Episode #39: The Hitch, Zom-Bees and Quasicrystals

The 39th episode of Consilience is out! You can download the mp3 here (31mb) and the 
file’s page on Archive.org is here.

Teaching Angela to appreciate history

Arthur Ford died on January 4th 1971, he was an American pscychic medium who claimed to hear the voices of dead people.


Christopher Hitchens lost his battle to cancer in December 2011. As this is the first proper episode since then, we take some time to say goodbye.

Parasitic fly turning bees into Zom-Bees.

We report on the inability of blind-folded violinists to tell the difference between Stradivarius and modern high-end violins. The paper was published in PNAS and reported on by Ed Yong. These are the samples:

Only naturally occurring quasicrystal on Earth seems to have come from space! And here is the diagram Angela promised for the golden ratio:

2011 in Review

Your favorite interview of the year:
Angela: Claire Lee interviews.
Mike: Steven Novella
Owen: Rebecca Watson

Your favorite news story:
Angela: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of dark streaks on Mars that appear to be flowing water. and/or FTL Neutrinos
Mike: leaproach
Owen: Supermassive black holes orbiting each other

Listener Quiz

Please listen to the two snippets of violin music at this NPR link and tell us which one you think is the $3million Stradivarius.


A selection of our favourite quotes by Christopher Hitchens.

Owen: What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
Angela: “And not scorning the three delightful children who result— who are everything to me and who are my only chance of even a glimpse of a second life, let alone an immortal one, and I’ll tell you something: if I was told to sacrifice them to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who said, “Yes, I’ll gut my kid to show my love of God,” I’d say, “No. Fuck you.”
Mike: Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
Angela: The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.


Cape Town: Sceptics in the Pub – Friday, 20 January 2012, 19:00, Beleza, Corner of Burnside and Kloof Nek road, Tamboerskloof

Joburg: Skeptics in the Park, 22nd January at 1pm at Zoo Lake. Monthly on the 3rd Sunday of the month.


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2 Responses to Episode #39: The Hitch, Zom-Bees and Quasicrystals

  1. Tom Maydon says:

    Thanks for the great show again. Loved the Hitch memories, the zombees and the Stradivarius piece. Best comment, “Connoisseurs are just full of shit,” couldn’t have said it better

    Just read this piece: a summary of a speech that Mbeki gave at an “International Knowledge Conference”. You can read it hear: http://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2012/01/17/false-knowledge-ended-gaddafi-s-rule-says-mbeki . Ever the conspiracy-monger. Here he claims that swine flu was a conspiracy created by Big Pharma. Some things never change.

  2. Anti Tom Maydon says:

    Another colony collapse hypothesis – this time it’s pesticides weakening the immune system: http://www.economist.com/node/21543469?fsrc=scn/tw/te/ar/beeoff

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