEXjdipWsQ8)

  7. #7 by Jaska on January 12, 2013 - 21:13

    A better, but horrific: http://youtu.be/D0-YsHc_5bM

  8. #8 by Julia on January 13, 2013 - 22:43

    It’s actually been quite cold here in Texas for about the past month. And if you go to a city like Austin the people aren’t as terrible. And there’s plenty of woo to make fun of: organic and gluten-free food pushers, reiki, reflexology, the scientologist church… Not too many snakes either.

  9. #9 by HappyEvilSlosh on January 14, 2013 - 01:54

    I enjoyed your Tolkien heavy intro and had two comments. First is that you’re totally right, especially if you can make it through the Silmarillion, that the elves are complete children and just generally horrible people. Secondly there’s an ‘unofficial sequal’, The Last Ringbearer, to the Lord of the Rings by a Russian author. I haven’t read it but I really like the premise. In this book apparently based on the premise that the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit was written by the victors. In The Last Ringbearer however Morder is described as a peaceful country on the verge of an industrial revolution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer

  10. #10 by Pip on January 19, 2013 - 17:24

    I think if the scientologists wanted to be seen from space, they should have made the crop circles bigger.

    Maybe Tom Cruise didn’t have an Escher Sketch as a child and is making up for it now.

    Anyways, to find it on Google maps.
    Coordinates: 35°31′28.56″N 104°34′20.20″W

  11. #11 by Andy on January 23, 2013 - 19:28

    Interesting article on the dogs detecting illness. I was especially interested in the mentions of the diabetic detecting dogs. In this article here http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/health/health/3940440/Worlds-first-dog-to-be-a-lifesaver-for-two-diabetic-owners.html the family are friends of mine and I have seen the dog in action. I know this is not proof but the dog starting reacting to the son and when he was tested his blood sugar was wrong. I know the dog has been trained a lot to reach this stage but it was nice to see it work (at least in this one instance). I am sure if you want any more information on it I can find out for you.

  12. #12 by Carlos on January 30, 2013 - 18:36

    Speaking of Texas and Austin, we’ve also got the Atheist Community of Austin, the Atheist Experience and Matt Dillahunty. ^^

  13. #13 by Julia on February 2, 2013 - 21:05

    I found a funny site done by the Halifax Skeptics, spoofing the “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles” by promoting the fake books “Mark’s Magnificent Meningitis”, “Paul’s Pleasant Polio”, and “Susie’s Sensational Smallpox”.
    https://sites.google.com/site/blissfulblightbooks/

  14. #14 by zim on March 21, 2013 - 12:23

    ive just listened to this episode and i came accross somthing which was a little odd which you might not of thought about.

    I was thinking about when you talking to your friend about the lottery and his answer was that doing the same numbers which had came out before had no chance of comming out again.
    You may have offered your friend the wrong advice .
    Given that the number are supposed to be random there might acctualy be a combination of balls which has no chance of comming out.

    A example of this could be in order to get the required combination numbers, the mixing of the balls at the bottom of the lottery machine would need to last 10mins59.09 secs, but this part of the lottery only lasts for a few minutes
    even if this is only a single chance no matter how small a chance and even if this effect is only possible on a single lottery machine and all other machines have no effect .
    It would probably be better to do a combination of number which has been proven to come out in the time provided.
    at least then you have a equal chance to win compaired to any other combination and if there is a combination that cant come out your chance to win could only improve.

(will not be published)