The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘Dragon Con’

Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con = Massive Success!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 9, 2010

All I can say is “Whoo Hoo!” – well, that’s not all I can say.  I can also say…

Take THAT, whooping cough! 🙂

I’m happy to say that the launch of the “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign at Dragon*Con in Atlanta this past weekend was an unqualified success.  The clinic was put together via the combined efforts of the Women Thinking Free Foundation, the groovy ladies at Skepchick, the Centers for Disease Control, and the vaccination team from Cobb & Douglas counties.  Over the last few months, we raised money to rent the space; put together a really great FAQ brochure on things everyone should know about vaccines; and mobilized volunteers to help with the clinic.

How successful was the clinic?  Did I mention the word “MASSIVE”?!!!  We provided free booster vaccinations for tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (also called TDaP) to over 200 Dragon*Con attendees – so many that the people from the CDC and health department almost ran out!  The health department volunteers were flabbergasted by the turnout, because they say that often when they conduct similar events barely anyone shows up, and here we were having almost run out of vaccine because attendance was so high!  In addition, there was free HIV testing available for anyone interested.

Not only that, but we at the WTFF have been notified that others have heard about our successful “Hug Me…” launch, and they are now contemplating holding their own vaccination clinics in the same manner.  I had no idea that it would take off like this: that when I mentioned in my last blog post about “light a candle rather than curse the darkness” we’d end up lighting a freakin’ bonfire!  Did I say “Whoo Hoo!” yet?  🙂

If you are among those interested in learning how we put this all together and are considering holding your own vaccination clinic, just send me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

In closing, allow me to share another photo with you.  This one includes the nurses & workers from the local health department, our CDC representative, as well as many of the skeptics who volunteered their time at Dragon*Con for such a worthy cause…

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

“Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” Campaign Launches with Free Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con 2010!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 3, 2010

Much of the time, I spend my energy venting my spleen and bitching about various forms of pseudoscience and flummery; and I get mad at myself for not griping less & doing more.  Or, in the words of Carl Sagan, I sometimes I wish that I spent more time lighting a candle as opposed to cursing the darkness.  Well, with the official launch of “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign this weekend at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia, I can feel proud that I’m helping to light a LOT of candles. Please note that this is the culmination of months of work, fundraising, and support from the skeptical community (most notably the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Skepchick)

The launch of “Hug Me…” this weekend is twofold:

1. We are going to start mounting an aggressive campaign to get the word out to our target demographic, 20 and 30-somethings & young parents, about the importance of vaccinating themselves and their children.  For example, check out the frequently asked questions at the “Hug Me…” website for more information.

2. We are going to be providing a FREE vaccination clinic at Dragon*Con!  We’ll be providing Tdap (tetanus, diptheria and pertussis – “whooping cough”) booster shots for those who want them.  Adolescents and adults 11-64 years of age should receive one booster dose of the vaccine. Parents, family members and caregivers of infants less than 1 year of age can protect these infants by getting this vaccine.

The clinic will run Saturday & Sunday (Sept. 4th and 5th) in the Mall at Peachtree Center, at the International Blvd entrance.  Cobb & Douglas Public Health staff will be available to administer the vaccinations on those days from 10am to 4pm. More info on this over at Skepchick!

I’ll be around the clinic, helping out as much as possible and giving – what else? – HUGS to those who want them.  If you can, drop by to get your vaccination, and as a bonus you’ll get a hug from me as I’m dressed up as Dr. McCoy 🙂

I promise to not look quite so serious as all that.  In addition, I will be moving about Dragon*Con taking video footage of anyone present who wants to share their thoughts on why getting vaccinated is important to them.  If you see me, flag me down so you can share your story, and spread the word about “Hug Me…”!!!

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Event Honoring Dr. David Gorski & Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 18, 2010

This coming Saturday, August 21st, Dr. David Gorski – contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog and author of another popular, yet anonymous, blog – will be coming to Chicago to give a lecture on the anti-vaccination movement and various other topics related to alternative medicine woo. This event is co-presented by the Chicago Skeptics, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF), and the Center For Inquiry Chicago. Details are at the event’s Facebook page…

Chicago Skeptics, The Women Thinking Free Foundation, and the Center For Inquiry-Chicago, are excited to co-present a talk by and discussion with Dr. David Gorski. A breast cancer surgeon and researcher, Dr. Gorski has been on the front lines of the anti-anti-vaccination movement as well as fighting against pseudoscience disguised as alternative heath care in many realms.

From his Science-Based Medicine bio:
Dr. Gorski first became interested in pseudoscience and “alternative” medicine around 2000, when quite by accident he wandered into the Usenet newsgroup and began critically examining the claims there. Since then, he has accumulated considerable experience refuting quackery and pseudoscience online. For the last five years, he has blogged under a pseudonym, producing what is consistently ranked as one of the top ten medical blogs, and is happy to drop his pseudonym in order to join such an accomplished group of skeptical doctors to discuss science- and evidence-based medicine (SEBM) for a broad audience. (Finding Dr. Gorski’s other, far more (in)famous blog persona is left as an exercise for the interested reader.)

Science-Based Medicine Blog:

Now, the evening of Dr. Gorski’s talk, there is going to be a fundraiser put on by the Chicago Skeptics and the WTFF. The proceeds from this fundraiser are going to go towards a vaccination clinic at Dragon*Con in Atlanta during Labor Day weekend! So, if you’re in the Chicago area this coming weekend, please click the link above to get a ticket to the fundraiser, but if you’re not and you’d like to contribute to this worthy cause, then I refer you to this excellent post over at Skepchick about it 😀

As part of the Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated launch at Dragon*Con, the Skepchicks are organizing vaccine clinic during Dragon*Con. We are providing FREE vaccines for any Dragon*Con participants who want them. We’ll also be distributing information and education about vaccinations during the event.

Here’s where we need your help.  While the vaccines and staffing are being provided completely free to us, because of the late notice, we needed to rent space to actually have the clinic.  We are paying for space in the Mall at Peachtree Center, which is connected to the Dragon*Con main hotels and we need to raise some money to cover the rent, plus posters, pamphlets and other materials to help promote this. Our goal is to raise $1,500 which will cover all of that. Elyse and the Women Thinking Free Foundation have already raised $800 for the launch so we need $700 more. Ironically, Elyse can’t come to Dragon*Con. She would have to bring her daughter with her and she can’t risk it because of the pertussis epidemic. So we’re going to be launching this project without her, very sadly.

If you can, please help out by donating a few dollars to this extraordinarily worthy cause. You can donate via PayPal to or visit the Women Thinking Free Store and donate there.

This is literally an effort that will save lives. And, if you’re at Dragon*Con, come by and get vaccinated!

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

Large Hadron Collider Breaks High-Energy Physics Record… Earth Survives

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 20, 2010

**Addendum (3/22/2010): Shortly after I wrote the post below, it came to my attention that the proton-proton beams in the LHC haven’t yet actually collided at the 3.5 TeV level yet, but I think that point is moot. It’s also true that the LHC has already conducted proton-proton collisions at greater than TeV levels (up to about 2.36 TeV, it seems)…

And despite this fact, we’re all still here. Of course, I expect the scare mongers to come back with something like “But we don’t know that the planet won’t be destroyed at the next energy level!” By that same token, we don’t know that the Earth won’t be destroyed if we don’t turn the damn thing on, right?

Arguments from ignorance can be used in such silly ways. ‘Nuff said.


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest, most complicated piece of machinery ever created by humanity.  This humongous particle accelerator also just recently broke, once again, the world record for achieving the highest-energy artificial particle collisions ever in history.  Of course, there are some conspiracy-minded scare mongers out there who maintain that the LHC is going to somehow destroy the Earth, presumably because – despite multiple reasons to the contrary – there will be some unknown, magical mechanism by which these artificially-achieved energy levels will kill us all.  In short, with no evidence or coherent theory of physics behind their claims, they’re making an argument from ignorance & saying this…

I think not – it didn’t happen in May 2008, and it won’t happen now.  As I said, the LHC recently broke that supposedly world-ending energy barrier once again, and we’re all still here.  The news is outlined in this Yahoo News story…

Operators of the world’s largest atom smasher on Friday ramped up their massive machine to three times the energy ever previously achieved, in the run-up to experiments probing the secrets of the universe.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said beams of protons circulated at 3.5 trillion electron volts in both directions around the 27-kilometer (17-mile) tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva.

The next major development is expected in a few days when CERN starts colliding the beams in a new round of research to examine the tiniest particles and forces within the atom in hopes of finding out more about how matter is made up.

The collider in December had already eclipsed the record of the next most powerful machine, the Tevatron at Fermilab outside Chicago, which has been running just shy of a trillion electron volts, or TeV.

The extra energy in Geneva is expected to reveal even more about the unanswered questions of particle physics , such as the existence of dark energy and matter. Scientists hope also to approach on a tiny scale what happened in the first split seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorize was the creation of the universe some 14 billion years ago.

CERN has reported a series of successes since the collider was restarted last year after 14 months of repairs and improvements following a spectacular failure when scientists initially tried to get the machine going.

CERN improved the machine during a 2 1/2-month winter shutdown to be able to operate at the higher energy .

“Getting the beams to 3.5 TeV is testimony to the soundness of the LHC’s overall design, and the improvements we’ve made since the breakdown in September 2008,” said Steve Myers, CERN’s director for accelerators and technology.

It’ll be interesting to see how the scare mongering pseudoscientists rationalize away this one, but I’m sure they’ll find some way to do it.

Posted in doomsday, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Skeptical Teacher on Skeptic Zone Podcast!

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 1, 2010

This past Labor Day weekend, I attended Dragon*Con 2009 in Atlanta, where there was a really groovy skeptic track. One of the panels in which I participated was “Psychology and Skepticism in the Classroom” – participating were me, Kylie Sturgess (author of the Podblack Cat blog), D.J. Grothe (new president of the JREF), Prof. Barbara Drescher, and Dr. Martin Bridgstock. During the panel we discussed a variety of topics related to skepticism, critical thinking, and education, and our panel discussion was followed up by a lively Q&A session.

The fine folks over at the Skeptic Zone Podcast have now hosted the audio of the discussion.  Go on over and check it out…

Posted in education, psychology, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Large Hadron Collider Switches Back On – Earth Survives!

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 21, 2009

Hooray! 😀  The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe has switched back on after being offline for a year…

Europe: Proton beams circulate in Big Bang machine

GENEVA – Scientists switched on the world’s largest atom smasher Friday night for the first time since the $10 billion machine suffered a spectacular failure more than a year ago.

It took a year of repairs before beams of protons circulated late Friday in the Large Hadron Collider for the first time since it was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault.

Circulation of the beams was a significant leap forward. The European Organization for Nuclear Research has taken the restart of the collider step by step to avoid further setbacks as it moves toward new scientific experiments — probably starting in January — regarding the makeup of matter and the universe.

And, as I’ve blogged about before, where there is science being done by physicists via particle accelerators like the LHC, there are also pseudoscientific nuts who maintain that it’s going to destroy the Earth. Balderdash! Here are 3 good reasons why the LHC experiments are no danger to our planet.

I should also point out one more piece of good news regarding the re-starting of the LHC: despite all of the doomsday scenarios by the conspiracy-mongering pseudoscientists – the Earth survived 😉

Posted in doomsday, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skeptic Zone Podcast: “Darwin’s Bulldogs” Panel from Dragon*Con

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 2, 2009

I wanted to pass along the audio of a panel discussion I moderated at Dragon*Con this past Labor Day weekend – the title of the panel was “Darwin’s Bulldogs: Teachers on the Front Lines” and it was about creationism & how to deal with it in public schools.  I proposed the panel, and I was joined by Kylie Sturgess of the Podblack Cat blog, C. Kevin Barrett (a writer and biological anthropologist), Martin Bridgstock of Griffith University and author of the forthcoming book ‘Beyond Belief: Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal‘, Barbara Drescher, a cognitive psychologist and lecturer at California State University, Northridge, and our guest of honor, Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education.

The audio file is available at the Skeptic Zone podcast website; it’s their October 30th recording.  Hat tip to Kylie Sturgess at Podblack Cat for passing this along to me 🙂

Click here or on the image below to download the podcast…

Posted in creationism, education, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Three Reasons Why the Large Hadron Collider Will NOT Destroy the Earth

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 16, 2009

One of the things I did at Dragon*Con a couple of weeks ago was to give a talk on the physics of the Large Hadron Collider.  The last part of the talk dealt specifically with the claims that the LHC will destroy the Earth.  My response to this nonsense claim:

dont panic

No, really, don’t panic… the Large Hadron Collider is NOT going to destroy the Earth. Yes, I know what the cranks have said, and I know that words such as “black hole“, “strangelet” and “exotic matter” get thrown around to make them sound like they know physics from their buttholes… but really, it’s going to be fine.  Here’s why:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

A Challenge to Skeptics: Pithy, Non-Offensive Sound Bytes in Response to Creationism?

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 9, 2009

This will be a quick post, one which I hope garners a lot of attention because it addresses an important unanswered question: can the skeptical community come up with a quick, pithy, 30-second sound byte that is non-offensive which conveys the importance of teaching evolution whilst tamping down creationist pseudoscience?

Allow me to provide some context for this question… during my time last weekend at Dragon*Con, I participated in a panel discussion called “Darwin’s Bulldogs, Teachers on the Front Lines” which addressed the question of how educators can deal with creationism in the context of the classroom.


In the photo on the far right is Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, who was on the panel with me.

After the panel discussion, we had audience Q&A, and a woman who works at a history museum came up to the microphone and presented us with a tough question – the one I named above.  In museums, they don’t have the advantage of a science teacher who has many months to educate students and the luxury of being able to craft pro-science arguments & experiments.  A museum worker can find themselves in a sudden situation where they’re on the spot to explain to, potentially hostile, people the importance of evolution.  As Eugenie Scott said in our panel, this is a particularly tough situation to deal with, and we all agreed to try putting our collective heads together in an effort to address the issue because we do not yet have a good response.

So, if you have a suggestion for a sound byte, please leave it in the comments section below and pass this blog post on to everyone you know.  I’ll share my findings with others in the hopes that we can come up with something workable!

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

Skepticism & Science at Dragon*Con 2009

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 7, 2009

Well, I’m starting to wind down here at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, which I have basically concluded is Mardi Gras for geeks – a lot of people dress up & party, and I was no exception.  Below was my small contribution to the party atmosphere 🙂


On a serious note, while Dragon*Con is essentially a big science-fiction convention & general geek-fest, there is a very serious science & skeptical presence here.  The Skeptics track is now in its second year, and it seems as if it grew out of a desire to counter or provide a rebuttal to some of the more woo-ish paranormal nonsense that you see here.  For instance, there is a track which seems quite heavy on the paranormal woo called the X-track where all manner of ghost hunters do their thing.  With so many people attending Dragon*Con who can actually distinguish fact from fiction, it’s no wonder that many people are interested in the actual science & skepticism tracks.

I will outline all the things I did here – lecturing on the Large Hadron Collider & particle physics, participating on the Science of Star Wars panel, moderating the Darwin’s Bulldogs panel on teachers combating creationism, and participating on the Skepticism in the Classroom panel – in future posts.  What I want to discuss for the rest of this post is why it is that I think having skeptics present at events like Dragon*Con is important in the first place…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

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