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Episode 8 of the Drunken Skeptics Podcast

It’s time for another episode of the Drunken Skeptics! Episode 8: Quarantine is out and available for you to enjoy immediately!

In this Episode:

We talk with Bria Marie Wall on black Atheists in Detroit and about being a black Atheist.

We have a new segment. It’s called the Drunken Debate! Chris play the true believer role and tries to refute Michelle’s reason. It’s a good debate to hear!

As always we have our Whiskey and Shenanigans. This time we run the gamut from underwater spiders to steel making, with a slight layover in Wisconsin.

Don’t forget our July Get Together is coming up. It’s the one year anniversary of MISkeptics, so let’s gather and reminisce!

You can find the show notes here.

If you want to comment or ask us a question, you can email us at [email protected] or fill our our Contact Form. Also you can now call us on the phone! Give us a drunk dial on our Drunken Skeptic line, 734-719-0274 (U.S. number) and leave a message. If we like it, think it was a good comment (or the check clears) we may play it on the podcast!

Does Catnip Essential Oil Protect Against Mosquitoes?

The conditions are set for a bumper crop of mosquitoes this summer in Michigan. Mosquito populations come in waves, and as the spring mosquitoes are dying off, the summer mosquitoes are set to emerge followed by another peak in the population early July. Summer mosquitoes thrive in warm weather and breed in stagnant waters. Following a rainy month of May that left water tables high, it could be perfect conditions for an especially large population of those nasty pests that leave us all itching for relief.

Mosquitoes have a great impact on our quality of life as we try to enjoy the great outdoors, but they also harbor disease organisms and pass them on to humans and other animals. Examples of this are Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV), mosquito-borne viruses that can be found in Michigan. The best way to reduce the risk of infection by mosquito-transmitted diseases is to reduce exposure. The Michigan Mosquito Control Association has a few recommendations to reduce exposure to the hungry mosquitoes: Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, try not to go outdoors during hours of peak mosquito activity (dusk and dawn), keep all window and door screens in good repair, and wear mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, making sure to read repellent labels before use.

The most common and effective chemical used in commercial repellents is N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET). DEET has over a 50 year history of use, first becoming commercially available in 1957. Despite the numerous lay press reports questioning the safety of DEET, this repellent has been subjected to more scientific and toxicologic scrutiny than any other insect repellent. DEET has a remarkable safety profile spanning the last half century with over 8 billion human applications. Still, there have been significant efforts in academia, government and private sector to identify new insect repellents. This has largely been driven by reports of DEET toxicity, minimal efficacy towards certain subspecies of insects, high incidences of insect-borne diseases, decreasing consumer acceptance and the potential for insects to develop resistances.

In the search for alternatives, thousand of plants have been screened as potential insect repellents from botanical sources. Most plant-based insect repellents on the market contain essential oils from one or more of the following plants: geranium, citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemongrass, and soybean. Products made from oils-of-eucalyptus perform the best out of these examples.

Catnip is another example historically used as an insect repellent and as a folk lore remedy. Although not native to North America, catnip now grows throughout Michigan and is generally considered a weed. Nepeta cataria (also known as catnip, catswort, or catmint) is a plant in the Lamiaceae family. The common names can also be used to refer to the Nepeta genus as a whole. The main chemicals in oils of catnip were identified to be nepetalactones, consisting primarily of two isoforms. Here I review some of the recent studies on catnip for its ability to repel mosquitoes.

Field tests were conducted using a hydrogenated form of catnip oil in Florida and Maine. First, the essential oil of catnip was catalytically hydrogenated to yield dihydronepetalactones (DHN). Strictly speaking, hydrogenated catnip oil (HCO) is not something the average person can make without a palladium catalyst, hydrogen gas and a pressure vessel. DHN was previously detected in the defensive secretions of certain insects and it had been reported that DHN had the ability to repel ants. HCO was formulated into a lotion or alcohol-based spray. All HCO formulas exhibited some degree of extended protection with the 15% by weight HCO lotion providing complete protection during the eight hour tests. The authors suggest that formulations of HCO can be effective alternative to existing repellents such as DEET.

In Australia, a commercial product containing 5% catnip essential oil was tested as repellent against four different species of mosquitoes. Significant variation was observed for protection afforded against different mosquito species ranging from no protect to four hours on average. In contrast, a 7% DEET spray provided complete protection over a six hour period. Overall, the authors concluded that catnip does provide limited protection against some mosquito species in Australia, and may be more effective than other products containing natural plant extracts, but it was not as effective as DEET.

A study from China compared catnip essential oil along with other plant essential oils and DEET. Catnip essential oil (composed of 36%, 45%, 18% isomer 1, isomer 2, and caryophyllene) provided the best protection against mosquitoes and the only oil to provide complete protection for over six hours. When testing the major ingredients of catnip oil, their tests showed that a blend containing the nepetalactone isomers at a 3:1 ratio has the highest and longest repellent activity.

The most recent study published in 2011 on the use of catnip essential oils was performed on Afro-topical mosquitoes originally cultivated from Tanzania. They compared two different batches of catnip and found that the isomeric composition of nepatalactone varied considerable (batch A: 92% isomer 1 and 8% caryophyllene, and batch B: 17% isomer 1, 70% isomer 2, and 13% caryophyllene). Upon testing, batch A was not as effective at repelling mosquitoes as compared to batch B. Purified isomers provided inferior protection to either batches of essential oils. Testing of binary mixtures confirmed the synergistic effect between the two isomers. Lower activity was seen with purified isomers and, surprisingly, with equivalent or near equivalent binary mixtures. Highest activity was afforded when the isomers were mixed in 3:1 ratios. Furthermore, a ratio mixture equivalent to batch B did not perform as well compared to either batch of essential oils. A three component blend containing caryophyllene at the levels found in batch B had the same activity as the essential oil.

Typical of plant extracts, the concentration of active ingredients various from batch to batch and the variation is dependent upon things like supply location, seasonal variations, age of the plant, and extraction procedure. Indeed, the ratio of isomers within a catnip plant was shown to vary weekly and the effectiveness of the essential oils to repel insects varied greatly.

Overall, the research on catnip essential oil has proven it to be an effective repellent of mosquitoes. Some variation on the species of mosquitoes repelled and the duration of effectiveness was found. The data suggests that catnip can be used as an effective insect repellent when used as an unfractionated essential oil due to the presence of both nepetalactone isomers and other components such as caryophyllene. However, for practical use of these plant essential oils, further studies on their safety to human health are necessary.

Many of the articles cited are behind paywalls. Copies of specific articles will be provided upon request.

Wireless Power

At the recent D9 tech conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Meredith Perry and Nora Dweck demonstrated their ability to send electrical power ultrasonically (beyond the range of human ears) with their prototype device. In this case we’re talking about a “proof of concept” version sending about a quarter of a watt over a three foot distance. The idea is to provide a device that would be like wifi but for electrical power instead of Internet access.

They company they have created to work on their idea is called uBeam.  (Upon first glance at the company name, two mutated memes instantly began competing in my brain. The “iBeam, uBeam, we allBeam for iBeam” line and of course Apple-ish little letter followed by a capitalized word. Whether those are actually memes, and whether memes actually exist, I’ll save for a future post.) Anyway, I was attracted to this story because a few years ago I started wondering why we couldn’t use the Earth’s magnetic field as a kind of carrier wave to provide truly comprehensive Internet access everywhere on the planet. Not the same thing, but it reminded me of it nonetheless.

Despite it’s geek appeal, there seem to be some fundamental problems with the technology. One easy one to notice is that when her hand blocks the signal the power drops off in a big way. Sort of like the problem that clouds pose for ground based solar power collectors. Altering the distance between emitter and receiver even a few inches also appears to have a large noticeable effect, which makes sense since a sound wave rapidly loses energy as it travels from it’s source. (This is why it’s hard to hear someone waaaaaay over there as opposed to right here.)

I found it interesting to learn after some Googling that wireless power isn’t all too new a dream. Nikola Tesla tried to make this happen over a hundred years ago.

A more recent attempt at this same goal, from back in 2008, was Intel’s use of magnetic waves to light a 60 watt bulb from about three feet. This direction has been more fruitful so far, leading to neat ways to power your electric toothbrush and cell phone.

The June MISkeptics Get Together is This Saturday!

Come on out for an evening of like minded folks getting together to discuss and to laugh.

Most of the Get Together

This is most of the people that attended our first Get together. I could not get an angle that would fit everyone.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

This month is our social meeting so be prepared to talk, discuss and most of all, laugh!

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary. We also have a Meetup group where you can see a list of all the upcoming MISkeptics events.

I hope to see you all there!

Episode 7 of the Drunken Skeptics Podcast

The Drunken Skeptics are back! The long hiatus is finally over and we are once again making shows that annoy the pious and the sober.

Camp Quest

What unicorn?

In this episode, we talk with Tom and Kate Borninski of Camp Quest Michigan. A secular  summer camp for kids of freethinking families.

Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view.

Plus, as usual we have our Whiskey & Shenanigans.

You can find our show notes here.

If you want to comment or ask us a question, you can email us at [email protected] or fill our our Contact Form. Also you can now call us on the phone! Give us a drunk dial on our Drunken Skeptic line, 734-719-0274 (U.S. number) and leave a message. If we like it, think it was a good comment (or the check clears) we may play it on the podcast!

Camping Changes Date of Judgement Day

I figured he would give a revised date but I didn’t figure it would be this soon.

Harold Camping

Pick a date, any date!

From the AP:

California preacher Harold Camping said Monday his prophecy that the world would end was off by five months because Judgment Day actually will come on Oct. 21.

Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before the Earth was destroyed, said he felt so terrible when his doomsday prediction did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife. His independent ministry, Family Radio International, spent millions — some of it from donations made by followers — on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the Judgment Day message.

I was thinking he would push it back a few years. but he went ahead and said October. Which was supposed to be the date the World would be destroyed.

But Camping said that he’s now realized the apocalypse will come five months after May 21, the original date he predicted. He had earlier said Oct. 21 was when the globe would be consumed by a fireball.

Saturday was “an invisible judgment day” in which a spiritual judgment took place, he said. But the timing and the structure is the same as it has always been, he said.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “May 21 is the day that Christ came and put the world under judgment.”

I love the “Even though we were wrong, we’re still right” mentality. He’s got a great life coach.

Rather than give his normal daily broadcast on Monday, Camping made a special statement before the press at the Oakland headquarters of the media empire that has broadcast his message. His show, “Open Forum,” has for months headlined his doomsday message via the group’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website.

When the Rapture didn’t arrive Saturday, crestfallen followers began turning their attention to more earthly concerns.

Jeff Hopkins had figured the gas money he spent driving back and forth from Long Island to New York City would be worth it, as long as people could see the ominous sign atop his car warning that the End of the World was nigh.

“I’ve been mocked and scoffed and cursed at and I’ve been through a lot with this lighted sign on top of my car,” said Hopkins, 52, a former television producer who lives in Great River, NY. “I was doing what I’ve been instructed to do through the Bible, but now I’ve been stymied. It’s like getting slapped in the face.”

Camping said Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their possessions.

“That is between them and God,” he said.

So that means that all the people that believed his hype and gave away all their possessions and money will get nothing from them. I swear I just heard someone say lawsuit…

Apocalyptic thinking has always been part of American religious life and popular culture. Teachings about the end of the world vary dramatically — even within faith traditions — about how they will occur.

Still, the overwhelming majority of Christians reject the idea that the exact date or time of Jesus’ return can be predicted.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels about the end times, recently called Camping’s prediction “not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong!” He cited the Bible verse Matthew 24:36, “but about that day or hour no one knows” except God.

“While it may be in the near future, many signs of our times certainly indicate so, but anyone who thinks they ‘know’ the day and the hour is flat out wrong,” LaHaye wrote on his website,

In 2009, the nonprofit Family Radio reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

We need to find out what stocks they hold…

The End of the World Party Was a Great Success

I want to give a big thanks to everyone that came out for our End of the World Party last night. It was an amazing time! We went went way over how many people were expected to come and over filled the venue. Fortunately everyone was very nice and accommodating and we just simply squeezed ourselves in.

Also a special thanks to Station 885 letting us come in at the last minute and giving us the venue to use. We were much too big to fit into Ginger’s back room and were actually too big for the room we had at station 885. We had about 50 people show up. And the food was still excellent and the waitstaff worked extra hard for us.

White Eotw Shirt

White End of the World Party shirt

Don’t forget to order your special EotW Party Tshirts from our MISkeptics store. They will be up for a limited time so get them while you can!

There were also several people that were first timers to MISkeptics and I would like to give a big WELCOME  to them. Since we were mentioned in The Detroit News there has been a lot of buzz flowing around and that helped us to see many new faces and friends. So thanks to everyone that came out and we look forward to seeing you again!

There were several people that had asked for me to provide the images I used in the slideshow we used during the party so I have uploaded them to an album that you can access from our forums. All the images are there for you so have fun downloading!

It seems that there was one complaint last night about our revelry. One single gentleman, apparently very religious, was offended that Station 885 served us, not to mention let us in the building. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get much detail because the managers blew the matter off faster than we would have. I was hoping for picketers but we’ll just have to try harder next time!

Speaking of next time, our next Get Together will be Staurday, June 11th at 4:00 PM at our usual restaurant, Ginger. This is going to be a social gathering so there will be no speaker or presentation. But there will be lively discussions, great conversations and most importantly, laughter! If you’ve never been to one of our social Get Togethers you are missing out on a fun experience. Our last social Get Together had discussions ranging from current events to Shake Weight commercials. Yes, you know what we were talking about…

MISkeptics Get Together

These mugs are also available from the MISkeptics Store!

We have some more great news coming down the pipeline. The Drunken Skeptics are coming back to a podcast aggregator near you! After an extended hiatus the team is back and recording new episodes! Expect a brief episode to come out this week then we return with a brand new full episode in the coming weeks. We have some great segments, interviews and news for you so stay tuned for more information!

Also, The Michigan Skeptics Association is looking for contributors to our site and forums. If you are a skeptic, now matter how experienced, and think you have what it takes, send a sample article to admin(a)

That’s it for now. Check back often for Drunken Skeptics updates. We look forward to seeing you at the next Get Together. And until then, keep thinking!

The End of the World Party

Harold Camping

Harold Camping, the founder of Family Radio and the guy that came up with May 21st

The founder of Family Radio, Harold Camping, has predicted that Judgement Day will be May 21st. And the world will end on October 21st.

Which will be nice. I’ve been looking forward to the peace and quiet.

While we’re waiting for the everyone to be judged and head off to heaven I figured that would be the perfect time to have a party! The Michigan Skeptics Association is hosting their End of the World Party on Saturday, May 21st at 4:00 PM. We’ve had to change from our usual venue to Station 885 because of the large turnout we’re expecting!

Station 885 is located at: 885 Starkweather, Plymouth, Michigan 48170

Click here for a map

We have a lot of fun things planned. There will be a presentation, games, prizes, end of the world related music,  terrible jokes and an altogether fun environment or frivolity. I have spotters around the world that will inform me the moment Jesus shows up. I for one know he won’t show. I haven’t heard from him since he borrowed 50 bucks off of me…

George Hrab

George Hrab

Speaking of games and prizes, the one and only maestro himself George Hrab has donated a few signed copies of his latest album, Trebuchet to MISkeptics to give to you wonderful people. Now I’ve been made aware that some of you don’t know who Geo is or what his relevance is to the Skeptic community. For shame. I will now take it upon myself to educate you on the maestro.

George, or Geo to his friends (no I’m not one of them) is a talented musician with the Philadelphia Funk Authority, and when he’s not on tour across the world or speaking at major events like TAM, he hosts the Geologic Podcast. A whirlwind of music, skepticism, atheism, his mom, and interesting news. I definitely recommend subscribing to his show.

Now I mentioned his latest album Trebuchet, of which he gave me several signed copies for our End of the World Party. I guess it would be only fitting to show you what’s on the CD. So here is a live video for God is not Great, which is the first track on the CD.

So everyone be sure to come on out. It’s going to be a blast! And remember May 22nd is post Rapture looting day!

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