Brian Dunning (author)

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Brian Dunning
Brian dunning.jpg
Skeptoid 250th Episode party at UC Irvine, California, 2011
Residence Laguna Niguel, California
Nationality American
Occupation Writer, producer, author

Brian Andrew Dunning is an American writer and producer who focuses on skepticism.[1] He has hosted a weekly podcast, Skeptoid, since 2006 and is an author of 5 books on the subject of scientific skepticism. The Skeptoid podcast has been the recipient of several podcast awards including the Parsec Award and Stitcher award. Skeptoid currently (as of May 2014) attracts 161,000 listeners weekly. Dunning has also created a spin-off video series and has written several books based on the podcast.

Dunning co-founded Buylink, a business-to-business service provider, in 1996, and served at the company until 2002. He later became eBay's second biggest affiliate marketer; he has since been convicted of wire fraud through a cookie stuffing scheme. In August 2014, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release for the company obtaining between $200,000 and $400,000 through wire fraud.[2]



In 1996 Dunning co-founded and was chief technology officer for Buylink Corporation.[3] Buylink received venture capital funding from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.[4] In 2000 he participated in a presentation on Buylink at The Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum called Bricks to Clicks in the New Internet Reality.[5] He discussed the company on CNNfn's Market Call, in Rhonda Schaffler's Maverick of the Morning segment.[6] In 2002, Dunning left his position as CTO of BuyLink.[7]

Between 1997 and 2005 he was technical editor for FileMaker Advisor Magazine,[8] and contributing editor of ISO FileMaker Magazine, 1996–2002,[9] winning one of the FileMaker Excellence Awards at the 2001 FileMaker Developers Conference.[10]


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."[11] 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,[12] and received an award from the Portland Humanist Film Festival for this in November 2011.[13] He was also winner of the 2010 Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction Podcast".[14] 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.[15]

Dunning also writes articles for,[16] and is an executive producer for the network television pilot The Skeptologists.[17] He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers,[18] and he 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.[19]

Brian Dunning in the giant hamster wheel at the College of Curiosity in 2012, City Museum, St. Louis MO

Wire fraud case[edit]

In August 2008, eBay filed suit against Dunning, accusing him of defrauding eBay and eBay affiliates in a cookie stuffing scheme for his 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.[20] On April 15, 2013, in the San Jose, California, U.S. District Court, as part of a plea agreement, Dunning pleaded guilty to wire fraud.[21]

From an agreement of the parties, the eBay civil suit was dismissed in May 2014 and Dunning was sentenced in August 2014 to serve fifteen months in prison for the company receiving between $200,000 and $400,000 in fraudulent commissions from eBay.[22][23] Dunning admitted that he received payments to which he was not entitled, commenting "I fully accept this determination, and fully accept and admit responsibility for every action I was involved in."[24]

Skeptoid podcast[edit]

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.[25]

Along with similarly themed Point of Inquiry, Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine, and The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, it is listed on an iTunes (US) web page of popular science and medicine podcasts.[26] In May 2014, Skeptoid’s website reported that the podcast had a weekly average of 161,000 downloads.[27]

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:

In May 2007, Skeptoid was announced as a qualifying media outlet for the James Randi Educational Foundation's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.[28] Applicants to the challenge must have a presence in popular broadcast media in order to qualify.[29] 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.[30]

Episode 300[edit]

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.[31][32] It is the story of a young girl who challenged the Queen and her rats who sold everyone in the village an 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 California, Irvine March 3, 2012. Entertainment that evening featured comedians Penny Chan and Matt Kirshen. Mentalism by Mark Edward, emceed by Emery Emery.[33]

Skeptoid 300th Episode Party - Brian Dunning, Ryan Johnson, Jesse Horn, Lee Sanders and Bill Simpkins in a Q&A discussing the premier of "The Gypsy Queen"


Skeptoid was a 2009 Podcast Awards finalist in the Education category.[34]

In 2010, Skeptoid won the Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction" podcast.[35]

Skeptoid has been praised for "Outstanding Contribution to Science and Skepticism" by the Independent Investigations Group (IIG)[36]

In 2012, "Skeptoid" was the winner of the Stitcher Award in the Best Science Podcast category.[37]



  1. ^ Vincent, Roger (April 19, 2013). "Laguna Niguel man pleads guilty in 'cookie stuffing' scam against EBay". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ "Laguna Niguel Man Receives 15-Month Prison Term for Defrauding eBay". Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "Buylink Names Robert Honeycutt to CEO Post; Seasoned Executive to Accelerate Buylink's Expansion" (Press release). Business Wire, via The Free Library. November 1, 2000. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Buylink Closes Series A Venture Capital Funding Led By Hummer Winblad Venture Partners" (Press release). Corporate NewsNet. April 24, 2000. 
  5. ^ "UC Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum". UC Berkeley. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Brian Dunning on CNNfn, for Buylink Video" (YouTube video). inFact with Brian Dunning channel on YouTube. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  7. ^ Christopher Brown (3 April 2011). "Meet The Skeptics! : MTS : Meet Brian Dunning". (Podcast). Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Brian Dunning Software Venture Consultant Technical Editor, FileMaker Advisor magazine". File Maker Addict. December 12, 2005. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Browse Mode with Brian Dunning". FileMaker Magazine. April 10, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2011. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Peter Baanen receives FileMaker Pro Excellence Award at FileMaker DevCon 2001.". Troi. August 14, 2001. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast". OCLC 461308119. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Here Be Dragons". 2008. OCLC 270775142. 
  13. ^ "Portland Humanist Film Festival". Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  14. ^ 2010 Parsec Awards (archived version).
  15. ^ IIG Awards
  16. ^ " About Brian Dunning". 
  17. ^ "The Skeptologists". 
  18. ^ "National Association of Science Writers". 
  19. ^ "Thunderwood College"
  20. ^ Anderson, Nate (April 18, 2013). "How "Kessler’s Flying Circus" cookie-stuffed its way to $5.2M from eBay". ArsTechnica. Retrieved 2013-04-21 
  21. ^ "Laguna Niguel Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding eBay" (Press release). Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco Division. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  22. ^ "Case5:08-cv-04052-EJD Document246". United States District Court. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
  23. ^ "A Message from Brian Dunning". Brian Dunning. Archived from the original on August 9, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  24. ^ Dunning, Brian. "A message from Brian". 
  25. ^ "About Skeptoid". Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Podcasts: Science & Medicine". iTunes Preview. Apple Inc. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  27. ^ "About Skeptoid". Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. 
  28. ^ "(Unknown title)". James Randi Educational Foundation. [dead link]
  29. ^ "Challenge Application". James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  30. ^ Dunning, Brian (October 3, 2011). "Reflecting on 5 Years of Skeptoid". Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  31. ^ The Secret of the Gypsy Queen, Skeptoid
  32. ^ Skeptoid #300: The Secret of the Gypsy Queen on YouTube
  33. ^ "Skeptoid 300th Episode Party". 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  34. ^ "2009 People's Choice Winners". Podcast Awards. Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  35. ^ "2010 Parsec Awards Winners & Finalists". Parsec Awards. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "Wizzard Media Congratulates Skeptoid Podcast" (Press release). Business Wire via .NET Developer's Journal. October 14, 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  37. ^ "Podcast Awards". Retrieved 20 November 2012. [dead link]

External links[edit]