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Episode 120 - Emery Emery on Science Friction

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 05/01/2020

Episode 143 - Merfolklore, Merfact, and Merfiction show art Episode 143 - Merfolklore, Merfact, and Merfiction

Squaring the Strange

This episode we talk all manner of things mer . . . mermen, mermaids, merb'ys, and many more. People love conjuring up creatures that are half human, and merfolk top the list. Whether helpful creatures, rhyming blue men, or bloodthirsty temptresses, merfolk have been cast in many tales. We learn the connection between Ariel and an unrequited bisexual love from the 19th century, and we look at "real" mermaids from "The Body Found" (Discovery Channel, 2011) to "the body gaffed" (P. T. Barnum, 1842).

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Episode 142 - Crankery and Notable Cranks show art Episode 142 - Crankery and Notable Cranks

Squaring the Strange

Ben, Celestia, and Pascual help define what makes a crank a crank, and we look into the history of this concept. Then we bring a couple of examples we think illustrate textbook cranks and why they aren't just laughable, they can do some real harm. From selling spiritual self-help books and snake oil to trying to legislate a wrong value for Pi, cranks have a long and storied history in America.

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Episode 141 - The Crying Boy Curse, with David Clarke show art Episode 141 - The Crying Boy Curse, with David Clarke

Squaring the Strange

We are joined by folklorist and author David Clarke, who traces the legend of the Crying Boy curse, a curious story surrounding prints of several paintings that featured big-eyed crying children. These popular prints were blamed for fires in the UK during the 1980s, and tales sprung up of orphaned street urchins with mysterious powers to start fires. The roots of the tale involve a confluence of journalistic eagerness, firefighter observations, material science, and good old-fashioned odds.

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Episode 140 - Steve Kulls and the Georgia Bigfoot Body Hoax show art Episode 140 - Steve Kulls and the Georgia Bigfoot Body Hoax

Squaring the Strange

After thoughts on the inauguration and future of our science agencies and news landscape, we talk to Steve Kulls of SquatchDetective.com. Ben met Steve years ago and recognized that, in a field rife with hoaxes and a low bar for evidence, he was a great example of proper investigation techniques. Steve shares with us his tenets of research and discusses his role in uncovering the Georgia Bigfoot body hoax of 2008--a tale involving a cast of characters involved in secrecy, corruption and avoiding the FBI.

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Episode 139 - 2020 Hindsight! show art Episode 139 - 2020 Hindsight!

Squaring the Strange

Yay, 2020 is over! This bonus episode is a casual, nonscripted, barely outlined roundtable with Ben, Celestia, and Pascual as we go through how this year affected us both personally and in terms of skeptical outreach. Then we chat about our favorite episodes. We shall return to our normal squaring of strange topics next week!

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Episode 138 - Insurrection Wednesday and an Antivax Primer show art Episode 138 - Insurrection Wednesday and an Antivax Primer

Squaring the Strange

We recorded a special opener to discuss the late-breaking, Capitol-invading events of the past 36 hours and the role misinformation played in getting thousands of people to this point. Then for our main topic, we go through a brief history of antivax sentiment in the US and the dual nature of Covid vaccine hesitancy.

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Episode 137 - Musical Legend Grab Bag show art Episode 137 - Musical Legend Grab Bag

Squaring the Strange

First, Celestia recounts some spooky incidents she's experienced during the pandemic. Then we look at a handful of music-related strangeness. Ben brings some surprising facts about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, which appears to have threads of history woven into its folklore tapestry. We discuss Satanic rumors that surrounded guitarist Robert Johnson, and look into a studio scream that launched many lurid tales. To end, we take a quick tour of pop culture origins for the scatological-sounding "brown note."

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Episode 136 - Revisiting Dr. Leo Igwe on Witchcraft Persecution in Africa show art Episode 136 - Revisiting Dr. Leo Igwe on Witchcraft Persecution in Africa

Squaring the Strange

First we count the "mysterious monoliths" so far, and get a call out to Louie Raffloer, the Seattle blacksmith who created a monolith back in 2001. Then we join Dr. Leo Igwe, who tells of the latest witchcraft attacks he has fought against. Leo delves into factors that cause this superstition to run rampant in the region, and shares his goal to end witchcraft persecution by 2030. You can donate at BetterPlace.org (click on "English" at bottom right, then search "Advocacy for Alleged Witches Nigeria.")

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Episode 135 - Investigative Skepticism with Kenny Biddle show art Episode 135 - Investigative Skepticism with Kenny Biddle

Squaring the Strange

Ben, Celestia, and Pascual discuss the otherworldly monolith that's popped up in a remote part of Utah, and Ben shares another in his series of "used book mysteries," this one perfectly timed for the election. Then we have a lengthy discussion with newly minted CFI fellow (and just plain jolly good fellow) Kenny Biddle. Ben and Kenny bring up some of their investigative heroes, lay out some principles of skeptical investigation, and tell us why they have a passion for digging into cold-case mysteries.

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Episode 134 - The Ghost Army and Military Deception, with Col. Francis Park, Ph.D. show art Episode 134 - The Ghost Army and Military Deception, with Col. Francis Park, Ph.D.

Squaring the Strange

After some chatting about the recent election and alleged voter fraud, we dive into the Ghost Army, a tactical unit of hoaxers in WW2 that saved thousands of lives by pulling off elaborate frauds complete with sound, improvisational theater, props, and set design. Joining us is Col. Francis Park, Ph.D., a military historian who has a few stories about tactical deception from other eras.

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More Episodes

First, Ben, Celestia, and Pascual discuss a few pandemic-related things that set off some skeptical alarms over social media this past week. Then we are joined by Southern California-based comedian and film editor Emery Emery to talk about his soon-to-be-released project with Brian Dunning. With the help of many science communicators and experts (Ben himself among them), Emery and Dunning have crafted a documentary called Science Friction, revealing the myriad ways experts have been manipulated, maligned, and misrepresented by producers of questionable documentaries.