Archive for April, 2011

Skeptics In The Pub

Posted in Event, Saskatoon, science, Skeptic on April 21, 2011 by saskskeptic
The next skeptics in the pub is Wednesday April 27, any time between 7:30-10:30 or later
Hose Brew Pub
612 11th St E
Saskatoon, SK S7N0G3
(306) 477-3473


Take  of the following Harvard Project Implicit Demonstration Tests
Race IAT, Native IAT, Gender-Science IAT
We can discuss the results. Many people get results they may not like.
Lets try a couple of psychological tests.

What you Missed at LogiCON
Any issues people wish to bring up.

Astronomy Weekend

Posted in Event, lecture, Saskatoon with tags , , , , on April 19, 2011 by saskskeptic

The Saskatoon RASC ‘s Astronomy Weekend is May 6th and 7th.

  • Sidewalk astronomy from 8:00pm to 10:00pm at the Lakewood Civic Center
  • Public Star Night at Beaver Creek, Astronomy talk at 8:00, telescope viewing 8:30 to midnight.

Canadian Independent Investigations Group

Posted in news, Skeptic on April 18, 2011 by saskskeptic

A Canadian branch of the Independent Investigations Group is being formed in Alberta.

From Wikipedia:

The Independent Investigations Group (IIG) is a volunteer-based organization founded by James Underdown in January 2000 at theCenter for InquiryWest (now Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles) in Hollywood, California. The IIG investigates fringe scienceparanormal and extraordinary claims from a rational, scientific viewpoint, and disseminates factual information about such inquiries to the public.

IIG offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occultpower or event.[1] The IIG is involved in designing the test protocol, approving the conditions under which a test will take place, and in administering the actual test. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant is asked to perform a simple preliminary demonstration of the claimed ability, which if successful is followed by the formal test. Associates of the IIG usually conduct both tests and preliminary demonstrations at their location in Hollywood.

While the IIG conducts scientifically-based experiments, its membership is composed primarily of lay-people. Members’ collective professional experience includes the fields of architecturearcheologyeducationelectronicsengineeringfilm making, law enforcement,magicmedicinepsychology, and visual effects. The chair of IIG is James Underdown, Executive Director of the Center For Inquiry-Los Angeles.

The Alberta group is in the initial organizational stage.  For more  information on IIG Alberta please leave a comment and it will be forwarded to the organizer.

Rational Alberta Message Board

Posted in Skeptic with tags on April 18, 2011 by saskskeptic

A new forum has been created for Alberta skeptics & secularists:

Edmonton LogiCON

Posted in Event, lecture, Skeptic with tags , on April 16, 2011 by saskskeptic

Last weekend I attended the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society sponsored LogiCON at the Telus World of Science.  This is a one day skepticamp style event with some bigger named speakers.  One of the things they maintained was minimal costs.  The event was free except for the entrance fee to Telus World of Science.  Lunch was even included for those of us who pre-registered.  The GESS has an interesting blog post on their decision to shift away from the skepticamp model.

Daniel Loxton, noted Canadian skeptic, Editor of Skeptic Magazine’s Junior Skeptic and author of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be gave the keynote speech on “The Reasonableness of Weird Things” in the planetarium.  Daniel’s speech was very polished, interesting and entertaining.  It was biographical ranging from his idyllic feral childhood amongst the spiritual tree planting hippies of BC through to  his conversion to skepticism.  Daniel spoke about his father who constantly challenged him to question and to use logic.  Right now, could you prove to someone that the earth is round.  Could you do it when you were ten?

Daniel Loxton-LogiCON Keynote Speech

I have heard Daniel speak before.  He is easy-going and soft-spoken and a little unpolished.  I was blown away by how much he has improved.  His keynote was very polished and engaging.  His pacing and timing were excellent.

There were four points I took away from Daniels talk.

  1. No one is born knowing science or critical thinking.
  2. Popular culture is a poor source for science.
  3. Direct experience is the reason most people believe in the paranormal.
  4. Shepard’s hooked staffs are useful if you are herding sheep.

LogiCON has two main track, a beginner track and an advanced track.  Each session consisted of 20 minutes of talks and 10 minutes of questions.  I mainly switched between these two tracks.  In addition they had a kids track on the Science Center’s stage and two workshops.

Beginner Track:

  • Critical Thinking in Everyday Life
  • Vacc-inaction: Shots in the Dark?
  • Sky Hoaxes and Myths
  • Science Journalism: An Oxymoron?
  • The Dark Side of Deception
  • Relying on Each Other: The Importance of the Culture of Science
  • Evidence-Based Parenting Panel
  • What is Climate Change?
Advance Track:
  • The Death of Alchemy & the Birth of Chemistry
  • Celebration of Human Presence in Space
  • How to Convince Your Family and Friends that Science is Awesome Panel
  • The Logic of Causal Conclusions
  • Daniel Loxton Question and Answer and book Signing
  • Manufacturing the Miraculous
  • The Scientific Evidence for the Big Bang
  • Sleight of Mind: The Magician’s Panel
Kids Track
  • Brains on Display
  • Ghost Photography
  • Which Water?
  • Radiation and You
  • Magic Man: Behind the Scenes
The two workshops were “Test You Cognitive Biases” and “Dowsing”.  I went to the cognitive biases workshop where we took part in three different cognitive biases tests.   Two were good, the third failed quickly because the room was full of science and critical thinking geeks.
One of my favorite talks were “The Death of Alchemy and the Birth of Chemistry” or “The Quest for Phlogistion” by John Woolley.  Mainly because I didn’t know anything about the subject.  John talked about how Phlogistion was proposed as a fifth element to the original earth/water/fire/air elements of alchemy.
Phlogistion was proposed to have a negative weight because rust is heavier than iron.  In experiments involving air, air could become phlogisticated or dephlogisticated depending on the reactions involved.  However careful experiments revealed that all the behaviours could not be explained with phlogistion and eventually and elemental model was developed.  This lead to the rise of chemistry and the fall of alchemy.
My other favorite talk was Sheldon Casavant‘s “The Dark side of Deception”.  Sheldon is a professional illusionist who made my $20 bill change into a $5 bill and back again.  He also levitated a table with people a foot away.  I have guesses how he does it but I really don’t know how and he wasn’t talking.  Between the magic Sheldon talked about the history of deception and spiritualism and how the same or simpler tricks are used to take advantage of people.
I also attended illusionist Ian Pidgeon’s “Manufacturing the Miraculous”.  Ian took a more mentalist approach to magic and talked about how the miraculous can be created through illusionist tricks.
Other talks included the excellent “The Scientific Evidence for the Big Bang” by Sharon Morsink, “What is Climate Change” by Martin Sharp and the very advanced |The Logic of Causal Conclusion” by Barbara Drecher.
All the talks I attended were well done and recorded, so I hope that sometime soon there will be a batch of LogiCON youtube videos.
The Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society did a great job organizing and promoting the LogiCON.  If was a fun-filled day of science education at a variety of levels with a wide range of topics.  Holding it at the science center meant that people at the science center could just drop in on the session.  I don’t know the final tally on the attendance but there were approximately 140 people pre-registered.  Congratulation on a wonderful event!

Saskatoon Freethinkers-Great Friday Pub Night

Posted in Event, Saskatoon on April 15, 2011 by saskskeptic

CFI Saskatoon is having a Great Friday pub night April 22 starting at 7pm at Winston’s.

How to find us: We have the basement pub room reserved @ Winston’s! (21st & 3rd).  Go in the front doors, turn left and go down the stairs by the VLT’s.

A regular pub night but with a bit of an added twist…..since we can’t do fundraisers anymore, this will be a buy your own grub kind of night.  (Food & drink available)

We’re planning on prizes and ticket draws for general amusement.

Plus, something related to the Stations of the Cross as a drinking game.

We also have a fabulous cake planned, made by a local cake artist!  You will have to see this cake!!!!  People will be talking about it for a while.  For some reason this wouldn’t let me attach the picture, so I guess you’ll all just have to wait!

CFI Saskatoon-Banned Book Club

Posted in Event, Saskatoon on April 15, 2011 by saskskeptic

The next Freethinker Banned Book Club will happen on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at Nino’s Fireside Room
801 Broadway Ave.

Our next seminar will be held on April 19th, 2011 at 7pm. The novel of choice for this meeting is the heart-warming, family classic – American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

This wayward young businessman is torn between his desire to kill innocent people and kill other people. Here is a quick wiki:

American Psycho is a psychological thriller and satirical novel by Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991. The story is told in the first person by the protagonist, serial killer and Manhattan businessman Partick Bateman. The book’s graphic violence and sexual content generated a great deal of controversy before and after publication.