Brian Dunning (author)
Skeptoid 250th Episode party at UC Irvine, California, 2011
|Residence||Laguna Niguel, California|
|Occupation||Writer, producer, author|
Brian Andrew Dunning is an American writer and producer who focuses on skepticism. 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.
In 1996 Dunning co-founded and was chief technology officer for Buylink Corporation. Buylink received venture capital funding from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. In 2000 he participated in a presentation on Buylink at The Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum called Bricks to Clicks in the New Internet Reality. He discussed the company on CNNfn's Market Call, in Rhonda Schaffler's Maverick of the Morning segment. In 2002, Dunning left his position as CTO of 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 wrote articles for Skepticblog.org, and was an executive producer for the unreleased network television pilot The Skeptologists. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers, 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.
Wire fraud case
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. 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.
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. 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."
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 Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, it is listed on an iTunes (US) web page of popular science and medicine podcasts. In May 2014, Skeptoid’s website reported that the podcast had a weekly average of 161,000 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.
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 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.
Skeptoid was a 2009 Podcast Awards finalist in the Education category.
In 2010, Skeptoid won the Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction" podcast.
Skeptoid has been praised for "Outstanding Contribution to Science and Skepticism" by the Independent Investigations Group (IIG)
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- 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
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- 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.
- Skeptoid 5: Massacres, Monsters, and Miracles. Skeptoid Media. 2013. p. 359. ISBN 978-1-4927-0906-0.
- The Secret of the Gypsy Queen (illustrated by Jesse Horn). Skeptoid Media. 2013. p. 32. ISBN 978-1477626238.
- Here Be Dragons: an Introduction to Critical Thinking (DVD Video). B. Dunning. 2008. OCLC 270775142.
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- 2010 Parsec Awards (archived version).
- IIG Awards
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- "Thunderwood College"
- Anderson, Nate (April 18, 2013). "How "Kessler's Flying Circus" cookie-stuffed its way to $5.2M from eBay". ArsTechnica. Retrieved 2013-04-21
- "eBay Inc. v. Digital Point Solutions, Inc. et al.".
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- "Case docket: USA v. Dunning". Retrieved 2012-11-16.
- "Laguna Niguel Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding eBay" (Press release). Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco Division. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "Case5:08-cv-04052-EJD Document246". United States District Court. Retrieved 2014-05-29.
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- "(Unknown title)". James Randi Educational Foundation.
- "Challenge Application". James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- Dunning, Brian (October 3, 2011). "Reflecting on 5 Years of Skeptoid". Skeptoid.com. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- The Secret of the Gypsy Queen, Skeptoid
- Skeptoid #300: The Secret of the Gypsy Queen on YouTube
- "Skeptoid 300th Episode Party". Skeptoid.com. 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
- "2009 People's Choice Winners". Podcast Awards. Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
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- "Podcast Awards". Archived from the original on November 12, 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- 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 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.
- Christopher Brown interview at TAM 2012
- Skeptoid Media: Organizational Profile – National Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)