TAM 6 Wrapup
As you all should know by now, I went to the Amazing Meeting 6 in Las Vegas last weekend. Here are a few thoughts and reactions.
The best reason to go is to meet all the different folks. Some of the highlights were connecting or reconnecting with PZ Myers, Phil Plait, Hal Bidlack, and Adam Savage.
If I have a complaint, it’s that it’s actually very difficult to connect with most of the speakers. Attendance this year was a record-breaking 900. With that many people, it’s hard to get more than a few minutes with any of them.
Here’s a brief rundown of my reactions to some of the presenters:
Neil deGrasse Tyson. Once he got rolling, he was very good. He talked about a variety of things that tick him off. My only complaint with him is that he scooted out pretty fast after his talk was over. All of the other speakers stuck around for most of the weekend, so you could talk to them if you wanted to.
Richard Saunders talked about a variety of things, but the best part was his demonstration for teachers in how to use a dowsing demonstrations to engage their students in science and critical thinking.
Penn and Teller are valuable members of the skeptical community, but their contribution to TAM 6 was low key. They just took a few questions from the audience. The more I hear Penn speak, the less I like him. His abrasive personality and extreme Libertarianism are best in (very) small doses. It’s interesting that Libertarianism is so disproportionately over-represented in the skeptical population compared with the general population. I haven’t completely figured out why.
P.Z. Myers talked about evo-devo. Although I enjoyed the talk, I would have preferred it if it had been more directly related to skepticism.
Michael Shermer talked about some ideas he has for his next book. I remember it was a very good talk; I just can’t remember any of it. I guess I’ll have to wait for the book.
Sharon Begley, Senior Editor for Newsweek, told us that we shouldn’t expect the news media to educate the general public in science and skepticism. The better ones try, but there is only so much they can do.
Phil Plait gave an excellent talk about how the universe is so darn cool, you don’t have to make up crazy things about it.
Adam Savage gave us two vivid examples of just how compulsive he is. He went to great lengths to create a complete dodo skeleton model and the world’s most accurate Maltese Falcon replica.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman is a hoot. I think he enjoyed his talk more than we did, and we enjoyed it immensely. He talked about this YouTube video of a card trick he made:
Then he passed out spoons, and we all participated in the world’s largest spoon-bending.
During lunch on Saturday, they showed the pilot episode of The Skeptologists. It was pretty good. They investigated ghost hunting and wheat grass. If you want to know how those investigations turned out, you’ll just have to hope that the show gets picked up by one of the cable networks. My only complaint about the show is that it only has one woman among its seven hosts. Girls are very heavily socialized away from math and science in our society, and the casting of this show isn’t helping matters any.
TAM 7 will be July 9-12, 2009. I’m telling you now, so you won’t have any excuse for not going next year. (OK, Las Vegas in July is almost a good excuse.)