Curiosity Aroused

Investigation, Exploration, and the Pursuit of Truth

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Shaky Ground: Can We Predict Earthquakes?
In April 2010, Twitter was flooded with warnings that a large earthquake was due to hit southern California within days. The rumors moved to email where they spread from person to person, panicking those who may be affected. But eventually, the days came and went without an earthquake. The rumors were started by Luke Thomas, a man who says he has the ability to predict earthquakes — he even claims a 70% success rate. Geologists unanimously agree that we currently have no way to predict earthquakes, so who is right? Amy Davis Roth looks into it for Curiosity Aroused.

Special thanks to Amy Davis Roth of, Ray Beiersdorfer, Luke Thomas of, and the Voodoo Trombone Quartet who provided today’s music. Hear more at or find their album on iTunes.
Speaking of iTunes, you can find and rate all our shows there, or you can visit We love to hear your feedback at Thanks for listening!

Man Correctly Predicted Bay Area Quake:
Prediction Of Large Earthquake In L.A. Spreads Via Twitter, Email:
Dismal Prospects for Short-Term Earthquake PredictionRoyal Astronomical Society, 1997”There is no known way of predicting exactly when and where an earthquake will happen - and any claims that they can be predicted are not supported by the evidence.”Geophysical Journal International Vol. 131 No. 3 December 1997 Special Section Assessment Of Schemes For Earthquake Prediction
From Ray’s notes on Berkland:I set out to replicate Berkland’s findings [on pets leaving prior to earthquakes], and I sat in the Santa Cruz Public Library for several weeks counting the Lost Pet ads in the San Jose Mercury News microfilm collection. I confirmed that Berkland’s calculations were indeed correct; there was a significant rise in the number of missing dog and cat ads in the weeks prior to the 1989 quake. The trouble was that when I checked the number of missing pet ads for the year before, during the same time period, there was also a rise—yet an earthquake didn’t follow the rise that year. So more counting needs to be done to determine whether seasonal effects might influence this phenomenon or not, but it does appear that Berkland is on to something significant with his method.
Can animals predict earthquakes? - A search for correlations between changes in activity patterns of two fossorial rodents and subsequent seismic events by Robert G. Lindberg, Durward D. Skiles, and Page Hayden, Open file report no. 81-385 U.S. Geological Survey, 1981Two Seismically Active Sites in California Showed No Covariance of Events
California Geology  Vol. 41, no. 2. California Division of Mines and Geology, Feb. 1988No co-variation of missing dogs, cats or birds with earthquakes

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Dowsing for Babies: Do Sex Prediction Tests Work?


Recent new mother Chelsea Epperson sorts out the fact from the fiction when it comes to pregnancy sex tests, like food cravings, pee tests, picking up a key, using the Chinese calendar, or trusting companies like Intelligender.

Chinese Lunar Calendar method of predicting baby’s sex ‘not trustworthy’

Boy or Girl? Fact of Fiction? A comprehensive look at some of the common Old Wives’ Tales regarding gender predition.

Knowing Your Baby’s Sex - Information on the real, scientific methods of finding out your fetus’ sex, including chromosomal testing.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar

American Baby: How Soon Can You Find Out Baby’s Sex? - An accurate response to a question asked by one of the magazine’s readers.

IntelliGender - An at-home urine test which professes to indicate the gender of your fetus based on color results.

IntelliGender Message Board—they_seem_to_be_so_wrong - A discussion between moms on a message board about IntelliGender results.

Baby-Oracle - Gender prediction without all that messy “science”.

Special thanks to Chelsea Epperson, who told me she’d like to publicly give thanks to everyone who suffered quietly through her endless complaining while pregnant. Additional thanks to Quiet Company, who provided the music. You can hear more at

If you’d like to get your music on the show, or if you have episode ideas, or if you want to sponsor us, or if you just want to tell us a funny joke, drop us a line at

For more episodes of Curiosity Aroused, head to our website at You can also subscribe through iTunes. Thanks for listening.

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Birds: Smart, Or SCARY Smart?

Everybody knows parrots talk, but does Polly actually want a cracker, or has she just learned to mimic that sentence?

The debate over animal cognition goes way back. Darwin and Descartes had differing views on the subject, with Descartes falling on the side of disbelief.

Bur has science shed any light on this debate over the years?  Many studies have been done on primates, mostly on the ones most similar to humans, but what about animals that could hardly be more genetically different from us?  Descendants of the dinosaur with wings, a walnut sized brain, and opposable claws?  Parrots, despite these defiantly un-human characteristics, are one of the few types of birds and only animals to vocalize human speech. But do they mean what they say, or are they just “parroting” the words.

In this episode of Curiosity Aroused, Stacey Baker gives an overview of the science on avian cognition, focusing mostly on the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her African Grey parrot, Alex.

Recent research (and videos) on New Caledonian crows:

Watch PBS Scientific American Frontiers episodes on animal communication featuring Alex the African grey parrot:

Birds of a feather attack together:

Wiki on Alex the Parrot:

Special thanks to Stacey Baker of for that report, and thanks to the End Times Spasm Band for the music, which comes off their awesome new album, #2. Hear more at

If you’d like to get your music on the show, or if you have episode ideas, or if you want to sponsor us, or if you just want to tell us a funny joke, drop us a line at 

For more episodes of Curiosity Aroused, head to our website at You can also subscribe through iTunes. Thanks for listening.

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30 Dog Myths in 30 Minutes

This week’s episode is sponsored by Audible. Get your free audiobook at

If you’d like to sponsor a future episode, contact us at

There are a lot of dog myths out there, and we’re going to pack as many into one brief show as possible. Do dog vaccines cause dog autism? Can dogs eat chocolate? Do dogs feel bad when they poop in our shoes? Maria Walters talks to Dr. Jacquelyn Arns and behaviorist Mailey McLaughlin to get the lowdown.

Special thanks to Ted Willmore, who created the song in this episode: Charlie the Autistic Spaniel.

Daily Mail: Vaccines ‘are making our dogs sick as vets cash in’

Here are a few written notes from the experts on some of the questions in the show:

Dr. Jacquelyn Arns 

Small Animal Veterinarian

Creskill Animal Hospital, New Jersey

@drsteggy on Twitter

*Females should have a litter of pups before you spay*

Oh hell no.  I recommend spaying before they hit puberty to avoid certain types of cancers.  Having a random litter of puppies just gives the shelter more reasons to buy euthanasia solution.

*You can tell whether a dog is a purebred by the way it sits…*

I’ve never heard this one….though I’d say about the only thing a dog tells me by the way he sits is if he’s having knee pain.

*…or by whether it has a spotted tongue or not*

The big variant on that I’ve heard is that if it has a spotted tongue its part Chow Chow (a breed with a whole lot of melanin that have

blue/black tongues).  After looking at a ton of dog mouths, my conclusion is that some dogs just have pigmented spots.  Even in their


*Purebred dogs are healthier than mutts*

I usually hear the opposite, and I suppose that depends on what you actually mean by “healthy”  Purebred dogs certainly have their share of hereditary issues—that comes with a closed breeding population with a lot of homozygosity going on.  However mixed breeds are not immune to behavior issues, or skin disease, or anything else—in fact, when you do things like breed labradors to poodles, you can get a dog with hip dysplasia AND allergic skin disease.

*A dogs nose can show if she’s sick*

Nope, old wive’s tale, though a REALLY febrile dog will have a hot, dry nose…but also a lot of other signs suggesting he’s ill before

you need to worry about the nose.

*Dogs have cleaner mouths than humans*

That depends on how you’re defining that—humans have FAR BETTER oral hygeine that dogs (oh, I wish I could pass along a visual) and dogs are likely to put really disgusting things in their mouths, but dogs, by being dogs, also have fewer bacteria in their mouths  that are potentially pathologic to humans, so its not like you’re going to get mono from your dog.  I personally do not kiss dogs on the lips, because I know where those lips have been, but I have been ambushed French kissed by more than one hound.

*Mutts are healthier*

See above.  Everything I’ve seen in pure breds I see in mutts, but I probably see a lower percentage off mutts as purebred dogs in general are more popular these days.  And those mutts carry whatever questionable DNA their parents did.

*Dogs eat grass to throw up because they’re sick*

No one really knows WHY dogs eat grass—do they feel sick and eat it, or do they eat it to vomit?  No one has that answer.

*Dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate or grapes*

They shouldn’t though the chocolate is more of a Sure Thing—it does depend on the chocolate, and the amount.  The grape thing is harder as some dogs do go into kidney failure from eating grapes/raisins, but not all do, and the offending toxin in the fruit is still


They also shouldn’t eat sugar free anything that has xylitol in it. That stuff does really horrible things to dogs.

*Dogs are colorblind*

Dogs have cone cells in their retinas, so the  can see in color, but its unlikely they see colors the same way we do—we’re a very visual species, they are less so.

*Dogs should have bones*

Wow, that is a can of worms.  I’m in the no raw food camp.  Salmonella does horrible things to dogs too, and small bones cna splinter and produce really fun surgical lesions.  Larger ones can break teeth, and extracting a fractured canine tooth is No Fun for Anyone!

*Do dogs have as big of a carbon footprint as owning an SUV?*

As far as the carbon footprint deal—I’d think this would depend on the dog and the SUV (chihuahua vs Great Dane vs Rav4 vs H3?)—you could subject a dog to a 100 mile diet, but that would require an owner who is really dedicated as balancing a diet like that would be tricky, but it could be done.  I’d think that having your dog spayed/neutered and otherwise keeping it healthy (not allowing it to become obese) would probably lead to a greener canine.

*Dogs can’t look up*

You gotta stop listening to that pubkeeper!

Mailey McLaughlin

Training & Behavior Consultant

*You can’t teach an old dog new tricks*

Oh, an oldie but a goodie. Dogs are always learning, so you can teach dogs until the day they die. Just like people. :-) The older they are, the more ingrained their habits are, so it’s harder to change behaviors as they age. But they can definitely learn new stuff.

*An aggressive dog is a good watch dog*

An aggressive dog is an unstable dog. An unstable dog may bark at, and even bite, an intruder, but he will also not know how to distinguish a “real” intruder from a family friend, neighborhood child, or even a family member coming home late at night. Dogs do not instinctively “know” that some people are “good” and others are “bad.” Good watchdogs are loyal to their “pack” and well-trained in basic obedience commands. They develop watchful behaviors as their bond with the family deepens, and they have a motivation to protect their family. Any dog can develop watchful behaviors, but if they don’t have good leadership and respect for the pack, they are unlikely to “protect” anything but their own skins. 

*You should keep your head higher than your dogs*

This is not completely untrue. Height confers status. Dogs that are trained and respect your leadership will not get “impure thoughts” about “taking over” if they are allowed on furniture or able to be taller than the humans. But untrained and uned dogs can, and do sometimes. They can get pushy about owning furniture, and may resort to growling or biting if they are allowed off the floor. A dog who growls at its owners when on the couch or bed needs to be kept from these places and trained to respect the humans’ space.

*Only male dogs hump, because they’re trying to have sex*

Both males and females hump, and it doesn’t matter if they are altered or not. Most humping in dogs past puberty is about social leverage or dominance, not sex. It should not be allowed to continue when done to other dogs, some of whom will correct it themselves. It should never be allowed to be done to humans. When done to people, it is a very dominant act and the dog needs some training quick.

*Are there breeds that are naturally more aggressive than others* 

Yes. Several breeds are bred to be more aggressive, some to dogs and others to people. Guarding breeds are naturally wary of strangers and do not require much of a threat to take it upon themselves to do their jobs. Individual dogs within these breeds will have temperaments ranging from highly social to highly unsocial, of course.

*A wagging tail is a sign of happiness*

Definitely not. The position of the tail, how it is moving, and other body language of the dog must be examined for one to know what the dog is saying. A wagging tail is like a smile: it can have many meanings, and not all are good.

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Just the Vax: Are Vaccines Safe? Are vaccines dangerous? Do they cause autism? How do they work? If they’re not dangerous, why do so many people choose not to vaccinate? On this episode of Curiosity Aroused, Amy Davis Roth and Elyse Anders seek out a few experts to answer our questions.

Links and references: Dr Jen Newport runs the Chicago Skeptics:

Derek Bartholomaus runs Jenny McCarthy Body Count:

Centers for Disease Control:

Centers For Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

Explanation of how Wakefield was found “irresponsible and dishonest”:

The Lancet’s retraction of Andrew Wakefield’s study:

Fear holds up polio vaccinations in Nigeria - 27 Sep 08

Polio figures in Nigeria:

A Campaign Shows Signs of Progress Against Polio:

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Colon Cleansing: Probing Questions, Repulsive Answers

Show notes courtesy Stacey Baker:

The basic idea behind colon cleansing is that our bodies don’t eliminate waste efficiently enough, causing a poisonous backup of toxins, which many consider to be the root of all disease.  Proponents recommend cleansing the colon with laxative products, fasts, or colonic irrigation. 

In this episode of Curiosity Aroused, Dr. Harriet Hall answers common questions about colon cleanses.  What are the purported benefits of cleansing?  Does evidence support improved health and well-being?  Is it risky?  Will you find a McDonald’s hamburger that’s been stuck in there for years?  Is your enemy’s enema your friend?

Harriet Hall, the “Skepdoc”, is a retired family physician, former airforce flight surgeon, founder of Science Based Medicine Blog, contributor to Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, medical advisor on Quackwatch, and O Magazine’s newest columnist.  She authored a book about her background as a female flight surgeon called Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly. 

Relevant Links:

Colon Hydrotherapy Cleansing for Dummies

Dr. David Gorski’s article “Colon Cleanses”: A Load of You Know What…

Harriet Hall discusses alternative medicine in The One True Cause of All Disease

The Skepdoc Website

That’s all for this episode of Curiosity Aroused. Special thanks to Stacey Baker, Harriet Hall, and Tense Kids who provided the music. You can hear more at 

If you make music and would like to be on a future episode, contact us at Tune in next time, when we discuss vaccinations and whether or not they cause autism or other diseases.

You can find more at You can also subscribe through iTunes, where you can help us out by leaving positive comments and ratings. Thanks for listening.

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03 Ladies Hath Run Amok: Promiscuous Queen Myths

Prominent historical figures are inevitable targets for rumor and intrigue, especially surrounding their personal lives.  It might be easy of those of us living today to think that tabloids and gossip rags are modern inventions, but this is simply not so.  People have always been obsessed with the affairs of the privileged classes, enjoying with special relish a good story of tragedy and downfall; the more debauched, the better.

This week, we will examine the lives and legacies of two such figures, Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia.  Why was Elizabeth able to transcend the malicious gossip of her day, while sordid tales about Catherine still circulate today?  Perhaps the stories that persevere are true, while fabrications fall away as the years go on? 

In this podcast, we take a look at these various stories and legends and attempt to determine truth from rumor in the alleged happenings (or non happenings) in the bedrooms of queens.

Special thanks to Carrie Iwan of for the report, and thanks to Quiet Company for providing us with their music. Their most recent album is Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon. You can hear more at

Also heard in this episode is Sonata No 2 from the album “JS Bach: 6 Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord” by Ingrid Matthews and Byron Shenkmen from

Also thanks to Maria Walters, Amy Davis, Tim Iwan, Richard Saunders, Sid Rodrigues, and Chris Blohm for their contributions to Ladies Doth Run Amok.

Tune in next time, when we discuss the ins and outs of colon cleansing.

You can find more at You can also subscribe through iTunes, where you can help us out by leaving positive comments and ratings. Thanks for listening.


Queen Elizabeth:

Chamberlin, Frederick Elizabeth and Leycester, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co 1939.

Doran, Susan Monarchy and Matrimony: The Courtships of Elizabeth I, London:

            Routledge 1996.

Loades, David Elizabeth I: The Golden Reign of Gloriana, London: The National

Archives 2003.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I: A Biography, London: Jonathan Cape 1934.

Somerset, Anne Elizabeth I, London: Anchor Books 2003.

Weir, Alison The Life of Elizabeth I, New York: Ballantine 1998

Wilson, Derek Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester 1533-1588,

            London: Hamlish Hamilton 1981.

Catherine the Great:

De Madariaga, Isabel Catherine the Great: A Short History, New Haven: Yale University

            Press 1993.

Rounding, Virginia Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power, New York: St Martin’s

            Press 2008.

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02 Vitamins: Like Candy But Good For You?

Vitamin supplements are so popular that last year in the US there were $23 billion of sales.  This number is only growing as more and more people look to vitamins as a relatively cheap way to improve their health and prevent disease.  They are supposed to offer a wealth of health benefits- from cancer prevention to healthier hair.  The CDC even recommends that *all* women who can become pregnant take folic acid (which is a B vitamin) supplements in order to lower the risk of fetal developmental problems

CDC report -

If we take vitamins in pill form, will we actually get the purported benefits? Will they just be a waste that we pee out? Or could they even possibly harm us?

-Harriet Hall’s “Should I Take a Multivitamin?” article

FDA regulation of supplements

“Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.”

FDA supplement site:

There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. The B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble, meaning we can rid ourselves of any excess by peeing them out. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble which means we can store them in our bodies for later use and can accumulate excessive amounts if our intake is too high.  It does take a concerted effort to overdose on vitamins but it is possible especially with concentrated single-vitamin supplements.

-On dissonance of the effectiveness of vitamins contrasted with how popular they are

Common wisdom ascribes the same benefits of eating vitamin-rich food with taking vitamin supplements.  However, most scientific studies have found no benefit or even harmful effects from taking vitamin supplements.

In 2008 there was a meta-analysis done on studies of vitamin supplements. 67 clinical studies were used, with a total of over 200,000 total participants. 21 of the trails studied vitamin effects on disease and the rest of the  trials  were performed on healthy individuals.  The meta-analysis found that taking antioxidant supplements may actually have a detrimental effect on health. Vitamin C supplements were found to have no positive or negative effects on health.

In other studies, vitamin A supplementation has been linked to increased rate of hip fracture in post-menopausal women. High intake of vitamin A can also cause problems for fetal development.

-Link to PDF of the meta analysis

Yet with all this possibility for harm or just expensive pee, a lot of people still take vitamins. Many do it to make up for a poor diet. There is a lot of evidence out there that a diet made up of foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients definitely has a positive impact on health. Think of that in contrast to the lack of evidence that vitamin supplements do us any good and the findings that they can even cause harm in some cases.  23 billion dollars a year on pills that probably don’t do anything and can possibly hurt you.  It’s something to think about the next time you feel guilty about your diet and try to assuage your guilt by reaching for the multivitamins.

Special thanks to Maria Walters, Amanda Leinbraugh, Edith Applesauce, and today’s band March of Dimes, who provided all the music. You can hear more at, and their brand new EP From Those Who Were There will be available in April from iTunes, Spotify, 7 Digital, and Amazon.

Tune in to our next episode where we ask some gossipy questions about historical queens. Who was a virgin? Who got intimate with a horse? You know you want to know.

You can find more CuriosityAroused on iTunes or at Thanks for listening.

Filed under vitamins

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01 Fewer Calories, Longer Life?

What is calorie restriction?  Weight Watchers?  South Beach?  Does it involve Richard Simmons?

Lowering calorie intake can be a successful way to reduce body weight, but episode 01 of Curiosity Aroused examines calorie restriction as a permanent lifestyle adopted in hopes of extending lifespan by up to 40%.

40%.  That’s a lot.

With the exception of Methuselah, of course, the oldest humans live about 120 years.  So, we’re talking about living up to 168 years.  But that’s not all.  Enthusiasts also claim that CR improves quality of life.  So we’re talking about 168 years that, you know, don’t include 80 or so years of wishing you were dead.

But proponents warn, you can’t just live on coffee and cigarettes and expect results.  The calories you consume must be of high quality.  And so they refer to their lifestyle as Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON).

Is there any science behind CRON, or is it complete bullshit?  ß-more-à

I invited licensed nutritionist, Monica Reinagel, to the podcast to help me examine the science, or lack of science, behind CRON.  Monica is a dynamic and intelligent person who’s involved professionally in both science and the arts.  In addition to her is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.