100 episodes

In the tradition of the Enlightenment salons that helped drive the Age of Reason, Science Salon is a series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.

Science Salon Michael Shermer

    • Natural Sciences
    • 4.7, 60 Ratings

In the tradition of the Enlightenment salons that helped drive the Age of Reason, Science Salon is a series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.

    126. Sarah Scoles — They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers

    126. Sarah Scoles — They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers

    More than half a century since Roswell, UFOs have been making headlines once again. On December 17, 2017, the New York Times ran a front-page story about an approximately five-year Pentagon program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. The article hinted, and its sources clearly said in subsequent television interviews, that some of the ships in question couldn’t be linked to any country. The implication, of course, was that they might be linked to other solar systems. The UFO community—those who had been thinking about, seeing, and analyzing supposed flying saucers (or triangles or chevrons) for years—was surprisingly skeptical of the revelation. Their incredulity and doubt rippled across the internet. Many of the people most invested in UFO reality weren’t really buying it. And as Scoles did her own digging, she ventured to dark, conspiracy-filled corners of the internet, to a former paranormal research center in Utah, and to the hallways of the Pentagon.
    In They Are Already Here we meet the bigwigs, the scrappy upstarts, the field investigators, the rational people, and the unhinged kooks of this sprawling community. How do they interact with each other? How do they interact with “anomalous phenomena”? And how do they (as any group must) reflect the politics and culture of the larger world around them? Funny and colorful, and told in a way that doesn’t require one to believe, Scoles brings humanity to an often derided and misunderstood community. Scoles and Shermer discuss:
    who the “they” are in her title, comparing the UFO community to that of SETI scientists, whom she wrote about in her previous book, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence? what it was like engaging UFOlogists at conferences, her answer to the Fermi paradox: where is everyone? what it means to “believe” in UFOs vs. ETIs, Project Saucer, Project Sign, Project Grudge, Project Bluebook, Robert Bigelow, Tom DeLonge, and the To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, the most probable explanation for the USS Nimitz UFO videos, Kenneth Arnold, Roswell, Area 51, and modern myth making, Scoles’ Mormon background and how she lost her religion, and what we will replace religion with in the future. Sarah Scoles is a science writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, Scientific American, Popular Science, Discover, New Scientist, Aeon, and Wired. A former editor at Astronomy magazine, Scoles worked at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the location of the first-ever SETI project. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
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    • 1 hr 26 min
    125. Bjorn Lomborg — False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet

    125. Bjorn Lomborg — False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet

    Hurricanes batter our coasts. Wildfires rage across the American West. Glaciers collapse in the Artic. Politicians, activists, and the media espouse a common message: climate change is destroying the planet, and we must take drastic action immediately to stop it. Children panic about their future, and adults wonder if it is even ethical to bring new life into the world.
    Enough, argues bestselling author Bjorn Lomborg. Climate change is real, but it’s not the apocalyptic threat that we’ve been told it is. Projections of Earth’s imminent demise are based on bad science and even worse economics. In panic, world leaders have committed to wildly expensive but largely ineffective policies that hamper growth and crowd out more pressing investments in human capital, from immunization to education.
    False Alarm will convince you that everything you think about climate change is wrong — and points the way toward making the world a vastly better, if slightly warmer, place for us all.
    In this wide-ranging conversation Shermer and Lomborg discuss:
    Is the planet warming? What is the cause of the warming? How much warmer is it going to get? What will the consequences of the warming be? What should we do about it? How the public discussion/debate over climate has changed in the past 20 years since Lomborg wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Precautionary Principle: should we do something “just in case”? What about other existential threats: AI apocalypse, nuclear weapons, pandemics? and Why climate is such a hard problem. The claims:
    timeline: we have a decade to solve the problem … or else droughts, floods, hurricanes, and extreme weather deforestation/reforestation polar bears/the 6th Extinction, and AOC/Greta Thunberg/Al Gore. Non-Solutions:
    individual action, why the Green Revolution isn’t here yet, why the Paris Agreement is failing, how climate policy hurts the poor, and reducing greenhouse gases. Rational Solutions:
    carbon tax: a market-based solution, innovation, adaptation, geoengineering, and prosperity. Bjorn Lomborg is the best-selling author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. He is a visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. His work appears regularly in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Atlantic, and Forbes. His monthly column appears in around 40 papers in 19 languages, with more than 30 million readers. In 2011 and 2012, Lomborg was named Top 100 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy. In 2008 he was named “one of the 50 people who could save the planet” by the Guardian. He lives in Prague.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 22 min
    124. David J. Halperin — Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO

    124. David J. Halperin — Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO

    UFOs are a myth, says David J. Halperin — but myths are real. The power and fascination of the UFO has nothing to do with space travel or life on other planets. It’s about us, our longings and terrors, and especially the greatest terror of all: the end of our existence. This is a book about UFOs that goes beyond believing in them or debunking them and to a fresh understanding of what they tell us about ourselves as individuals, as a culture, and as a species.
    In the 1960s, Halperin was a teenage UFOlogist, convinced that flying saucers were real and that it was his life’s mission to solve their mystery. He would become a professor of religious studies, with traditions of heavenly journeys his specialty. With Intimate Alien, he looks back to explore what UFOs once meant to him as a boy growing up in a home haunted by death and what they still mean for millions, believers and deniers alike.
    From the prehistoric Balkans to the deserts of New Mexico, from the biblical visions of Ezekiel to modern abduction encounters, Intimate Alien traces the hidden story of the UFO. It’s a human story from beginning to end, no less mysterious and fantastic for its earthliness. A collective cultural dream, UFOs transport us to the outer limits of that most alien yet intimate frontier, our own inner space. Shermer and Halperin discuss:
    What is religion and what role does it play in peoples’ lives? What is myth and what role does it play in peoples’ lives? what Carl Jung believed about UFOs and why, The Day the Earth Stood Still film as a Christ Allegory, why he’s an atheist but fascinated by the power of religion, why he’s a UFO skeptic but compelled by the power of alien beliefs, the origin of alien eyes, the origin of alien abductions, the true meaning of the Roswell incident, John Lennon’s UFO experience, Will religion fall into disuse with the rise of the nones?, and the future of religion in a post-COVID-19 world. David J. Halperin taught Jewish studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, until his retirement in 2000. He has published five nonfiction books on Jewish mysticism and messianism, as well as the coming-of-age novel Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel (2011). He blogs about UFOs, religion, and related subjects at www.davidhalperin.net.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 43 min
    123. Gerald Posner — Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America

    123. Gerald Posner — Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America

    Pharmaceutical breakthroughs such as antibiotics and vaccines rank among some of the greatest advancements in human history. Yet exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs, safety recalls affecting tens of millions of Americans, and soaring rates of addiction and overdose on prescription opioids have caused many to lose faith in drug companies. Now, Americans are demanding a national reckoning with a monolithic industry. Pharma introduces brilliant scientists, incorruptible government regulators, and brave whistleblowers facing off against company executives often blinded by greed. A business that profits from treating ills can create far deadlier problems than it cures. Addictive products are part of the industry’s DNA, from the days when corner drugstores sold morphine, heroin, and cocaine, to the past two decades of dangerously overprescribed opioids. Pharma also uncovers the real story of the Sacklers, the family that became one of America’s wealthiest from the success of OxyContin, their blockbuster narcotic painkiller at the center of the opioid crisis. Pharma reveals how and why American drug companies have put earnings ahead of patients. Shermer and Posner also discuss:
    how Big Pharma companies conspire to hack the FDA regulations, parsing responsibility for the Opioid crisis between manufacturers, distributors, doctors, and patients, the physiology of addiction and dependency, how Arthur Sackler went from liberal do-gooder to greedy capitalist, the polio vaccine and patenting the sun, how valium and anti-depressants were marketed to men and women differently, how the AIDS cocktail was developed, how Viagra® was discovered, why patents and intellectual property rights do not lead to more innovation, the prospects for a COVID-19 vaccine, the current state of the opioid crisis and how to stem it. Gerald Posner is an award-winning journalist who has written twelve books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK and multiple national bestsellers. His 2015 book, God’s Bankers, a two-hundred-year history of the finances of the Vatican, was an acclaimed New York Timesbestseller. Posner has written for many national magazines and papers, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and he has been a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX News. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author Trisha Posner.
    Listen to the Science Salon Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 37 min
    122. Walter Scheidel — Escape from Rome: The Failure of the Empire and the Road to Prosperity

    122. Walter Scheidel — Escape from Rome: The Failure of the Empire and the Road to Prosperity

    What has the Roman Empire ever done for us? Fall and go away. That is the striking conclusion of historian Walter Scheidel as he recounts the gripping story of how the end of the Roman Empire was the beginning of the modern world. The fall of the Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest disasters in history but Scheidel argues that Rome’s dramatic collapse was actually the best thing that ever happened, clearing the path for Europe’s economic rise and the creation of the modern age. Shermer and Scheidel range across the entire premodern world and up to the present, discussing:
    Why did the Roman Empire appear? Why did nothing like it ever return to Europe? Why did Europeans come to dominate the world? the rich diversity of Europe that encouraged political, economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs why other parts of the world lagged behind how empires are built and why they fail America as an empire. income inequality and the only forces that change it significantly the future of human civilization. Dr. Walter Scheidel is an Austrian historian who teaches ancient history at Stanford University. His main research interests are ancient social and economic history, pre-modern historical demography, and comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to world history. He is the author of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate and the Future of the Past, The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy, The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies, and Rome, China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, and more.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 13 min
    121. Maria Konnikova — The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

    121. Maria Konnikova — The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

    It’s true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn’t even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him to be her mentor. But she knew her man: a famously thoughtful and broad-minded player, he was intrigued by her pitch that she wasn’t interested in making money so much as learning about life. She had faced a stretch of personal bad luck, and her reflections on the role of chance had led her to a giant of game theory, who pointed her to poker as the ultimate master class in learning to distinguish between what can be controlled and what can’t. And she certainly brought something to the table, including a PhD in psychology and an acclaimed and growing body of work on human behavior and how to hack it. So Seidel was in, and soon she was down the rabbit hole with him, into the wild, fiercely competitive, overwhelmingly masculine world of high-stakes Texas Hold’em, their initial end point the following year’s World Series of Poker.
    But then something extraordinary happened. Under Seidel’s guidance, Konnikova did have many epiphanies about life that derived from her new pursuit, including how to better read, not just her opponents but far more importantly herself; how to identify what tilted her into an emotional state that got in the way of good decisions; and how to get to a place where she could accept luck for what it was, and what it wasn’t. But she also began to win. And win. In a little over a year, she began making earnest money from tournaments, ultimately totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She won a major title, got a sponsor, and got used to being on television, and to headlines like “How one writer’s book deal turned her into a professional poker player.” In this wide-ranging conversation Konnikova and Shermer discuss:
    the balance of luck, skill, intelligence and emotions in how lives turn out the real meaning of the marshmallow test time discounting and how to improve yours rapid cognition and intuition how to improve your use of emotions in gambling and in life what it was like being a woman in an almost exclusively male game, and the nature of human nature in the context of the BLM movement and protests. Maria Konnikova is the author of Mastermind and The Confidence Game. She is a regular contributing writer for The New Yorker, and has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, Scientific American, Wired, and Smithsonian, among many other publications. Her writing has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Excellence in Science Journalism Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. While researching The Biggest Bluff, Maria became an international poker champion and the winner of over $300,000 in tournament earnings. Maria also hosts the podcast The Grift from Panoply Media and is currently a visiting fellow at NYU’s School of Journalism. Her podcasting work earned her a National Magazine Award nomination in 2019. Maria graduated from Harvard University and received her PhD in Psychology from Columbia University.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 19 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
60 Ratings

60 Ratings

AlanafromCanada ,

Thanks for your work

I took note of Michael Shermer’s name referenced in one of Paul Offit’s books and eventually read The Believing Brain. I was hooked after the first chapter. The books and podcasts are so diverse and refreshing, and provide a refuge of reason from an often frustratingly irrational world. I am often led down a path to new perspectives, and inspired to read excellent new (to me) books. Keep up the great work!

Jecomprend ,

Interesting...

When interviewing, talking and debating on and around science based subjects MS is excellent, one of the best, however when history, politics or on cultural issues he is mediocre at best, he just doesn’t seem to have the background.

This Pod is interesting and MS seems a really good guy, but could be better if MS would be able to take the time for more background research on subjects he is not well versed in.

Thanks for producing and providing.
Cheers

Zot96 ,

Nice

Very interesting topics presented well with articulate host and guests.

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