Edmonton LogiCON

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!
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3 Responses to “Edmonton LogiCON”

  1. Sheldon Casavant did levitate a table, but the people “a foot away” were probably too close. I was in the front row, and noticed a couple things he probably didn’t intend, which you wouldn’t see from the third row. In his defense, though, I was burning him (watching very closely).

    His bill switch was very good. It’s an angle-sensitive trick, but even though I was nearly sideways to his hands, I didn’t see the move.

    John Woolley (alchemy) gives some original talks. His lecture on UFOs at Skepticamp last year was one of my favorites.

    I think I went to all the same talks you did, except the one on climate change. Coincidence I’m sure, but weird.

    • saskskeptic Says:

      Ashley, thanks for the comment. Being a foot away and at an unusual angle definitely would give you a better chance to see what Sheldon was doing. I have some idea’s how the trick is done, but I think part of the fun is trying figure it out.

      The climate talk definitely wasn’t a “beginner” talk. The alternate was a panel, and I have been finding that I don’t get much new out of panels, especially if it is just a bunch of people who agree with each other.

  2. […] Edmonton LogiCON One Day Skeptic and Science Conference from the Saskatchewan Skeptics Blog. […]

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