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16 January 2017

LUEE Episode 116: Risk

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Laura, Gem, and Lauren talk about how bad we are at assessing risk. Also on this episode: Do we get more risk averse as we get older? Is margarine going to kill you, or will a hippopotamus get you first? Will the world end not with a bang but a Boolean?

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Note: Music featured in this episode include samples from "Death from the Skies" by George Hrab (featuring Phil Plait), "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead, and "Binnorie" by Mediæval Bæbes.

Links: Relative risk (Wikipedia) | Spreading disease or spreading deliciousness: the butter vs. margarine debate rages on (dietitian at home) | Global catastrophic risk (Wikipedia) | Death from the Skies! (Wikipedia) | Holocene extinction (Wikipedia) | Existential risk from artificial general intelligence (Wikipedia) | AI Risk Analysts are the Biggest Risk (Singularity Weblog) | There is a blind spot in AI research (Nature News) | Program good ethics into artificial intelligence (Nature News & Comment ) | TRC #429.5: Programming Ethics Into AI (The Reality Check) | Potential Risks from Advanced Artificial Intelligence: The Philanthropic Opportunity (Open Philanthropy Project ) | If Aliens Exist, They May Come to Get Us, Stephen Hawking Says (Space.com) | Risk Preferences and Aging: The "Certainty Effect" in Older Adults' Decision Making (Journal of Psychology and Aging) | Differences in risk aversion between young and older adults (NAN) | Differences in Risk Aversion between Young and Older Adults (Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics) | Aging and loss decision making: increased risk aversion and decreased use of maximizing information, with correlated rationality and value maximization | It is surprisingly rare for an alligator to kill a person (BBC Earth) | Chart: The animals that are most likely to kill you this summer (The Washington Post) | The Odds of Dying | 25 shocking things more likely to kill you than a shark (WNYY) | Choking Prevention and Rescue Tips | 10 Things More Likely to Kill You than Islamic Terror | List of selfie-related injuries and deaths (Wikipedia) | Animal bites (WHO)

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12 December 2016

LUEE Episode 115: Holiday Charity Special

On the Life, the Universe & Everything Else Holiday Special, Brendan Curran-Johnson joins Gem, Laura, Ashlyn, and Lauren to talk about charitable giving, including how an organization qualifies as a charity, how to maximize the good your contributions can do, and some of the questionable practices of the most popular charities. The episode concludes with a rebroadcast of a segment from 2013's holiday episode contrasting the various nativity accounts.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Definition of Charity: What is charitable? (Canada Revenue Agency)

Image vs. Effect: Dems help reopen a NC Repub office by David Weinberger (GoFundMe) | MEDIA ADVISORY: NCGOP Sees Encouraging Early Voting, Obama/Clinton Coalition Tired, Fail to Resonate in North Carolina | Courts are finally pointing out the racism behind voter ID laws (The Washington Post) | Today I did a lot of screaming about the anti-LGBT bill North Carolina passed (mcclure111) | Susan G. Komen Partners With Fracking Firm, Despite Possible Cancer Links (Huffington Post) | Pinkwashing (Wikipedia) | Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Promises to Spend $3 Billion to Research and Cure All Diseases (Forbes) | Mark Zuckerberg can't believe India is debating net neutrality rather than being grateful for Facebook's free internet (Quartz)

Effective Altruism: Effective altruism (Wikipedia) | GiveWell (Charity Reviews and Research) | Giving What We Can | 80,000 Hours | TRC #270: Effective Altruism + Drinking While Eating + Square on Toothpaste Tube (The Reality Check) | TRC #325: Cells On A Plane + Effective Donating Revisited + Sad Music (The Reality Check) | TRC #379: Charitable Giving + Premium vs Regular Gas + Elf On The Shelf (The Reality Check) | The Way to Produce a Person (The New York Times)

Donations in Kind: Understanding the Impact of Donated Clothes (WhyDev) | Why second-hand clothing donations are creating a dilemma for Kenya (The Guardian) | Stop donating canned goods to food drives: Your corned mutton castoffs are only making things worse (National Post) | Charities Need Your Money, Not Your Random Old Food (Slate) | The Problem With Little White Girls, Boys And Voluntourism (Huffington Post)

Winnipeg Harvest: Winnipeg Harvest | Winnipeg Harvest (Charity Intelligence)

Salvation Army: The Salvation Army in Canada Non-Discrimination | UK Salvation Army chief defends ban on gay members (PinkNews) | Here’s The Internal Document The Salvation Army Doesn't Want You To See (Queerty)

World Vision: FAQs (World Vision International) | World Vision Canada statement on sexual orientation and hiring practices | A World Vision Donor Sponsored a Boy. The Outcome Was a Mystery to Both. (The New York Times)

Other Charities That Need Your Help: Top Charities (GiveWell) | American Civil Liberties Union | Canadian Civil Liberties Association | Planned Parenthood | Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights | Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) | National Center for Transgender Equality | Trans Equality Rights in Canada | Advocating for LGBTQ Equality (Human Rights Campaign)

The "Charity Slump": The Holiday Giving Season: A Make or Break Time for Small Charities (CanadaHelps) | Charitable Giving in America: Some Facts and Figures | Why Charities Receive Less During The Summer (CanadaHelps)

Other Links: Episode 72: The War on Christmas: A Brief History (LUEE) | Episode 107: Solving Homelessness (LUEE) | Power In A Union on Vimeo | C.R.E.A.M. (Wu-Tang Clan) | The best God joke ever (Emo Phillips) | Are We the Baddies? (That Mitchell and Webb Look)

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14 November 2016

LUEE Episode 114: Ray Comfort's "Atheist Delusion"

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, and Laura review Ray Comfort's new "documentary" with special guests Ash Burkowski and David Bonwick, and the panel bids farewell to evangelical cartoonist Jack Chick with a game of Jack or Fiction.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Bad Science Watch | NHP Monograph Consultations (Bad Science Watch) | TRC #420: Origin of 420 + Gem Newman of Bad Science Watch + History Of Halloween (The Reality Check) | The Atheist Delusion (YouTube) | Checkmate, Atheists! (YouTube) | Jack Chick (RationalWiki) | Leonard Nimoy Gallery (NSFW)

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19 October 2016

LUEE Episode 113: "Unsealed: Conspiracy Files"

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, we're trying something completely different! Are rich people harvesting organs from clones? Did Hitler fake his own death (six times)? Are CIA remote viewers peering inside your mind? Join Ashlyn and Lauren as they watch "Unsealed: Conspiracy Files" to find out!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Correction: While it has been widely reported that the Mars Curiosity Rover sings itself “Happy Birthday” every year, and this did indeed occur in 2013, it seems to have been a one-time event (but this has been frustratingly difficult to verify).

Links: Unsealed: Conspiracy Files (IMDb)

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15 October 2016

Story Circle: Horror

This is the story of, among other things, the second most horrifying thing that has ever happened to me. It's a fun story, I promise.

But first, a preamble.

I have spent the last two days in Minneapolis for NerdCon: Stories, which was without a doubt the most wonderful failure I've ever been party to. From writing workshops to an intimate chat with Saladin Ahmed to watching Paul Sabourin lip sync a serenade to Patrick Rothfuss, I've had a truly lovely time.

As I mentioned on last month's episode of the podcast, I have obsessive compulsive disorder* (perhaps heavier on the obsessiveness than on the compulsiveness, but they go hand in glove). This makes it very difficult for me to, for example, put together a podcast segment without spending six or so hours scripting it. (And then several more hours editing it after the fact.)

Unless it is ephemeral, it must be perfect. And that's unhealthy.

I also have trouble changing plans or being spontaneous and I spend way too much time in my own head. Simply coming to a convention brings me outside of my comfort zone, but I wanted to take it one step further. To this end, I decided to take part in a storytelling event at NerdCon called Story Circle, in which attendees were invited to share a personal story on the theme of horror.

I spoke unscripted (although I couldn't stop myself from jotting down a few bullet points beforehand) and largely unrehearsed, which I found quite difficult. And rather than spending a few hours editing the audio I recorded, I present it entirely unedited (save for the addition of some lovely music by Ian James) below, which I find excruciating.

So.

This is a true story. Some things in it probably aren't exactly true, because that's not how memory works. As Dr. Steven Novella is fond of pointing out, our memories simply aren't very good. They change over time, and sometimes they are entirely fictitious.

So some of the details here are almost certainly wrong. But the broad strokes are there. (And they are, for what it's worth, corroborated by others who also possess very flawed memories. But what are you going to do?)

You can listen to my story here.


* On the subject of OCD, John Green's talk was very good. You can read it here, but I warn you that the subject matter is not light.

And here's where I must admit that in the past I have even taken episodes edited by Ian or Lauren and re-edited them before uploading because I noticed that I stammered a little too much in this sentence, or I repeated myself over there. I... I try not to do that anymore.