Token Skeptic Podcast

Why do we believe weird things? What does feminine intuition really mean? How do you become an effective activist for science and reason? Are you ready for a monthly show that poses these questions and more? Tune into the Token Skeptic for a slightly more skeptical look at stories in the news, urban legends, good science, pseudoscience, and what makes popular culture pop. Hosted and produced by philosophy teacher and radio broadcaster Kylie Sturgess.

The Podcasts

The Perth Writers Festival comes to town and it was a great chance to interview a range of talented authors taking part in the festivities.

My interviews are with:

  • Ben Rawlence - his book City of Thorns is about Northern Kenya - the home of the world’s largest refugee camp, with half a million people. Opening Night speaker at the Perth International Arts Festival.
  • Candice Fox - her first novel, Hades, won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014 from the Australian Crime Writers Association; she has since gone onto numerous books on crime and punishment.
  • Hannah Kent - is the best-selling author of Burial Rites and the newly released The Good People - stories of culture, crime and history.
  • Garth Nix -  is an award-winning sci-fi fantasy author with several series of fantasy and fiction; I asked him about his new book "Frogkisser" ahead of his appearances at the festival.
  • Amy Stewart - an author of nonfiction books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including New York Times bestsellers with The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs and Wicked Plants. However, her range has extended to the tales of a trio of turn-of-the-century sisters turned detectives, with the latest being Lady Cop Makes Trouble - the second book in an ongoing series.
  • Chinelo Okparanta - this Nigerian-American author  writes stories of women and children, family life, migration, war and love; she first started with short stories, with the collection Happiness, Like Water and then her most recent novel Under the Udula Trees.
  • Inua Ellams - London-based playwright and poet Inua Ellams' work explores the themes of identity, displacement and destiny – areas of life he’s intimately familiar with.
  • Dan Box - the National Crime Reporter for The Australian and creator of crime podcast Bowraville.
  • Marwa Al-Sabouni - Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni is battling to heal her home city of Homs, having remained there as bombs destroyed much of what she knew and loved. Her ideas to mend the city are now laid out in a visionary memoir, The Battle For Home. She is presenting the closing night address.
  • Clementine Ford - Australian feminist columnist and author of the best selling book Fight Like A Girl.
  • Lindy West - is a Seattle-based writer, editor and performer who’s work has appeared in a number of well-known publications - and the author of Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman.
  • Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa - a Perth performance poet, she’s a workshop facilitator, actor, artist and humanitarian. Her questions about notions of Australian national identity, got her to the finals of the national Australia poetry slam.
  • Nathan Hill - short story author and author of The Nix; a tale of estrangement and displacement in both families and national politics.
  • Adrian Todd Zuniga - creator of Literary Death Match -  touted as Def Poetry Jam meets American Idol, this competition sees four authors perform a short excerpt of their most electric work before a panel of judges.
  • Omar Musa -  a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. He is the winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam and has released three hip-hop albums, two poetry books, and received a standing ovation at TEDx.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_Special_Episode_-_Perth_Writers_Festival_2017.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:40am HKT

How safe are herbal medicines?

In 2011, just over a billion dollars was spent on alternative medicines in Australia, many of which come with unproven efficacy claims. 

After reports on mainstream media in Australia about the efficacy of alternative medicine, cancer 'cures' and the like, there's a call for increased scrutiny about what's being offered to the public in the name of 'health supplements'.

Murdoch University Biochemistry Lecturer Dr Garth Maker is seeking to shed some light on the subject of herbal medicines.

If you're in Perth, you can attend his lecture this coming Monday, at Murdoch University in building 460.3.032 (ECL2).  To download the campus map click here, or to us the interactive map please click here.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_224_-_On_How_Safe_are_Herbal_Medicines.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:04pm HKT

Can you really rewire an adult brain?

In theory the answer is 'yes', but there's a problem: no one seems to know exactly how to do it!

In her new book "Override: My Quest to go Beyond Brain Training and Take Control of my Mind", science journalist Caroline Williams went off on a world-wide mission to find the answer.

Visiting top neuroscientists in their labs, she volunteers herself as a guinea pig in studies, challenging researchers to make real changes to her — functioning, but imperfect — brain.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 


Merry Christmas! One of the great things about the holiday break is the opportunity to get some reading done – and Edzard Ernst has a new book out this year.

This book traces the genesis, principles and practice of homeopathy, and discusses the reasons for its enduring popularity. Ironically, while modern medicine has changed beyond recognition, homeopathy, with its roots in alchemy and metaphysics, continues to be practiced precisely as it was in Hahnemann’s day.

Homeopathy – The Undiluted Facts : Including a Comprehensive A-Z Lexicon is the story of homeopathy and its almost magical attraction, with a rational and scientific discussion of the biological, chemical and psychological questions that this treatment raises.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_222_On_Homeopathy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49pm HKT

This is going to be one interesting tour...

Essentially, the fact that every show is different (apart from host and the following guests you can see pictured above) means that you're not entirely sure what you're going to get. 

Maybe Sydney will have flying. Melbourne could involve cake-throwing. I'm seriously planning for Perth to involve a fiesta on the high street. They had The Cure turn up at one of their London gigs, so you never know what local talent they may be able to find.

At any rate, I got the chance to speak to most of the performers in the show for this little special episode and if you'd like to get in touch for more details (especially if you're a Patreon!), the link is http://cosmicshambleslive.com.

Here's  the interview with Robin Ince, Trent Burton, Josie Long and Matt Parker about the forthcoming Cosmic Shambles Tour of Australia and NZ .

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The Atheist Foundation of Australia and Cerebral Events Ltd (NZ), in association with Trunkman Productions (UK), proudly presents Cosmic Shambles LIVE, in Australia and New Zealand.

Cosmic Shambles LIVE is a variety show that celebrates curiosity and reason, an explosion of science, comedy, music and general wonder, with a great sense of fun. Hosted by comedian and writer Robin Ince, best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage, and joined by a cast of world leading scientists, comedians and performers - this is a show that will make you laugh and make you think.

As the show travels across Australia and New Zealand, many local acts and scientists will be incorporated into the show, making for a unique and different experience with every performance. Each show will be packed with surprises and secret guests.

Make sure you're are on board for what is bound to be a series of nights like no other. Funky sounds! Nerdy wonders! Dazzling spreadsheets! Confused earthworms! And everything else besides.

Part proceeds from the show will be going to great charities like Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Special_Episode_-_Token_Skeptic_Cosmic_Shambles_Live_Tour.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:43am HKT

Every year, thousands of Australians are suffering and dying prematurely because of alternative cancer treatments, according to a special investigation by Dr Paul Willis, director of The Royal Institution of Australia.

The video (part of a series) is called No Alternative To Cancer, on the Australia Science TV site. The report details the distressingly high number of cancer sufferers who choose to forego conventional treatment altogether in search of an alternative cure. Kylie Sturgess spoke to Dr Paul Willis of RiAus.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. 

Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. 

Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com. This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew. Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 


As astonishing as it is compelling - Steve Cannane's extraordinary insight into Scientology in Australia is investigative journalism at its very best.

From Rugby League players trying to improve their game, to Hollywood superstars and the depressed sons of media moguls, Scientology has recruited its share of famous Australians. Less known is that Australia was the first place to ban Scientology, or that Scientology spies helped expose the Chelmsford Deep Sleep Scandal.

Numerous Australians have held senior posts in the organisation only to fall foul of the top brass and lose their families as a result. Based on years of interviews and research, Walkley Award-winning journalist Steve Cannane tells for the first time the fascinating story of Australia's vital involvement with this powerful, secretive and punitive cult.                             

This interview with journalist Steve Cannane was conducted on RTRFM's The Mag and aired on the 22nd August 2016. The book is available through Harper Collins in Australia and is available electronically and worldwide (check twitter.com/SteveCannane for updates). 

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 


Trunkman Productions and The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome in association with the Science Museum are proud to announce a brand new six-part episode mini series, The Quest For Wonder, starring Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince and their puppet counterparts.

The show will be a fun-filled caper through the world of science that is sure to delight both children and adults alike. Check out the preview for yourself here!

The series made its World Premiere at a very special event on March 30th at the IMAX Cinema at the Science Museum in London and will be free online in April on YouTube, with special exclusive elements available to Cosmic Genome subscribers.

I spoke to both the directors of Quest For Wonder, Trent and Melinda Burton about the creation of the series. This aired on RTRFM on March 29th on The Mag program.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_218_-_On_The_Quest_For_Wonder.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm HKT

Welcome to Episode #217 of the Token Skeptic podcast!

Dr Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist working as a tutor and lecturer based at Cardiff University's Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences. His Guardian Science blog, 'Brain Flapping', has been viewed over 13 million times in the last three years - and now he has a new book out, called The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To.

Unpredictable and entertaining, Burnett's account gives us up-to-date research and the principles of neuroscience along the way. Looking at memory, intelligence, observation, social interaction and personality, Burnett explains why: memory is like a doting mother; tall people are more intelligent; criticism is more powerful than praise and much more.

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This has been a great month for science communication in Australia.

Touring now with Think Inc, Dr Brian Greene is professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. He's written one of the great popular science books of the 20th century – The Elegant Universe, which is about String Theory. He followed it up with a look at the nature of reality – from Newton to Einstein and beyond in The Fabric of the Cosmos.

As if all that wasn’t enough, he and co-founder Tracy Day established the World Science Festival (the first Brisbane offshoot of the festival just concluded this month). It’s an event that celebrates science on a world stage, with over a million visitors since 2008. I began my interview with him, just before the Perth show of his tour, by asking how he got started in space.

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A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. Thanks to RTRFM for their support, especially producer Peter Barr.

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com.

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_217_-_On_The_Idiot_Brain_And_The_Elegant_Universe.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:38pm HKT

Welcome to episode #216 of the Token Skeptic podcast!

New data from national organ donation registries has revealed at least 6 people needed organ transplants after becoming sick from health supplements.

Questions about the regulation of such supplements have led Health Minister Sussan Ley to promise she’ll act on concerns about the number of people needing medical aid after taking herbal supplements.

Just how skeptical – and how careful – should we be about dietary supplements and health pills?

I spoke to research fellow at Clinical Trials Development and Assessment at Sydney University, Dr Nick Fuller.

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It’s good news to hear that amount of financial loss from online fraud suffered by people in Western Australia has almost halved over one year - dropping from $16.8 million in 2014, to $9.8 million in 2015. 

Yet while those numbers and the news that losses from relationship and dating fraud are decreasing is great to hear – is it just the beginning of fraudsters trying a few new tactics to get at our money and possibly even risk our lives in the process?

I spoke to Senior Lecturer with the School of Justice at Queensland’s University of Technology, Cassandra Cross - to fill us in on the realities about online scams.

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WA is not giving up on bandicoots – after an initial effort to boost numbers hit a snag in 2012, there’s now a second attempt to reintroduce golden bandicoots to WA bushland.

The Martu Operation Rangelands Restoration project, jointly managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Martu people, aims to reverse the trend of native animal decline. The little creatures are just one of 11 native mammal species being reintroduced to a property about a thousand kilometers northeast of Perth, after numbers declined due to feral cats, foxes and bushfires.

Department of Parks and Wildlife’s fauna translocations scientist Colleen Sims joined me to discuss how bandicoots are staying gold.

A quick note about supporting the podcasts! Check out https://www.patreon.com/kyliesturgess – and consider becoming a Patreon for these shows. 

Theme songs “Cosgrove” by Pogo, from http://pogomix.net and “Leap Second” by Milton Mermikides, of www.miltonmermikides.com. Additional ambient music from Jukedeck – create your own at jukedeck.com

This episode is brought to you with thanks to Patreon supporters – they include: Steven, Andrew, Dr T, Paul, Gerry, Josh, Kathy, Linley, Gold, Iggy, Lukas, Finch and Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who contributes and please consider joining to help continue these shows at patreon.com/kyliesturgess.

Please leave positive comments and reviews on iTunes and consider supporting the show via visiting Tokenskeptic.org – and I’d love to get your feedback via tokenskeptic@gmail.com. 

Direct download: Token_Skeptic_216_-_On_Health_Supplements_Online_Fraud_And_Bandicoots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am HKT