Listener Feedback Rides Again

A peek inside the Skeptoid inbox, ranging from the sane to the insane.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid #232
November 16, 2010
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe

Once again we're going to dig through the Skeptoid inbox for interesting feedback. These include emails sent to me, comments posted to the online transcripts for the episodes, and also posts to Skeptalk. Anything that looks good.

Just for fun today I'd like to start with the sane feedback, and then move progressively toward the insane. Fortunately the sane people generally have something interesting and helpful to add. My episode on live frogs found encased within ancient stone discussed estivation and hibernation, two ways in which some animals can preserve their resources and minimize their oxygen or water needs. Dr. Brian Paavo is a marine biology consultant in New Zealand, and he offered the following additional information:

Beyond aestivation and hibernation there is another level of 'suspended animation' collectively known as abiosis or cryptobiosis. As the name suggests this is stopping or hiding life — but not permanently... The 'poster-child' taxon for this phenomenon is Tardigrada...water bears. They're very cute, essentially aquatic, animals living in trees (and on glaciers, in lichens, in soil/sand, and in the ocean) in water films. They can simply 'stop' for days without oxygen or other 'necessaries', but they can also collapse into beautiful cyst-like forms (Guidetti et al. 2006) that are incredibly resistant to radiation, high temperatures (I've baked them to 90C and reanimated them), and even acids. They remove all liquid water from their body and to prevent cellular damage, replace it with a simple sugar called trehalose.

Water bears can stay in such a state for decades, and perhaps indefinitely. I did encounter them in my research, but decided to exclude them because we were talking about vertebrates, frogs specifically, and water bears are very, very different. Most are microscopic, some species have only a few hundred cells, and they have open circulatory systems instead of cardiovascular systems. They're extremophiles, and can even live in outer space. Show me the frog that can do that, and we'll revisit the topic. Thanks to Dr. Paavo for this very cool extra information.

So let's move on to some listeners to whom we owe a little less thanks. Dr. Johnston from Inverness, Scotland, seems to be among those who think the misshapen skulls of Peru are not modified deliberately, as has been the practice for more than 9,000 years, but rather that the explanation can only come from alien DNA:

No amount of binding can INCREASE the cranial capacity of skulls, which was estimated to be in the region of 2500 cubic centimeters in these skulls ie TWO AND ONE HALF LITERS! No known human being EVER had such a skull capacity,not even the largest Neanderthal skull.

Neanderthals were not humans. Humans are not even descended from Neanderthals. Dolphins also have large brains; does that also prove that humans must be aliens?

Also they obviously represent related individuals, and look in no way deformed.

Other than being shaped like cucumbers.

There was also another enormous skull (3 liters) which was round and very wide. It did not look in any way pathological.

No, nothing unusual about that at all.

There was obviously something very strange going on around that region, and no amount of so called "academic" disparagement can detract from that fact. Some "scientists", confronted by something which does not fit into their comfortable hypotheses, respond by trundling out some contrived and often ridiculous "explanations". Further research, by impartial scientists should be carried out. DNA should be interesting.

Many ancient cultures have done this. In infancy, while the skull is still pliable, it would be bound with cloth or even pressed between boards to create a great variety of strange shapes. A lot of museums have large collections of these, such as the Museo Regional de Ica and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología Antropología e Historia del Perú, both in Peru, and the American Museum of Natural History, and the Peabody Museum at Harvard. None of these skulls have ever been found to have unusually large endocranial volumes, contrary to Dr. Johnston's misunderstanding. 1300cc to 1600cc is typical among the artificially deformed skulls, the same range as normal adults. They've been so extensively documented that I'm not sure what further work Johnston feels should be carried out.

At least one 3-liter skull has been found, however. It was an ancient Egyptian man who suffered from hydrocephaly. His head had not been artificially deformed and its proportions appeared fairly normal, to a layperson at first glance, anyway. However this poor fellow had a number of other skeletal deformities and was paralyzed on his left side. But so far nobody has found it necessary to classify him as an alien hybrid.

Mike from Asheville, NC had this thoughtful comment on my episode about aspartame:

okay everyone, this brian dunning guy is obviously a troll for big industry/government- every single article of his may as well come out of the mouth of any right-wing washington politician. he only backs up his stories with sources who have a vested interest in the outcomes they report, and therefore is only "toe-ing"(?) the "company line" in every one of his articles, and most of his commenters are stooge-ey yes men who either have a vested interest in the pseudo-science this asshole regurgitates, or who are just brainwashed like so many other people in the world. this fuckin asshole does not remotely deserve the title "skeptic". and that is a personal attack, you fucking piece of shit.

I want to remind you that we're not quite to the crazy emails yet. Mike's on his way there, but he's got a little further to go still. But since Mike has uncovered all of my secrets, I'm going to quickly change the subject in an effort to distract your attention from his discoveries. Let's move on to Chris from Romania, who commented on my episode about Josef Mengele's twin experiments in South America:

Everybody is ready to point the finger at Mengele and Nazis, but its more to them, definitely than the official crappy history "written by victors" lets u know. First of all, between the persons called Joseph Mengele from the concentration camp and Joseph Mengele from the Nurnberg trial (well, it was just a hoax, just like the Warren Comission, but thats another story) there were visible differences. In short, we talk about 2 different persons. And I truly believe the real Mengele was demonized. Keep researching before blaming him or Nazis for "attrocities".

Keep researching before accusing the Nazis of atrocities. So I'm revealing my intellectual laziness by not being a Holocaust denier, is that it, Chris?

Chris does, however, bring up an interesting point about the comparison of photos taken of Josef Mengele at Auschwitz with those taken of him at the Nuremberg Trials. There are notable differences. In Mengele's Nuremberg photographs, he is hazy and ill-defined, almost invisible. This is because he was not there. Mengele was never captured, and died in Brazil in 1979. This could be just more intellectual laziness on my part, so I'd better keep researching.

So now we come to today's final email, and it comes from Conrado in Spain. You can take a look at his web site to learn more about him. He had to change the URL because Al-Qaeda "hijacked" his previous one, according to his home page. Conrado was concerned about my episode on the Lucifer Project, a conspiracy claim that the United States intends to crash the Cassini probe into Saturn, causing it to turn into a small sun. Here's what he had to say:

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

You seem to clearly work for the dark side, and you are an excellent professional, and work very steadfastly, at the art of discrediting, obscuring and poisoning people against the truth, but nevertheless I feel compelled to contact you now respectfully because I presume that, unlike those bloodline individuals at the top of the Illuminati, you still have a soul.

Someone who has been watching my (still incomplete) YouTube video lectures on "2010 and the Lucifer project" has warned me that the Lucifer project is real and indeed on, and, moreover, scheduled for some time before the end of 2010. In fact, this person says that the Illuminati plan to detonate Saturn (using Cassini's plutonium) while it is still in relative conjunction with the Sun, so the Sun absorbs some of the deadly ejected material, meaning now in early October! If such an explosion is indeed possible and happens, the radiation shower on Earth would be devastating, but this person says that those who have faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the only Savior will be miraculously spared. In fact, if I have read this person well, God will see to it that the Earth is not harmed, so the Elite would be mistaken in rushing to their bunkers.

Frankly, there have been so many similar cry-wolf End-of-the-World false alarms that I don't know what to make of all this anymore, but nevertheless I feel I need to pass it on to you. May the Highest Almighty God bless you, and guide you appropriately as to what to do.

I've read this many times and I'm still unclear on what he's trying to tell me. On the one hand he's advising me that this cataclysm is at hand and I should accept Jesus to be miraculously spared; and on the other hand, he's reassuring me that God will see to it the Earth is not harmed, and the "Elite" (presumably including me) need not rush to our bunkers in any event. I guess the latter is what happened, because the October 2010 doomsday has come and gone, and we still have but one sun in the sky.

In the episode, I went into detail why Cassini's RTGs (radioisotope thermal generators) could not cause an atomic blast, and also into only a few of the many reasons why neither Saturn nor any of our other gas giants would be able to achieve sustained nuclear fusion. To counter these obstacles, the Lucifer Project conspiracy theorists have invented their own versions of various natural sciences under which these things could happen; in effect, written their own fictional novel that takes place in a fictional universe. It's too bad that Arthur C. Clarke beat them to it with 2001: A Space Odyssey, or they could have made some money.

Brian Dunning

© 2010 Skeptoid Media Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Derry, D. "A Case of Hydrocephalus in an Egyptian of the Roman Period." Journal of Anatomy. 1 Jul. 1913, Volume 47, Part 4: 436-458.

Guidetti, R., Boschini, D., Altiero, T., Bertolani, R., Rebecchi, L. "Diapause in tardigrades: a study of factors involved in encystment." Journal of Experimental Biology. 27 Jun. 2008, Volume 211: 2296-2302.

Lieberman, D., Pearson, O., Mowbray, K. "Basicranial influence on overall cranial shape." Journal of Human Evolution. 1 Jan. 2000, Volume 38: 291–315.

Matalon-Lagnado, L., Cohn-Dekel, S. Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. New York: Morrow, 1991.

O'Neill, Ian. "Project Lucifer: Will Cassini Turn Saturn into a Second Sun? (Part 1)." Universe Today. Universe Today, 24 Jul. 2008. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <>

Pomeroy, E., Stock, J., Zakrzewski, S., Mirazón Lahr, M. "A Metric Study of Three Types of Artificial Cranial Modification from North-Central Peru." International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 1 Jan. 2009, 2009.

Walters, G. Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice. New York: Broadway Books, 2009.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Listener Feedback Rides Again." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 16 Nov 2010. Web. 6 Oct 2015. <>


10 most recent comments | Show all 92 comments

To all you debunkers: what about this?

Randy Parkes, Canton MI
November 28, 2010 11:53am

What about it? An unverified website making a few claims backed up by a last line, in bold, telling us we should go buy a $24 book to read more. Wow!That is FAR better than sources and references...
Oh and it is also nothing to do with the subjects of this episode. Well done.

Tom H, Kent, UK
November 28, 2010 12:36pm

Methusaleh and their ilk are reported to be something redacted from the babylonian king list. Apparently heir ages in years are a multiple of the ages of the old kings.

If you thought Methusaleh's life span being exaggerated, the babylonian kings is ridiculous.

Guys like Szitchin make use of it though.

If you make use of the preposterous claims of myth, you also have to be ready for the mythical passages about other gods and embarrassing events of tougher gods having battle plans.

Of course nobody notices these things at all unless you are a biblical student or a mythology nut.

Some of the best commentary comes from the land of the free in the form of Robert M Price and those wonderful lectures from Yale. Really worth a following if you like a few good weekly tidbits for research.

Henk van der Gaast, Sydney
November 28, 2010 1:55pm

Well there are theories and conjectures, nonsense and jabberwocky. Conspiracy claims and heated rebutals, postulations and disseminations. Nut cases and the sane, birds and the bees, flowers and the trees and a wonderful little thing called 'reason'.

Well, I never, ever stop using reason. Sometimes I proceed from false assumptions (I'm human), but I always accept that I can be wrong when others using reason, provide a stronger argument. That is why I never resort to hurling insults at anyone with whom on a point I disagree. You see reason opens the door to understanding and none of us can get away from it. Reason is the sole tool for finding the truth in nature that really works.

Anyone who attempts to argue against my point about reason (usually by saying that reason is not the only road to understanding) is really only indulging in another attempt at reasoning and do they stop to consider that their argument may have it's origins in a paradoxical false assumption?

Science using reason doesn't pretend to know everything...and that's why I respect it so.

John Blackhall, Wonthaggi
December 4, 2010 12:11am

I have a small, technical point to make with regards to the re-readings of the listener feedback.

Perhaps it would be better if you didn't read the feedback from detractors in a sarcastic tone. Just read them as they were written and let their crazy words speak for themselves.

It may not seem as entertaining but at least you can't be accused of trying to "poison the well".

Not a big deal - just don't want to give the credulous any more ammo. That said, it probably wouldn't make much of a difference anyways, so ignore everything above.

Ray, Victoria, BC
December 5, 2010 2:51pm

Neanderthals were indeed Human. The only debate is whether they were a different "race" or a different "species" of human. Since it has been now shown that they did breed with modern humans and have fertile offspring, that pretty much rules out their being a different species.

John Ellis, Amarillo/USA
December 17, 2010 1:50pm

H. Tiberius Miser, Secret Underground Lair, Earth

wow, your thought on "everyone who had cancer, has a tolite" analogy,
was really,... really, something worth takin in. how did you ever come up with such wit?

VACCINES....if you dare

heather, nova scotia, canada
December 17, 2010 5:26pm

It's kind of scary when someone who obviously doesn't have good information nor the ability to discern what good information is and how we attain it, yet is steadfastly certain that they are absolutely correct.

If you disagree you are "closed minded". Anecdotal stories in the place of credible studies. A complete lack of basic understanding about the topic...and the cherry on the top, claiming a myth of a 1000 year old person contradicts the all the data about modern life expectancy. Normally I now like to point out the importance of teaching the scientific method at a young age. But to some it is an alien language.

Rich R, Lawrence, Ks
January 13, 2011 7:25pm

Hello Brian.

In your last episode where you spoke about disposable and reusable nappies you said disposable nappies dont biodegrade in a landfill. You said for anything to biodegrade it has to have air and moisture present.

I would just like clarifiction on this, landfills produce methane I thought this was from the rubbish rotting or biodegrading also dont we rot or biodegerade when we are dead and buried. Not being sneery i'm just confused.

Love the show
Eoin (pronounced 'own' common mistake in north america is to say e-on. Its irish)

Eoin Hickey, Cork, Ireland
March 22, 2011 9:23am

Eoin has a point there.. maybe it would have been better to say that some garbage biodegrades slowly and some degrades really really it can be really really slow.

From a waste point of view, its very hard to argue that captured carbon is a bad thing. Very slow degaradation may be preferable to untapped and unused methane (as here in Oz).

Eoin, I am glad you brought this up as things that degrade very quickly can be readily utilised in biological recycling. Some countries have caught on and re redefining very old sewage/waste recycling to produce power.

Throwing used nappies down the toot is not a good idea and land fill is probably a very noble option to non recycled sewage disposal of kiddie waste.

The only problem (that Brian could have stated better) is, there is a lot of energy that goes into the manufacture of disposables and its probably very similar to the manufacture of a single cloth accoutremnt to the disposable.

How much energy that saves on mums and dads being confined (cloth nappies are tedious!).

I'll try and put it in perspective.. my lovely ex and I did the cloth nappy thing with our son.

23 years later he is a chef living with me. Every day he leaves a sparkling clean gorgeous young man. Every night he comes home as a smelly fat stained Yeti. I have to balance my house hold costs around his work needs.

This is nothing to the cost of his bottom habits Oh so long ago...

Mind you, cheap convenience in disposables swayed us for No2!

Henk v, sin city NSW, Oz
August 9, 2011 10:55am

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