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QED Con – day 1

So what was it like ? What was it all about ? How did it go ? Was there a real Dalek there ?

Well here we go.

It was fantastic. Really fantastic. Excellent choice of speakers and they included several I have wated to hear speak for some considerable time. Especially Eugenie Scott and Steve Novella. There were also breaks between each of the speakers which gave you a chance to get a cup of tea and stretch your legs should you have needed to and an opportunity to chat with people. And of course there was another thing : The Breakout Room.
What’s that I hear you say ? It was another room upstairs with alternative events happening in it. So you had a choice of what so see and what to learn and who to have fun with. A great idea it was methinks.

It was all about skepticism, having fun, socialising, being with people of like mind, learning things, being stimulated, meeting new people and giving the woo a good kicking. And it went superbly. As a spectator there were no hitches at all. The organisation was superb and the layout of the rooms was great.

Of course there will inevitably be comparisons with TAM London last October but they’re not really comparable at the moment. Although I will say this : Important issues raised at and by TAM appear to have been learned from and implemented at QED. I suggest the TAM organisers pay close attention for next time.

And of course I took zillions of pics. Here they are :

The inestimable George Hrab was the master of ceremonies for the whole two day event. He did a great job and we got straight on with Bruce Hood talking about the psychology of revulsion and the weird things people think about personal items that have belonged to people who are not really very nice. Anyone like to try on a pair of Myra Hindley’s tights ? Exactly.

After a short break things bifurcated into a fascinating talk by Kat Akingbade about the nature of atheism with her experiences of strictly observing a religion for a whole week and the happenings upstairs in the Breakout Room where we had a panel on skeptical outreach with David Kirby who I’d not heard of before, the lovely Sile Lane from Sense About Science, Kylie Sturgess from The Token Skeptic podcast and the wonderful Eugenie Scott. Janis Benion from the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society moderated the lively discussion. [edit] There you go Kylie, a bigger version of the one with you grinning ;-) … Dave [/edit]

I moved back to the main stage to catch the triumvirate of Chris French, Hayley Stevens and Trystan Swale and their thoughts and experiences hunting ghosts, the expeditions and the people involved. At the same time upstairs there was a movie screening of the film The God Who Wasn’t There which I’m afraid I missed. Partly because Chris, Hayley and Trystan were being excellent and partly because there were so many awesome people to talk with about the ghost hunting thing.

And after this smorgasbord of skeptical awesomeness it was time to break for lunch. A big group of us decided to go find a pub and get something there quickly as we only had an hour. Unfortunately this time thing didn’t seem to translate awfully well at the restaurant and we sat around for 50 mins whilst bugger all happened. We eventually were told it was on the way so we asked for everything to go. Out we trooped with armfulls of food in plastic containers to make it back in time for Jim Al-Khalili on the main stage and a live recording of the Inkredulous podcast up in the breakout room.

Jim’s talk covered physics from multiple paradoxes, an explanation of the possibilities of time travel, determinism and relativity. He also took some fairly stiff questions from the audience.
Upstairs at the same time were Jon Ronson, Steve Novella, George Hrab and Marsh recording an episode of Inkredulous hosted by Andy Wilson.

After the guys upstairs had finished being witty and sarcastically funny it was time to go downstairs again for Chris Atkins‘ presentation about just how appalling and crassly stupid the media can be when it comes to things as fundamental and seemingly obvious as basic fact checking. I have to say that this is something that fetches my ungulate in extremis and I feel is the cause of a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion which does not help the public to make decisions based upon sound evidence rather than newspaper created panic. The media’s mindlessness in these matters apparently cannot be overstated.

And of course in the Breakout Room we had another live podcast recording this time by those lovely chaps and chapesses we hosted at our Winterval party : The Pod Delusion. The articles were wide ranging and presented by Sean Ellis, Dr. T, James Thomas, Craig Lucas and Liz Lutgendorf. All hosted of course by the ever-present James O’Malley. I’m afraid I also failed to get a photo of Liz doing her piece. You can blame Chris Atkins for that one.

Then we had another break after a few choice quips from Mr Hrab.

My god ! It’s full of stars.

After the break it was the turn of the awesome Chris French to once again grace the main stage with a great talk on the psychology of ghosts and the experiences people have of them and their alleged hauntings. I think he was summoning a spirit in this pic ;-) Oh and you can see an orb reflected in his glasses.

Meanwhile there was another of my favourite podcasts being recorded upstairs : Strange Quarks. Marsh was interviewing Eugenie Scott who seems to have managed to injure her wrist. At least it looks like she has some sort of support on there. Anyone got any ideas ?

Poor old Marsh looks a bit tired in this one. I don’t blame him, he’s been on the go for ages. And he certainly wasn’t the only one either. All of the Merseyside Skeptics people were working flat out making everything go smoothly and ensuring that the experience of the delegates was as exciting and as hassle free as possible. They managed that in such a way to make the conference a joy to attend.

Then bringing the main QED Con day 1 main events to a close was Steve Novella president of the New England Skeptical Society and host of The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe podcast.

Steve’s talk was simply superb. Completely awesome doesn’t begin to cover it. Not only was the subject matter of neurology and the workings of the brain of extreme interest to skeptics and others interested in how the mind works and the failings it experiences as it goes about it’s business in the world but it was delivered in an erudite and amusing fashion that kept the audience riveted from start to finish. Definitely, for me, the best talk so far at QED. And I even got to ask Steve a question !

And so the main event closed for day 1. That was not the end of the festivities however. We were ready, after having our brains fed, to have our bellies fed. The gala dinner was next. Now usually this would be a nightmare of social awkwardness and people clustering around famous people. But the organisers had arranged for the table seating allocations to be made randomly with at least one speaker per table. So you got to sit down and talk with someone fascinating and at the top of their field but best of all you were also surrounded by six or seven other people from tremendously diverse fields who also have a deep interest in skepticism and everything that it covers. It was great, really great. And the food was pretty damn good too.

After we had been sated the evening’s entertainment began.

Unfortunately you’ll have to wait for that as it’s late and I want to go to bed. More to come with the details of the evening’s entertainment and the full QED Day 2 tomorrow !

12 comments to QED Con – day 1

  • Christian Weihs

    Excellent photos, Dave!
    Mine turned out to be rather on the grainy side, but what the heck. You saw my D3000, it’s not very good in the high ISOs :P

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hayley Stevens, vaparanormalgal. vaparanormalgal said: Haunting QED Con – day 1 « The Hampshire Skeptics Society: After the break it was the turn o… http://bit.ly/hpDk5O http://www.ghosthunttv.com [...]

  • Great day, great photos! You even got one of Dr*T!

  • James

    Dave, you really have caught the enthusiasm and sense of fun of QED in the post and the pictures, thank you. Oh yeah, as well as possibly the only picture that weekend of Kylie Sturgess not grinning? And Eugenie Scott may be the most wonderful person I have ever met and I’m afraid I embarrassed myself by asking her to adopt me.

  • podblack

    Ha, I have promptly suggested the photo taken of my by the fab Christian Weihs (if he’s okay with it?) to replace that one!! :D I am smiling in the smaller photo though! :D http://is.gd/V5Olig

  • There you go lass. How’s that ?
    :D

  • podblack

    Wah! Thanks! :)

  • The Prof

    I was at QED and I am sure that there was a bit of skeptic hero worship going on there. I may be wrong, but the problem is I’m a skeptic. I notice that after Steve Novella finished his talk, the applause started and people were begining to stand up (to start a standing ovation) but thought twice about it and sat down again. It was a good talk but was it worth a standing ovation? I missed the end of Eugines talk on Sunday. Did she get a standing ovation?

  • The Prof

    I spelled Eugenie wrong in the post above. It was a typo. Honest!

  • The impression I got was that people were standing up to leave. It was a very good talk. As for a standing ovation… well if someone found it to be worth it then why not ?
    Then again of course what’s a standing ovation worth these days ?
    No one at QED got a standing ovation. The only time I’ve seen it was for Randi at TAM last year and that was really out of respect, not for anything he did or said as it happened the moment he appeared on stage. I was lucky to get a shot of him standing there before everyone else stood up.

  • Actually I’ve just looked back at the photos and that’s not the way it happened.
    Randi did his interview with Robin and then stood up. I was already standing to get a pic of him and everyone else got to their feet.
    Seems my memory is worse than I thought it was.

  • Regarding standing ovations — I remember Simon Singh getting one at TAM London 2009 when he received the Skepticism Award (or whatever it’s called).

    Mind you, if people at the front stand up, the ones behind stand up so that they can see…

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