The second (official) day kicked off with a Tim Mendham moderated panel “The Media & the Message”. It was interesting to hear the News vs Science media approach to a topic. As a Kiwi I found the “ABC’ness” aspects rather irrelevant but maybe that was due to jealously. At least Australia have Public (especially TV) media worth debating as it seems the whole quality versus ratings/commercial argument is over in New Zealand for TVNZ.
I had met Dr Rob Morrison, who was on the panel, at tea the day before and was very surprised when he asked: ”Don’t I know you?”. I must admit I remember his voice, more than appearance, from NZ screenings of his show back in the 1980s but hadn’t met him before. I guess of the many people he must encounter I resembled one!
I have only heard a few of Dr Pamela Gay’s astronomy podcasts but what an inspiring speaker. Her advocacy for citizen based science was incredible and should be part of the science curriculum. It puts the search for knowledge in the hands of the people and breaks down the barriers which academic institutions can create. Although she cited studies which required active participation even sharing your computer can help science. NZ recently contributed to a discovery via the “Einstein@Home” cloud computing initiative.
It then seemed we went off the programme but it was for an AWESOME Twitter Audience Vs (Mostly) SGU Panel Quiz created by Rebecca Watson. It was a race to answer questions with the panel against the Audience replying via Twitter with a #TAMQUIZ tag.
I was amazed the 3G/Wifi and Twitter worked fast enough but the result was a hilarious, who mentioned BOOBS Dave the Happy Singer?, and convincing victory for both the Audience & Twitter. Rebecca was, as always brilliant, but the concept was one well worth considering for future events especially those with a high Geek quota of mobile devices to feed the stream!
There was an “Ask A Skeptic” Q&A Panel with Steve Novella, James Randi, Brian Dunning & Dr Rachie Dunlop. Then Richard Saunders (AuraBand & Placebo Band advocate, PowerBand demo debunker) and George Hrab followed with an entertaining demolition of 2010 Psychic Predictions. They had a 93% failure rate and that was only with very generous marking of some rather generic “hits”. The source for these predictions was their own “professional journal” so you can not argue there was bias in the selection.
The Entertainment Panel discussion was somewhat dominated by “Chasers” but that was only due to Julian Morrow responding to audience questions. Simon Taylor (right) made his point with a passionate argument after leaping on the (covered) alter and storming out of the room. It was brilliant and I was happy to see him in the foyer later & tell him (although apparently Twitter also enabled him to see the response remotely!). It was yet another use of social media in a conference with much reference to the power these (almost) free tools put in our hands.
John Smyrk had to follow that with his discussion of Management PuesdoScience but I thought did it well. I was interested to see the examples he used included my pet hate Myers Briggs Type Index and he gave me some useful arguments to use against them. It was an interesting presentation of what could have been a dry topic.
UPDATE 7-12-2010: It wasn’t until I read Lucas Randall’s blog I realised had omitted mentioning “The Skeptic Zone Live”. Rather embarrassing considering it is the podcast that first introduced me to, and has the folks so involved in organising, TAMOz! Sorry folks I really did enjoy it but somehow missed making any notes!
The final formal session was Dr Rob Morrison on Skeptical Illusions. His tour through the workings and limitations of our visual perception was fascinating. I’m sure everyone had seen some of the illusions presented before but am sure everyone also saw new ones. He had an amazing mix to demonstrate how preconceptions of colour, geometry, perspective and lighting can fool our brain. I always remember an optician telling me your eyes don’t see anything and Dr Morrison’s presentation proved it. He showed a physical impossible triangle model he had made and I must send him the DWF which shows it can be made as a complete 3D object (but only seen from one perspective).
After well deserved thanks to the organisers, volunteers, speakers and staff it was fitting that the final wrap up was left to JREF icon James Randi. His contribution to the Skeptical movement around the world has been huge and The Amaz!ng Meeting is but one small part. For me it was a privilege to meet, speak with and listen to the man who inspired, with help from Uri Geller, my journey into skeptical thinking. He suggested TAMOz 2 should be in Melbourne and I’d like to suggest it after the Grand Prix would be nice timing! Thanks JREF and all who contributed to TAMOz for an amazing time.