Brian Dunning (author)
Skeptoid 250th Episode party at UC Irvine, California, 2011
|Born||1965 (age 47–48)
Santa Monica, California, USA
|Residence||Laguna Niguel, California|
|Education||Computer Science, Brigham Young University (1983-84)
Film and Television, UCLA (1985-87)
Fiction Writing, UC Irvine (1988-1992)
|Occupation||Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Buylink Corporation (1996-2001)|
|Parents||Father: James Dunning
Mother: Tay McClellan
Brian Dunning (born 1965) is an American writer and producer who focuses on skepticism. He has hosted a weekly podcast, Skeptoid, since 2006 and has also written articles and books. He was formerly chief technology officer of Buylink Corporation, a large business-to-business network. In June 2010, Dunning was indicted on charges of wire fraud by a Federal grand jury. On April 15, 2013, Dunning pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a plea agreement with Federal prosecutors.
Dunning was born in 1965 in Santa Monica, California, USA. Between 1983 and 1984 he studied computer science at Brigham Young University, film and television at UCLA from 1985 to 1987 and then fiction writing at UC Irvine between 1988 and 1992.
In 1996 he co-founded and was chief technology officer for Buylink Corporation which grew by 1999 into the world's largest business-to-business network with 23,000 members transacting over $5 billion annually. Buylink was funded by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Dunning led its team working with Wells Fargo Bank in the development of the first online payment factoring system, code-named PayLater. In 2000 he lectured on Buylink at the UC Berkeley's Entrepreneur Forum called Bricks to Clicks in the New Internet Reality, and in the same year appeared on CNNfn with Rhonda Schaffler's Maverick of the Morning segment to talk about Buylink.
Between 1997 and 2005 he was technical editor for FileMaker Advisor Magazine, and contributing editor of ISO FileMaker Magazine, 1996–2002, winning one of the FileMaker Excellence Awards at the 2001 FileMaker Developers Conference.
Since 2006 Dunning has hosted and produced Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena, a weekly audio podcast dedicated "to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture, and replacing them with way cooler reality." He is also the author of the book of the same title and a sequel. He produced Here Be Dragons, a free 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking intended for general audiences, and received an award from the Portland Humanist Film Festival for this in November 2011. He was also winner of the 2010 Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction Podcast". In August 2010 he received an award recognizing his contributions in the skeptical field from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) during its 10th Anniversary Gala.
Dunning also writes articles for Skepticblog.org, and is an executive producer for the network television pilot The Skeptologists. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and is the "Chancellor" of the non-accredited "Thunderwood College", a parody of unaccredited institutions of higher learning that offer "degrees" in a variety of subjects.
Wire fraud case
In August 2008, eBay filed suit against Dunning and his brother, accusing them of defrauding eBay and eBay affiliates of $5.2 million in a cookie stuffing scheme for their company, Kessler's Flying Circus. In June 2010, based on the same allegations and following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a grand jury indicted Dunning on charges of wire fraud. On his Skeptoid blog, Dunning stated "There are several legal reasons that the lawsuit is improper, and we’ve been fighting it on that basis." On April 15, 2013, in San Jose, CA federal court, as part of a plea agreement, Dunning pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Dunning admitted that he received payments to which he was not entitled, but has "reserved the right to dispute how much of those payments were attributable to the cookie stuffing scheme".
Skeptoid is Dunning's weekly podcast. The show follows an audio essay format, and is dedicated to the critical examination of pseudoscience and the paranormal. In May 2012, Skeptoid became a California state non-profit corporation.
Along with similarly themed Point of Inquiry, Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, it is a Top-50 program on the iTunes (US) Science & Medicine podcast charts. In December 2011, Skeptoid claimed to have a weekly average of 174,000 downloads.
Each roughly ten-minute Skeptoid episode focuses on a single pop culture phenomenon that is pseudoscientific in nature. Episodes usually fall into one of four categories:
- Quackery medical modalities: such as homeopathy, reflexology, detoxification, or chiropractic
- Popular cultural misconceptions: such as organic foods, SUVs, and global warming
- Urban legends: such as crop circles, the Amityville Horror, the Phoenix Lights, or the Philadelphia Experiment
- Religion and mythology: such as creation legends, New Age religions, and concepts of sin
In May 2007, Skeptoid was announced as a qualifying media outlet for the James Randi Educational Foundation's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. Applicants to the challenge must have a presence in popular broadcast media in order to qualify. By passing a simple test of their paranormal ability and having it reported on the Skeptoid podcast, applicants can satisfy that primary requirement and then proceed to apply for the Challenge.
Despite his shift away from the technology industry, he continues to do computer programming, and does web development for his Skeptoid website.
In celebration of the 300th episode of the podcast, Dunning, composer Lee Sanders, singer Rachel Bloom, artist Jesse Horn, director Ryan Johnson and sound mixer Bill Simpkins produced the animated musical short, The Secret of the Gypsy Queen. It is the story of a young girl who challenged the Queen and her rats who sold everyone in the village a uber-scarf which when worn across the eyes blinds the wearer to all unpleasantness. The villagers, once the uber-scarf was removed discovered they had been scammed, and while blind the rats had emptied the homes of food and valuables. The premier was released at the University of Irvine March 3, 2012. Entertainment that evening featured comedians Penny Chan and Matt Kirshen. Mentalism by Mark Edward, emceed by Emery Emery.
In 2012, "Skeptoid" was the winner of the Stitcher Award in the Best Science Podcast category.
In the media
- October 2012, presented "Finding the Missing Cosmonauts" at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
- October 2012, presented "Your Brain Sucks" to the Psychology Club at Claremont McKenna College with Prof. Diane Halpern.
- James Randi Educational Foundation The Amaz!ng Meeting TAM 2012; TAM 9, 2011; TAM Australia 2011; TAM 8, 2010; TAM 7, 2009; TAM 6, 2008; TAM 5.5, 2008
- May 2012, presented "Sounds from Beyond" to the College of Curiosity at the St. Louis City Museum.
- March 2012, Dunning presented "Miracle or Science?" to the BIL Conference on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.
- In 2011, Dunning appeared in two episodes of the William Shatner TV series Weird or What?. In episode 202 "Life after Death", Dunning analyzed a demonstration by mentalist Mark Edward showing how easily the Scole Experiment seances could have been faked. In episode 206 "Freaks of Nature" he discussed the finding that the Bell Island Boom was probably a lightning superbolt.
- May 2011, Dunning spoke at Authors@Google with a presentation of Sounds From Beyond. When asked if he sees any positive science trends in the media he answered, "No...I think we have a negative trend, in the realm of rationality and reason it is going to continue to slide. And the reason I think we are going to continue to lose ground as far as capturing the hearts and minds of the general public, is because of the Internet and television, its become so easy to reach so many people with a sensational message. People don't have time to listen to ten things a day, they have time to listen to one thing and it is whatever is easiest. Its the front page of CNN or the first five minutes of Oprah, that's where people get their science information."
- April 2011, presented "The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Positive Take" at the University of California, Los Angeles, sponsored by CFI On Campus.
- April 2011, Dunning presented "Solving the Missing Cosmonauts" to a room full of high school students whose class had won a science contest to attend, as part of the inaugural Science Symposium at West Virginia University. The talk was also broadcast nationwide to all high school classes who had participated in the contest.
- December 2010, presented "Sounds from Beyond!" at a free public lecture sponsored by the University of Melbourne Secular Society in Australia. This was followed the next evening with a presentation of "The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Positive Take" at a special dinner event with Rebecca Watson for the Victoria Skeptics in Melbourne, Australia.
- November 2010, Dunning ran workshops and presented "Sounds from Beyond" to The Amaz!ng Meeting in Sydney, Australia. While in town he appeared with Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki on his weekly science talkback show on Triple J Radio, "Sceptics, Energy Fields, and Busting Myths".
- July 2010, At SkeptiCal Conference in Berkeley: lecture on The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Positive Take
- March 2009, Dunning joined IPCC co-author Dr. Michael Prather and climate skeptic John Coleman for a debate "The Climate Change Dilemma… And Why People Hate Al Gore" at the Paul Merage School of Business at University of California, Irvine.
- In 2008 Dunning appeared in the video short A Brief History of Flying Saucers accompanying the 2008 DVD re-release of War of the Worlds discussing the origins of the Roswell UFO mythology.
- October 2008: Dunning presented "Here Be Dragons: Introduction to Critical Thinking" at Manchester University in North Manchester, IN.
- January 2008: Was a guest on Skeptics Guide to the Universe Dunning announces a casting call for The Skeptologists, we need "...skeptical experts to jump in the Batmobile racing to the center of the woo to work their skeptical magic on whatever the topic is that week".
- Strapping Young Lads. Xlibris Corp. 2001. ISBN 978-1-4010-1168-0. OCLC 227969099.
- Coauthored with Allyson Knox and Lori Becker: Special Edition: Using Adobe GoLive 6. Indianapolis, Indiana: Que. 2003. p. 650. ISBN 978-0-7897-2727-5. OCLC 48678473. LCC TK5105.8885.A34 D85 2003
- Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena. Thunderwood Press. 2007. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4348-2166-9. OCLC 287154998.
- Skeptoid 2. Skeptoid Media. 2008. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-4404-2285-0. OCLC 589083050.
- Skeptoid 3: Pirates, Pyramids, and Papyrus. Skeptoid Media. 2011. p. 314. ISBN 978-1-4538-8118-7.
- Skeptoid 4: Astronauts, Aliens, and Ape-Men. Skeptoid Media. 2012. p. 349. ISBN 978-1-4752-0565-7.
- Here Be Dragons: an Introduction to Critical Thinking (DVD Video). B. Dunning. 2008. OCLC 270775142.
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- Anderson, Nate (April 18, 2013). How "Kessler’s Flying Circus" cookie-stuffed its way to $5.2M from eBay. ArsTechnica. Retrieved 2013-04-21
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- "Claremont McKenna College Psychology Club". Facebook. 2012-09-25. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
- "Your Brain Sucks!". JREF. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- "College of Curiosity, May 26th 2012, City Museum, St. Louis". 2012-03-05. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "NEC Welcomes Science Writer Brian Dunning". New England College. 2012-03-26. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- "BIL 2012 - Speakers". BIL Conference. 2012-03-04. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
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- "Authors@Google: Brian Dunning". YouTube. May 21, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "Sounds from Beyond!". YouTube. June 2, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "Brian Dunning: "The Virgin of Guadalupe" - CFI On Campus". Center for Inquiry. 2011-04-15. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism". NECSS. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "Science & Technology in Society: Effective Communication Strategies - Brian Dunning". West Virginia University. 2011-01-03. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "The BIL Conference". BIL. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "Free public lecture: Brian Dunning and Rebecca Watson". University of Melbourne Secular Society. 2010-11-03. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Special Event, Brian Dunning and Rebecca Watson". Victoria Skeptics. 2010-10-28. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "The Amaz!ng Meeting: Invited Speakers". James Randi Educational Foundation. 2010-11-26. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Sceptics, energy fields and busting myths, with skeptoid.com's Brian Dunning". ABC. 2010-11-25. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Past Guests". Dragon*Con. 2010-09-03. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "SkeptiCal 2010". SkeptiCal. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "Psychology Club Speaker Series "Health Scams and Myths" An Evening with Brian Dunning". Ohlone College. 2011-06-30. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "26th Chaos Communication Congress". 26C3. 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- "The Climate Change Dilemma… and Why People Hate Al Gore". Paul Merage School of Business, UCI. 2009-03-19. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- "Values, Ideas, and the Arts". Manchester College. 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "Podcast 130 - January 16, 2008". SGU. January 16, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- Skeptoid Official website
- Brian Dunning at the Internet Movie Database
- Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
- Bloggingheads.tv: A Skeptic Confronts Pop Culture (Sept 27, 2008)
- Brian Dunning (author) on Twitter
- Dogma Free America podcast interview with Skeptoid host Brian Dunning
- Ross, Patrick (May 18, 2008). "Smashing Pseudoscience with Skeptoid". New University. Retrieved October 16, 2011.