Last Saturday, we put on the first ever SkeptiCal: Northern California Science and Skepticism Conference. It was pretty awesome.
The organizers included Bay Area Skeptics and Sacramento Area Skeptics, and we managed to fill a 200 seat auditorium by advertising to our members, other northern California skeptics groups, some email alerts to JREF, CSI, and Skeptics’ Society members, and helpful plugs by prominent podcasters and bloggers.
Shortly before Genie Scott flew off to receive the highest honor granted by the National Academy of Sciences, she gave a talk about the relationship of science and skepticism. Then NASA’s Dave Morrison told us about the odd conspiracy theories he’s add to debunk in answering questions at NASA’s Ask an Astrobiologist website. Mostly, the confusion centers on 2012 conspiracies involving destruction by Nibiru, imminent magnetic pole reversals, etc. Brian Dunning presented a version of his recent Skeptoid podcast on the Virgin of Guadalupe, and talked about ways skeptics can go beyond debunking to examining the cultural importance of myths like the miracles associated with the Virgin. Wally Sampson talked through some of the work he and other skeptics have done to debunk complementary and alternative medicines, and Brian Malow closed the day with a set of his brand of science comedy.
In the middle of the day, we had two breakout sessions featuring three speakers each. I was excited to see my Scibling Chris Hoofnagle of Denialism talk in one of those sessions, and Cosmic Variance co-blogger John Conway debunked LHC conspiracy theories and told us the real story of what the Large Hadron Collider will teach us about physics. Other sessions included a discussion of psychics by Karen Stollznow, a look at E.T. investigations by Seth Shostak, Ian Faloona on climate change, and Kirsten Sanford on skepticism in the media.
It was a roaring success, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. John Conway blogged about his day with us, and it sounds like he even came away from it with new research questions.