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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci.

Current Episodes


Rationally Speaking to Record Live Episode with Jacob Appel

Rationally Speaking is pleased to present a live episode recording with special guest bioethicist Jacob Appel on Sunday, May 15th at this year's Northeast Conference for Science and Skepticism. What are the big ethical conundrums in medicine? Should we honor patients requests for doctors of a particular ethnicity or gender? What about requests for medically unnecessary surgery such as elective limb amputation? Should we use research that was obtained unethically?

NECSS is an annual conference that will take place at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Manhattan campus May 12th through 15th. This year will feature past Rationally Speaking guests including David Kyle Johnson, Maria Konnikova, and Steven Novella. Tickets are available now, including a steep discount for students. We hope to see you there!


RS 158 - Dr. George Ainslie on "Negotiating with your future selves"

Release date: May 1st, 2016

Dr. George Ainslie

Ever make a plan to diet, or exercise, or study, and then -- when the scheduled hour rolls around -- decide, "Nah, I'll just put it off another day"? If you said "no," I don't believe you!

This episode features behavioral psychiatrist (and economist) George Ainslie, who demonstrated the existence of this ubiquitous phenomenon in human willpower, called hyperbolic discounting, in which our preferences change depending on how immediate or distant the choice is.

George and Julia discuss why hyperbolic discounting exists, and how it can be modeled as a negotiation between your current self and your future selves. In the process they explore some of the benefits and risks of this "intertemporal bargaining" approach to willpower, and how it relates to philosophical thought experiments such as the Prisoner's Dilemma and Kavka's Toxin.

George's Pick: "The Strategy of Conflict" by Thomas C. Schelling

George's Other Pick: "Inside Out"

Podcast edited by Brent Silk


Full Transcripts 



RS 157 - Dr. Herculano-Houzel on "What made the human brain special?"

Release date: April 17th, 2016

Dr. Herculano-Houzel

For centuries, scientists have wondered what makes humans so much smarter than other species. Some proposed it was the size of our brain (though that didn't explain why whales weren't smarter than us); others thought it was the size of our brain relative to our body size (but there were problems with that explanation as well). In this episode, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel lays out the mystery of the "Human advantage," and explains how a new technique she invented several years ago has shed light on some of these longstanding mysteries.


Suzana's Book: "The Human Advantage"
Suzana's Pick: "Catching Fire" by Richard Wrangham

Podcast edited by Brent Silk


Full Transcripts