Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Skeptic's Guide and Perry DeAngelis; Remembering and moving forward

I discovered podcasting and other Web 2.0 stuff by and large in the summer of 2007, when I had considerable free time and a long enough trip to and from work/school to facilitate listening to a full hour of audio per day. A student from my university's Skeptic's club had posted a link to a "podcast" on a message board related to the university. The title: The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. Not particularly versed or even really aware of skepticism, I figured perhaps the podcast was something like Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I later discovered this was indeed no coincidence) and looked into it.

The roughly hour-and-twenty long podcast was not a story of Babelfish, Vogons, the destruction of Earth, or even towels, but instead a panel discussion of all things science, with a little criticism of Bigfoot and TV Psychics thrown in. While all the stuff about ghost hunters, aliens and astrology that the panel discusses is not of much interest to me, the science sucked me in. In the course of 8 months, I had managed to listen to all of the 120 or so (at that time) hour-plus episodes these guys put out, sucking it up like a sponge. Perhaps the best feature of the show is Science or Fiction, where the host presents three science news items, two of them real, one fictitious, and asks his panel of skeptics to guess which one is the fake*.

The show is run by the New England Skeptical Society, and started with Evan Bernstein, Perry DeAngelis, Bob Novella, Jay Novella, and the ringleader, Steve Novella. They were joined after a while by Rebecca Watson, dramatically altering the dude-to-chick ratio and making the show just that much more fun.

In August of 2007, one of the Skeptical Rogues, Perry DeAngelis, passed on. I was not sure if the podcast would continue the same and hold the same draw that sucked me in, but it did, albeit with an understandably subdued tone for quite a while.

With of 4 months when I did not have access to a computer to check out the podcast, followed by a terrible fall semester, I have fallen far behind in my podcast-listening duties. I am slowly catching up, and recently I found myself listening to the 1st Perry DeAngelis Memorial Live Podcast, SGU #169, October 11, 2008. I must say that this has by far been my favorite of the episodes I've heard, perhaps because of the differing format, but likely more just because of the laid-back atmosphere the live show produces, with two guest panelists to add to the mix as well.

If you are interested in science and/or hate creationists, you should take a look at this podcast, and I recommend the memorial as a great example to start with. Although it has a slightly different format, the topics are wide-ranging and discussions are particularly thoughtful. Check it out.

*After 100+ hearing Steve say this blip at the start of Science or Fiction, you can recite (type) it from memory

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