As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Science Monkey is once more brought to you from a distance, with Graham and Raywat recording from the comforts of their own homes. This is also our second ever video episode, which you can watch on YouTube. Or you can listen to audio version right here. In this episode, we answer more viewer questions, all about this wretched disease.
Science Monkey is back with a very special episode, from deep within the doldrums of pandemic quarantine. This is also our very first video podcast, which you can watch on YouTube. The audio was rendered from that Zoom video call so it is, shall we say, less than ideal. In the episode, we answer several questions about COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) that were sent in by listeners.
Science Monkey is back! We took a lengthy sabbatical to mourn the passing of our mascot, Ouie the magical wonderdog, whose pawsteps are audible in this particular episode, which of course was recorded before his passing.
On today’s show, we are joined by the erudite Dr Aparna Halpé for a session of The Facts and the Furious, during which we cover topics as diverse as:
How many elephants does a cloud weigh?
How many moonunits can the longest Lego tower be?
When does the horniest rodent in Australia stop rutting?
And what’s a reasonable number of vaginas?
As always, if you’d like us to cover any topics, or if you have feedback about the show, please feel free to comment below or send us an email.
The government puts fluoride in our drinking water. What is the evidence that this is safe? We examine two studies that purport to show a connection between fluoride in our water and both thyroid disease and lower IQ. We also learn a little about so-called “ecological” studies, some stuff about statistics, and whose name is the earliest in recorded history. So let’s get our learn on, people.
We go back to our roots and actually talk about the rigors (or lack thereof) of a scientific study. A famous JAMA paper suggested that slightly overweight people are healthier than “normal weight” people. Is that study rigorous…. or just ridiculous? We also learn where not to get stung by a bee, and why you probably shouldn’t insult a krav maga instructor.
Recorded outside (hence the sound of passing airplanes) and with Graham annoyingly smacking the microphone (he’s learning, people, he’s learning), today’s episode features our second session of rapid-fire facts, and just the facts (ma’am). You’ll never believe what Alfred Kinsey put into his urethra, or what gas Henry Ford kept in a vial, or which animal we describe as a living surveillance camera.
In celebration of Pride Week, today’s episode tackles the question of whether female sexual fluidity has evolutionary origins, based on a controversial article by Satoshi Kanazawa (link below). We recorded this outside, so you will hear sounds of actual nature –squirrels and birds– and the occasional airplane and siren… as well as Graham frequently banging the table for emphasis, which causes a weird warbling noise on the microphone. This episode is brought to you by Chekd and by our books.
Once again, a listener (Mary Ellen) asks us via Twitter to tackle a big topic: is there such a thing as free will? Graham and Ray examine this question from the perspectives of quantum physics, neurology, multiverse theory, semantics, and sociology. That’s an easy topic for a 30 minute podcast featuring two slightly tipsy professors, right? This episode is brought to you by Chekd and by our books sold on Amazon.
Once more, the whiskey has begun to flow. In this episode, Graham and Ray tackle the question of how many published studies are likely invalid or not reproducible. We learn about Type I and Type II statistical errors, publication bias, the Proteus Phenomenon and the Winner’s Curse. As well, the wrath of Almighty Zod rains down in the form of thunder, eliciting a visit from Graham’s adorable dog Ouie. And we learn that Ray’s Wikipedia page has been taken down. (Hey, he never created it in the first place, so nothing lost, right?)
Graham & Ray answer listener questions (yes, we have listeners now), including one from a dog who is very concerned about how dependent human civilization is on the existence of the sun. (Dogs are deep, man). We also answer that critical question currently plaguing the Internet: is 2016 a cursed year for celebrity mortality?
Graham and Ray are once more deep into the grown-up juice (i.e., whiskey), so much so that they confuse Willy Nelson with John Denver, Bob Denver, Bob Dylan, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, and Cat Stevens. But they do eventually answer a question from a Twitter follower who asks, “Do we have too many friends?” This leads to discussion of Satoshi Kanazawa’s “Savannah Principle“, the ideas behind “knowledge mobilization“, and even an introduction to the science of bibliometrics.
Graham and Ray are deep into the whiskey, and are mumbling their way through this episode, which is ostensibly about whether an artificial computer intelligence can be …wait for it… artistic. Be forewarned: there was a weird hum when we did the recording, but it was removed in post-production. As a result, the audio quality might be a bit less than optimal. In this episode, we return to our regular “Facts & The Furious” and “The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge” segments. Also, Graham spoils the ending to the movie, Her, because that’s what he does; and Ray plugs the great science-fiction novel, Spin.
Responding to a question on our Facebook page, in this episode Graham and Ray talk about whether the flu vaccine is safe, why the formulation changes every year, what disease surveillance systems are, and introduce the epidemiological concepts, “bias” and “confounding.”
We mention that many modern vaccines don’t have the actual infective organism, but instead are made up of subunits of the organism which act as antigens. Here is a summary of which vaccines are typically made of actual organisms and which are made from inactive subunits:
How do “they” know what your “recommended daily allowance” is? Are diets truly evidence based? What’s the difference between a wet lab and a dry lab? In this episode, Graham and Ray reply to an actual listener question, as Rashi on Facebook wants to know how to navigate the confusing world of recommended diets. Yes, we talk about nutrition while eating pie and drinking whiskey. We also rename our “Didja Know That” segment to “The Facts and The Furious” because, you know, we’re clever and stuff. And our “Is This Still A Thing” segment is renamed “The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”, in honour of Jorge Luis Borges.
Graham’s impression of a howler monkey was wayyyy off. Here‘s how one actually sounds.
How would space aliens behave toward us? Can we even conceptualize something that is truly alien? In today’s show, Graham and Ray discuss the various ways in which human beings might interact with our galactic brethren. Carl Sagan and Charles Pellegrino are name-checked, as is comedian Jerrod Carmichael.
In our Is This Still A Thing segment, Graham quotes the Daoist text Wen Shi Zhen Jing. And we find out what the strongest organism on Earth is!
Java, cup o’ Joe, brown sludge, learning juice, jet fuel, or even a euphemism for sex –today’s episode is all about everyone’s favourite (legal) drug: coffee! What does this have to do with gerbils? Well…. you’ll see.
Graham and Ray discuss “moonshots”, those huge, government-led science initiatives that promise to change the world forever. Curing cancer? Living forever? Hover boards? Where should we focus our energies? We also introduce our new segment, Is This Still A Thing, in which we look at some examples of ancient civilizations dealing with scientific issues that continue to be relevant today. In this episode, Graham quotes from ancient historical and philosophical sources cited in The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China by Joseph Needham.
Welcome to Science Monkey! In today’s episode, Graham and Ray talk about pseudoscience and why we are still engaged with it, even in the modern, technological era. We also shamelessly plug our books, Words Well Put and Nothing To Do With Skin. And Graham recommends his translation of Six Records of a Life Adrift, by Shen Fu.
Oh, and Ray is deeply embarrassed that he temporarily forgets what an “open label” study is. Deeply, shamefully, devastatingly embarrassed. (But Graham guessed correctly.)
TERMS used in today’s podcast: prospective, longitudinal, association, correlation, continuous variable, dichotomous variable, open label, control group, pilot study. (See the glossary for the full list.)