TRC #222: The Simulation Argument + Breaking Bad SFoSF + Subliminal Advertising + Law of Averages

Episode 222 is not your typical TRC episode in that it was recorded live in front of the attendees of Eschaton 2012 in Ottawa. It is typical however in that it brings the skepticism big time. Darren “likely not the real Darren” McKee leads off the show by discussing whether or not we are all living in a simulation. This is followed by Elan “Pollos” Dubrofsky hosting a Breaking Bad themed game of Science Fact or Science Fiction. Special guest panelist Jon “used to host this show” Abrams then takes a look at subliminal advertising, and Adam “far from average but not sure in which direction” Gardner closes out the show with an exploration into the Law of Averages.

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The Simulation Argument

Simulation Argument

Simulation Argument FAQ

Breaking Bad Science Fact or Science Fiction

Wikipedia – Embalming Chemicals

Hydrofluoric acid in Breaking Bad

Ricin Poisining

Wikipedia – Ricin

The Science of Breaking Bad – Madrigal


NCJRS The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 1981 Through the Second Quarter of 2003

Mercury Fulminate Breaking Bad

Wikipedia – Mercury Fulminate

Subliminal Advertising

The Straight Dope

Thomas Moore: An Update of Subliminal Influence

Wikipedia: Subliminal Stimuli

Subliminal Advertising: Is the Debate Over?

The Law of Averages

How The Law of Averages Can Make You Rich

Law of averages – Wikipedia

Law of large numbers – Wikipedia

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6 Responses to TRC #222: The Simulation Argument + Breaking Bad SFoSF + Subliminal Advertising + Law of Averages

  1. Roger Waring says:

    Regarding episode 222
    The science fact/fiction answer about the sensitivity of mercury fulminate is incorrect. It is percussion sensitive but requires quite a solid hit to get it to explode. In fact it is doubtful that it would have gone off if throw against a wall as Walter did in breaking bad, and it would certainly not go off if carried like Walter did. The reference you had on your website clearly wished to discourage people from making it by exaggerating its danger. It has been used as the detonator in bullet manufacture for over a century and would not have been used if it was as sensitive as you implied.

  2. Elan Dubrofsky says:

    Thanks Roger. It seems like you are right. I’m definitely not a chemist but I asked a friend who is and she agreed . It’s frustrating because this was not the only source that makes this claim. Check out this blog post by a guy with a phd in chemistry:

    I’ll make a note to mention your email on our next show.

  3. Roger Waring says:

    Élan, thanks for your response. I am a chemist and my comment comes from a mid-spent youth investigating mercury fulminate. In fact it was surprisingly stable and detonated only if heated to about 180C or if struck sharply (as it was when used as a bullet primer). If it was any more sensitive it would have been too dangerous to use industrially to make millions of bullets…. And there would be lots of reports of bullets exploding when handled roughly.
    I enjoy your show down in Aussie land… Keep it up.

  4. Quaz says:

    Sigh, simulated universe. I’m tired of skeptics (3rd podcast w/ this topic) of talking about this without truely challenging it beyond its probability and pretty slide show, and treating it w/ soft kids gloves.

    Just because simulated reality is interesting does not excuse bad skeptism. Just looking through the arguement post above, its filled with many of the stratgies that religous groups use to support their beliefs on their sites. The hyposis includes lots of colorful charts with and/if/but statements, nice pics of “the sims” and other references to pop culture, but little else that makes it any better than what can be found on the scientology websites.

    A quick look at the wiki on logical fallacies shows that “reality simulation” falls into more than a few of these, regardless of its statisical probability.

    Its no different than the whole idea of the multi-verse in physics (which is frankly is a hell of a lot more mathimatically stable), doesnt mean we have star trek like multiple universes, thats what our cultural bias makes us think of. It means a calculation showed their probable (necessary to balance an equation) existence, not their form or actual outcome; scientist/poeple who postulate what these universes consist of, should never say “we think these may have…” They should say “we have no clue what they are, or if their even observable, the math just shows that their possible…..but it make for a good movie if….”. This statement needs also be clearly stated, so as not to confuse conjecture with hyposis. To do otherwise makes them no different than ancient alien theorist and their ilk.

    The same goes for simulated reality.

    As for would a future culture run ancestor simulations, the question is why would they give us the ability to even question it since it would ruin the simulation. “To make us act naturally” predisposes the idea that future observes would not control their expirment in some fashion is frankly wasteful. Also ancestor simulation would focus on major events only not individuals, otherwise would be to resource draining, and frankly irrelevant to the study. The whole “well you don’t know what the programmer is thinking” or “you don’t know what kind of resources they’ll have” or “well we made the SIMs that way” is such as huge fallacy of special pleading it stretches all creditability.

    For me the idea of simulated universe, regradless of its origins, is either a) a biased conclussion of data overly influenced by modern pop culture. b) A mental exercise that went way to far beyond its scope, and not stated properly to the public. c) A sketpic trap that could easily be used support creationism and diety belief.

  5. Pingback: Reality Check Podcast Live @Eschaton 2012 | Canadian Atheist

  6. roger waring says:

    Hi Guys,
    I’d hate to say I told you so, but the Mythbusters just did an episode on the Science of Breaking Bad… Mercury fulminate was shown to be so insensitive it wouldn’t explode even when thrown at high speed…
    Great Mythbusters episode though… maybe you could revisit the subject since you are Breaking Bad fans…

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