Archive for the ‘skeptical community’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 18, 2016
Coming up this Fourth of July weekend (June 30-July 3) in Minneapolis, MN is that annual gathering of sci-fi and geek fun: CONvergence. And where there’s CONvergence, there’s also SkepchickCon!
My skeptical pals Ashley and Ryan have some advice for you: “Don’t blink!”😉 — Image source
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.
But putting on all of these activities requires some cash, so we’re asking for donations. However, donating some money to the skeptical and scientific cause will earn you something in return (besides good feels). My colleague Olivia James elaborates:
We know it’s hard to part with your hard earned cash, even for something as awesome as SkepchickCon, so we’ve got some amazing incentives to make things a little more fun.
- $25 donation: receive a pair of Star Wars cross stiches (one dark side, one light side) by Mindy.
- $50 donation: receive a lasercut coaster with your choice of molecule (from a selection of 6 available designs) by Ryan and Jim.
- $75 donation: CHOOSE a custom doll with lab coat by Niki OR a custom cross stitch from the fandom of your choice by Olivia.
- $100 donation: you are invited to join the Skepchicks for a private party at SkepchickCon, or a Google Hangout if you are unable to attend.
- $125 donation: receive a blog post or round table from the Grounded Parents contributors on a topic of your choice.
- $150 donation: receive a full set of 6 molecule coasters by Ryan and Jim with a bonus Skepchick logo coaster AND an invitation to the Skepchick private party.
- $175 donation: CHOOSE either a private physics lesson with Dan or Matt OR a private astronomy lesson with Nicole AND an invitation to the Skepchick private party.
- $200 donation: receive a cosplay photoshoot at CONvergence with Jamie AND an invitation to the Skepchick private party.
- $500 donation: ALL OF THE ABOVE
You all make this geekiness possible! Thank you!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: blog, conference, convention, Convergence, discussion, donations, Fourth of July, geek, incentives, July 4, July 4th, Minneapolis, Minnesota, panel, party, salon, sci fi, science, science fiction, Skepchick, SkepchickCon, skeptic, skeptic track, skepticism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 14, 2016
One of my biggest skeptical heroes is James Randi. I’ve read many of his books (I highly recommend them – here’s a good list), I have had the good fortune to meet him a few times, and for a time I even worked with his organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation. He is a small man with a big laugh, an even bigger heart, and an even bigger love for the pursuit of skeptical analysis into all manner of paranormal, mystical, or odd-ball claims. For Randi, no questions are off limits and skepticism knows no bounds; he and his legacy are one of the primary reasons why I am here, doing what I do on this blog and in my daily life as a skeptic and teacher, and I know his work has reached and inspired countless others. Now a movie, called “An Honest Liar”, which documents his life and his legacy will be coming to the Public Broadcasting Service on March 28, 2016…
About the Film
For the last half-century, James “The Amazing” Randi has entertained millions with his dazzling feats of magic, escape, and trickery. Along the way he discovered that faith healers, fortune-tellers, and psychics were using his beloved magician’s tricks to swindle money from the credulous. Fed up with the fraud, he dedicated his life to exposing con artists with a wit and over-the-top showmanship all his own. An Honest Liar is part detective story, part biography, and a bit of a magic act itself.
An acolyte of Harry Houdini, Randi became a famed magician-turned-debunker of psychics and mediums in his own right with a series of unparalleled investigations and elaborate hoaxes. These grand schemes fooled scientists, the media, and a gullible public, but always in service of demonstrating the importance of skepticism and the dangers of magical thinking. Randi was a frequent guest on TV variety and talk shows, most notably The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, uncloaking high profile scams, like the “spoonbending” of illusionist Uri Geller. Eventually Randi’s efforts won him the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award.
When dealing with a master deceiver, however, the truth can be elusive. A sudden and shocking revelation threatens to bring down Randi’s own house of cards, and the magician who spent his life exposing phonies may be the victim of a devastating deceit himself.
An Honest Liar is told through interviews with Randi, vintage footage of his TV appearances, and interviews with illusionists, performers, and skeptics alike, including Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Bill Nye, Geller, Alice Cooper, and more.
Watch the trailer, pass it on to your friends (even if they aren’t card-carrying skeptics), and spread the word. This is a film which everyone should see, because as Randi himself states, “No matter how smart or well-educated you are, you can be deceived.”
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, debunking, deception, documentary, film, fraud, independent, indie, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, lies, life, magic, magicians, movie, paranormal, PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, public television, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 24, 2015
[**Update (8-16-15): The recent manufactured controversy over the funding of Planned Parenthood is an excellent example of how anti-science has crept into U.S. politics. For more details on that, see this more recent post ]
You may recall that in the 2008 and 2012 national election cycles, a new and extremely important effort to inject some serious discussion of scientific topics was introduced: Science Debate. The whole point of Science Debate is to get the presidential candidates (as well as other politicians) talking about science and science-related topics, so that the public can make informed decisions. And with the 2016 elections coming up next year, it’s time to get the word out about Science Debate and its place in the political discourse of the country. So please, read more about Science Debate below, sign their petition, submit questions you’d like addressed, spread the word, and donate to support this worthy cause!
About Science Debate:
Science Debate is a 501(c)(3) organization cofounded and run by volunteer citizens from a variety of walks of life who share the common vision of Thomas Jefferson that “Whenever the people are well-informed, the can be trusted with their own government.” In an age when science influences every aspect of life and lies at the heart of many of our thorniest policy challenges, we believe that candidates for office should be debating and discussing these issues, just like they debate and discuss economics, foreign policy, and even faith. Science Debate is dedicated to elevating science and engineering questions in our national civic dialogue.
Posted in politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: 2016, Bush, candidates, Clinton, congress, debate, Democrats, discussion, engineering, funding, GOP, government, investment, money, politics, president, presidential, Republican, research, science, Science Debate, science funding, Shawn Otto, technology, U.S., U.S.A., United States, United States of America, USA | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 2, 2015
On April 18th I gave a presentation to the Chicago Skeptics on the topic of what I call Quantum Nonsense. For example, have you ever been talking to a friend who starts going on about how great a movie “What the Bleep?!” was because it proved water has feelings? Or perhaps a family member saw a show where Deepak Chopra explained that they could balance their checkbook and achieve financial security using quantum jumping? Let’s face it, quantum physics is both fascinating and confusing, and many pseudoscientists and charlatans play upon this fascination and confusion to peddle all manner of nonsense to the unwary. In this talk I try to help people learn how to separate quantum fact from fiction.
Download the PowerPoint of the presentation (one with the audio of the talk embedded) below. If you want to be able to flip through the slides, which I recommend since there are many good visuals, I suggest downloading both files and listening to the audio while flipping through the other presentation. Enjoy!
Posted in physics denial/woo, skeptical community | Tagged: body, Chicago, consciousness, Deepak Chopra, lecture, mind, physics, presentation, pseudoscience, quantum, quantum consciousness, quantum mechanics, Quantum Nonsense, quantum physics, skeptics, talk, thought, What the Bleep, woo | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 2, 2015
This year’s Skepticamp in Chicago is looking for speakers; the event takes place on Sunday, May 31st at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. I’ve presented at numerous Chicago Skepticamps in the past, and I’ll be at this one, too. If you or anyone you know is interested in giving a skeptical presentation at this years’ event, see the info below; you can also register for the event. Spread the word!
Can I give a talk?
Can you ever! To indicate your interest in giving a talk at Chicago’s 2015 Skepticamp, please complete our speaker registration form by May 1. Your talk/topic must be research-able with scientific and empirical data (no pseudo-science, homeopathy, or conspiracy theories), and related to skepticism and critical thinking. Priority will be given to new speakers with unique topics.
Can I help?
Yes! Skepticamp is a collaborative event, and we literally can’t do it without you. Watch our Events page, Facebook and Meetup for upcoming planning meetings, shoot us an email, Tweet at us, just let us know you’re interested and we’ll find the best way for you to help.
What is a Skepticamp?
Skepticamp Chicago is a free, all-day event consisting of a series of short lectures on topics of skeptical interest. Speakers are everyday local folks sharing their knowledge, and we invite all attendees to ask questions. This informal “unconference” is now in its fourth year, promoting critical thinking and skeptical inquiry in and around Chicago.
Skepticamp is an opportunity for us to get together to learn about different areas of skepticism from our fellow group members. These talks give an opportunity for individuals to delve into particular areas of skepticism…both the tried and true topics as well as those that may not get as much attention in the regular blogs and articles we read. Skepticamps encourage as many people as possible to give a talk…and certainly encourages first-time speakers to try their hand at presenting in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.
Skepticamp is FREE – you ‘pay’ by helping to organize the event, by giving a short talk on a topic of skeptical interest demonstrating critical thinking, or simply by offering your help on the day of the event. We are already having planning committee meetings, and interested parties can still help. Other ways to help will be announced as we get closer to the date…setup and cleanup crews, distributing publicity, etc. (Nobody is going to be turned away because they don’t have a specific job, though.)
And since Skepticamp is FREE, it is entirely a participant-supported event. If you’d like to help offset some of the financial costs incurred by the organizers, please consider making a donation below. We’ll also be accepting donations at the event.
If you’d like to help, please do!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: Chicago, conference, event, meeting, presentation, science, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, SkeptiCamp, skepticism, skeptics, speakers, talks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 11, 2015
At Chi-Fi 2015 in Chicago this past March, the Skepchicks ran a track on issues related to skepticism, critical thinking, and science (and, I might add, ours was one of the more well-attended tracks ). I was honored to participate in a number of these panel discussions, and I recorded the audio of them all to share with you here. To access the audio files, simply open up the PowerPoint linked below; each panel recording is on its own page.
One of our panels at Chi-Fi’s SkepchickCON. I’m making a cameo appearance as Bigfoot
For reference, the panels in which I participated were:
Ask A Scientist: Ever wonder how black holes work? Want to know why we get brainfeeze? Do you really know why the sky is blue? We have you covered from asteroids to zoology as our panel of science experts answer your burning questions.
Star Trek, the Skeptical Paradox: Boldly go where no SkepTrekker has gone before as we discuss the unusual, yet amiable marriage between secular humanism, religion and spirituality within the Trekverse.
Science of Stargate: Black holes, wormholes, naquadah, and symbiotes. It’s fantastic science fiction, but how do the stories of Stargate fit in with real science? Find out!
Science of the Apocalypse: This is the way the world ends! Or is it? We’ll explore some of our favorite ways the “end of the world as we know it” might happen and the science behind these fantastic scenarios.
Science vs. the Humanities: Some people think that science and the humanities are destined to be in conflict. From postmodernist nonsense to looking at science as “the only way to know anything about the world,” there are many times when the two fields of study appear to be at odds. But does it have to be that way, and how can they get along? Come to this panel to hear a variety of perspectives on this question.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: apocalypse, Bigfoot, Chi Fi, Chicago, con, conference, convention, cosplay, critical thinking, fantasy, fiction, geek, geekdom, Humanities, science, Skepchick, SkepchickCon, skeptic, skepticism, Star Trek, Stargate | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 5, 2015
I’m excited to say that many of my friends at Skepchick will be coming to Chicago for Chi-Fi 2015! Chi-Fi is a celebration of geekdom (akin to CONvergence and Dragon*Con) at which scientists and skeptics are making their presence more known in order to spread our message of science, skepticism, and critical thinking. I will be participating, along with the Skepchicks, in a number of panels at this con. For more details, I recommend reading the following post by my skeptical colleague and friend, Jamie Bernstein
You’ve probably heard of SkepchickCON where all the Skepchicks descend upon Minneapolis as part of CONvergence, but this year we’re expanding to Chicago. The weekend of March 19-22, 2015 the Skepchicks will be doing a Chicago version of SkepchickCON at Chi-Fi, Chicago’s newest geek con.
A ton of your favorite writers here at Skepchick and on Skepchick Network sites like Mad Art Lab, Grounded Parents and Queereka will all be coming to Chi-Fi for a series of Skepchick track panels on science, skepticism, intersectional feminism and geek topics. We will also be hosting an evening party room so you can come hang out with us every night. Plus, we’re currently finalizing details for Rebecca’s famous Quiz-o-Tron on the Sunday night of Chi-Fi.
All of the following Skepchick Network writers will be at Chi-Fi (most of them in cosplay): Rebecca Watson, Amy Davis Roth, Ashley Hamer, Anne Sauer, Julia Burke, Emily Finke, Olivia James, Kavin Senapathy, Cassandra Phoenix, Nicole Gugliucci, Jamie Bernstein, Melanie Mallon, Emily Sexton, Jenny Splitter, Topher Hunter, Erich Bacher, Brianne Bilyeu, Benny Vimes, and Ryan Consell.
Chi-Fi will be taking place March 19-22, 2015 at the fancy schmancy Palmer House in Chicago. Registration costs $70 in advance and $80 at the door (with a $10 discount for students or military). Kids 12 and under are free. You can find all information about registering for Chi-Fi at Chi-Fi.org.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: Chi Fi, Chicago, con, conference, convention, critical thinking, geek, geekdom, science, Skepchick, SkepchickCon, skeptic, skepticism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 25, 2015
I’ve been teaching physics, astronomy, and math at both the high school and college level for about 18 years. And in that time I’ve made a number of contributions to the intersection of skepticism and education. I’m proud to say that one of them is a my part in a new ebook published by the James Randi Educational Foundation, available for free download. Please pass this along to any educator whom you know is interested in preserving and encouraging scientific and critical thinking in the classroom
The JREF is pleased to offer a new eBook for educators
Magic in the Classroom is a collection of essays by educators across the curriculum who are using extraordinary claims to teach critical thinking. Editor Robert Blaskiewicz gathers the contributions of fourteen authors from the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Swift Blog who write on topics ranging from popular culture, psychology, linguistics, evolution, exobiology, history, folklore, and many more. Together these essays represent the work of a vibrant skeptical culture in education that is bringing critical thinking skills to students across the curriculum.
DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!
Posted in creationism, education, skeptical community | Tagged: articles, book, creationism, critical thinking, digital, download, ebook, education, educators, essays, evolution, free, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, public schools, Robert Blaskiewicz, school, teachers, teaching | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 25, 2015
I just got done participating in a wonderful panel on teaching critical thinking via the online FtBConscience3 event. On the panel with me was Jason Thibeault (who moderated), Chana Messinger, and Dan Linford. The panel was recorded and the video is now posted on Youtube. Enjoy!
How can teachers use their role as educators to instill critical thinking and ideas like rationalism and empiricism? Are such approaches intrinsic to teaching or separate? We could also go into the ethics of where to draw the line between instructing and “preaching” but I’d actually prefer to stick to the praxis and methodology of bringing critical thinking into the classroom. How do we adapt assessments and assignments? How do we model thinking behaviors we’d like to see?
Panelists: Chana Messinger, Hiba Krisht, Matt Lowry, Dan Linford
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, Chana Messinger, critical thinking, Dan Linford, education, Freethought Blogs, FTB, FtBCon, FtBConscience, Jason Thibeault, methodology, online, panel, school, teachers, teaching | Leave a Comment »