The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘party’

SkepchickCon 2014 Audio

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 23, 2014

I’ve finally caught up on things, and in so doing I came to the realization that I hadn’t yet uploaded the audio of the panels upon which I participated at SkepchickCon this past July.  So, without further ado, I will place a brief description of each panel below followed by a PowerPoint file with the audio of each embedded within it.  Enjoy!  :)

Teens Ask A Scientist
Our panel of scientists will answer questions, with the answers geared for the teen crowd.

It’s (Not) Written in the Stars
We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science.

Build a Better Iron Man
The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe described *everything* you need to build your own Iron Man armor and Mjolnir. How scientific were they?

Physics of the Whedonverse
How much of the physics in Whedon’s work has parallels in reality? Scientists will discuss the physics behind everything from terraforming, stellar formation, space travel and alternate realities to magic, superpowers, and Buffy’s fighting ability.

Why Do We Believe in Ghosts?
Why do people, even some skeptics, still believe in ghosts? What accounts for the popularity of ghost stories and ghost-hunting in real life, on TV, in movies? We’ll discuss the psychological and sociocultural reasons and differences in ghost beliefs.

SkepchickCon 2014 Audio

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SkepchickCon 2014 at CONvergence!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 28, 2014

Coming up this Fourth of July weekend in Minneapolis, MN is that annual gathering of sci-fi and geek fun: CONvergence.  And where there’s CONvergence, there’s also SkepchickCon! :)

cropped-skepchickconAtConvergence_960x250

I’m happy to announce that the usual fun science and skeptical endeavors will be on full display at this year’s SkepchickCon events.  This includes a number of panels and discussions related to all things science, skepticism, and feminism; and yes, yours truly will be participating on some of these panels!

In addition, the Skepchicks are planning a variety of interesting “skeptical salons” and other activities related to learning some fun skepticism and science while also partying like you’re at CONvergence :)

So if you’re at CONvergence this year, drop on by some of the cool panels and check out the Skepchick party suite.  And for those of you who couldn’t make it, then I will – as usual – provide a full account of my experiences via this blog, so stay tuned!

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Evolution and Creationism in 2013: The Year in Review

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 4, 2014

If you know anything about the evolution-creationism battle in the United States, you know that it is a long-running one.  You also know that the issue is heavily influenced by religious outlook (or lack thereof) and politics.  Some recent polling data has provided some very revealing information about trends in the U.S. on these issues: and a deeper analysis yields bad news for the creationists.

First, the poll itself: the Pew Research Center released their poll, titled “Public’s Views on Human Evolution” on Dec. 30th.  And it contains some interesting take-aways:

evolution2013-1

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” …

One of the most interesting things to see in this poll is the breakdown of religious and political affiliation:

… These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.

There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap. … [emphasis added]

Perhaps it’s no surprise that evangelical Protestants are the ones who reject evolution the most while the religiously unaffiliated (the so-called “nones”) embrace evolution.  The thing that is so surprising about this particular survey is the part I put in bold above: self-identifying Republicans are rejecting evolution in higher and higher numbers.  I think this presents a big problem for the Republican party, and my next discussion point illustrates why. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creationism, politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Skeptics Under the Stars 2013” Event in July!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2013

If you happen to be in the upper Midwest in late July, I invite you to attend an event hosted by the Women Thinking, Inc: it’s called Skeptics Under the Stars (or SUTS)! Here’s more information…

SUTS 2013

Do you love astronomy, skepticism and the outdoors? You can enjoy all of that at once at the Third Annual Skeptics Under the Stars, a star party camping trip hosted by Women Thinking, Inc!

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like in past years, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva. Unlike past years, it will be the middle of summer so …there will be no need for winter coats. You can expect lots of astronomy, food, booze and great company.

To find out more and to get your ticket visit http://womenthinking.org/suts.html

If you have any questions, just send a facebook message to Jamie Bernstein or email her at jamie@womenthinking.org

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Is Secularism Making a Comeback?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 22, 2013

As I’ve written before, it seems that there is a growing secular and non-religious demographic in the United States that is starting to speak up.  This topic is the subject of a recent opinion piece that I read on the Washington Post’s Guest Voices blog, and I found the analysis by the author, Jacques Berlinerblau, to be worth noting…

Is secularism making a comeback?

By Jacques Berlinerblau

 When it comes to not making optimistic, pie-in-the-sky pronouncements about American secularism I have almost unparalleled street cred. For years I have rued and bemoaned and lamented the fate of this poor mangled –ism.

But in the past few months there have been some positive and unexpected developments both here and abroad as well.The first is far less obvious than it might seem. By far, the best thing that has happened to American secularism in about half a century was that the reactionary 2012 iteration of the Republican party, while not McGovernized, was pretty thoroughly thrashed. To the long list of those in this country who were perplexed and repulsed by this aberrant version of the GOP (e.g., Latinos, African-Americans, gays, women) let us add secular Americans. …

… I want to stress that Republicans, historically, have not been anti-secular nor should the same be said about many of their core convictions. The shift occurred with the synergies that developed between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the  late 1970s. In fits and starts the relation between the Christian Right and the Republicans has grown for three decades. Did it crest in 2012? Will a humbled GOP shuck the divisive God-botherers in its midst? That is the question that secularists are eagerly—nay, gleefully—posing. …

Indeed, I can be counted among those secularists who are hoping quite strongly that the Republican party can finally free itself from the stranglehold of the religious right.  Unfortunately, the religious right is dug so deeply into the GOP that they will not go quietly nor easily; methinks the Republican party is in for a long and nasty internal fight.

However, there is a note of caution to be heard…

… I am a pessimist by nature so let me raise a few caveats about the political potency of the nones. The first is that their Election Day turnout was somewhat underwhelming (they were 12 percent of the electorate though they are nearly 20 percent of the population). They actually gave less of their ballot to Obama in 2012 than they did in 2008 (70 percent down from 75 percent).

Most crucially, they are not an organized, disciplined, well-funded political juggernaut like the Christian Right, but a category on a demographer’s clipboard. The Democrats will need to organize and mobilize them (and perhaps this is why Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast gave them a shout out when he referred to “those of no faith that they can name”).

This is why I want to note, buzzkillingly, that 2012 was more a victory for secularism than a victory by secularism. But a victory nonetheless! Moreover, secularists can’t help but wonder if the pope’s recent resignation signals, at the very least, a set back for the global anti-secular platform.

So, long story short, the “nones” should be happy to celebrate this victory, but we should not be so naive as to think that progress on those secular issues important to us will simply march along all by itself.  The moment that we take our eye off the political ball, I think the religious right – which is more well-funded and organized than the secular movement – will swoop in and attempt to drag us all back to the Dark Ages.

Rather than rest on our laurels, this moment should serve to motivate us to become more involved in secular issues.  We need to make sure to defend church-state separation, stand up for strong science education, and seek to curb the influence of sectarian religious groups upon our government.  My suggestion is that you take some time to learn more about groups like the Secular Coalition for America and consider signing up with them.  Get involved, get active, and we can make a more secular nation a reality! :)

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Carl Sagan Day 2012 in Chicago – Audio Recording

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 21, 2012

This past Carl Sagan Day celebration in Chicago was a wonderful experience: the room was packed, the speakers were quite inspiring, and I left the evening with my enthusiasm for science and reason elevated!  The audio of the entire event was recorded, and I wanted to share that with you below.  Enjoy :D

Carl Sagan Day – Chicago 2012

Image Source

“We wait for light, but behold darkness.” Isaiah 59:9

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Adage

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Carl Sagan Day 2012 Approaches!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 7, 2012

In the next few weeks, supporters of science and secularism will be celebrating the 78th anniversary of the birth of Carl Sagan, scientist, astronomer, skeptic, and popular advocate for science and critical thinking.  For many of us who are in our 30s and 40s, we were inspired to become interested in science as a direct result of Carl Sagan’s public advocacy of science (most especially through his ground-breaking book and TV-series Cosmos).  In honor of Carl Sagan and his accomplishments, as well as a way of promoting the public acceptance of science, we in the Chicago area will celebrate Carl Sagan Day on Thursday, Nov. 1st – look here for more information!

**Aside: To find a Carl Sagan Day event in your area, just use Google.  If there isn’t one, consider holding your own :)

Carl Sagan at The Planetary Society in 1980.  Image source

You’re invited to Chicago’s Carl Sagan Day 2012! Chicago’s secular community is gathering once again to celebrate the life and legacy of the great science popularizer, the beauty of discovery, and the fun of exploration. The event will be held in Schmitt Academic Center Room 161, on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus. The building is handicapable accessible, and accommodation can be provided upon request. …
Apple pie (made from scratch, of course) and cosmos will be served.
Speakers: “Carl Sagan’s Life and Legacy” Dr. Peter Vandervoort, Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and a former colleague of Carl Sagan
[Topic Undetermined] Dr. Angela Olinto, Chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department at the University of Chicago
“Citizen Science” Dr. Bernhard Beck-Winchantz, Associate Professor of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Studies Department at DePaul University
Emcee: Matt Lowry High School Physics Teacher, writer at The Skeptical Teacher.

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“A Glorious Dawn” in Honor of Carl Sagan

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 11, 2011

We’ve made yet another journey around the Sun, and once again the annual celebration of Carl Sagan’s life and legacy is upon us.  If you have never read his pivotal work, Cosmos: A Personal Journey, I highly recommend it.  Sagan and his work was responsible for encouraging so many people, like me, into pursuing science and the study of the natural universe with a sense of awe and wonder.  As a quick tribute to Carl Sagan, I would like to share with you a very popular music video from YouTube called “A Glorious Dawn”, which is based on one of the key ideas in Cosmos

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe…” :D

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Carl Sagan Day on November 12th!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2011

For many of us who are in our 30s and 40s, we were inspired to become interested in science as a direct result of astronomer Carl Sagan’s public advocacy of science (most especially through his ground-breaking book and TV-series Cosmos).  In honor of Carl Sagan and his accomplishments, as well as a way of promoting the public acceptance of science, we can celebrate Carl Sagan Day on Saturday, Nov. 12th – look up an event in your area!

Specifically, if you find yourself in the Chicago area that weekend, you are more than welcome to join our public Carl Sagan Day event…

Saturday, November 12 · 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Robert H Lurie Medical Research Center of Northwestern University
Hughes Auditorium
303 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL

You’re invited to Chicago’s Carl Sagan Day 2011! Come meet up and hang out with Chicago’s secular community, right in the heart of downtown. We’ll be hosting a panel on Science, Skepticism, and the Legacy of Carl Sagan!

(Panelists TBA)

Food* and drink** will be provided!

Sponsored by:
DePaul Alliance for Free Thought
Northwestern University Secular Student Alliance
University of Chicago Secular Alliance
Women Thinking Free Foundation

*includes apple pie from scratch
**includes cosmos (21+)

We look forward to seeing you there! Talk to your group leaders for travel arrangements.

(This event is free and open to the public.)

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Come See Some Heavenly Bodies at the 2nd Annual Skeptics Under The Stars!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 4, 2011

[**Update: We will be offering grants to deserving hopeful attendees who cannot afford to attend. Please contact Elyse Anders at elyse@womenthinkingfree.org to be considered.]

For anyone who likes skepticism, astronomy, camping, Bigfoot, hiking, drinking, and campfire stories, boy have I got the event of the season for you – it’s the 2nd annual Skeptics Under The Stars outing!!!  If you are anywhere in the Midwest during the weekend of Oct. 21-23, consider joining the Women Thinking Free Foundation as we journey to the lovely backwoods of Wisconsin in an effort to get educated on the science of astronomy, tour the world-famous Yerkes Observatory, get liquored up around a cozy campfire, and search for Bigfoot in (where else?) Bigfoot State Park – and things won’t necessarily take place in that order ;)

Read on for more information – we hope that you can join us…

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like last year, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva.

McIntyre Resort:
N 6471 Milwaukee Rd.
Delavan, WI 53115

——————
Tentative Schedule of Events (subject to change):

Friday Oct 21
Get to McIntyre Resorts at any time prior to 9pm to set up camp
9pm: Meet at Yerkes Observatory for a private tour

Sat Oct 22
Morning: Breakfast at the campground (provided by WTFF)
Afternoon: Bigfoot hunt at Bigfoot Beach State Park
Dinner: Dinner at the campground (Provided by WTFF)
Evening: Fun with the Noisy Astronomer

Sun Oct 23: Leftover breakfast and packing up the campsite
—————–

Ticket Prices:
$55 for only Saturday night -or-
$75 for both Friday and Saturday night
Children under 10 are free!
You can buy a ticket at this link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

What is included in your ticket price?
– Camping site costs
– Yerkes Observatory tour
– Breakfast and dinner on Saturday
– Getting to camp with the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Nicole Gugliucci
– Wine, beer and other adult winter drinks (mulled wine, peppermint schnapps cider, bailey’s hot chocolate, etc)
– Camping snacks and smores
– Boats (seriously…there are boats we can use at our private lake!)

What do I need to bring?
– Tent
– Sleeping Bag
– Warm Clothes (it will be VERY cold!)
– Flashlights
– Telescope (if you have one)

What happens if you don’t own one of these items?
It’s ok! Many people do not own their own tent or sleeping bag, but there are others that either are willing to share their tent or have extra camping supplies. Please use the comments portion of the facebook event to ask for any supplies you don’t own. If you’re unable or having trouble finding a tent or sleeping bag, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and we’ll help you out. No one should not be able to attend just because you don’t own the right equipment!

Need a carpool?
It’s ok if you don’t have a car. There are many people driving in from various cities like Chicago. Use the comment portion of the facebook page to ask for a ride. If you have trouble finding a ride, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and I’ll help you out.

Pets and children welcome! Last year we even had people bring a motor home. If you have any questions about what you can and cannot bring, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org

Want to come, but not really into the camping thing? McIntyre Resorts has two fully equipped cabins and a heated loft. The cabins cost $125/night and I’m not sure of the price for the loft. The cabins and loft are right where we are camping so you won’t be left out of any activities. For questions on the cabins and loft or to book them, call McIntyre Resorts at 262-728-9313 and tell them you are calling for the Women Thinking Free Foundation event. They are first come first serve.

There also will be some electrical outlets. We’ll have to share them, but just know that there will be ways to charge your phone (we’ll be camping but we at least want to be humane about it).

RSVP’ing on this facebook page does not get you into the event. You must buy a ticket at the following link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

If you have any other questions, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org or message Jamie Bernstein on facebook.

Posted in cryptozoology, skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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