Pod­cast: Skep­toid https://skep­ Host: Brian Dun­nin Episode Count: 600+ For­mat: Sin­gle Voice Read­ing Es­tab­lished: 2006 Fre­quency: Weekly Top­ics: Just about ev­ery­thing

Fortean Times - - Reviews / Podcasts -

With over 600 weekly episodes run­ning be­tween 10 and 15 min­utes each across more than 10 years, the Skep­toid pod­cast pre­sented by Brian Dun­ning has at one time or an­other cov­ered just about every fortean sub­ject un­der the Sun (and the Moon). Only the most re­cent 50 episodes are avail­able to lis­ten to with­out pay­ing for a premium feed, so if you want to delve into the deep his­tory of the show, you’ll need to cough up.

How­ever, within the 50 free episodes cur­rently avail­able there is a wide range of in­ter­est­ing top­ics. Skep­toid started out as a fairly straight sci­ence show con­sid­er­ing top­ics such as sus­tain­abil­ity, why ‘woo woo’ like mag­nets and wheat­grass juice have no mea­sur­able ben­e­fits what­so­ever, or the ba­sis of sci­en­tific test­ing. It wasn’t long though be­fore sub­jects such as Big­foot, aliens, and the Philadel­phia Ex­per­i­ment were sub­jected to Dun­ning’s style of de­bunk­ing.

Episodes in the 550-to600 num­ber range (from the very end of 2016 through to Hal­lowe’en 2017) cover a di­verse range of sub­jects, such as the myths sur­round­ing the death of Hong Kong ac­tion movie star Bruce Lee, the ‘ghost’ fighter plane of Pearl Har­bor, and the 1944 tale of ‘the Mad Gasser of Mat­toon’. Old fortean favourites in­clude the DB Cooper mys­tery, false mem­ory (#560: Re­mem­ber­ing the Man­dela Ef­fect), lost chil­dren raised by an­i­mals (#567: Feral Chil­dren), and the hoary old sto­ries of those for­got­ten Ja­panese sol­diers who failed to re­alise the war was over (#585: Relic Ja­panese Sol­diers).

There are some rather use­ful con­tem­po­rary top­ics on of­fer too, fo­cus­ing on In­ter­net se­cu­rity or high-tech crime (#553: How Your Pass­word Got Stolen; #554: How Your Credit Card Got Stolen). Other sci­ence sub­jects (of­ten ty­ing in to re­cent events) in­clude global warm­ing (#549: The Sim­ple Proof of Man-Made Global Warm­ing), new-found sources of power (#555: Tho­rium Re­ac­tors: Fact and Fic­tion), the com­pli­ca­tions of ‘phan­tom’ preg­nancy (#572: True or False Preg­nancy), eclipses (#584: Eclipse Myths and Sci­ence), and con­tro­versy over pol­lu­tion (#586: Volk­swa­gen Diesel­gate Re-ex­am­ined).

Quirkier top­ics in­clude whether Beethoven died of lead poi­son­ing (#561: Beethoven’s Hair), the ten­dency of sci­en­tists to ex­per­i­ment on them­selves (#593: I Still Can’t Be­lieve They Did That: More Hu­man Guinea Pigs), and the ori­gins of the ur­ban leg­end that the Bea­tles’ Paul McCart­ney was re­placed by a dou­ble (#594: Paul is Dead). Every so of­ten, Dun­ning in­cludes an up­date episode that adds some new in­for­ma­tion or in­sights to pre­vi­ous sto­ries, of­ten cor­rect­ing er­rors or re­spond­ing to lis­tener feed­back.

As al­ways, UFOs are a pop­u­lar sub­ject, with Dun­ning tack­ling such cases as Canada’s best-known fly­ing saucer en­counter (#565: The Shag Har­bour UFO) and the fa­mous 1974 UFO sight­ing by a New Mex­ico po­lice of­fi­cer (#582: Lon­nie Zamora and the So­corro UFO). Dun­ning even ex­am­ines the ques­tion of whether strange things seen in the sky are likely to be an alien visi­ta­tion or not – from a scep­ti­cal sci­en­tific point of view of course (#576: Lights in the Sky).

One episode takes a deep dive into the fairly re­cent con­tro­versy over the sup­posed pho­to­graph of lost pilot Amelia Earhart (#580: Amelia Earhart Re­dux: Com­pet­ing Net­works, Com­pet­ing Crazi­ness). In this slightly longer than usual in­stal­ment, Dun­ning tack­les the me­dia cov­er­age of the 1937 dis­ap­pear­ance of the pi­o­neer­ing avi­a­trix. Out­lin­ing Earhart’s char­ac­ter and achieve­ments, he looks at the unan­swered ques­tions sur­round­ing her van­ish­ing act and ex­am­ines how folk­lore and ex­ploita­tion move in to fill the vac­uum. In the process, known his­tory is ig­nored or lost in favour of false his­to­ries that suit a TV pro­gramme’s pro­mo­tional needs rather than the search for knowl­edge or truth­ful an­swers. It’s a good ex­am­ple of the mix of his­tory, sci­ence, spec­u­la­tion and de­bunk­ing that the Skep­toid pod­cast at its best de­liv­ers in neat, bite-sized chunks of sat­is­fy­ing lis­ten­ing.


The ‘just the facts, ma’am’ ap­proach is wel­come…


…how­ever, Dun­ning’s de­liv­ery can some­times be a bit on the dry side. Rec­om­mended Episodes: #550: The Mad Gasser of Mat­toon; #551: Space Mis­sions You Should Know; #570: More Space Mis­sions You Should Know; #573: There is No Fin­land: Birth of a Con­spir­acy The­ory; #576: Lights in the Sky; #595: Chas­ing Malaysian Air­lines Flight MH370.


Short (most episodes are un­der 15 min­utes) and to the point, the strength of Skep­toid is the sharp fo­cus on facts and the de­bunk­ing at­ti­tude.

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