#QEDcon – Day2 – Live Blog

OK folks, its day 2 and we are getting ready to roll. As with yesterdays posting, if you want updates as they happen, you need to hit your browsers refresh button (I’m not the BBC)

09:50 The crowd is starting to gather …

09:59 George Hrab encouraging those outside to step in, advising we are on the clock for 10:23, and as the old Klingon saying goes, “Today is a good day to homoeopathically overdose”

10:03 And we are off … goal is to overdose at 10:23 … Mike (10:23 Homeopathy Campaign) Marshall takes the stage and is telling us what has been happening in the last 24 hours, here are some highlights of folks doing a public overdose in 70 cities across 30 countries involved in the campaign

  • Hungary had 66 people yesterday
  • Amsterdam 30 people
  • Brussels out side the EU parliament yesterday
  • Poland 26 Poland
  • Tel-Aviv 50 people
  • Canada 125 people
  • Australia 100
  • Austria 37
  • Romania 45 people
  • Oslo 26
  • Spain 115
  • USA (backed by the JREF and so $1 Million is part of challenge) 15+ groups
  • Germany 180 people across 6 cities
  • Brazil 26 (Already serious talk in council of medicine to remove Homeopathy from their list in response)
  • Philippines 2
  • Hawaii 1 (on the beach)
  • Portugal
  • Antarctica 1 (Dr Paul Willis)

There are now 320+ in the room ready to do an overdose to illustrate that Homeopathy is a complete con and that there are zero active ingredients in it. Mike is now telling us about some of the truly funny hate mail he has received. (its 10:16 .. we are simply killing time as we countdown towards 10:23)

What we have each is a 31C mix of belladonna ready to overdose on.

Its 10:23 … the moment is here … countdown starting … to the mass overdose .

DONE … 350 people just overdosed on a Homeopathy 31C of belladonna …and nobody died (no surprise there).

We are on a 5 min break now. [Anybody rolling on the floor … <checks> … nope, all 350 still breathing … gasp, I’m feeling faint … er no, just kidding]

10:34 Now we have Wendy Grossman (co-founder of Skeptic magazine) talking to us about Policy based evidence … (Wendy looked a bit confused as George quoted a fake fact about her as he introduced her … she was not up to speed on each presenter being introduced with a fake fact … causes me to ponder if she  truly believed some of the other fake facts)

She is telling us a bit about her background and putting it into the context of the skeptic movement today (that has suddenly emerged from nowehere, but is really due to folks plodding away for 25 years).

Evidence is very much at the heart of what skeptics are about. (Her day job is that she writes about the Internet)

She has just 1 slide (explained that she does not do slides, its not her thing). Its a quote from Rebecca Boden and Debbie Epstein (July 2006) …

“This need [for evidence] has been reified in the UK and elsewhere, as routines of ‘evidence-based-policy’ making have been hardwired into the business of Government. Intuitively, basing policies that peoples lives and the economy on rigorous research sounds rational and desirable. However, such approaches are fundamentally flawed by virtue of the fact that Government, in its broadest sense, seeks to capture and control the knowledge producing processes to the point where this type of ‘research’ might best be described as ‘policy-based-evidence’

What are the problems with policy?

  • Ignoring the evidence (even when commissioning it)

Copyright laws have serious problems. These policies keep showing up, they create the illusion its a done deal (policy laundering – you get somebody else to adopt). Conformation to other county’s policies (policy laundering) results in ripple effects of standards adoption.

About a third or even half of the published research may be flawed, even when retracted it remains out there.

In July 95 there was a Newsweek article about cyber-porn (written by a Time reported) apparently it was based on an exhaustive study, but the actual study was retracted, it was never peer-review, and there is lots of stuff debunking it … and yet … in 1996 laws were put in place on the basis of this flawed research. This thing keeps coming back and is cited, yet it is seriously flawed and was based upon fraudulent research.

The main point: here we are as skeptics, surrounded by a sea of flawed studies. We need to ask, who commissioned this, who published th, it will be up to us (the skeptics)

(On to Q&A) now … then a break … back in 10 minutes.

11:34 Simon Sing has taken the stage (Apparently he has been checked into room 10:23 – no that can’t be random, I smell a stitch-up here… to whoever did it, well done, nice to see somebody has a sense of humor) [ Least you wonder Simon is the one on the right beside me here … I know, we are complete twins, everybody keeps telling me that …I grabbed this picture just after his talk]

He is giving us a quick update on the libel campaign and comments that we will soon be seeing a draft of the new libel laws … but he is not here to talk about that and proposes to talk to us about science.

He is telling us about the big bang (he has a popular book on the topic that you might like to check out).

Georges Lemaitre came up with the idea, but the science community was very negative about the idea at first. he had a run-in with Einstein about it (Einstein did not like his Physics, felt the maths was OK). So he went off and made some observations at Mt Wilson. [Side note – Simon is a great speaker and is spicing up his talk with humor, sadly all too fast for me to truly capture it]

So how do you measure the motion of a galaxy? (Simon explains red-shift / blue-shift), then shows us the details of the measurement taken. Big bang predicts that everything should be moving away form us and thats what the measurements show … and you can work backwards and work out the age.

Tells us about Ziggy (the chap who called his peers Spherical Bastards … no really, he did, and as you might imagine, he was not popular) and his work, then moves on to tell us others and how the steady-state gave way to the big bang in the scientific community.

3 famous folks (believers in steady state) watched a movie called “Dead of Night”, it inspired them to think along the lines of staying the same and yet also changing at the same time.

He played us a clip, of Fred Hoyle using the term “Big Bang” where he (Fred) explains the thinking (its a very old BBC recording). Fred actually uses the term as a form of derision for the idea, yet after all these years, the name sticks. (Folks did  propose other names)

Simon now takes us through the things that the big bang model predicts …

  • The abundances of the atoms – it fits exactly
  • Distribution of galaxies (young galaxies very far away) – it fits exactly
  • Age of cosmic objects (a specific upper limit) – it fits

Bit by bit the evidence piled up.

Now Simon switches gear and is talking about Climate Change (quick room poll is done, most folks accept that its real). Simon using this to illustrate paradigm shifts in thinking (just like the big bang)

  • Which side of the climate change debate are you on?
  • before you make up your mind, figure out who you would trust

Simon suggest the term climate skeptic is not appropriate, we (the real skeptics) accept climate change and so suggests a better word for them would be Numpty. (Google gives me this def)

Michael Shermer (who was once a climate skeptic) has changed his mind. Its not the politics, its about the science and following the evidence to where it leads.

Simon talking about his twisticuffs (oh I love that word) with James (I’m a complete pratt) Delingpole about climate change (I remember reading all this myself, he really is a complete Pratt, his daily column gives you all the evidence you need to confirm that)

  • The dunning-kruger effect (folks who are too stupid to know when they are wrong) – Delingpole truly is an incarnation of this

Simon now finishing off by talking about Katie Melua and her song 12 billion light years from the edge and its just a guess. But its 13.7 billion years old and its not a guess, so simon wrote an article in which he rewrote the lyrics at the end (as a bit of fun). She rang him him, got the joke, so she re-recorded her song with Simon’s lyrics. He played us the before and then the after songs (good fun).

Now on to Q&A … break for lunch … back in a hour at 13:30 with Jon Ronson.

13:30 Jon Ronson takes the stage to talk to us about “The Psychopath Test” (Apparently he was one portrayed on film as a Jedi – thanks George)

[Jon has a file called forbidden animal love – panic not, its a essay by one of his kids]

He is starting by telling us of an old Bilderberg group video in which he goes off with a kook to seek out these mysterious forces. telling us about being paranoia and his interactions with an assortment of kooks. (We are watching David Ike video now … “At that moment the nation looked to Terry Wogan for guidance”). Jon gives us a quick update on what happened to David Ike next. He followed David Ike to Vancouver (now watching another video clip of that).

Jon tells us that he leafed through DSM and self-diagnosed with a few entries, “either I’m far crazier than I thought I was, or self-diagnosing is a bad idea”. So he has lunch with the Scientologist to discuss this. They want Jon to meet Tony (who has apparently been locked up for no reason), so they got him into Broadmoor to meet Tony in their wellness center. (Tony was wearing a pinstripe suit). Tony explains how he faked his way in. Tony then says if he had done the time for GBH it would have been 5 years, but he had been there for 12 years!! Apparently Tony faked madness by watching lots of horror movies … Jon then reads from his new book “The Psychopath Test” quoting Tony … commenting as he goes. (The book will be out in a few weeks … OK, I confess, I want a copy … NOW).

So … Tony (not his real name) was charming, Tony was funny and looked normal … Jon wrote checking facts about Tony. Apparently they did believe that he faked it, but they realised that he was a psychopath, and that’s why they have kept him. There are apparently 20 signs (one being folks wearing a pin-stripe suit to impress another is faking an illness). Jon went off on a course to learn all about this. …(lets see now, wearing a good suit, wants to be on stage … “George”!!)

[Jon has asked us not to tweet or blog the next bit]

<this space has been left intentionally blank, or at least it would have been if I’d left these words out>

Book is about his journey in working out where the reality is, who is truly crazy, and what about Scientology who suggest insanity does not exist at all. Apparently a lot of CEO’s are complete Psychopaths (scary, these are the folks who make decisions that impact many lives).

We are doing Q&A now.

Jon, is reading a bit more now to finish off.

[Side note : Jon wearing t-shirt from The Overlook hotel … thats the place in the horror movie “The Shining”]

A choice … more Q&A or the Insane clown posse video … folks want the Insane clown posse (who claim they were really secret Christians) … to which Jon comments, “bread and bloody circuses” with a smile on his face. He gives a bit a background and then we get the video from these kooks.

Lyric from video – “Fucking magnets, how do they work”

On a break now … back in 3

14:34 Colin Wright on now (apparently he studies werewolves according to George) doing Juggling (Theory and practise).

He is going to show us how he takes science out to 14 year olds, often they don’t really understand the world beyond their experience. He will comment as he goes on to explain why he says what he says. Now asked who can juggle 3… then 4… then 5 (he used to be able to juggle 7, but sticks to 5 (doing 3 now). He is talking us through it … and explaining the mechanics of juggling (in a very entertaining humorous style) “Now doing it really fast like this tells you that I’m an alien”.

He is juggling 4 now (but he is just doing 2 in each hand, they are not crossing over)

He is talking now about stuff that is fun just to explore and has no practical application.

Now he really juggling 5 and they are crossing over (took him a year to learn) [Apparently you can learn 3 in a day, 4 in a week, and 5 .. takes a year).

Science comes in to his talk now, because he shows that maths helps him to learn, and thats why he uses juggling as a tool to communicate maths to 14 year olds. He wanted to learn how to do crazy patterns with just 3 balls. There are apparently 8 different ways of throwing with 3 throws on each side.

Assumption: Hands are full for half the time. He is showing us how he uses a space-time diagram to illustrate what is going on. Now moving on to use diagram to show us what happens with 3 balls. With each beat of time we get a different color ball, and then empty between each … ending up with a diagram looks like a Brade, and so now that we have a diagram, we can start to see what is actually happening. We cannot see this by just watching, but using the diagram we can see it. We soon discover the sur-time and cycle-time when sing 4 balls and then 5 balls. As we start to look at this we start to see patterns.

We are cutting cake with spots and measuring the pieces … the pattern works, but then starts to break down. Will our joggling pattern hold or start to break down? The is aimed to provoke 14 years olds to investigate and push patterns to see if they break.

We are seeing some well-known patterns emerge … but, he also found a juggling trick that had not been known before by following the patterns. “It works, because the process of science works”. Add one more and apparently one ball goes back in time in the middle of it!! He draws this up and suddenly you have a Feyman diagram. We actually have an anti-ball in flight.

The real truth is that the assumption is incorrect, his hands are not empty half the time. He illustrates by juggling. The key point here is that the maths can help you to explore and understand what is happening and create new tricks, and thats its fun.

On a break for 3-4 Mins.

15:33 George Hrab doing an auction, T-Shirt signed by all the speakers … it just sold for £65

15:35 We now have Eugenie Scott talking to us about “Why Evolution is Difficult: from an American Perspective” – Oh, and apparently she is the director for something important)

She is giving stats to illustrate that a lot of folks don’t believe in factual evolution.

How the question is phrased can have a huge impact, if you have more options, the results change. If you don’t mention God or the bible then the numbers are also better. Not mentioning humans also helps.

To understand why evolution is rejected in US, it helps to understand US religious affiliations. There is a 16% no-affiliation group. these are folks who have no specific church, it does not imply that they are non-believers. In reality, only a very small slice is atheist.

Of the 78% believers, there is a large chunk of conservative believers … “a wonderful fruit salad of belief”

George Bush thinks evolution has yet to be proved!! (same is trye for 37% of UK population)

NCSE (National Council for Science Education – [she is the director here]) hand out the fire-extinguishers to cope with anti-evolution in a US context. Its all about education, history, law, politics and other variables.

The 3 pillars of creationism

  • A theory in crises and that the science is invalid
  • You have to choose between faith and evolution
  • The fairness argument, teach both in balance

She and her team acted as advisers to the now famous Dover trial.

“For every Ph.D there is an equal and opposite Ph.D” – but this is not the way it is with Evolution vs Creationists. The Discovery Institute has a poster with 100 folks who oppose evolution!!! you don’t get to vote on reality, that’s not how science works. (Why do they talk about Darwinism, we don’t talk about Kelvinism, its actually evolutionary biology). So they got 200 scientists (all named Steve, to affirm that evolution was true).

Eugenie is the author of an article in the journal of Improbable research, so they analysed factors that related to all the folks called Steve. (Its a fun article, the morphology of Steve). they also compared domestic Steve’s with wild Steves.

Anti-Evolution has also been going on in Australia.

Special Creationism – God created everything in its present form, or kinds with limited genetic variation, but usually everything at one time.

Ken ham (from Australia), has set up Answers in Genesis, and has a creation museum in KT.

Evolution has been removed from education in various countries. Mentions case in Italy, PM leaned and policy was withdrawn. Serbia, policy proposed to teach creationism with evolution, but protests arose and the proposer got the boot. In Brazil teachers required to teach creationism in Rio. In Turkey, you have a Creationist (who has access to lots of funds), churns out heaps and heaps of books. In Islam, very hostile to Evolution … students reported to simply walk out if you mention Evolution. Iran appears to be an exception.

Factors that affect creationism / Antievolutionism …

  • Rise of evangelistic protestantism
  • Internationalization of creationist ministries
  • Political activism of conservative religionists
  • None of the above!


  • In the UK, level of secular levels high, but citizens tend not to know too much and so buy might be prone to accepting creationist nonsense

You don’t vote for what is and is not true in science, the concept of being fair and teaching all is silly.

She is wrapping up now. There is lots more info at the SCSE website here. (and if that link fails, its www.ncse.com … they also have a facebook page and a you tube channel.

No Q&A, we are about to wrap up QED now.

16:30 For the final word, Mike Hall takes the stage and proceeds to thank everybody.

16:35 George takes the stage again … gives thanks to all … and says … “we will see you next time”.

And thats a wrap folks.

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