Pop quiz: 17 for 17
Today is the 17th anniversary of the Skeptoid podcast. And moreover, it is episode #904, and the 904 is my favorite Porsche model, and which ended production in the year I was born. So we are celebrating with one of Skeptoid's famous pop quizzes, 17 questions, one from each year of the show. Since it's my anniversary, I'll pick an episode from each of the previous 17 years that I personally really enjoyed researching and writing — and we'll see if your skeptical chops are up to par. We'll go with 10 out of 17 as a passing grade. So no more dallying; let's get started!
From 2006: A Primer on Scientific Testing
In what type of clinical trial are the test administrators blinded, but the statisticians who tabulate the results are not?
The correct answer is B, double blinded. The test subjects are always blinded; double blinding is when the test administrators are blinded as well. If the statisticians are also blinded, then the test is triple blinded.
From 2007: A Mormon History of the Americas
A few Mormon theologians attempt to prove the literal truth of the Book of Mormon by disputing the historical fact that some things in the book are known not to have existed in pre-Columbian America. Which of the following did exist in pre-Columbian America?
The correct answer is C, gold plating. Multiple pre-Columbian cultures in South America developed gold and silver chemical plating, and even depletion gilding which can leave an object coated in nearly pure gold.
From 2008: HAARP Myths
HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a 28-acre field of radio antennas that conspiracy theorists accuse of everything from causing targeted weather disasters to world mind control. Where is it located?
The correct answer is B, Alaska. Now operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, HAARP is rarely actually turned on, and when it is, it is often used by visiting academics from all over the world. There is an annual Open House during which anyone is invited to visit.
From 2009: The Antikythera Mechanism
This first century mechanism, retrieved from an ancient merchant vessel in the Ionian Sea, starred in Indiana Jones 5 as a time travel device. What was its actual purpose?
The correct answer is A, a toy for rich people — according to our best theory. The complex geared instrument had many functions, more than any one profession would ever have use for; so our best analysis is that it was something like a fancy Rolex that does all sorts of things nobody would ever actually need.
From 2010: The Virgin of Guadalupe
This image of the Virgin Mary, painted by one of the earliest known educated Aztec painters, had its use debated in converting Native Americans argued by which two Catholic orders in the 1500s?
The correct answer is B. The Dominicans supported the use of the painting as religious propaganda to persuade the Aztecs that it had been miraculously created, while the Franciscans felt such usage was sacrilegious.
From 2011: Pit Bull Attack
Pit bulls unquestionably have a reputation for being a dangerous dog breed. Which of the following is true about pit bulls?
The correct answer is A, pit bulls do tend to hold a bite longer than most other breeds. They don't attack most often, but their attacks are more likely to be fatal. However, data is very clear on the most important point: It is the owner, the owner's personal level of aggression, and the owner's training of any dog that is most responsible for that dog's danger to others.
Correction: An earlier version of this actually misstated my own episode! No excuse for that! It gave the correct answer as pit bulls have the strongest bite, a popular belief for which there is no evidence. —BD
This episode about scientists who experimented on themselves, because they were unwilling to endanger others, included this famed rocket sled rider whose data persuaded Congress to require seatbelts in cars:
The correct answer is A, the heroic and comprehensively injured Col. John Stapp. John Kittinger flew the Lockheed T-33 camera plane that Stapp passed, and Nader was the consumer advocate who lobbied Congress with Stapp's data.
From 2013: The Sedona Energy Vortex
Sedona, Arizona is famous for its "energy vortices" which appeal to the New Age crowd. Which of the following is true?
The correct answer is C. The thing that makes Sedona stand out is its extraordinary beauty. There is nothing geophysically, or otherwise measurable, or anything that might reasonably be called a vortex, about it at all.
From 2014: Hemp, Hearst, and Prohibition
Some marijuana advocates claim that the reason it's illegal goes back to a conspiracy primarily driven by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Which of the following was not a factor in marijuana being declared illegal?
The correct answer is B, paper and cotton profits, neither of which were impacted in the slightest by marijuana or hemp. Racism and religion were the drivers of change in America, 100 years ago as much as they are today.
From 2015: Did the 1914 Christmas Truce Really Happen?
The 1914 Christmas Truce between British and German troops did happen, but which of the following statements about it is true?
The correct answer is C, about like any other day. At that early stage in World War I, earnest fighting was still rare; nobody expected it to escalate into much of a war, and most soldiers were expecting to go home pretty soon.
From 2016: Earthquake Lights: Do They Exist?
Earthquake lights are the name given by some to apocryphal flashes that light up the sky during an earthquake. Which of the following is the only proven cause of them?
The correct answer is A. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of any natural earthquake lights beyond conventional light sources such as flashes from exploding transformers associated with power outages.
From 2017: Remembering the Mandela Effect
Although "the Mandela effect" today is our name for when a lot of people share the same false memory, that's not what the term originally meant. What did the Mandela effect originally refer to?
The correct answer is B, people moving between alternate dimensions, or alternate realities. The term "Mandela effect" was coined by psychic Fiona Broome, and multiple realities was her best explanation for how many people could share the same false memory.
From 2018: Three Big Macs a Day
If you ate three Big Macs a day, you would get too much of what?
The correct answer is A, sodium. Three Big Macs would give the average adult 118% of their recommended daily sodium allowance — which still isn't bad, considering that the average American eats 132%.
From 2019: Mexico's Zone of Silence
Which of the following is true of Mexico's mysterious Zone of Silence, a remote desert region that's become a tourist attraction because of all the strange legends surrounding it?
The correct answer is A. An American missile test went awry in 1970 and contaminated its crash site with cobalt-57, which was soon cleaned up by Mexican and American authorities. Radios and everything else still work just fine there.
From 2020: When the Earth's Magnetic Field Flips
Which of the following statements is true about the Earth's magnetic field?
The correct answer is C. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge gives us a magnetostratigraphic history showing at least 183 pole reversals in the past 83 million years, averaging one every 450,000 years.
From 2021: What Really Happened at Tunguska
When this superbolide exploded over Siberia in 1908, how many human casualties were there (to the best of our knowledge)?
The correct answer is C. Semi-nomadic Evenk people, plus a number of Russian homesteaders, were injured over a radius of 500 km from the blast center. Only three are believed to have died.
From 2022: Demystifying the Winchester Mystery House
This giant, sprawling mansion that follows no clear plan was built by Sarah Winchester, widow and heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, at the turn of the 20th century, for what reason?
The correct answer is B, to keep people employed. Sarah Winchester was a generous philanthropist and successful businessperson, and contrary to legend, had no documented belief or interest in the supernatural.
And there we have it, 17 questions for 17 years of Skeptoid. Did you get 10 or more right? If you didn't, you need to listen to more Skeptoid; and if you did, your reward is that you get to continue listening to Skeptoid for many more years to come.
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