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A Collection of Corrections

Donate In which another round of corrections is made to previous episodes. Keeping it real!  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid Podcast #782
June 1, 2021
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A Collection of Corrections

Welcome to another corrections episode of the Skeptoid podcast. Yes, I do occasionally get things wrong — so far it's never been anything big that impacted the overall conclusion, but almost every week there's some little detail that made it past my nonexistent fact checking staff. And whenever it happens, it's important to set the record straight. Doubling down on errors does nobody any good, but admitting them and fixing them sets an example we all want to follow. As always, I want to advise new listeners that this is not a regular episode, but the corrections we're going to discuss reference a lot of good ones, and maybe you'll hear one that you want to check out next, and hear the original error in all its glory. And so without further ado, let's get started.

CBD a Controlled Substance?

We'll begin with the recent episode #780 on the fad of adding CBD to every product in the known galaxy for no imaginable reason. In the show I pointed out that Epidiolex, a prescription epilepsy drug in which CBD is the active ingredient, was listed as a Schedule V drug in 2018. Listener Skylar wrote in and said, in part:

As of April 2020, the drug Epidiolex - which was the substance listed as controlled - was removed [from Schedule V].

...and provided a link to the drug maker's press release. The correction has been noted on the transcript. So what does this mean? Basically it means that Epidiolex, and thus CBD, is not considered a controlled substance. This is appropriate because there was very little enforcement against CBD products during the period in which it was scheduled; and now companies are free (according to federal law anyway) to continue selling CBD in whatever products consumers are clamoring to buy it in. Knock yourselves out, folks.

Dr. Frankenstein?

A few episodes before that was a very popular one, #773, in which I nominated my Top Ten Pro-Science Fictional Characters. Among these was the famous Dr. Frankenstein, the hero of Mary Shelley's groundbreaking 1818 novel. However, I fell into what is apparently a common trap. Listener Craig wrote in:

You included "Dr. Frankenstein", yet there is no Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's book. That honorific was tacked on by later works which were derivative of a stage play which was in turn loosely derived from the book.

Victor Frankenstein was a college student of roughly 22 years old when he brought the Creature to life. I'm sure that age seemed very adult to Shelley when she was 17.

First of all, wow, Mary Shelley was only 17 when she wrote it? I had to look that one up, and found a correction to throw back at Craig. She was 18; born in August 1797, and she wrote the first version of the book beginning in June of 1816. Still, pretty awesome to write one of literature's most famous works at that age.

And sure enough, Victor Frankenstein was never a doctor; in fact, he never completed his college studies at all. He left school when his monster killed its first victim, and spent the rest of his short days in pursuit of it.

The Inverse Square

Episode #761 was about Havana Syndrome, a name for an alleged group of widely diverse and unrelated symptoms reported to be suffered by certain US diplomats overseas, and now some inside the United States as well. Many have been haphazardly assigning the blame for this on various fantastical and hypothetical weapons that employ some form of radio beams. During the discussion of such hypothetical devices, I said that electromagnetic radiation follows the inverse cube law — the strength of the signal drops off by the inverse of the cube root of the distance away. Apparently this caused grievous emotional harm to listener Juan, a professor of physics and astronomy:

My astrophysics heart sank about 8 minutes into the podcast when you say EM radiation follows the inverse 'cube' law of intensity. Intensity drops off as the inverse SQUARE of distance. Still enough to reduce the intensity quickly, although not as quickly as inverse cube would.

Of course he's right, and inverse square is what I'd always thought. So I set about to learn how the mixup happened. I blame my own confusion sorting through a very lively discussion we had about this on the Skeptoid Research mailing list, which included some talk about the field strength around magnetic dipoles. And in their case, it is indeed the inverse cube law that applies, not the inverse square law. So the error was absolutely mine, and I will try harder to organize flurries of emails in the future.

The Bermuda Triangle

Episode #337 was about the Bermuda Triangle, a named area of the ocean where statistics show us for a certainty that absolutely nothing unusual happens. While discussing its folkloric origins, I happened to mention that the first time the term Bermuda Triangle is known to have been used in print was a 1964 short story. Listener Francis, a novelist, wrote in:

The very first use of the term "Bermuda triangle" seems to be in an article in the Eunice News (Eunice, Louisinana), from January 29th, 1932, p. 5. This article talks about the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution program of investigations in the deep waters of the western North Atlantic. There were also many commercial Triangle Trips and Cruises in the 1930s in this part of the ocean (Bermuda, Nassau etc.), which may have led to this name.

The first time, the term "Bermuda triangle" was used in the todays meaning might be in the Morning Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, January 12th, 1946, p. 23. There, a baseball trainer is talking about a player who didn't show up, saying: "Maybe he's in the Bermuda Triangle."

If the baseball trainer was speaking about it so casually, that's a pretty good indicator that the term was already in general use. And if it was, then it's entirely probable that someone else will turn up some even earlier print references. I've updated my episode's transcript to note that my original statement of fact was actually a statement of error.

Was Trieste in Italy?

Episode #756 looked into the origins of the astonishing tale of the sea about the SS Ourang Medan, a ship said to have been found with all its crew horribly murdered under bizarre circumstances. Following all the story's threads back into time, it became clear that it was all the invention of one guy, who cheerfully sent his dispatches about the gruesome tale from his home in Trieste, Italy.

Or, did he? Listener Anne Marie had this to say:

Super specific and trivial possible correction: Trieste was not really part of Italy at the time discussed in the episode (depending on the exact date being used, you're obviously talking about a very tumultuous time in history). I only know anything about this from being part Slovenian and having visited Trieste as a kid.

True. Today's Trieste is indeed part of Italy now, but prior to 1975, its history has been all over the place. Sometimes it was part of Italy and other times it wasn't — and I won't remotely try to summarize it here. Even for the dates it was mentioned in the Skeptoid episode, which spanned from before World War II to after it, sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't. It's a fascinating little reminder that you really can't take anything for granted when you're writing about historical events.

Remember the Maine — and Its Paint Job

Episode #748 was about all the various theories for what caused the USS Maine to explode in Havana harbor in 1898, thus triggering the Spanish-American war. In my description of the great battleship, I mentioned that it was dazzle-painted, a type of naval camouflage often associated with the dreadnoughts of World War I. Listener Bill was among those who wrote in, and he said:

You might want to check on the dazzle camouflage paint remark, though. Dazzle camouflage was first used in 1916 by the Brits who kept losing ships to U-boats. Since this was pre-radar days, visual sightings were all the Germans had to go on. Admiralty went to the artists of the time and asked them what would be the most effective. Cubism was the going thing, so the artists came up with a cubist solution. Americans picked up the dazzle-paint schemes in 1917... much to the disgust of salty old blue-water admirals. All I can say is, it's lucky they didn't go to Andy Warhol.

When people first started writing in with this correction, it kind of blew my mind, because I had a picture on my desk of the Maine and it was clearly painted in dazzle. Retrieving it for another look, I was gobsmacked to discover my error. In that particular photo of it at anchor in Havana, a large geometric shadow was cast across part of its hull, and another part was shadowed from an overhanging gun turret. My brain filled in the rest. I wrote that whole episode with the Maine in my head as a dazzle-camouflaged ship, even looking right past all the other photos in which it's clearly not in dazzle, dismissing them because of course ships would get painted and repainted all the time. It was another lesson in not taking anything for granted, even things you're looking right at with your own two eyes.

When the Well to Hell Was Aired

Episode #307 was about the so-called "Well to Hell", a mythical hole drilled by some scientists in Siberia that made it all the way down to hell and released the screams of the damned. In the episode, I repeated what most accounts say, that the audio recording was sent in and played by radio host Art Bell on the Coast to Coast AM show in 2002. Listener Don wrote in and said:

This article... states that the Art Bell show played the referenced clip in year 2002. But I recorded that clip from the Art Bell show in 1998 from the radio, the date tag is on my file. It matches what you quoted too, so that is correct, just the year is way off. Maybe it was a rerun in 2002?

Although I couldn't find any authoritative source for original broadcasts and their dates for 1998 episodes of Coast to Coast, Don did send me his Real Audio file and I did check out the date stamps. Now I know those can be faked, but why? It's much more likely that 2002 was simply a rebroadcast, and most other writers simply didn't dig any farther than I did. So I'm going to strike my gavel and assert that the Well to Hell was originally broadcast in 1998.

And with that, another round of corrections is duly filed, the transcripts updated, and all is made well with the world. Until next time, always do your best, and when you stumble, pick yourself right back up.

By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.


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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "A Collection of Corrections." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 1 Jun 2021. Web. 19 Jun 2024. <>


References & Further Reading

Borg, X. "The Inverse Cube Law for Dipoles." The General Science Journal. GS Journal, 25 Jan. 2009. Web. 20 May. 2021. <>

Curran, C., Beyer, M. "GW Pharmaceuticals plc and Its U.S. Subsidiary Greenwich Biosciences, Inc. Announce That EPIDIOLEX® (cannabidiol) Oral Solution Has Been Descheduled And Is No Longer A Controlled Substance." Press Releases. GW Pharmaceuticals, 6 Apr. 2020. Web. 20 May. 2021. <>

Editors. "Chemistry study of the sea continues." Eunice News. 29 Jan. 1932, Newspaper: 5.

Mikkelson, B. "The Well to Hell." Snopes. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson, 17 Jul. 2007. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <>

Morris, J. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere. Cambridge: DaCapo Press, 2001.

Shelley, M. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.

USN. "USS Maine (1895-1898)." National Museum of the U.S. Navy. United States Navy, 24 Apr. 2019. Web. 21 May. 2021. <>


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