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Cult US podcaster and anti pseudoscientist Rachel Webster (aka Skepchick) visits Birmingham tonight. Adrian Bailey – who organised the visit – got an early word in.

AB Is it true that you won a competition to be a radio star? How did that turn into Skepchick?

RW It is sort of true! Though Skepchick came first. There was a contest in 2007 (I think) called Public Radio Talent Quest.

I beat out a few thousand people to win (along with two other guys) the opportunity to create a pilot radio show, which was then pitched to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the hopes that it would be funded for a full series.

My show was called Curiosity Aroused and focused on discussing interesting science and uncovering pseudoscience and bad science in the news.

CPB decided to give a bit of money to each of the other two guys and none to me, which was upsetting but looking back I don't really mind. I learned a lot from the contest, about how to put together a show for radio and also about how the public radio machine operates.

It turns out I don't need the money - I'm still doing a 90-minute Skeptics' Guide podcast every week, pluswe've just relaunched Curiosity Aroused as a regular podcast on a budget of zero.

AB Do you think science is under attack? If so, from whom?

RW I'm sure it is, yes. Creationists are probably the most prominent people attempting to misinform the public about what science is. Alt medicine proponents like anti-vaxxers and homeopaths are doing it, as well.

AB Have you spotted any difference in attitudes between the US and the UK?

RW The UK is much less religious and much more likely to speak openly and humorously about religion, which I love. There's also more effective science communication happening here. On the other hand, people are less likely to speak openly about alternative medicine, which I think is due in part to your draconian libel laws that censor critics. I'd love to see that change.

The positive side of it is that it brings out my activist tendencies. I like having a cause to fight for and I like getting involved in politics.

AB What gets you excited? (IYSWIM)

RW Well again, a good fight gets me excited. I'm a fiery lass. I also really love learning new things, whether it's about astrophysics or knitting or making radio shows.

AB Do chicks matter?

RW You'll have to come see the lecture to figure that out.

Okay, to be honest, YES! Chicks totally matter. It's a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title designed to lure you in, and then I hit you over the head with feminism. I think that skeptics can benefit hugely from feminists, and vice versa. My talk is a small attempt to make that case.

Rebecca Watson: Skepchick on tour: Do chicks matter? Public meeting, Room 549, Aston University, Tuesday 23 February, 7.30 for 7.45 pm



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