TAM 8 Wrap Up

The Amazing Meeting 8 was a great conference. I would highly recommend it to any skeptic wanting to enjoy a weekend of science-y talks and workshops, with a bit of optional drinking at the end of the day.

Day one: workshops

My only complaints about the workshops in general is there should have been more of them, run concurrently. Resources would, of course, be an issue there, but now that that meeting had 1,300 attendees (!) this year, I think it warrants it. It would allow for more interaction, and smaller groups. There could be more advanced as well as introductory classes.

Skepticism 101 was a bit too 101 for me, but they did provide a really good backing on what exactly “skepticism” is, as defined by the modern skeptic’s movement (making it a lot easier to explain to others).

Science Based Medicine, this was a real highlight of the whole conference for me. This was done in two sessions back to back, lead by Dr Steve Novella (of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe). All the speakers were medical professionals, and all were very knowledgeable on the subject matter. There were also workshops on Juggling, Feminist Skepticism, and Skepticism in the Classroom.

Then, the Drinking Skeptically came … what a good way to end the day. We had a bar full of skeptics, and met some great people.

Day 2:

  • The day started with a live taping of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. I enjoyed it. The wife drifted off a bit.
  • Micheal Shermer talked about our brains. Very good.
  • Sean Faircloth of the Secular Coalition of America gave one of the most rousing speeches I’ve ever heard. He looked and sounded like a Kennedy and received a much deserved standing ovation.
  • A panel on Women in Skepticism. I was, and always am, impressed with Harriet Hall. The rest of the speakers didn’t seem focused, and it really lost my attention. Fist downer of the conference.
  • Jamy Ian Swiss interviewed James Randi. Randi is quite funny.
  • Catered lunch. Delicious!
  • Simon Singh talked about his book Trick or Treatment and the lawsuit that followed. Great fun and real interesting.
  • Joe Nickell talked about going undercover to investigate the paranormal.
  • Adam Savage gave a great little speech. Afterward, a Moon Landing Denier demanded some information on the Mythbusters episode about the subject
  • Pamela Gay. Wasn’t real fond of her talk. Apparently mere lawyers can finally raise their heads high if they do her menial tasks in their spare time. Not sure what a design assurance technician would have to do.
  • Phil Plait gave what is fondly refered to as the Don’t Be A Dick talk. More on that here.
  • Carol Tavris – meh
  • The Origins of the Modern Skeptic’s Movement. Took off a bit early to get a bite to eat.
  • Finished the evening with a show by Roy Zimmerman. This guy really gives a great show. Funny, and very talented.

Day Three

  • Breakfast during a taping of Skeptics Guide.
  • Massimo Pigliucci talked about notable skeptics that have recently held some dubious beliefs (Micheal Shermer, Randi, Penn and Teller). Great great speech. Really needed, spot on.
  • Grassroots Skepticism Panel
  • Bruce Hood gave a really good talk on cognitive science and superstition. I will be hunting down some books by him.
  • The doctors on board spoke on Dubious Health Care Systems
  • David Javerbaum. (Recently) Former writer for Daily show gave a very funny speech.
  • James McGaha talked about UFO investigation. He went on way too long, but had some excellent information.
  • Paranormal Investigation Panel. I didn’t think much of the panel, but there were some good questions afterward. An audience member seems to believe he can remotely heal people and wanted to apply for the Million Dollar Challenge.
  • Jennifer Michael Hecht gave a fantastic talk on the history of non-belief. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t expect it from her after the Women in Skepticism panel, but I was very glad to be proven wrong. I will be ordering her book, Doubt.
  • Paul Provenza. Wow, this guy is damn funny! His book is called Sataristas, and they sold out before I could get my hands on it. He made great points and pulled no punches.
  • Richard Dawkins was interviewed by DJ Groethe. Pretty good.
  • Ended the evening at the Skepchick Wild West Bordello party. It was fun, except for the heat. Really not use to the heat. We won t-shirts for being in the costume contest.

Day Four

Day four consisted mostly of papers presented by members of the JREF. Some of them looked pretty good, but the wife and I decided to take a break and we stepped out to take in Las Vegas. Man, it was hot. Saw the Bellagio (and their famous fountains), the Crystal Center, and Caesar’s Palace. We went to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, from Pawn Stars. Love that show.

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