Vancouver SkeptiCamp 2011

Another SkeptiCamp, another day of mingling with other smart folks, and learning some interesting stuff. Here are the highlights:

Another SkeptiCamp, another day of mingling with other smart folks, and learning some interesting stuff. Here are the highlights:

Magnetic Putty, nanodots and a sextant

Carrie brought along a batch of goodies from the Langara Physics lab, for participants to play with during breaks. These included a real old-school sextant, a bunch of nanodots (tiny spherical magnets that can be strung together into attractive shapes) and some kind of weird dark-grey putty that reacts to magnets. Place a magnet nearby and the stuff will—very slowly, we’re talking on the order of 5 to 10 minutes here—move to engulf it. It’s amazingly cool in a “grey goo” kind of way.

A New Cosmology

This spot was supposed to be about “Psychological and Rhetorical Pitfalls in Oppositional Dialogues” but the speaker canceled on account of the flu. Instead we got Michael Jones showing us a pamphlet some crackpot gave him on the skytrain, about how all scientists are wrong and a new cosmological paradigm is just around the corner. Because if I had a revolutionary scientific paradigm, the skytrain is totally the forum I’d publish in. On a scale of 0 to Crazy, it was a bit less nutty than Timecube, but still pretty damn entertaining.

The Greenwashing of Lightbulbs

Marilee and Douglas Welch detailed some of the bogus claims around modern lightbulbs, in particular their health benefits. Surprisingly (though I guess it’s not that surprising when you think about it) “full-spectrum” lights have less effect on SAD and circadian rhythms than cool spectrum lights. The reason is that since we evolved outside, under a blue sky, our eyes and our brains respond more to blue light. Neat!

Greg Bole

Darwin impersonator Greg Bole is a common fixture at SkeptiCamp. He covered a few aspects of the creation/evolution debate, and showed us a picture of himself with a bronze statue of Darwin. Hey, young Darwin was a hottie! I’d totally hit that

How to Not Be A Dick

A surprising number of talks focused on the dialog between skeptics and atheists, and everybody else. One talk (by an ex-Mormon) dealt with Mormons in particular, with the bottom line that when you’re discussing someone else’s beliefs you need to make damn sure you know what you’re talking about. Another, “Friendships, Skepticism and Social Media” detailed an instance of woosters defriending a woman who posted a skeptical / anti-homeopathy note. Interesting overall, and I like how Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be A Dick” speech is still causing waves in the skeptic community

And then a bunch of us went for dinner at The Cove on 4th Avenue. Followed by watching the fireworks from Jericho Beach. The show was pretty enough, but the music frankly sucked and the group of loud drunk assholes didn’t help at all.