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28th September 2021

Andy Wilson of The Merseyside Skeptics Society is joined by an all-"star" skeptical panel for this special live-streamed April Fool's Day edition of his highly-irregular "comedy" podcast InKredulous

Cambridge Skeptics

Inkredulous Podcast: Live!
with Andy Wilson
Thursday, 1st April 2021 at 7:00pm

No jokes, it's the 1st of April and we welcome back Andy Wilson for another live episode of InKredulous! Andy will be joined by:

  • Dave Alnwick - a writer and magician with a passion for using magic to tell scary stories. A previous headliner and host of QED con, David has had fifteen sell-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows and has completed several UK theatre tours.
  • Bryce Blankenagel - host of the Naked Mormonism and Glass Box podcasts as a full-time Mormon history researcher.
  • Kat Ford - Board member of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, PhD student and procrastinator extraordinaire.
  • Michael Marshall - President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, Marsh is a long-term skeptical activist and podcaster.

InKredulous, a production of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, is the long-running comedy podcast where skeptics from across the world are put through their critical-thinking paces and challenged to entertain as well as inform.

InKredulous has been a firm fan favourite at every QED conference since 2010, and this will be the third time the show has been broadcast to a live online audience, exclusively for Skeptics in the Pub Online.

Useful Links:
InKredulous Archive
Join host Andy Wilson for the first-ever live-streamed episode of the skeptical-themed panel show InKredulous. This event, which was streamed live on 27th August 2020, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Andy Wilson hosts a live episode of the skeptical panel show at QED 2014, featuring Stevyn Colgan, Robert Llewellyn, Andy Zaltzman and Michael Marshall.
Andy Wilson hosts a live episode of the skeptical panel show at QED 2013, featuring Robin Ince, Carrie Poppy, Brian Thompson, Michael Marshall, and Brian Thompson’s Elvis-impersonating, borderline-racist pet cat.
So, I've Been Thinking...
Fata Morgana, Encore!

The news soon spread through the vessel that a phantom-ship with a ghostly crew was sailing in the air over a phantom-ocean, and that it was a bad omen, and meant that not one of them should ever see land again. Frank R. Stockton (1872)

Paranormal investigator Jonathan Bright has taken the somewhat dubious use of Fata Morgana to explain so-called “floating ships,” which we have discussed previously, and run with it. Everything from the Flying Dutchman to UFO’s to The Loch Ness Monster can, he tells a tabloid eager to re-churn an eye-catching photo, be explained by this atmospheric phenomenon.

Photo by Colin McCallum

The captain […] explained to the sailors that this strange appearance was caused by the reflection of some ship that was sailing on the water below this image, but at such a distance they could not see it. Frank R. Stockton (1872)

The Fata Morgana go-to explanation, which the Daily Mail had apparently un-ironically earlier tagged onto this still evolving story of an apparent fleet of these so-called “floating ships” across the UK, despite their own source describing the phenomenon as “rare,” is seemingly so weak that even the Daily Record, for it is they, runs the more plausible false horizon hypothesis before letting Bright loose.

There were certain conditions of the atmosphere, [the captain] said, when the sun's rays could form a perfect picture in the air of objects on the earth, like the images one sees in glass or water, but they were not generally upright, as in the case of this ship, but reversed—turned bottom upwards. Frank R. Stockton (1872)

Mirages, as the good captain indicates, tend to show elements of magnification, multiplication, inversion and distortion, and in their more complex form show a combinations of these in a rapidly changing and short lived ethereal show worthy of the name Fata Morgana. As this does not seem to be the case in McCallum’s photo, false horizons or even looming do indeed seem much more likely explanations

In a moment it would change into a confused mass of long colonnades, lofty towers, and battlements waving with flags, and then the mountains reeling and falling, a long row of windows would appear glowing with rainbow colors, and perhaps, in another instant, all this would be swept away, and nothing be seen but gloomy cypress trees. Frank R. Stockton (1872)

But, what about Bright’s claim that Fata Morgana can be used as a natural and normal explanation for all manner of paranormal experience from the Flying Dutchman to UFO’s and The Loch Ness Monster? Well, it can, especially those that include the sort of visual distortions associated with the phenomena, and it certainly seems it was good enough an explanation for the captain’s crew.

Just then another ship was seen in the air, only this one was a steamship, and was bottom-upwards, as the captain had said these mirages generally appeared. Soon after, the steamship itself came in sight. The sailors were now convinced, and never afterwards believed in phantom-ships. Frank R. Stockton (1872)

The vast majority of such sightings, much like the one in McCallum’s photo, do not, however, demonstrate such distortions. This seemingly pseudoscientific silver-bullet explanation is, therefore, quite limited, despite its appeal. And besides, there are as Bright himself intimates, plenty of other factors related to perception, interpretation, recollection and reporting that we might wish to attend to first.

Chris Gyford. Cambridge Skeptics

Science communication that focuses on lone geniuses making accidental discoveries can prime the public to accept quacks masquerading as mavericks, write Natália Pasternak and Carlos Orsi for The Skeptic.
Despite the extraordinary claims, messages derived via Rapid Prompting Method come not from non-speaking people, but from their facilitators, writes Janyce Boynton for The Skeptic.
We can try to define biological traits though simple catch-all labels, but nature is always much more complex in reality, writes Sarah Hearne for The Skeptic.
Join former BBFC Examiner Jim Cliff for an uncensored examination of the secretive censors. This event, which was streamed live on 20th August 2020, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
In case you missed it, and we've seen the viewing figures so we know you did, you can now catch up with the pilot for Cambridge Skeptics Live on our YouTube channel.
Cambridge Skeptics is a not-for-profit community organisation run by volunteers. To support our online presence during the pandemic, we are currently looking for:
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Please get in touch if you'd like to get involved.

The Cambridge Humanist Group is a welcoming and diverse community of atheists and secularists. We are committed to good company and a good life without religion. We stand up for the right of non-believers to be free from imposition by religious views and organisations. We run Sunday coffee mornings at CB2 Bistro, hold a pub social at a central Cambridge venue on most 1st Thursdays of the month, hold discussions and various social events throughout the year.
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In Cambridge, our local effective altruism community runs plenty of events each week, including lectures, workshops, discussion groups, socials and trips away.
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