YANSS Podcast 021 – Christina Draganich explains how anyone can use science as a tool to understand nature, human and otherwise

The Topic(s): Placebo Sleep and Science

The Guest: Christina Draganich

The Episode: Download iTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Photo by Matteo Ianeselli, via Wikimedia Commons,  http://bit.ly/1fAKROj

Photo by Matteo Ianeselli, via Wikimedia Commons, http://bit.ly/1fAKROj

In 1998, The Journal of the American Medical Association published research that debunked therapeutic touch and moved the well-meaning mystical practice out of the kingdom of medicine and into the abandoned strip mall of quackery.

At the time, touch was enjoying a surge in popularity in hospitals and clinics. Practitioners claimed that they could manipulate mysterious energy fields and bring about healing by placing their hands above the bodies of the sick. The people doing this kind of work thought they were doing something wonderful, something good, but it was wishful thinking that had somehow bypassed the checks and balances of medical science.

The research that revealed therapeutic touch was bunk was based on a 9-year-old girl’s fourth-grade science fair project. Emily Rosa had already conducted several sound experiments based on her skepticism, and with the help of some career academics, her work was expanded. She is now part of history, the youngest person to publish research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

One of the central themes of You Are Not So Smart is you are so bad at thinking, judging, and deciding that your species had to invent a tool to help you work on the sort of problems you, as a human, are terrible at solving. For example, “Can I heal someone with my hands and empathy alone?” or “Should I pay someone to wave his hands above my dying mother?” or “Should health insurance plans cover healing touch?” or “Should our university offer nurses classes in manipulating energy?” These are not easy questions to answer correctly. Without science, you’ll probably get them wrong.

Hundreds of people over the centuries have slowly perfected a method, an invention, that continues to help humans leave the warmth of false certainty, embrace ignorance, and trade the fires of the stake for the fires that sent golf balls to the moon. If you are unacquainted with the basics of science, you will stumble around in the dark, flailing your hands, stumbling over cognitive biases, logical fallacies, weird heuristics, and so on. With science, with the tools and the tutelage of great teachers, a 9-year-old can drive through roadblocks of ignorance like the Dukes of Hazzard and make the entire species a percentage point smarter.

Christina Draganich

In this inbetweenisode, Christina Draganich explains how, as 21-year-old undergraduate, she came up with the idea to research placebo sleep, which led to a new scientific discovery, and she tells us how anyone with the right guidance can use science to expand our understanding of the natural world.

We also learn about new research that has identified a “continuity field” generated by the human brain to keep us from going mad.

Links and Sources

The Power of Positive Sleeping (story about the study)

Scientists pinpoint how we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane

The JAMA Study

Emily Rosa and Therapeutic Touch

Emily Rosa in Time

 

 

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YANSS Podcast 020 – James Burke and Matt Novak ponder the future and why we are terrible at predicting it

The Topic: The Future

The Guests: James Burke and Matt Novak

The Episode: Download iTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

If you love educational entertainment – programs about science, nature, history, technology and everything in between – it is a safe bet that the creators of those shows were heavily influenced by the founding fathers of science communication: Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and James Burke.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we sit down with James Burke and discuss the past, the present, and where he sees us heading in the future. Burke says we must soon learn how to deal with a world in which scarcity is scarce, abundance is abundant, and home manufacturing can produce just about anything you desire.

JamesBurkeSmallJames Burke is a legendary science historian who created the landmark BBC series Connections which provided an alternative view of history and change by replacing the traditional “Great Man” timeline with an interconnected web in which all people influence one another to blindly direct the flow of progress. Burke is currently writing a new book about the coming age of abundance, and he continues to work on his Knowledge Web project.

mattnovakWe also sit down with Matt Novak, creator and curator of Paleofuture, a blog that explores retro futurism, sifting through the many ways people in the past predicted how the future would turn out, sometimes correctly, mostly not.

Together, Burke and Novak help us understand why we are to terrible at predicting the future and what we can learn about how history truly unfolds so we can better imagine who we will be in the decades to come.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about how cigarettes affect the way your brain interprets cigarette advertising.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Patrick Regan who submitted a recipe for orange slice cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

cookies020

Links and Sources:

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

James Burke’s Connections

James Burke’s Connections – Book

James Burke’s Knowledge Web

Paleofuture at Gizmodo

Paleofuture Original Site

PBS Frontline: Generation Like

Movie: Just Imagine

What is Internet Anyway?

Smokers’ brains biased against negative images of smoking

YANSS Podcast 019 – Placebo sleep and other new discoveries in placebo research

The Topic: The Placebo Effect

The Guest: Kristi Erdal

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Photo Illustration by Candy (it's aspirin)

Photo Illustration by the artist known as Candy (it’s aspirin)

How powerful is the placebo effect? After a good night’s sleep could a scientist convince you that you had tossed and turned, and if so, how would that affect your perceptions and behavior? What if a doctor told you that you had slept like a baby when in reality you had barely slept at all? Would hearing those words improve your performance on a difficult test?

In this episode we learn the answers to these questions and more as we explore how research continues to unravel the mysteries behind the placebo effect and how it can drastically alter our bodies and minds.

Kristi ErdalOur guest is Kristi Erdal, a psychologist at Colorado College who discovered placebo sleep along with one of her students, Christina Draganich. Draganich wondered if such a thing might exist after reading all the literature on placebos, and Erdal helped her create the research methods she used to test her hypothesis. Erdal’s page at Colorado College can be found here.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about how important eccentricity is when it comes to evaluating an artist’s work.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Natalie Sun who submitted a recipe for White Chocolate Oreo Cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

White Chocolate Oreos

Links and Sources

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Steve Silberman’s Article About The Placebo Effect

Kristi Erdal’s Page at Colorado College

The Placebo Sleep Press Release

The Placebo Sleep Abstract

Eccentricity of Artists Article

Beecher’s Paper: The Powerful Placebo

Ben Goldacher Talks About the Placebo Effect

Daniel Keogh’s Video About the Placebo Effect

YANSS Podcast 018 – How Benjamin Franklin dealt with haters

The Topic: The Benjamin Franklin Effect

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Benjamin

Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters, and in this episode we learn how he turned his haters into fans with what is now called The Benjamin Franklin Effect (read more about the effect here).

Listen as David McRaney reads an excerpt from his book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” explaining the psychology behind the effect and how the act of spreading harm forms the attitude of hate, and the act of spreading kindness generates the attitude of camaraderie.

Links:

Time Magazine: 1 in 4 Americans Apparently Unaware the Earth Orbits the Sun

Banjopocalypse

Sources:

  • Batson, C. Daniel, Diane Kobrynowicz, Jessica L. Dinnerstein, Hannah C. Kampf, et al. “In a Very Different Voice: Unmasking Moral Hypocrisy.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72, no. 6 (1997): 1335–348.
  • Cacioppo, John T., Joseph R. Priester, and Gary G. Berntson. “Rudimentary Determinants of Attitudes: II. Arm Flexion and Extension Have Differential Effects on Attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65, no. 1 (1993): 5–17.
  • Festinger, Leon, and James M. Carlsmith.“Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 58, no. 2 (1959): 203–10.
  • Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Ed. Frank Woodworth Pine. Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub., 1916.
  • Jecker, Jon, and David Landy. “Liking a Person as a Function of Doing Him a Favour.” Human Relations 22, no. 4 (1969): 371–78.
  • Myers, D. G. Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Schopler, John, and John S. Compere. “Effects of Being Kind or Harsh to Another on Liking.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 20, no. 2 (1971): 155–59.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007.
  • Wicker, Allan W. “Attitudes Versus Actions: The Relationship of Verbal and Overt Behavioral Responses to Attitude Objects.” Journal of Social Issues 25, no. 4 (1969): 41–78.

YANSS Podcast 017 – Tim Farley explains the potential harm in using alternative medicine

The Topic: Alternative Medicine

The Guest: Tim Farley

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Dr. Terminus, the snake oil salesman from Disney's "Pete's Dragon"

Dr. Terminus, the snake oil salesman from Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”

Where is the line between regular medicine and alternative medicine? Are Eastern medicine and Western medicine truly at odds, and if so, who is right and who is wrong? What harm is there in using complementary or integrative treatments in an effort to improve wellness?

Tim FarleyIn this episode we discuss alternative medicine with Tim Farley, creator and curator of What’s The Harm, a website that tracks the harmful effects that result from seeking out alternative treatments and cures before, or instead of, seeking out science-based medicine. Tim is a software engineer and research fellow at the James Randi Foundation. He also created the website Skeptical Software Tools, and he tweets at @krelnik.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about morality within virtual reality.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Robin Sanchez who submitted a recipe for raspberry sandwiches. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Raspberry Sandwiches

Links and Sources

What’s The Harm?

The Truth About Alternative Medicine (panel from TAM 2012)

Tim Minchin’s “Storm”

An Underground Education

Say Say Say

Pete’s Dragon

The National Science Foundation on Alternative Medicine

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

YANSS Podcast 016 – Steven Novella and Jesse Walker discuss the history and psychology of conspiracy theories

The Topic: Conspiracy Theories

The Guest: Steven Novella and Jesse Walker

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Red Eye of Providence

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code PIPE.

Who is pulling the strings? Who is behind the coverup? Who holds the real power, and what do they want? How deep does the conspiracy to control your mind go?

In this episode we discuss the history, social impact, neuroscience and psychology behind conspiracy theories and paranoid thinking.

Steven Novella

Our guests are Steven Novella and Jesse Walker.

Steven Novella is a leader in the skeptic community, host of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, and an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He blogs at Neurologica, Skepticblog, and Science-Based Medicine.

Jesse Walker

Jesse Walker is the books editor for Reason Magazine and author of the new book, The United States of Paranoia, a Conspiracy Theory. Walker’s articles can be seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many others. He blogs at The Perpetual Three Dot Column.

Listen as they explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, how they harm, and what they say about a culture.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about new evidence to support Dunbar’s Number.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Hal Sandbach who submitted a recipe for turtle cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

TurtleCookie

Links and Sources

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes at Pinterest

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe

The United States of Paranoia, a Conspiracy Theory

Glenn Beck Video 1

Glenn Beck Video 2

Alex Jones Video 1

Alex Jones Video 2

Jesse Ventura Video

Wikipedia’s Giant List of Conspiracies

Oxford Study Concerning Dunbar’s Number

YANSS Podcast 015 – I read an excerpt from You Are Now Less Dumb

The Topic: Narrative Bias

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

The Ypsilanti State Hospital - Photo Courtesy of Opacity.Us

The Ypsilanti State Hospital – Photo Courtesy of Opacity.Us

In this inbetweenisode I read an excerpt from my book, You Are Now Less Dumb, about a strange experiment in Michigan that tested the bounds of the self by throwing three very unusual men into a situation that won’t likely be repeated ever again by science.

In the next episode (posting next week) of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, neurologist Steven Novella and author Jesse Walker explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, and what they say about a culture.

Links and Sources

McRaney, David. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and Allthe Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Rokeach, Milton. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. New York: New York Review Books, 2011.

Eagleman, D. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. New York: Pantheon, 2011.

Whinnery, James E., and Angela M. Whinnery. “Acceleration-Induced Loss of Consciousness: A Review of 500 Episodes.” Archives of Neurology 47, no. 7 (1990): 764– 76.

New York City’s Placebo Buttons and The Post Hoc Fallacy

I’m so excited to reveal the latest book trailer for my new book, You Are Now Less Dumb. Here is a link to learn more about the book.

Once again, the fantastic production crew at Plus3 Video created this wonderful video. You can learn more about them at this link.

You can see all the videos we’ve made together right here on the YANSS Youtube Channel: link to videos.

The video is inspired by a chapter in the book which mentions placebo buttons, a topic covered here on YANSS a few years back which you can read about at this link.

YANSS Podcast 013 – Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds

Time Cyberpunk

The Topic: Technology

The Guest: Clive Thompson

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

The very fact that you are reading this sentence, contemplating whether you want to listen to this podcast, means that you are living out a fantasy from a previous generation’s cyberpunk novel.

However you made it here, however you got these words into your brain, you did so by diving through data streams first cooked up by delirious engineers downing late-night coffees, wandering deep within rows of data tape unspooling from jerky, spinning platters.

We’ve been dreaming of this life for a long time, since before the vacuum tubes and punchcards of the ’40s, and now that we are here, some people are worried that the tech will, at best, make us lazy, and at worst make us stupid.

Is all this new technology improving our thinking or dampening it? Are all these new communication tools turning us into navel-gazing human/brand hybrids, or are we developing a new set of senses that allow us to benefit from never severing contact with the people most important to us?

Clive ThompsonThat’s the topic of this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, and to answer these questions we welcome this episode’s guest, Clive Thompson, who is the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. As the title suggests, he disagrees with the naysayers, and his book is an impressive investigation into why they are probably (thankfully) wrong. Thompson is a journalist whose work can be found published in Wired, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. You can learn more about him at his website.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about research into how the way you walk can encourage or discourage criminals to attack you.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Joye Swan who submitted a recipe for chewy rosemary sugar cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Rosemary Sugar Cookies

Links and Sources:

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Clive Thompson’s Website

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

Hyperland

Douglas Adams Interview

How to Operate Your Brain

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr Interview

Why The Web Won’t Be Nirvana

The Argument From Antiquity at Neurologica

How the way we walk can increase risk of being mugged

YANSS Podcast 12 – David Buss and the Dangerous Passion of Jealousy

Lisa Nowak shampooing in space. Image: NASA

Lisa Nowak shampooing in space. Image: NASA

The Topic: Jealousy

The Guest: David Buss

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Why do human beings experience jealousy, what is its function, and what are the warning signs that signal this powerful emotion may lead to violence?

Once reserved for the contemplation of poets and playwrights, jealousy is now the subject of intense scientific scrutiny. “Mate poachers abound,” explains this week’s guest, psychologist David Buss, who says that his research supports his hypothesis that human jealousy is an adaptation forged by evolutionary forces to deal with the problems of infidelity. Moderate jealousy, he says, is healthy and signals commitment, but there is a dark and corrosive side as well that follows a clear, predictable pattern before it destroys lives.

David BussDavid Buss is a professor of psychology who studies human mating at The University of Texas at Austin. He his the author of The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies Of Human Mating, Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex, The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, and Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge. You can learn more about him and his work at DavidBuss.com

After the interview I discuss a news story about research into societies in which women are more competitive than men.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Fernando Cordeiro who submitted a recipe for chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Cookie 12

Links/Sources:

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Where Women Are More Competitive Than Men

The Website of David Buss

Lisa Nowak Apology

Colleen Shipman in Court Describing Attack

ABC News: Lisa Nowak Late Night Comedy

The Daily Show Segment about Lisa Nowak

Lisa Nowak’s NASA Bio