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Download Now – “Observing the Universe: Telescopes and Dark Matter Skepticism

Mario-Mateo-HeadshotThis is the audio recording of the 04/19 meet-up with Dr. Mario Matteo, professor of Astronomy at the University of Michigan.  In this meet-up, Dr. Matteo discusses the importance of instrumentation in cosmology and astronomy, including his own development of several powerful telescopes.  And Dr. Matteo also explains why some of his work challenges current models of dark matter as an explanatory reason of the distribution of mass in nearby galaxies.

Some of the highlights of the conversation:

(12:50) What is meant by measuring velocities when using a telescope, (20:00) The skepticism of dark matter as an explanation for the distribution of mass in galaxies, (36:50) The excitement over the Gaia Satellite Mission, (45:00) What is a dwarf galaxy, (49:10) How gravitation lensing is used as data, and (1:08:50) Why Dr. Matteo doesn’t speculate on dark energy.

Download Now – “Innovation in Manufacturing & Engineering”

jay guoThis is the audio recording of the 04/05 meet-up with Dr. L Jay Guo, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Macromolecular Science and Engineering and Applied Physics at the University of Michigan.  In this meet-up, Dr. Guo provides an overview of potential industrial uses of nanotechnology, the advantages and disadvantages of nano-materials and more.

Some of the highlights of the conversation:

Organic Flexible Solar Cells, Carbon Nanotubes, Invisibility, The issue of Patents, Nano-Robots, Environmental concerns of nanotechnology, Exploiting Quantum Physics in nanotechnology, Colored Solar Panels and How research moves from the university level to commercial development.  We even talk a bit about dark matter at the very end which ties into our next group event.

Download Now - "Plant Evolution and ‘The Tree of Life Project’"

Steve SmithThis is the audio recording of the 02/15 meet-up with Dr. Stephen A Smith, evolutionary biologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.  In this meet-up, Dr. Smith discusses the study of plant evolution as well as a bold research project called “the Open Tree of Life” project.

I’ve provided a list of some of the conversation highlights and time marks for easy reference:

  • Start – Introduction and Smith’s background and research of early evolution of plants & animals
  • 25:40 – Differences between the evolution of plants and animals
  • 31:40- How does climate change affect plant evolution?
  • 41:45 – Gene transference amongst plants
  • 51:30- Thoughts on GMO plants
  • 58:40 – Determining the chronology of plants
  • 1:01:10 – Plants in Antarctica
  • 1:20:40- Plant emotions and communication
  • 1:24:27 – The Open Tree of Life Project

Download Now "Origin of Organics in Solar System Formation"

RuudVisser6This is the audio recording of the 01/25 meet-up with Dr. Ruud Visser, postdoc at University of Michigan.  In this meet-up, Ruud discusses his research into the chemical aspects of star formation and its implications on seeding solar systems with organic material capable of becoming life.


I’ve provided a list of conversation highlights and time marks for easy reference:

  • 00:01 Introduction and overview of Visser’s education and experience
  • 28:20 On planets in the habitable zone of a solar system
  • 32:40 Searching for extra-terrestrial amino acids
  • 43:00 Europa and Titan
  • 45:45 Formation of Rocky Planets and Gas Giants
  • 50:15 Comets as delivery agents of water to Earth
  • 58:45 The abundance of Carbon in the solar system
  • 1:12:00 On intelligent life in the Galaxy
  • 1:30:08 What’s a typical day like for Ruud?
  • 1:36:05 On applying for grants and doing outreach

Download Now – “Science Publishing”

Nick WiggingtonThis is the audio recording of the 11/16 meet-up with Dr. Nick Wigginton, associate editor for Science Magazine.  In this meet-up, Nick discusses the process of publishing scientific research and experiments, and uses examples from his own experience as an editor of a prestigious scientific journal.



Download Now – "AntiCancer Drug Research"

Eugene ManleyThis is the audio recording of the 10/26 meet-up with Dr. Eugene Manley.  Dr. Manley did his PhD work on studying anti-cancer drugs, and analyzed cancer stem cells in lung cancer.

This conversation has been edited.  Much of the discussion centers around various types of cancers and anti-cancer drug treatments, and then the discussion shifts to the roles/responsibilities of researchers that details the day-to-day duties, animal testing issues, and various ways researchers obtain funding and grants.


Download Now – “Dark Energy and the Dark Energy Survey”

DavidGerdes-150x150This is the audio recording of the 9/21 meet-up with Dr. David Gerdes.  Dr. Gerdes discussed the evidence of dark energy by past experiments and observations, and then introduced us to the current project in Dark Energy research called “The Dark Energy Survey.”

(The beginning of the recording was cut off, and so it begins with Gerdes explaining the evidence for dark energy).

Download Now – “Communication Amongst Non-Human Primates”

Ethiopia_5July2012 014This is the audio recording of the 06/08 meet-up with Morgan Gustison.  Morgan provided a presentation about her research regarding lip-smacking by gelada monkeys, and its relevance to non-human primate communication.




Download Now – “The Ethics of Animal Testing”

CarlCohenThis is the audio recording of the 02/16 meet-up with Carl Cohen.  The topic for the get-together was to better acquaint ourselves with Cohen’s arguments that animals do not have rights, and thus can be used for animal testing.

Carl Cohen is a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan.  You can find out more about his activisim in a variety of controversial areas by visiting his wikipedia page.

I’ve provided a list of conversation highlights and time marks for easier locating: (how Carl Cohen become involved in animal rights at 1:00), (on animals being used in research at 5:00), (explaining rights and obligations at 9:00), (what animal research would be too far or not allowable at 15:00), a discussion of rights and interests at 24:00), (how animals were used in testing Polio vaccines at 32:00), (on using mice in labs at 44:00), (on Nobel prizes in medicine based on animal research at 53:00), (on “consent” at 1:00:00), (analogy between animals and humans who are cognitively impaired at 1:08:00), (on pain and suffering at 1:14:00), (return to “consent” and sex with animals at 1:22:00).

Download Now – “The Higgs and other particles that Matter”

This is the audio recording of the 01/19 meet-up with Sean Tulin.  The topic for the get-together was to help better understand the discovery of the Higgs Bosun, and its importance to the Standard Model of Physics.  We also talk a bit about the hunt for dark matter, quantum mechanics, and the early formation of the universe.

Sean Tulin is a theoretical particle physicist at the University of Michigan.

Download Now – Tom Shellberg "Evolution and Human Behavior”

This is the audio recording of the 10/27 meet-up with Tom Shellberg.  The topic for the get-together was to understand how some biologists see evolution as shaping human behavior.

Tom is the author of Choosy Women and Cheating Men: Evolution and Human Behavior.

Note: The conversation contains some adult discussion on sex and sexual behavior.  Not all views expressed in this conversation are necessarily shared by the members of the group.

Download Now – "Paranormal Investigations with Grimstone Inc."

This is the audio recording of the 09/22 meet-up with paranormal investigator, Chris Bailey, of Grimstone Inc..  The topic for the get-together was for skeptics to get a better understanding of paranormal investigations; and the distinction between how Grimstone does them versus how typical ghost hunting groups do them.  And Chris was gracious enough to respond to our members about our skepticism of paranormal phenomena. For more information about Grimstone Inc., please visit

Download Now – Miles Kimball “Economics & Skepticism: Overview, Misconceptions, & Biases”

This is the audio recording of the 08/18 meet-up with Miles Kimball.  The topic for the get-together was to understand certain issues in economics, such as trade deficits, the role of the Federal Reserve, Walmart, subsidies, and Miles’s novel idea for a stimulus measure – federal lines of credit to the people.

Miles blogs at Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal at and you can follow him on twitter at @mileskimball.

In this group conversation, we cover a range of topics. Therefore, I’ve provided a list of these topics and the approximate time during the recording that they come up: (on being a supply-side liberal and the concerns with too many regulations and government-mandated certifications at 3:00), (on Walmart at 33:20), (on immigration as a moral and financial value at 46:10), (on subsidies at 55:30), (on trade, deficits, and retirement savings at 1:05:00), (on trade deficit with China at 1:28:00), (on wealthy people who save money at 1:31:00), (on ethical finance at at 1:38:00), (on the stimulus, role of the federal reserve, and Miles’s government’s extending lines of credit idea at 1:44:00), (on doing experiments and testing economic theories at 2:01:00).

Download Now – Shaneen Braswell "Extraterrestrial Life Detection Research"

This is the audio recording of the 07/21 meetup with Shaneen Braswell.  The topic for the get-together was about the science of searching for extraterrestrial life.

In this casual group conversation, Shaneen provided many examples of experimentation, protocols, and technological advances in astrobiology research.


Download Now – Dr. Simon Lunn “Stem Cell Research”

This is the audio recording of the 06/16 meetup with Dr. Simon Lunn.  The topic for the get-together was about stem cell research, and in particular how it’s being studied for therapeutic treatments for neurological diseases like ALS.

In this casual group conversation, Dr. Lunn provided a really thorough overview of the topic, particularly about the types of stem cells, how they grow in the lab, are extracted and injected into patients.

Download Now – “James Randi Q and A”

This is the audio recording of the 04/28 meet-up with James Randi.  The topic of the discussion was about skeptical activism.  We also talked a bit about Randi’s forthcoming book, A Magician in the Laboratory, and then we had a Q & A with the audience.


Note about the audio: Unfortunately, my digital audio recorder captured James Randi’s audio level at a much higher amount than the VU meter suggested.  I didn’t realize his audio was clipping.  Therefore Randi’s audio level sounds over-modulated and distorted.  I did the best to smooth it out, but my recommendation would be to listen to this with your speakers turned down.  In the meanwhile, I’ll see if I can get this in the hands of someone who can use the appropriate filters, EQ, and other effects to improve this conversation.  And I’ll replace this file with a better one at that time.

Download Now - “Pregnant Primates and the ‘Bruce Effect’”

This is the audio recording of the 03/17 meet-up with Eila Roberts.  The topic for the get-together was about a bold science paper of which she was a researcher on, that connected a certain type of primate (gelados) to “the Bruce Effect – the phenomenon which states that females experience a pregnancy failure when a new dominant male enters the group, which may or may not be an adaptation of self-defense to prevent infanticide.  The ‘Bruce Effect” has only been observed in mice and voles, however it has been suggested to occur in some other kinds of primates and lions.

Download Now – Dr. Catherine Badgley “The Sustainability & Efficacy of Organic Farming”

This is the audio recording of the 02/18 meet-up with Dr. Catherine Badgley.  The topic for the get-together was on whether organic farming is sustainable and scaleable enough to feed the world.

We discuss the distinction between organic and conventional (industrial) farming methods, the problems of over-consumption, and addresses some of the skeptical arguments of whether organic farming is too costly, requires too much land, and is otherwise unnecessary.

Note: This recording was made in a cafe, and there are a few moments where ambient noise makes listening to the speaker difficult, particularly in the beginning.  But those moments are quite brief.

Download Now – Dr. David Gorski: Science-Based Medicine

This is an audio recording of the 01/21 meet-up. This conversation is about alternative medicine and its lack of efficacy.

We also talk about the ethics of placebo treatments, treating patients with phantom limb condition, if popular herbal treatments that have some efficacy should be co-opted into science-based medicine, and a tangential conversation about what patients should ask their surgeon before an operation.

Download Now – Debate On Alternate Theories to 9/11 Truth

This is an audio recording of the Q & A portion of the 12/17 meet-up which featured a presentation from Stanley A. Beattie P.E., a representative of the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.  Stanley provided his arguments and reasoning as to why the AE911Truth members believe that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by explosive demolition to an audience consisting of both those who accept these claims and those who are skeptical of these claims.

Download Now – Mathematical Estimation As A Skeptical Tool

This is an audio recording of the (10/22 meet-up) which featured a presentation from Aaron Santos, about using mathematical estimation as a way of determining validity on empirical claims made by others.

In this presentation, you’ll find out how many years it would take for a person to eat the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, if claims from the Vertical Farming project are realistic, and how many people attended Glenn Beck’s 2010 rally?

For more information on Aaron Santos, check out his blog called “A Diary of Numbers,” in which he creates more interesting and funny calculations. And you can read his book, How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything, which is a collection of some of his best estimations.

Download Now – The Skepticism of the Asian Carp Threat

This is an audio recording of the (10/08 meet-up) which featured a discussion between Dr. Gerald Smith, fish biologist from the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Murray, scientist from the National Wildlife Federation.

Dr. Gerald Smith is professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.  His work has focused on Great Lakes ecosystems, evolution of freshwater fishes, and he also is curator emeritus at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History.  He’s also the author of Guide to Great Lakes Fishes.

Dr. Michael Murray is a staff scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.  His work has focused on issues regarding the Great Lakes, such as pollution, water quality, climate change, and invasive species.  He also lectures at the University of Michigan.


Download Now – On Empiricism and Skepticism: The Philosophy of David Hume

This is an audio recording of the (08/20) meet-up – On Empiricism and Skepticism: The Philosophy of David Hume (special guest – Dr. Louis Loeb).