Here we go ! QED Con day 2.
The conference took off like one of Helen’s Apollo rockets and we dived back into skepticism with the 10:23 campaign mass ‘overdose’ of homeopathic medicine. This year the capaign has gone global, and by global I mean all over the planet. Including Antarctica ! Yes ANTARCTICA. How bloody awesome is that ? There were many countries taking part, the campaign was aiming for 10 countries and 23 cities but that target was blasted out of the water with many more places taking part in the swallowing to show the world that : Homeopathy, there’s nothing in it.
Of course the backlash has been huge, well I say huge, what I mean is there have been loads of homeopaths bleating on about how their magic water can’t give you an overdose after it’s evaporated because “it doesn’t work that way”. We know. It can’t give you an overdose because there are no active ingredients. And you sort of need those if you want to do anything. I’d like to see them adhere to their precepts when it comes to getting a mortgage or having the builders around to put up their new conservatory. Homeopathic payment anyone ? Personally I’d love some homeopathic fuel bills.
The upshot was that no one died of their overdose. No surprises there then. Although I would say that the pills graciously provided by the campaign’s tame homeopath were rather tasteless. The Boots’ pills we chomped our way through last year were far tastier. Hmmmm, have I just recommended Boot’s homeopathy there ?
About an hour later we did find someone who looked dead lying slumped next to a pot plant in one of the hotel corridors. It turned out they were hung over so the sugar and a little sleep probably did them some good.
Who remembers the noise of hundreds of people all crunching homeopathic pills at the same time ? It was awesome. I hope it’s on a recording somewhere.
Anyway, after none of us had died we were treated to the delights of Wendy Grossman talking about one of my personal bug-bears: policy-based evidence rather than the way it should be which is evidence-based policy. You’d think by now that the politicians would have realised that there is in actual fact a reliable way to discover what sort of things really do work when you implement them as opposed to doing things that merely get your vacuous and inflammatory remarks onto the front page of the Daily Fail. Alas. I suggest making use of the Skeptical Voter website when it comes to challenging your MPs on what they are promoting.
Then we had another bifurcation between the main stage occupied by Simon Singh giving his Big Bang talk and the breakout room where Chris Atkins was presenting a talk on another of the things that causes me to become really very angry indeed: The infringement and erosion of our civil liberties by reactionary politicians placating the mass media with emotionally driven decisions. Instead of acting calmly and rationally, as one would prefer when there is a crisis, they instead run around like chickens that have had their heads cut off oafishly braying to all and sundry about their next draconian and crassly ill-targeted policy that will ‘protect us’. Thanks for that. You fucking wankers. You can see in the photo of Chris where I was turning the air blue with my muttered imprecations.
These two books about the Big Bang were released on the same day. See if you can tell which one Simon wrote.
Simon also shared a very funny coincidence. His room number at the hotel was 1023.
And so it was time for lunch.
Did anyone see the Dalek ? No ? Yes ? We did. In fact we were trying to get as many of us from the Hampshire Skeptics Society together as possible so we could have our pic taken with it. Dan, Crispian and I thought we’d grab a quick one now and get the main pic after lunch but by then it had been taken away. I heard that some guy’s master or someone had demanded it be returned or he’d do something or other to the space time wotsit. I suggested he speak to Simon Singh.
I’m the one in the centre. With the blue LED in the middle of my face.
After we’d been exterminated it was time to hear Jon Ronson‘s adventures in bonkers fruitcake land and to hear about his new book The Psychopath Test that comes out in June and which he will be promoting when he comes to speak at Winchester Skeptics in the Pub. Awesome. He actually read some passages from the new book which were fascinating and he said could possibly lead to quite a bit of consternation. Also happening in the breakout room was a presentation from Alan Henness all about the new Nightingale Collaboration which is a central clearing house and coordination centre for making complaints to the authorities about the fraudulent claims made by practitioners of woo.
After another short break we came back to the delights of Colin Wright performing his mathematical juggling and comedy on the main stage and a Skeptics In The Pub workshop hosted by Simon Perry and Michael Marshall upstairs in the breakout room. Colin is a very funny guy and a great juggler to boot. The SitP workshop was extremely useful with some great ideas coming from Marsh and Simon but most of the discussion taking place between members of the audience. It was interesting and very handy as well and also illustrated just how much demand there is for new groups. With any luck we can form some larger organisations and begin to influence things for the betterment of everyone.
That was a great sequence of shots to take
Another small break brought us to the keynote speaker for Sunday’s QED, the truly wonderful Eugenie Scott who spoke about the battles with creationism in the USA and increasingly over here in the UK where the religious minority is increasingly making its presence known by ruining our children’s education by trying to get nonsense about a magic grandfather who allegedly lives in the sky taught as fact in science classes. Very bad. We need to keep on top of this issue or we’ll end up like Kansas did. Eugenie’s talk was a real highlight of the entire QED event. I have so wanted to hear her speak, ever since she was talked about on the Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe podcast years ago.
And then it was all over.
All that remained was for George Hrab to introduce the organisers of QED so they could take their very well deserved bows and to hear at last from Mike Hall the president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. It really was a great weekend.
And then that really was it.
There had better be another one.