#qedcon – random notes – Day 1

These are some QED Impressions that I randomly gathered as QED proceeded today (Sat 10th Mar) …it is not everything that went on, just my notes. (I’ll be adding to it as we proceed)

Live Stream

Lacking details here? – yep, just notes … watch LIVE the main conference room at #QEDCon livestream http://bambuser.com/v/2458374

Livestream of #BHA Room at #QEDCon http://bambuser.com/v/2458354

Random notes

09:10 … Room growing dark … a hush descends … slide show (greeted with cheers) … and yes we are 10 mins left of GMT, it is the QED timezone of course.

MC is Andy Wilson (yea).

Andy is up doing the “Hi folks and thanks” speech. (Apparently we were picketed by Christians … obviously they had a big impact … I never noticed). Andy going through the agenda (yawn). Ticket prices down … they are trying sponsorship this year, and want to know what we think (hey it works for me). I do wonder what the life-size Dalek at the front is sponsoring. Ah, practical stuff … coffee, sources of food (yum).

Andy has just dragged a volunteer out front … so we get to see what they look like when wearing a t-shirt … bright orange day-glow T-shirt, yep they will be hard to find … not.

This is a not-for-profit event … so any excess funds will be given to charity (double yea)

1st speaker is up … its Deborah Hyde … (who? … go here for info –jourdemayne)

She is talking about werewolves (spooky stuff) … actually a really really (oh did I forget to say really) interesting talk on the topic going very much into the details and history of it all (I’ll let others blog the details … I’m sitting back to enjoy).

Coffee break … long queue (boo) … my turn, (yikes no coffee left (insert phrase that rhymes with “clucking bell”) … worry not, I got my fix.

Next up is Steve Jones …evolution … a really excellent talk, I liked the illustration of how languages evolved.

David Aaronovitch is up … conspiracy theories … yum … more good stuff (sorry folks, I’m too busy enjoying the talk to blog details … you should have bought a ticket)

Lunch – DIY … it keeps the costs down, just pop out for a snack (good move folks, no horrendous queues)

Ophelia Benson is on now doing an amazing job … going through the utterly insane antics that believers deploy, and outlines some recent examples.

Adam Lappin@wabbit42 Ophelia Benson at #QEDcon. Fascinating talk about religion siliencing debate, lots to think about. pic.twitter.com/YWhUsHXE

OK, lets switch to tweets to give you a feel for it all …

Alex Gabriel@MrAlexGabriel @rhysmorgan next to me loving @OpheliaBenson‘s #QEDcon talk. pic.twitter.com/COz4NwO6

Rob@PencilBloke #QEDcon ‘mediums & psychics’ panel with @chriscfrench, @richardwiseman et al settles in yfrog.com/es1lidzj

Suzane Leblanc@arwenwitch Religions are killing free speech #qedcon

Alex Gabriel@MrAlexGabriel Lessons from #QEDcon: have sex silently.

mark jaxion@jaxion@PencilBloke: Wiseman on Peter Popoff: “I’m not accusing him of fraud… I’m just saying he’s cheating” #QEDcon

QED Con@QEDcon Bookshop offer: buy one book, get another one for the same price that you would of paid for it anyway #QEDcon

Dr Aust@Dr_Aust_PhD @silv24 @PaedsSHO Young Rhys’ hair is hard to miss! Though not the only pink hair at #QEDcon

Just Skeptics @JustSkeptics Anyone here at #QEDCon who chatted with the protesters? Fancy recording an unplanned podcast with us between 5PM and 6.30PM?

Pauline Sweetman@psweetman #QEDcon Good question from floor about some people “might enjoy confrontation of being offended” esp if they have dreary, routine lives

On a break now … folks are scanning the walls for power … devices are running dry …over time the audience starts to huddle the wall as we sup and top up so that we can all commence to tweet each other about the stuff we are all watching.

[Side note] Its about here I got my network access sorted out so lots of details from this point.

14:08 Sarah Angliss is up now … with a stage packed full of interesting looking stuff … its a geek wet-dream. Title “Voices of the Dead”. She makes robots and is also into the history of sound instruments.

  • We just listened to the voice of Florence Nightingale recorded in the 1880’s from an ancient mechanical phonograph saying …”When I am no longer even a memory just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life
  • If you watch dad’s army, you are laughing along with the dead
  • She has an Edison phonograph … is playing a 1900 commercial record
  • Edison hated people doing it … but eventually sold the equipment that allowed anybody to record
  • She has a blank wax cylinder … is putting on a recording head …(no not wearing it … on the Edison machine) … “Volunteers to be recorded come out” …gives demo how to do this … cranks it up to speed … they are on and recording. And we get playback – it worked, we have a recording for use beyond the grave.
  • Is talking about the paranormal “believers” who dabbled in “new” technology … early photos, recording etc…
  • Picture of three ladies … sitting up … one is dead (its what they did then)
  • His masters voice … the dog is listening to the voice of his dead master.
  • She has an usual recording for us … is playing it now … its Hoover the talking seal. (yep, a seal that mimicked human voices).
  • Talking now about ow birds would pick up and copy human sounds … 18th century painting (woman at her pleasures) … in picture woman has canary that she is teaching to sing (it was the fashion to do this prior to phonographs). They had books with special tunes to teach your bird. She is playing now to illustrate the tune (not a recording … she herself is playing quite well).
  • Listening to Sparky … yep a conversation with a bird. (suspected fake … being looked at)
  • Talking now about the crazy ideas that folks buy into … listing to static to hear the dead type of stuff, psychically connecting with their radios
  • There is a trend today for folks in the US  to be buried with their mobiles charged up…. folks who are dead still have their sites running on facebook.
  • Finishing with a little homage to communications now.

Break now. … Coffee ….(for me) [Had a good chat with Simon Singh]

And we are back … its Massimo Polidoro with “Search for Superman” (The elusive quarry for Psychic Powers)

  • Are psychic powers real? … he has never found any evidence … yet.
  • Types …
    • Naive Psychics …they really believe … the magnet man looks impressive but once you realise what is really happening its not a mystery (fat bloke … bend over, its all falls off … gasp!)
    • Deluded Psychics … when asked to give a demo, they can’t … (shows picture, “I’m not looking where you think I am”) … they have no idea how to perform a test – “This man is alive. Nope, Ah but alive in the thoughts of others”
    • Unlikely psychics … lady who thinks she can mummify eggs … WTF!!! (apparently it takes a week) … its what happens when you just leave an egg lying  about for a week. Her response … “Well obviously we all have these powers!!”
    • Bereaved Psychics … any testing is pointless, they need to believe, they will not accept their son is really dead.
    • Psychiatrist’s Case Psychics … chap receiving voices in his mind … chap who could change the figures on a watch (by moving it himself)
    • Cunning Psychics … Clip of Bill Bixby asking Randi what he thinks of Psycho Demo … folks phone in to talk about clocks stopping … Randi then explains it was a fake psychic … demo that anybody can do what Uri does.
    • Frau…er Differently Honest Psychics … psychic detective lady who just wanted publicity … Nat Geo Video of Jedi like power Chi that can knock folks out, it was just folks reacting to a suggestion. So they tested it …and the test failed, nothing happened (what a surprise). [Apparently he had his tongue in the wrong position!!]
  • A recipe for cooking Psychics
    1. Exactly define the claim
    2. Agree on a shared protocol
    3. Have them perform a demonstration (their own conditions) – just a demo, not a test
    4. Add the control … double blind, etc…
    5. See what happens … and wait for excuses (nobody admits they were wrong

Another great talk … once again ticks the box for me. We are into Q&A now.

Break again.

Dinner Notes: There is a formal gala dinner, if no ticket (like me), not going (sod) … but there is a rebel dinner … so just meet in lobby at 6pm and we all head out.

Later Tonight: Yep lots of stuff going on … Robin Ince will be on …be back at 8:15 to start at 8:30

16:20 Last Afternoon Talk: … its the fantastic Richard Saunders … “The delights and Dangers of Being a TV Skeptic”. [Power bands :-) ]

  • “Do you want  a spoon bending demo?” … “Yes” … he picks up spoon and bends it … by hand :-)
  • Travel log quickies: Pictures of woo in various places …(The trafford centre theme) … and more pictures of woo (Yep, ear candles again), and anti-vax woo …
  • Skeptical Activism should not only be done … it should be seen and heard to be done.
  • Skeptic TV show  … “Are you The one”
  • Shows us the teaser for the show …Richard is the resident skeptic on the show.
  • New in 2011 … they encouraged the audience to tweet … he likes the one that asks if he is acting or if he is really that arrogant?
  • He was happy to play along and look “skeptical”
  • Talking about some of the tests … they relied on him for guidance on the tests. Underground tunnels with a hidden boy and dog … test = find them. Nobody got it. Not real scientific tests, its just entertainment, if they did well … its not a real scientific test. Typical test done once only.
  • He does lots of maths, calcs what random chance would produce … and that’s what happens.
  • its on the air now. (so it is nice to be here and not be hassled by random strangers on the street)
  • He also gets interviewed on other shows … shows us a ghost video from a security camera (its probably a spider or moth)
  • its “Power balance” time :-) … he is telling us the story now
    • he first came across this in 2009
    • Shows us Video clip of plastic bracelet “tuning” your body … another clip … girl claiming it “Evens out the forces in your body”!!!
    • Future Amazing Kinetic Energy (FAKE)
    • There are five tricks they use to sell this stuff … He gives us a demo using Mike Marshall (I saw them practise earlier) … with and without the band.
      1. Arm balance …
      2. Back balance
      3. Tip balance
      4. Flexibility
      5. ….?
    • Explains folks would (after demo) hand over $60
      1. First time presses directly down … second time down and towards centre of gravity
      2. Ditto …
      3. Ditto…
      4. First time you flex … second time your body has warmed up you flex even more …
      5. Perception … get the famous to be seen to wear this stuff and others follow
    • The downfall
      • He told TV folks that its a fake
        • They arranged for him to do tests on camera … we get to watch now …proper blind tests from “Tom” he was seen on camera spouting woo and claiming it works
        • The test “failed” 5 out of 5 times
        • Richard felt sorry for him … he was a true believer, Tom really wanted to help and thought it worked. Tom was puzzled by his failure. A faker would never agree to a proper Test, Tom did agree.
        • Later Tom said it was just a “silly TV game”
        • This was a big blow to Power Balance
      • Next step was YouTube when he put clip up explaining how the trick worked
      • Consumer watchdog labelled it a complete sham
      • Power Balance were forced to put up a public retraction on their website
      • The ACCC (has more teeth) got in on the act and labelled it a complete scam … Power balance were forced to advertise and offer money back – This really made the news.
      • The news then spread … shows us Ten News clip …
      • Tom still believes and thinks he was naive
      • US company was forced into bankruptcy
      • They are still limping along … 10c to make $60 to sell … huge markup. main company are trying to use Tom as the fall guy and  and claim he used bad marketing
    • Lessons
      • Know your topic
      • Spoon-feed the media
      • keep it simple
      • In the end it may take government action
    • Lots of me-too clones are out there doing this same scam … shows us the ion band … the same sporting chains sell it that sold power-band
    • Support from Stephen Novella … they wrote an open letter to rebel Sport and NRG explaining … they tweeted it … shops got the message and tweeted back that they had stopped selling.
    • Shows us …Clip of power band being burnt.
    • Its a real success against a multi-million fraud by skeptics
    • Final bit … Richard was contacted by artist to paint his pic … (we get to see pic)

T hats a wrap for today. Lots more tonight … we get to mix and hang out with the speakers … Formal dinner (for folks with tickets) … then back here at 8:15. (rebel dinner for others)

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