skeptical conference


I’m a big fan of the Scientific Method, so by transitive properties, so is my daughter, Caralyne :)

While listening to my favorite podcast, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, I just so happened to listen to the last minute of announcements (which to be honest, I usually skip (I hit FF right after Jay’s quote) which mentioned SkeptiCal Con.

I’ve wanted to attend a conference like this for a while, and I sure as heck didn’t want to go all alone, so I asked Michele (crickets), posted in on Google+ (crickets), and then asked my sweet daughter.

Its not that she isn’t at the top of my list of buddy activities, I just wasn’t sure if she would be comfortable sitting all day listening to a lot of discussions revolving around critical thinking and science.

We talked about it for a few minutes and she was pretty excited. She was nervous about having to sit all day, and then I reminded her that she has no problem doing that on the computer, reading a book, or watching TV… my sound logic put her at ease, and then she shot me a dirty look for taking a slight dig at her :)

Just to make sure though, I emailed Tucket Hiatt if I could bring her alone (just wanted to make sure there wasn’t an age limit). He was pretty enthusiastic about it, and encouraged us to perform the ice cube experiment. We did, and it was neat to hear a few of the other participants experiences, how they performed the test, and even a deeper explanation from a physicist about who some people may have a different outcome.

The night before the conference, we stayed at my Mom’s house in Knightsen so we wouldn’t have to leave our home (Ben Lomond) at an absurd a.m. hour to get to Berkeley by 8:00a.m. which was an added bonus. In retrospect, the drive from Berkeley to Ben Lomond wasn’t bad at all, and I’d probably just go straight there next time.

The conference started off with an interview from the makers of the up and coming film, An Honest Liar, which is about the life of James Randi. Caralyne really like the footage from the file, which shows James Randi in his early career following in the footsteps of Houdini. The directors did a Q&A over skype, it was a lot of fun do I hope the film does well. I think the James Randi Educational Foundation is a good resource, and I especially like that they are always trying to work with teachers and schools to help teach kids how to think, not just what to think (very important).

Another really good presentation was done by Eugenie Scott, which she talked about myths, urban legends, and people falsifying fossils. It was even a little heart wrenching when she described the story of a Chimpanzee who was being passed off as some sort of transitional species when as it turns out, was just trained to walk up-right and had its teeth pulled out to flatten out its face and give it a more “human” look.

I really like Eugenie Scott. I’ve heard her speak on various podcasts, I think she had (she’s retired) a fantastic public role as the director of the National Center for Science Education. She’s a fantastic and enthusiastic educator. It was a real treat hearing her talk. I ALSO like the fact that Caralyne can see person like this in action, and be comfortable with the idea that Women in science is a good thing. Girls need good role models too, smart ones who can break down the stereotype of the male dominated science industry.


I had mistakenly opted out of the lunch, so we did not get to eat at the buffet with the other people. Oh well, next year I’ll get it right.


The last two talks/presentations ended things on a very entertaining note. Dr. Anthony Pratkanis A professor from UCSC (I wonder how close he lives to us? We should car pool next time!!) talked about his work with the FBI and phone fraud with the elderly as targets.

Lastly, there was a magic show by Ryan Kane, and it was fun and hilarious. He actually called upon Caralyne, but she shyly shrank away which forced him to call upon someone else.

We had a great time, and we even swung by Little Star Pizza on the way home. I had a fantastic time with Caralyne, and I think she had a good time with me as well.

Lets be honest, I only have a few more years with Caralyne until she really becomes her own person. By that, I mean, when her opinions and relationships start to become what they should, her own and not a reflection of mine. If my teenage years are any sort of indication of her future behavior (shudder), I know that she’ll have friends I don’t agree with. I know she’ll start to realize that I’m not perfect (far from it), and she’ll have a natural inclination to do the opposite of what we as parents would want.

Just to establish her independence and individuallity (just like everyone else :) ).

Thats okay, I can come to terms with that, and in the end it usually works out and we can be good buddies again. I will always try to do these things with her, I’m just preparing myself that she might not always want to do this stuff with me.

Until then, she’ll be my buddying amature scientist!