Brighton Science Festival MP3 Podcast

February 19th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, onanism, podcast | 23 Comments »

Here’s an mp3 of my talk today at the Brighton Science Festival, hundreds of people in a massive room, unexpectedly, but only very slightly intimidating:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or a download here…

Brighton Scifest 2007.mp3

That mobile phone noise stops whining a few minutes in, I’ve chopped the beginning off for now, if it’s irritating you then clickety click, order some improving literature from the Amazon bad science bookstore, maybe even my own genius book, or make a paypal donation (tiny amounts only please) and I’ll get a broadcast quality recorder and mics when the pot hits £500, lots more lectures/events to come.

The proper big Bad Science Podcast Interview Chat Series is coming along nicely, with major academic characters signed up, they’re the reason I want to have proper sound, so subscribe, some of them are very famous. Lots of Trading Standards/MHRA/ASA complaints gaiety ongoing at

And the badscience t-shirts are… improving.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

23 Responses

  1. kobraski said,

    February 19, 2007 at 1:24 am

    hey… i really enjoyed your talk today. it was nice to meet you afterwards in the cafe too, although all i did was blush and wave at you in a pathetic way when my mum’s boyfriend insisted on introducing me.

    far from having any intelligent discussion to contribute, i was just wondering if you’d seen the recent gillian mckeith image challenge…? it’s all very, very silly but it made me laugh. hah. and if i’m not the first person to mention it, feel free to ignore me.

    anyway. i think i’ll stick around here for a while.

  2. kobraski said,

    February 19, 2007 at 2:10 am

    hah, just realised you’re mentioned at the bottom of the newsletter. nice.

  3. oneiros said,

    February 19, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Hey Ben; you nicked my SOH “less than 1ppm” comment from the Quality Of Homeopathic Debate thread. Do I get a jaffa cake? ;P

    You’re not wrong about the sound quality; that mobile was almost enough to stop me listening. Thankfully it did get a bit better and the result was an interesting, if occasionally tangential presentation. Not sure why someone picked up on you drinking orange juice nor that your response was quite as intended, but an enjoyable way to spend a lunchtime and I look forward you making more of these available online. Thx.

  4. jw said,

    February 19, 2007 at 7:11 pm


    Thanks for the excellent talk in Brighton. It was a sellout and many appreciated that you were also under the weather (clearly not enough midnight primrose oil). To talk for an hour go in front of 250 strangers with no notes or slides displays either foolishness bravery or a messianic self-confidence. Interesting that in that hotbed of Alt medicine, crystal massage and general credulity there was such a warm response. My mum (78 and preposterously healthy) also found you ‘quite dishy’.

    I have been following the debates, mainly concerning the integrity and necessity of he scientific method in medicine and it is disturbing that the rigour, imagination and sheer effort of evidence-based research is being misrepresented, along with the very language of science by some truly callous forces. The practical idea of using the ASA and legislation is a good one, that we should all heed.


  5. Cunningham said,

    February 19, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Great talk Ben.Thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I too thought it strange that in Brighton,of all places,only a couple of people put their hand up when asked if they thought homeopathy more effective that placebo.There may be hope after all.

    I was going to say hello,well done,but every time I saw you you looked deep in conversation.

    Many thanks.

    By the way,did you see the Southern Water display of water dousing?

  6. Andy said,

    February 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Hey Ben, great talk… i feel safe to go up against the homeopaths now..

    You might want to remove the part of your post asking people to commit click fraud.. I know it seams harmless enough but Amazon takes a dim view of that kind of thing…

  7. Kinky The Cat said,

    February 19, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Great talk Ben and good to see such a turnout for the day. Wasn’t Steve Jones awesome?

  8. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 19, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    jones was cracking. now clickety click on the amazon links kiddies, buy yersel some life improving literature and make the next podcast audible. no excuses now. i especially recommend “Irrationality” by stuart sutherland, recently reissued.

    mmmmmmmmmm yummmy, knowledge….. fact….. insight…….

  9. Littleshim said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Has anyone thought about genuinely starting a Bad Science qualification? I don’t mean telling people how to align their molecular memory to produce Vitamin C from chlorophyll, but something sensible. You know:

    Module 1: Repeatable double-blind studies are your friends
    Module 2: Why homeopathy “works”, and why it doesn’t work
    Module 3: Vitro versus Vivo

    …you get the idea. You could get some decent body to certify it and offer it via distance learning with the OCN scheme. I mean, my local college offers everything from advanced cake decorating to yoga via CELTA and maths, I don’t see why they couldn’t offer Introductory Bad Science.

  10. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:13 am

    i really am doing the bad science diploma, the exam is three questions long at present, but you prove you know more than most media nutritionists if you get them correct. whats OCN? i’ll work with anyone over the summer who wants to make a proper course.

  11. Tristan said,

    February 20, 2007 at 9:29 am

    It’s the Open College Network:

  12. motmot said,

    February 20, 2007 at 10:30 am

    There’s 150 points worth (half a BSc) in public science communication courses at the OU: Might be worth pitching a Bad Science course to them as a ten-pointer.

  13. draligoode said,

    February 20, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Very interesting talk however I noted some interesting parallels between the arguments offered by people defending homeopathy and those who defend my personal bug bear ‘therapy’ namely hypnosis.

    If you actually study the scientific investigation into hypnosis it’s a really interesting phenomenon. In short people can put themselves into a mental state where what is suggested to them overides what there own senses are telling them. The classic example being suggesting to a hypnotised person that an onion is an apple and they will not only readily eat it but actually experience the taste of apple while doing so.

    I have no problem with people mixing this phenomenon with some basic illusions to produce a form of entertainment but am concerned when these people start using their reputation gained in the field of entertainment to sell self help courses. Basically some people misrepresent what hypnosis is then appear to make money on the back of that misrepresentation.

    Having never bought any of these courses I don’t know what information they carry or what claims they make for hypnosis. However I imagine that they don’t carry some of the factual based evidence about hypnosis such as it only truly affecting 10% of the population or the effects of hypnosis not lasting beyond the hypnotic period or indeed that there is no real clinical evidence that hypnosis helps with things such as smoking cessation.

    Has anyone ever highlighted this?

    Anyway food for thought perhaps

  14. Ambrielle said,

    February 20, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Hi. I think some sort of Bad Science course is a great idea, but probably the target audience needs to be people doing a degree in Nutrition or Journalism??

  15. DrSteve said,

    February 20, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I have always thought doing a proper course aimed at Joe and Joanna Bloggs that explains risk and inference would be a great thing to do. Perhaps the collective could wiki a course together and do some evening courses at the Dana centre.

  16. manigen said,

    February 20, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    I’d go if you did.

  17. Littleshim said,

    February 21, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Well, so far as I can see, you basically need three sections.
    The first section (“Science For Bad Science”?)could cover the basic knowledge and skills you need: simple science and some maths. People with existing science quals could bypass this bit, or just sit it out depending on how long it is.
    Section two could go into specifically Bad Science skills (principles of science, some stats, how to evaluate a journal article, why extrapolation from in vitro isn’t a good idea, why anecdotes /= data…) that allow people to spot and demolish Bad Science for themselves.
    Section three could then be case studies / application, either using real examples or mocked up ones based on reality. That lets people see how this knowledge is actually applied in everyday life.

  18. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 21, 2007 at 10:35 am

    if anyone is actually serious about this, rather than web-bull, then i’d be happy to help arrange a pub/meeting to discuss it in london or oxford in a couple of months, say may? it would need someone other than me to take charge but it would be quite a good baby to have birthed.

  19. mrstrellis said,

    February 21, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m putting myself through S103 at the OU presently, having decided it’s one thing to rail against humanities graduates in the media, and quite another when I have a [cough] BA in Philosophy. I would definitely have taken a course in Bad Science, especially if it meant I didn’t have to dabble in quantum physics.

    I don’t know whether I could actually be of any *help* getting it organised, though, but I’ll come along to any discussion that’s held.

  20. SpallationFiend said,

    February 21, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    I’m certainly up for it if you want to bring the meeting to Oxford. If you give me enough notice, I can probably persuade the public liason types here to let us use some of our facilities for the purpose. Might attract quite a few of our scientists, mind.
    Just a thought.

  21. Littleshim said,

    February 21, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I honestly think it could be interesting and worthwhile, yes.
    You’d need someone more qualified (perhaps someone with experience of producing and teaching courses; any science teachers/lecturers offering?) to produce the actual material for the course.

    For anyone interested, material on getting NOCN accrediation is here:
    It looks like you need to contact the local college with a reasonable outline of your planned material, and discuss it with them from that point.

  22. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 21, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    I’m up for helping out in whatever way I can, probably won’t have time to go to Oxford though, not while I’m writing up…

    I still keep in touch with my old dept. at UCL who specialise in history & philosophy of science, science communication and public understanding, and sociology of scientific knowledge. They might be interested in getting involved in something like this, at the very least I think they’d like the idea of putting on a guest lecture or two. I can do some asking around if you like.

    As well as people who are doing (e.g.) hist & phil of sci full time, like I was, they get all sorts of people from other departments doing their courses as optional modules so it’d be a good way to get talking to people from diverse backgrounds. They do quite a lot of stuff on pseudoscience, fringe science and science’s “border policing” mechanisms, and there’s a really interesting course called Outsiders in Science (warning: .doc) which is just as revealing about the occasional hypocrisies of the scientific establishment as it is about the excesses of the lunatic fringe…

    Getting off topic here but that might give you some ideas or whatever.


  23. CarlH said,

    February 21, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Many, many thanks for the excellent talk Ben, and really good to see that the festival was sold out – gives one hope for the future, I think. I didn’t see Jones, as I was in the “Elements of Murder” talk on the other stage – very nice chap talking about the use of mercury, potassium, etc in bumping people off. A day with something for everyone…