Tuesday, 15 April 2014

On #QEDCon, Manchester April 2014

Year four certainly didn't disappoint!

Here are links to my public photos:

Mixer Evening / Day OneDay Two

- please feel free to share/use or even play around with in PhotoShop :)

Firstly I want to again thank all the organisers, volunteers and hotel staff for facilitating a fabulous celebration of critical thinking, skeptical activism and rationality. You are incredible.

Unfortunately a few weeks before the event I sustained a shoulder injury and the painkillers I was prescribed meant I will have seemed a little slower than normal to anyone who spoke to me. Luckily, this didn't distract from how wonderful it was to see all the friends I've met over the last few years, share a few drinks and catch up.

After checking in and working out how to navigate the new venue, getting our bearings and then had a couple of drinks in the room and third floor terrace. After that we headed downstairs to the main bar and the official social/mixer event on the Friday night. The usual huge variety of conversation subjects between people of all ages and from all over the world. It's such a beautiful thing to see and be part of and reminds me very much of a music festival - most skeptics are visibly comfortable and the groups are fluid and welcoming. Here's a short video of the evening:

The first day! Here's how the event started, QEDCon opening video featuring the ace skeptic magician Paul Zenon (@PaulZenon) and a few others - see who you can spot!

I'm not going to go into depth analysing the talks - that will be done in many other blogs by much better writers than myself and I'll update this with those posts. Personally I moved between a few and saw the following on the first day:

SHAM-poo and CON-ditioner - Beauty by the Geeks

BbtG (@BeautyByGeeks) I thought that the majority of the talk would be already well understood by most of the audience and the delivery could have been more confident. I felt it was pitched to a younger audience and can see it working very well to school or college students and the methods they use would be very effective. I would have liked to see a practical element.

Assault with Batteries - Robert Llewellyn

Utterly brilliant. Robert (@bobbyllew) is an incredibly confident speaker and I was completely captivated by a very interesting talk about battery technologies, electricity production and electric cars. Never before have I wished (sorry) that I lived in the future as my laptop battery gave up the ghost (sorry, again) before the end of the talk!

This was a live podcast recording presented by Andy Wilson (@saxman1000). Loved the panel, Andy was on top form and I'll post the full show when it's available. Funny, entertaining and enjoyable. I have to admit to resorting to Google to be sure that I was getting the questions posed to the audience correct!

Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (SCAM) Myths - Mark Crislip

Mark (@MarkCrislip) gave a talk about a subject very close to the hearts of many in the skeptical community. Unfortunately it is very true that “We have evolved to survive reality, not understand it”. A strong talk that rounded off the formal talks for the day very nicely.

In between talks we had more opportunities to socialise and even meet our regular Young Earth Creationist protesters :) After the talks we headed out to a the rebel-rebel-rebel dinner for a tasty burrito while the gala dinner folks suited up.

After the Skeptic Magazine (@TheSkepticMag) Ockham Awards, the evening entertainment kicked off and it was great fun. Gemma Arrowsmith (@mmaarrow) has been a personal favourite of mine for some time now and the packed Grand Room clearly agreed. Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) was equally hilarious. Here's what the room looked like:

We were also treated to Richard Wiseman's much celebrated teatowel>chicken 'trick' which has already attracted a 'thumbs down' on YouTube. I find this hilarious.

Day Two.

Psychic Blues: Using Guerilla Skepticism to Fight Psychic Fraud - Mark Edward

From my perspective, Mark's talk was one of the most discussed in the bar. Basically given a choice between fighting 'fire with fire' and a much more *British* appeal to believers in various woo I found myself in many debates afterwards. His attitude was very much one of diving in with all guns blazing and I think that can be fun but variety and moderation is equally important. Very interesting nonetheless and a great talk to inspire conversation. I was disappointed that he failed to answer the question posed by Tom Bruce (@semilogical) who asked if (as they had displayed on a banner in protest) "Was the fact that Sylvia Browne was a convicted felon was the best argument they could have used?" - Mark immediately dismissed the question (and questioner) and clearly didn't share the opinion of anyone I met over the weekend. Felon or not, evidence is the key to good critical thinking.

Camp Quest UK: Growing a Community of Young Freethinkers - Samantha Stein

Sam (@Samantha_Stein) discussed the movement of youth freethinking communities and Camp Quest. Love the fact that these exist and are so successful and wish they had been around when I was younger, much younger!

Nathan Phelps (Nate) - Leaving Hate Behind.

Nate @n8phelps Wow. I can't express how huge the amount of respect I have is for this chap. A deeply moving personal account of his experiences growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Awe inspiring talk and I feel genuinely honoured to have heard this talk. Presented as fully as I could, below:

Thank you again everyone. It was emotional. See you in 2015!

Links to other write-ups from this year's QED:

For anyone feeling nostalgic, here's my review of QED 2012 - "On #QEDCon 2012 :D"

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