Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Amazing Meeting 2012, Day Four (part 1)

Saturday, July 14, 2012:

As you can probably guess, I didn't get much sleep between sunrise and 8:00, but I did show up for Ben Radford's talk, Doomsdays and 2012 Mayan Prophecy.
` Apparently, not only did the Mayans not think that this year would be the last, and not only were there other calendars which 'end' in different years, but they actually referred to dates that were decades and even centuries after the year 2012.
` But who cares what they thought, anyway? It's not as though anyone would be able to predict the end of the world -- plus, everyone who's tried so far has failed, as no one seems to have noticed the world ending!

 TAM 173 - Ben Radford

If you would like to learn more about this subject, and what his talk was like, he wrote an article about it in Alibi, which I thought was really informative. But wait, there's more:

He also showed a video where this guy talks about exploring consciousness and quantum physics, and is "literally not making any sense." I would say that exact same thing because even though I used to be into that stuff, I sure as hell couldn't understand it!
` By the end, I think, George came out to explain something, like why the computer thinks it's the end of the world, or something like that -- don't quite recall.

TAM 174 - Sarah Mayhew

At 8:30 the very awesome mangaka, Sarah Mayhew brought out the manga -- here she's explaining how you can draw a chibi of Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, or, if you like, it could also be the "Quirkologist" Richard Wiseman:

TAM 175

With a few minor changes, this same chibi can be said to represent George Hrab, and Geo considers this to be the first time anyone's ever drawn his head in correct proportion to his body:

TAM 176 - Remove the facial hair, and...

I was half-asleep and so had trouble following along, but she did post a little bit about it on her blog, There Are Four Lights, here -- A Life of Art and Skepticism.
` I've also found that she does have this very interesting website, which contains a neat video introduction to her work to boot.

Due to lack of sleep, I was having so much trouble staying awake that by 9:00 Panel -- Skepticism and the Humanities -- I found myself getting extremely bored.
` Despite the fact that the panel is composed of awesome podcaster Brian Thompson, as moderator, with Amy Davis Roth (a.k.a. Surly Amy, maker of Surlyramics), Mezzo-Soprano Hai-Ting Chinn of the Scopes Monkey Choir podcast (about the science of music), Miranda Celeste Hale,  Professor Eve Siebert (because learning is fun) and Dr. Robert Blaskiewicz, I still kept falling asleep.

TAM 177

And so, I took off... leaping from building to building!

TAM 178

I'm not actually leaping on the roof, but was listening to Meet the Skeptics while half-asleep, and it was this weird episode, about oxytocin, and this researcher who is apparently the ultimate exhibitionist because she's done all these fMRI brain-scans while getting off.
` Let's just say, this is all the more hardcore that I get:

TAM 179

Not long after I fell asleep, my alarm went off and I woke up, and then thoroughly roused the delightful (if hung-over) Joshie Berger so that he could get to the Skeptic's Guide To Poker at 12:45 and teach people how to play poker.

He actually didn't seem to really know or care when this was until I told him and he was all saying that he didn't have a script and didn't know what he was going to do beforehand and OH NOES!!!
` Apparently, he just says makes stuff up like this, just as he makes stuff up when he teases me, which I probably shouldn't repeat here, but was nevertheless too naive to wrap my brain around his bizarrity fast enough.

All I can say is OMG I need to learn how to tease him back and operate on his own level! HE IS SUCH A TRIP! And 100% kosher. Yum!

[Edit: I just remember that someone had asked me why Joshie is always wearing wifebeaters, and I didn't know, so I asked and got this answer: No sleeves is not only most comfortable, but also as a rebellion against the Orthodox community.]

During this time of making up for lost sleep, I had missed Jamy Ian Swiss, who's good at screwing with people's heads, Dierdre Barrett, who screws with people's heads in a therapeutic way, SGU's Steven Novella, who fixes people's brains, and Astronomy Cast's astronomer, Pamela Gay.
`  While Joshie was going off to poker, I stepped into the Grand Ballroom to see visual neurologist Susana Martinez-Conde talking about how our brains see faces in practically anything, such as the "Ow, My Balls!" ultrasound of a testicle, and other face-related illusions.

TAM 180

Here's an optical illusion that I thought was worth photographing for you all -- it's an old photo of a man and a woman, and... a giant head? Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be a baby!

TAM 181 - Optical illusion

This time at 12:45 I actually had lunch with everyone like I'm supposed to! The line moved quickly and soon Leonard and I were sitting down to lunch and talking with this one doctor guy or someone, and then Aron Ra's son Caleb. And, this food -- way better than any sandwich!

TAM 182 - Lunch

I was surprised by the rapidness of the approach of 2:00 -- time for SGU -- which made me feel like less of a moron for not doing this the previous day, as I probably would have been too busy eating to do anything extremely exciting.

After some chocolate cake, it was back to the Grand Ballroom for the second recording of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, to be melded together with the one featuring Richard Saunders on the previous day.
` It's funny how one can do that with a podcast, since you can't tell when Richard Saunders is or isn't there without some sort of photographic evidence:

TAM 183 - Another SGU show
See? He's not there! It's just Evan, Jay, Steve and Bob!

Without a fifth person, however, Geo got to do this bit where he kept injecting himself and being rebuffed by the SGU crew.

TAM 184

Unexpectedly during TAM, Susanne Somers' medical guru, Dr. Whitaker was having a debate over vaccine safety at this Libertarian event somewhere nearby, and at the last moment Steve was recruited as his opponent!
` Whitaker claimed that by 2040, everyone will be autistic (or even more than 100%, by looking at his graph) -- unless that's supposed to be a graph of Steve's sex life. Another graph that he had showed demonstrates modern medicine's ability to treat measles, but he claimed that it was the number of incidences of measles -- two very different things!

Geo says he has a song about one of these graphs, but instead winds up walking off the stage looking dejected (but not blurry in real life):

TAM 185 - George interrupting

At the debate, the stuff coming out of Whitaker's mouth was so crazy that Michael Shermer stood up in the audience and started to shout at him! Steve had to say, "Sit down, Michael, I got it!"
` Steve says he handled it well enough that other audience folks came up to him later and said that it was obvious that Whitaker was full of hot air.

Next, they showed their SGU interview with Dr. Rachie Dunlop on such anti-vaccine nonsense -- and look who pops out from under the table to give his two cents!

TAM 186 - Geo interrupts interview

Ah, I thought, That was what Geo was going off to do when he told me he was on his way to an SGU bit!

Although pre-recorded and still onscreen, Steve says that Geo can be on the show if he really, really wants, and Geo goes back to the unnerving realm from whence he came, and shortly thereafter appeared on stage to be part of the show. Yay!

TAM 187

As for Rachie's interview, well, if you want to hear what she has to say about such research for yourself, here's a TV interview that's fairly representative. (And, although only the right audio channel works, I discovered that computers have a headphone optimization setting that corrects for this, just so y'all know.)
` Also, on SGU, they showed a crazy photo from when Steve's colleague David Gorski smacked down Whitaker after the debate, but unfortunately that was not recorded.

Also, I should mention that Bob still can't use microphones, which has been hilarious: Steve had to move Bob's mic over to his mouth as he's talking about the radioactive waste warning for future archeologists. Ha!

And now it's time for Occ the Skeptical Caveman! He's an intellectual sort who makes spears...

TAM 188 - Skeptical caveman

Jay plays an utter redneck character named Cooter, who says that peein' in the fire makes it easier to kill horn-kickers, according to this weird explanation. Unsurprisingly, Occ has something to say about confirmation bias.
` Also, Perry is featured in one of the cave paintings -- awwww, Perry!!! It's sad that I never got to meet him....

[Edit: Now you can watch Occ, too, and see how awesome it is! I can barely even tell that's Jay!

Also, I didn't even know this was up yet until Greg Dorais put a link to the Kickstarter site on my Facebook wall -- this version of the video includes an introduction with Cortney, Jay, Steve, and Doug (a.k.a. Occ), but I've had trouble embedding it.

Anyway, thanks, Greg!]

Now they're showing some of the SGU gag reel! W00t! And drawing the raffle ticket for a seat onstage... the winner is none other than Dr. Sexy Time himself! And he gets to sit next to Geo -- jealous!

TAM 190

At last we get to Science or Fiction! Don't read the following paragraph if you want to play along with the game on the podcast -- there's a link in the paragraph after that.

TAM 189

The Science: It turns out that beige fat is a scarce and newly-discovered type of fat almost as metabolically active as brown fat. Also, a gene in E. coli from 500 mya was reconstructed from the variety of existing genes, not the entire bacterium. As for electric fans, in this particular Cochrane study they weren't particularly useful during heat waves, but what could it mean? Perhaps the air circulation dehydrates people too much?

For your own listening enjoyment, you can hear the finished podcast right here, which is edited to make it seem as though Richard Saunders and Geo are both sitting at the table at the same time. It's also considerably less funny than what I was privy to, but that's how it goes.
` It also lacks Occ the Skeptical Caveman, but you should be able to view that on YouTube whenever they upload it for all to see.

After SGU was astrophysicist Sean Carroll's presentation, 'From Particles to People: The Laws of Physics and the Meaning of Life'. After that was Elisabeth Cornwell, the woman who smartly whisked Dawkins from my clutches, with 'Social Networks: Civilizing the Future'.
` But, never mind them, as I was out in the hallway meeting Brian Dalton, who is perhaps best known as the eternally-hilarious and satirical Mr Deity -- and yes, that's Jamy Ian Swiss and Aron-Ra. I even thought of something clever-ish to say in my video:

I was also over at the Skeptic Zone table with the Australians and Pamela Gay, where, In Fact, Brian Dunning was also hanging out. Here I have some funny commentary on musk candy, which I actually ripped off of someone else, and then offered to draw Brian:

Being the third person I've met who understands that you're supposed to be still when someone's drawing you (all at TAM, of course), he posed by solving the 20-sided Rubik's cube as we chatted for about 15 minutes or something. (He says two minutes, LOL!)
` I showed him the drawing and he said, "Oh, check me out!" Also, by then he was almost finished solving it, too!

TAM 194 - Brian and Drawing

Not only did he get his picture drawn, but he solved the Rubik's cube, as I discovered later!

TAM 195 - Drawing of Brian solving 20-faceted Rubick's cube

I badly needed another nap, so I talked to Shermer, who was sitting in the Deity chair, about drawing him perhaps later. Randi was also really tired, and he went up to his room.
` Also noticed Aron Ra in front of some camera being interviewed, as many people have been, and then caught another nap back up in my room.

TAM 196

By the way, Leonard is the only person I ever remember telling me that he can dislocate his shoulder just by picking up a bag of groceries -- that is how flexible he is! In putting this fact photographically on Flickr, the Union Jack Socks Group added it as part of their collection or whatever. Really?

TAM 197 - Leo's foot with cool sock at weird angle

Unfortunately with all this napping, I missed all but the end of Lawrence Krauss' 4:15 talk, the Future, and Nothing.

TAM 198 - Laurence Krauss

I got the impression that it generally had the attitude of "WTF is with the universe?" Whatever it was, it may have been a bit like this New York Times article.

After that was this video that was apparently just made down the street, thanks to Susan Gerbic, about how some skeptics were handing out cards about Sylvia Browne (Convicted Felon) in protest of her show, and explaining her secrets of how she tells people things they already know.

[Edit: I found it -- check it out!]

Then, at 5:15, it was time for Penn and Teller -- 38 years of Magic and BS. And speaking of BS, they are drinking bottled water, the hypocrites! If that means nothing to you, then definitely check out their episode of BS on bottled water! You'll be laughing so hard!

What's funny is that when Teller tried to talk, his mic didn't work -- a cruel joke? Luckily, he found a handheld mic very quickly:

 TAM 199 - Teller

Interestingly, Teller, Penn and Randi all have different stories of how they met -- don't you just love how memory works? Nevertheless, they're like brothers, they're like lovers.

TAM 200 - Penn Gillette

Now they're talking about how morally (and artistically) wrong David Blaine's belief is that the best method of magic is to bleed fiction and reality so that it seems he has real powers. There's been a lot of that going on. For example, Doung Henning believed there was both fake and real levitation.
` On their show, Bullshit, they avoided lawsuits by using the word 'dipshit' or 'asshole' in place of 'liar' or 'quack'. One creative way of getting around this was in the chiropractic episode, Penn used the phrase 'baby-twisting motherfuckers' while surrounded by quacking ducks.
` Ah yes, I remember that!
` It just so happens that I was sitting next to Margaret, who was in the Boy Scout episode, so we were talking about it back and forth a bit.
` Now Lawrence Krauss wants to know when Penn got his implant, and Penn says, "From your mother."

And, as if assuring everyone, Penn says that atheism is part of skepticism, and that skepticism cannot be used to support libertarianism.
` And then Randi comes out, all emotional, and talks about how they're his giants -- one more than the other -- and presents them with this award that's a small, slowly rotating globe that one can remove from its stand. It was sitting on the table there, but it's blocked by someone's head.

TAM 201 - Penn, Teller and Randi

Afterward, there was an opportunity for mass autographs -- and photographs -- but instead I just whipped out my camera and got a bit of video:

Soon after that, Teller got up from the table, but before he left, I got a shot of him and Lawrence:

TAM 203

Elsewhere in the TAM hall, I got into conversation with someone about something that turns out was in this book that I've had for like 12 years, called Gรถdel, Escher, Bach -- which leers at me from my bookshelf as I am typing this out -- and so I must make another attempt at reading it!

Someone else also told me that a Quine is a program that reproduces the source code as output -- like this:

((lambda (x)
       (list x (list (quote quote) x)))
         (lambda (x)
           (list x (list (quote quote) x)))))

I didn't know that, but now I have something to relate my pen name to!

Also at some point, I heard that there was a Legion of Sarahs. Since Sarah is my real name, I decided to join Mowgli 3 and Ologies, which I did after getting home, so now their numbers have grown... by the one they call Spoony!

Enough of this chatter -- the very impressive rest of this day is here, in my next post!


  1. Greg Dorais says:

    "Wow! You put a crrrazy amount of work into that blog post. Bravo!"

    Presumably, he still can't comment here, though.

  2. Great write-up! Sorry that it took me a while to come across it. & Yeah, I'm surprised that more people didn't fall asleep during our panel- I imagine that I would have if I'd been in the audience, considering that I got about two hours of sleep the night before :)

  3. Indeed, being on the spot keeps one awake... which is partly why I spent so much time with other people!

    Thanks for commenting!


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