The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘TAM’

Vaccination Clinic at TAM9 is a Great Success!

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2011

Once again, I would like to toot my own skeptical horn 🙂  This past weekend at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 a group of organizations – the Women Thinking Free Foundation, the James Randi Educational Foundation, Skepchick, and the Southern Nevada Health District – worked to bring a free vaccine clinic to the conference.  And boy did we kick all kinds of ass!  Look, I have photographic evidence…

Me and Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, kicking ass with our official Hug Me gear (T-shirts and teddy bears for sale via the WTFF)!

Photo Credit: Jamie Bernstein a.k.a. The Original Skeptical Ninja

Like the WTFF’s previous clinic at Dragon*Con last September, we offered free TDaP vaccinations for anyone who came into the clinic (TDaP stands for “tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis”) and it was also part of the WTFF’s “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign to reach out to the general population, and parents in particular, about the need for vaccines and how anti-vaccinationist propaganda can be deadly.

At the Dragon*Con clinic, we vaccinated over 200 people in two days, which was – according to the clinic workers – a massively successful clinic.  But we aren’t satisfied with that success, which became apparent when our clinic at TAM9 blew that record away by vaccinating a whopping 306 people in 5.5 hours!  W00t!!! 🙂

A lot of people came up to me during the clinic and thanked me and my skeptical colleagues at the WTFF and JREF for doing this work, but I have to say that one of the biggest reasons why we can do this at all is because of the generous support from people like you.  We want to keep doing these clinics, and we’re planning to do another one at Dragon*Con 2011 – but we cannot do it without your support.  So please consider making a donation to this worthy cause…

 **DONATE HERE**

Thanks again for all your support – YOU kick ass! 😀

Photo Credit: Jamie Bernstein a.k.a. The Original Skeptical Ninja

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Self-Tying Knot Trick from TAM9

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 18, 2011

Well, I’m back from The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas, and I’m slowly but surely getting caught up on things.  I just wanted to take a moment to share with everyone a trick I showed off during my “Skepticism in the Classroom” lecture at TAM9.  In this video, I show how to use a simple nylon rope to perform a *seemingly* mathematically impossible feat: having the rope tie a knot in itself without releasing either end of the rope. I show this to my students as a lesson in skepticism and critical thinking, and it never ceases to catch their interest.


Can you figure out the trick? Stay tuned to my Youtube channel for the solution 😉

Posted in education, magic tricks, mathematics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Digital Guide to The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (via Tim Farley)

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 13, 2011

Well, The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (the largest skeptical gathering ever!) is about to get underway in Las Vegas! I will try to provide some updates about how things are going at the conference and the general goings on, but I know that I’m only one guy with a limited perspective on things.

So, whether you are attending TAM9 or not, perhaps one of the best things to do to keep up is to read the following excellent post on the Digital Guide to TAM9. The author is Tim Farley, perhaps better known as the creator of the What’s The Harm? website, and this post gives you all the details (and I mean ALL the details) on how to follow what’s happening at TAM9…

Digital Guide to The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (TAM9)

The purpose of this post is to be a clearinghouse for all things digital related to the meeting. I’ll show you how to get information you need about the show, how to get connected and stay connected once you are in Las Vegas, and more. I’ll provide links to a variety of resources online that will help.

Please note: in most cases I did not create the resources listed. Most were created or published by the JREF itself, other TAM9 attendees or JREF Forum users. Where possible I’ve also provided links where you can get in touch directly with the content creators. …

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Vaccine Clinic at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 8, 2011

As most people within the skeptical community know, next week The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 will be coming to Las Vegas.  It will probably be the biggest gathering of skeptics ever, and the lineup of speakers and workshops (one of which I’m helping to run) promises to be quite illuminating and informative.  Something else which will be taking place at TAM9 is a vaccine clinic, held in conjunction with the JREF, Skepchick, and the Women Thinking Free Foundation as part of the WTFF Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated! campaign; this will be very similar to the highly successful clinic held at Dragon*Con last year.  The clinic will be giving away free vaccinations for TDaP (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis) to anyone who wishes to receive one – so if you’re at TAM9 and you’re not sure you have had your vaccinations updated, come on by the clinic!

In addition, even though these vaccines are free for those obtaining them, they still cost money, so we are looking for donations to help us facilitate future clinics.  If you are interested in donating to this worthy cause, click here…

DONATE

 

And here’s more general information about the Hug Me campaign.  Who doesn’t like good health AND hugs?  What a deal…

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Help Send Women to The Amaz!ng Meeting 9

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 22, 2011

If you have been involved with the skeptical movement for any amount of time, then you understand that women are traditionally under-represented in those circles.  Over the years, there have been more & more women getting involved, but progress is slow and I am of the strong opinion that we should do all that we can to address this disparity as efficiently as possible.

So in the spirit of lighting candles, I want to pass along to you a project in which I’m involved with the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Skepchick Surly Amy: we are doing The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (TAM9) grants for women.  In other words, eligible women can apply for this grant and, if they get it, they will have their expenses paid (that is, the membership & registration fees for the meeting, not hotel or travel) to send them to TAM9 in Las Vegas this coming July!!! 🙂

Surly Amy provides more details in her blog post over at Skepchick…

Putting our Money Where our Mouth is for Women in Skepticism

It is a fact that women are underrepresented in science and in skepticism and while I may not be able to change the world overnight, I can at least help to change things in my general vicinity right here and now. I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and quite literally get more women involved.

I have spoke with the JREF and I have pledged to pay, out of my own pocket for at least one other women to go to The Amazing Meeting 9 in Las Vegas this year. And I have bigger aspirations. I am going to try to pay for even more women to go!

I have joined forces with The Women Thinking Free Foundation to help me. They will handle the application process so I have time to implement phase two. Phase two is making awesome art you can wear.

I have made (and am in the process of making) a series of LIMITED EDITION TAM 9 Surlies.  Each is one-of-a-kind and hand-painted, ceramic-awesomeness made by me. I am rolling up my sleeves and getting to work to make a palpable difference.

When you purchase a TAM 9 Surly you help us raise the money for MORE women to attend TAM 9. Together we can encourage other women to learn about science and critical thinking AND YOU get an awesome, handmade, one-of-a-kind souvenir. Even if you can not attend the conference you are still a part of making this year’s event better than ever! WIN!

Last year, I helped raise $2,000 for the American Cancer society with the help of Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy. This year, I want to raise money for women in skepticism but I need your help.

You can help out the cause by purchasing a limited edition TAM 9 Surly here. Let’s level the playing field and learn about science and critical thinking together.

Or if you do not want a necklace but still want to help the cause you can click the donate link here and donate directly to the fund.

I can’t promise that I can raise enough for all the women I’d like to send to TAM this year but I promise, I will personally pay out of my pocket to send at least one woman.

More info about TAM 9 can be found here.

To apply for The Surly and Women Thinking Free TAM 9 Membership Grant please download and fill out this form. You can download it as a .doc fill it out and email it to: Grants@womenthinkingfree.org
We will notify the grant recipients via email.

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

The Amaz!ng Meeting 9: TAM9 From Outer Space!

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 21, 2011

I just wanted to let you all know that registration is now open for The Amaz!ng Meeting 9. This year’s theme is all things astronomy & space oriented, so the event is being called “TAM9 From Outer Space!” I’ll be attending again this year, and if you are make sure you find me.  This promises to be one of the best TAMs ever!  Check it out 🙂

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

How I Use a Card Trick to Teach About Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2010

Every year when I start a new class, I always take some time on the first day to discuss science & the scientific method. But I have my own fun & unorthodox spin on it: I first tell the “Dragon in My Garage” story, and then I go on to describe the scientific method in a very fun manner.  In short, I do a card trick…

The way I start is to ask my students if they’ve ever been to a family reunion or other gathering where someone present is doing card or magic tricks (suppose this person is “Old Uncle Harry”).  And say Uncle Harry does a particularly impressive card trick (some kind of “mind reading” or mentalism trick); what is likely to be the first response from the children present?  If you said “Do it again!” that’s a pretty good guess, but second to that I’d say the next most common response is “How did you do that?”

“How did you do that?” – contained within this question is a lot of information, folks.  First, it shows that even little kids can think critically & skeptically, because if Uncle Harry responds “It’s magic, kid (wink, wink)” even children know something’s fishy.  Second, it shows that kids want to know some kind of plausible, naturalistic solution to the supposedly “magical” phenomenon they just witnessed.

Then I play off this curiosity & natural skepticism: I ask my students what a particularly curious kid might do to figure out Uncle Harry’s trick (because really good magicians don’t reveal their tricks too easily).  Invariably, they respond that perhaps the first step would be to do some research on card tricks by looking up info on the Internet or going to the public library.  Then, once they think they’ve got an idea of the process, what’s the next step?  “Experimentation” comes the reply – in other words, the student might try to replicate just how the trick is performed by getting their own deck of cards and trying to repeat the phenomenon they observed earlier.  Depending upon their relative success or failure at replicating the trick, they may have to go through this process multiple times before coming to a meaningful conclusion as to how the trick is done.

And that, as I tell my students, is the scientific method in action.  Scientists are going through the very same investigative process as are those kids attempting to figure out Uncle Harry’s magic card trick.  They are attempting to figure out the “tricks” that nature is playing upon us all the time, and to do so they must study, research, hypothesize, and experiment in order to form a coherent & naturalistic explanation for the phenomena we observe (sorry, no “magic” allowed 😉 )

And then I ask the question I’ve been waiting to ask for the entire class: “So, having said all of that, do you want to see a trick?”  The answer is always yes, and it’s always a satisfying and enjoyable trick.  This very trick I performed at the “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop at The Amazing Meeting 8 for about 150-200 people, most of whom were teachers, and it was a real hit.  In fact, it was such a hit that I decided to write up the solution for it, and I share it with you here… enjoy… 🙂

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Posted in education, magic tricks, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Teacher Workshop – “Skepticism in the Classroom” – at The Amazing Meeting 8

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 19, 2010

**Update: If you’re interested in getting hold of some of the useful materials presented at the “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop, then check out this link to the Critical Thinking Education Group.

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In my last blog post concerning my time at The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas, I wanted to take some time to outline the workshop called “Skepticism in the Classroom” which I helped to organize and run.  Led by Michael Blanford, the JREF’s new point-man on education, the presenters in the workshop consisted of myself, Daniel Loxton, Barbara Drescher, with a brief bit of material presented on behalf of Kylie Sturgess. I was pleased to see that our workshop was very well attended, with about 150-200 people present (most of whom were teachers!)  We started off with some comments by Michael, where he introduced all of us…

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

Feminism & Skepticism Panel at The Amazing Meeting 8

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 15, 2010

While at The Amazing Meeting 8 this past weekend in Las Vegas, one thing I did was attend the workshop on “Feminism & Skepticism” which was hosted by my pals over at Skepchick. Included in the discussion were Rebecca Watson, Carrie Iwan, Maria Walters, Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy), and Debbie Goddard. Included in the discussion were a variety of topics specific to women (most of which I honestly had never thought of, seeing as how I’m male), along with some fun related to what Rebecca called “Angry Vagina Craft” – LOLZ 🙂

In any case, I decided to attend partly because I am a board member on the Women Thinking Free Foundation, and also because I’m curious to see skeptical things from a female perspective.  I transcribed what I could of the discussion, and I include it below for your edification…

Feminist Skepticism Workshop @ TAM8

  1. What Skepticism is and isn’t
  2. Feminist topics that skeptics can love
  3. Angry vagina craft time
  4. Skeptical topics that feminists can love
  5. Group talk (w/ ray gun of verbosity)

Feminism: (dictionary definition) the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality.  This is the kind of definition that Rebecca and many other women go by.

Myths:

  1. Feminists are man-hating assholes
  2. Feminism is incompatible with skepticism
  3. Feminism is obsolete

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Physics of Board Breaking & Karate at The Amazing Meeting 8

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 14, 2010

This past weekend I attended The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas, along with about 1300 other skeptics & supporters of science.  And, like last year, there was a talent show in which I participated.  Last year I performed the bed of nails demonstration and explained the physics involved, but this year I decided to do the hitting, so I gave another skeptical physics lesson – this time on karate & board breaking.  And, thanks to my colleague Dean over at the Blog of Phyz, I have some slow-motion footage of my grand finale break…

It might surprise many people to know that pretty much anyone can break boards with little training – in order to do more challenging breaks like that pictured here takes more training, though the basic principles are still the same. But in the end there is *nothing* mystical involved – no chi or “life energy” or any of that rot. With proper body mechanics and good use of mass (twisting the body), velocity (dropping to convert GPE into KE), and a low time of impact (solid supports that won’t give) one can make lots of kindling out of boards. Oh yeah, and the spacers are a nice trick as well 🙂 For a fuller explanation, see my previous blog post on the subject.

And, just to put my money where my mouth is, I have to brag about one more thing: while at TAM8, I taught skeptic & paranormal investigator Joe Nickell how to break boards.  Joe had never before performed a board break, and – to my knowledge – has no formal martial arts training, yet I was able to get him successfully breaking boards with just 5 minutes of instruction.  Here he is successfully performing a palm-heel strike on a board I’m holding…

So, there you have it: if Joe Nickell, at his age & with no formal training, can employ the basic physics & body mechanics required to break a board, then pretty much anyone can do it… no special chi or paranormal powers required 🙂

Posted in physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

 
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