Friday, 5 March 2010

Castmonger #5: Skeptoid

I was hoping that the last post before I left for my much ballyhooed-about holiday might bring a few more books for me to squeeze into a suitcase already bulging with speculative fiction. And it did - more on that in The BoSS tomorrow.

It is with some anxiety, however, that alas, I must confess the wretched mailman also pulled from his bag of secrets and lies a note from the occasional TSS contributor we all love to hate - or in many cases, simply hate. Having somehow divined that I would not be eager to continue posting his loathsome podcast recommendations, the Castmonger mailed me a note written in a collage of letters cut from magazines and newspapers. It said, simply:

Much as I hate to be seen giving in to such demands - it's a slippery slope, after all - I can't stomach the idea that I could in some way be responsible for the suffering of another innocent. Not after what happened last time.

And so...


In October of the year 2006, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, Kofi Annan stood down as the seventh Secretary General of the United Nations and Microsoft released the game-changing seventh iteration of its ubiquitous browser software, Internet Explorer.

But the Castmonger cares not for these things. Surely the most significant of all the events of that month, already so long ago, was the launch of a podcast called Skeptoid. After his considered rebukes were not-so-politely dismissed by three - count 'em - Fortean forums, sometime computer scientist Brian Dunning took to the ether to record the first episode of a podcast that has since gone on to debunk hundreds of scientific quandaries and questions. Today, in excess of 100,000 people listen to his brief arguments on Skeptoid each week - and what better recommendation is there than such a wealth of subscribers?

Well, there's the Castmonger's recommendation, and I duly give it. Brian is the perfect host, his bassy baritone a welcome treat each week. Fringe science junkies: if you haven't tuned in before, prepare to have your expectations shattered.

Since the first episode took the notion of new age energy apart all that time ago, the prime purpose of Skeptoid has been to debunk the weird and the wonderful. From Bigfoot to the Amityville Horror, from so-called organic food products to homeopathy and crop circles to ball lightning, the cordial and informed host of Skeptoid has made it his business to take to task those misguided beliefs and apparent understandings prevalent in contemporary society. Do not tune in expecting Brian to do anything less than shatter your expectations. For the Brits among readers of TSS, it's like QI for weird science. For the rest of you, that's a hell of a recommendation.

In an interview with John and David on The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy a few weeks ago, Brian revealed that he spends around seven hours each week reading and researching his subjects - an incredible amount of work for what essentially amount to a 10 minute monologue. But it's time well spent. Brian's extensive research shines through the ether; he is among podcasting's most polite, authoritative voices. He makes his points precise and incisive without ever belabouring them.

If you aren't already a Skeptoid subscriber, do yourself a favour and find out what you've been missing these past years. The podcast is nearing its 200th episode, and with every previous installment available to download for free, there's a wealth of bite-sized cynical brilliance available for you to catch up on.

Believe me when I say you want to be there for the celebrations a few weeks from now.


Click here for more information on Skeptoid, or subscribe to the podcast discussed in this post via the following links:

... For regular RSS readers:

... iTunes users, meanwhile, should use this link.

If you'd like to submit your podcast or a personal favourite to be considered for a future installment of Castmonger, simply leave a link and a brief description below.

1 comment:

  1. Hear! Hear! And if you'll be in the SF Bay Area in April, come hear Brian Dunning speak live and in person! He'll be at Ohlone College (Fremont, CA) on Friday, April 16th at 7pm. Tickets available at