Archive for sgu

What TAM Australia Means to Me

Posted in News, personal views, skepticism, Trips and Visits with tags , , , on June 9, 2010 by cpolsonb

Just a few days ago it was announced that TAM Australia tickets would go on early-bird sale June 20th, with full public sale on July 4th. What is “TAM” and why do I care? First a little background.

TAM stands for ‘The Amazing Meeting’ and is a science and critical thinking conference hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). For the last seven years it’s been held in Las Vega and just last year they branched out across the pond and held a TAM in London. Now it’s our turn, time for a TAM meeting down under! If you’re not aware, the JREF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering critical thinking in new generations and providing information and resources for the public and media about paranormal or psychic claims (amongst a host of other things). Most famously they are know for the $1,000,000US challenge, the prize pool of which is available to any claimant that can demonstrate the existence of anything paranormal under stringent and mutually agreed upon conditions. The Amazing Randi himself is far more than a name for the JREF, he is still, at the venerable age of 82 a fearless warrior on the front-line of battling harmful pseudoscience and paranormal nonsense.

When I was first introduced to the organized skeptical movement in 2006 through the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast it became immediately obvious just what a figure James Randi has been over the last half a century. The SGU team with their ‘Randi Speaks’ segment gave me a direct channel to hear from Randi and the podcast itself opened my eyes wide to movement as a whole. Now, four years on I am completely enthralled by the entire culture, constantly reading blogs, browsing the SGU forum, writing my own blog, following fellow skeptics on twitter, reading the books and of course, still listening to the podcasts! (with a host of others like Skepticality & Skeptoid added to the pile). Over the last four years the idea of attending a TAM event was like a far off dream, something that I may be able to do in a hefty number of years. I imagined by the time I finally attended a TAM (if they were still running), most of the names I’m familiar with would have passed out of the spotlight in the movement and made way for equally hard-working, yet less personally important folks.

But now the chance has come. Later in the year I will (hopefully) be flying off and coming face to face (or at least room to room) with many of my skeptical heroes, including the group that got me into it (the SGU). TAM offers a chance to connect face to face with international skeptics and reach far beyond the small pocket I’ve seen in Perth. I have no idea what the conference will be like or how comfortable I’ll feel at a conference of mostly older professionals but I have no doubt it will be a remarkable and gratifying experience.

Now I just have to grab an Australian Skeptic subscription so I can get an early bird ticket. Oh, and I need to start thinking about why I deserve a $150 student reimbursement :P

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Broadening Skeptical Outreach Through Manga

Posted in skepticism with tags , , , , on May 10, 2010 by cpolsonb

No I don’t mean the psychic kind of medium, I’m talking about discovering a new means through which critical thinking can be taught. The notion of using Japanese manga comics to communicate a message about science or critical thinking would likely never have occurred to me, but thankfully it did to someone! That someone Canadian resident Sara Mayhew, graphic designer and mangaka (manga artist), author of Secrets of Sorcerers and Love Pet. Her current project is called Legend of the Ztarr and is available online here.

I first heard about Sara and her work on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Forum where she posted an announcement about her upcoming talk at the TED conference. If you haven’t heard of it before TED is an annual convention on Technology, Entertainment and Design where speakers are invited to talk about their specialty in such fields. Other noted skeptics who are TED fellows include James Randi, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins so Sara is clearly in good company. The TED conference is just fantastic and I highly recommend you check out there catalog of lectures available in full online for free on their website.

Soon after I heard about Sara and her plans to take manga and critical thinking to TED I quickly had a couple of other encounters with her work. Sara was interviewed on episode #127 of the massively popular Skepticality podcast and was able to spread the word even further about her work and her plans. Sara also recorded a 2 minute video describing herself and her beliefs as part of a Nokia’s responsiveness program (embedded below). She also runs a very cool blog called “There Are Four Lights” the title of which is an awesomely nerdy Star Trek reference. It’s clear from her blog that her popularity has exploded and there are a number of posts detailing exciting events she’s participating in and work she’s done.

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