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Episode 120 - Emery Emery on Science Friction

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 05/01/2020

Episode 184 - Djinnception and Pirates! show art Episode 184 - Djinnception and Pirates!

Squaring the Strange

First Celestia gushes about "3,000 Years of Longing," starring Idris Elba as a sultry Djinn. Then Ben talks to us about the pirate life, which had a lot more worms than one might expect. What's the difference between a privateer and a buccaneer? Or a sloop and a four-masted mariner? We go into daily activities, reasons people ended up on pirate ships, and of course how pirates typically met their end. Then we spotlight a few female pirates and talk about Blackbeard, who had the greatest PR team on the high seas.

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Episode 183 - Secrets of the Coral Castle show art Episode 183 - Secrets of the Coral Castle

Squaring the Strange

Part roadside attraction -- and apparently also part magnetic marvel, part harmonics and Ley Line energy well, part mystical creation of a stone-singer, part love letter, and part obsession, the Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida, has baffled engineers and scientists for decades. Or so it's been said. What was the real force behind this peculiar non-coral non-castle, exactly? Ben has written about and visited the Coral Castle and pored through the pamphlets of its builder, Latvian-American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin, to peel away the layers of mysterious woo that have been draped over this...

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Episode 182 - Episode 182 - "America the Fearful," with Ben Radford!

Squaring the Strange

Yes, so our guest this episode is . . . Ben! We take a look at a few strange things in the news first, like "Hunger Stones" and a "Surprise Spanish Stonehenge"! (No one expects the Spanish Stonehenge!). Then we dive into some media literacy themes and lessons in Ben's latest book, "America the Fearful: Media and the Marketing of National Panics." Part primer on what ties folklore of old to the anxiety-riddled news of today, part catalog of biases that influence the news, and part exploration of solutions, our talk goes into some familar territory for longtime listeners.  

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Episode 181 - Hey, What Happened to My Penis? Koro Happened. show art Episode 181 - Hey, What Happened to My Penis? Koro Happened.

Squaring the Strange

To our credit, we manage to not giggle like third-graders for most of the episode, as we discuss the strange belief that one's penis has gone missing, become smaller, or been switched out. A peculiar mix of superstition, body dysmorphia, and curse belief, Koro has many traits of a mass sociogenic illness (MSI) and is "contagious" to a degree. When we peel back the layers, it's not such a funny topic after all, and falls into the category of suspicious folklore that results in harm: to victims, to endangered species, and to those suspected of witchcraft.

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Episode 180 - Burn Baby Burn . . . Effigies! show art Episode 180 - Burn Baby Burn . . . Effigies!

Squaring the Strange

This episode is special because all three of us have personal experience -- in Santa Fe, the Black Rock Desert, or Lewes, England -- watching giant effigies burn down in a symbolic cleansing ritual reputed to have dark, murderous roots. Yet this ubiquitous form of expression is also clever, satirical, and a way to showcase public art and bring a community together. From Wicker Man to Zozobra, what kind of strangeness have humans conjured up, only to burn down?

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Episode 179 - Deviant Death Rites and Bizarre Burials show art Episode 179 - Deviant Death Rites and Bizarre Burials

Squaring the Strange

This week, as we await Pascual's time-out due to COVID, Ben and Celestia look into strange burial practices over the ages. With a peppering of pop culture here and there, we hear from Ben on medieval ways to keep your relatives from leaving their graves, from wooden stakes to mouth bricks to even the origins of headstones! Then we look into the Enlightenment and Victorian era and fears of being buried alive, as well as two very recent cases where families feared that had happened. Finally, Celestia takes a look at the surprising practicality of sky burials in the Himalayas.

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Episode 178 - You Don't Know Jack (alopes)! Michael Branch and the Art of the Hoax show art Episode 178 - You Don't Know Jack (alopes)! Michael Branch and the Art of the Hoax

Squaring the Strange

We are joined by Professor Michael Branch, who has just released his new book "On the Trail of the Jackalope." What began as an idea for a taxidermy correspondence course 90 years ago has blossomed into a cultural phenomenon. Michael Branch shares his appreciation for the Western tall tale, the whimsy and skill that went into original Wyoming jackalopes, and what sets a hoax apart from a scam or a con. We discuss tall tale postcards and other "jackalopiana" and uncover the surprising role jackalopes have played in the history of medicine and public health.

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Episode 177 - Field Trip to Bagansland with Susan and Kenny! show art Episode 177 - Field Trip to Bagansland with Susan and Kenny!

Squaring the Strange

We begin with a look at the continuing danger of online rumors igniting mob violence and the Google engineer who is in the news for his belief that the AI in development there has reached sentience. Then we are joined by Susan Gerbic and Kenny Biddle, who ventured out to Vegas recently and joined Ben for a tour of Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum (but is it, really?). We discuss the "real paranormal" angle versus theatrical haunted house that this museum tries to straddle, and Kenny shares some details on artifacts like the Dybbuk box, which he likely devalued by solving the "mysteries" behind them....

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Episode 176 - Mass Shootings and Media Literacy show art Episode 176 - Mass Shootings and Media Literacy

Squaring the Strange

Ben has done several deep dives into various aspects of how the public processes mass shootings, and recent events moved us to bring this topic out now. As political talking heads and newsmakers cherry-pick and sound off about their own causative theories and narratives, what will and won't work to curb these horrific events, we thought we'd take a look into what we do know, and don't know, about the profile of an "average" mass shooter. Data on mass shootings, and other gun violence, is lacking for a reason, and that's soon to change, which will hopefully allow a more rigorous, public-health...

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Episode 175 - Dangers of DIY Baby Formula and Herbal Abortions show art Episode 175 - Dangers of DIY Baby Formula and Herbal Abortions

Squaring the Strange

Ben announces the release of his new book, "America the Fearful," and then Celestia takes over for a main segment inspired by current events. While we hope these fears turn out to be unfounded, there is much worry presently about parents turning to DIY recipes for baby formula amid the nationwide shortage. Another looming fear is that many lives will be lost to unsafe abortion practices if access is restricted -- herbal abortions share many features with other forms of alternative medicine, but with highly toxic abortifacients the stakes are very high. We look into the history and folklore of...

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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.