Sunday, October 16, 2016

Event: QEDCon

A weekend event I've been to in the past but in the last 2 years had clashed with holidays, it was good to get back to QEDCon up in Manchester. QEDCon is a 3-day event that primarily focuses on skepticism and debunking but on the weekend includes a number of interesting speakers and events.

This year I got saw the following speakers.

Captain Disillusion, the alter-ego of Alan Melikdjanian is a former special effects expert now making a career disproving viral videos, making the audience aware of the technology that is used. I was aware of his youtube channel prior to seeing this talk. He's very good!

Petra Boynton is an agony aunt who gave a talk on the history of the advice column and showed how we ought not to jump to conclusions when we read things in the papers by taking us through some real-life examples.

One of the more interesting talks of the first day came from Britt Hermes who spent most of her life to become a naturopath and who then realised she was in a fraudulent industry and left it. It was a great presentation, and I think could have been the keynote speech on the final day.

In the afternoon I went to a panel session on the ethics of magic which discussed how the magic profession treads the tightrope between deception and the truth. They touched quite a bit on the latest Derren Brown show which was felt to have gone over that line. On the talk were Dave Alnwick, Eli Bosnick, Richard Wiseman and Paul Zenon so quite a distinguished panel.

Timandra Harkness gave a talk on big data and how it can be used for good and bad. The most interesting part talking about how GPS data from people walking around was able to provide accurate map data for Haiti.

Dr Karl is an Australian legend and he rounded up day 1 with a superb and amusing presentation covering multiple scientific nuggets with the funniest part for me being on the misrepresentation of data to support your argument (a wonderful take on climate change).

On the first evening we have some entertainment laid on. David Alnwick is a great magician and put on a masterclass in card tricks and mind reading, Grace Petrie is a folk singer who sings about current events and the way the country is going; entertaining considering the subject matter is a bit depressing. Tiernan Douieb was the main event and, perhaps feeling tired from the day, I didn't feel his performance at all. Richard Wiseman was an amazing compere, he's so funny and your life isn't complete if you've not seen his magic trick where he turns a kitchen towel into a chicken.

and that was day 1

Day 2 started with Cara Santa Maria, and american TV presenter who gave a talk on her Mormon upbringing and switch to a science mindset and her battles with making a career in the media industry. I've seen her do stuff with The Young Turks so it was cool to see her and chat to her a bit later on in the day.

In the workshop Dave Alnwick took us through the psychology in magic tricks and taught us a few tricks on the way. A popular and entertaining session.

Paul Zenon then gave a talk on the methods used by faith healers. When not doing street magic he's been spending a lot of his time researching and debunking that industry. 

Michael Blastland gave a talk about trivia and how the role that chance has in our lives. A quite engaging presentation.

The keynote for the weekend was Meirion Jones, who gave a talk on his investigation into how conmen made millions from the sale of a bogus bomb detector that was nothing more than an aerial in an empty plastic trigger shaped case. An extraordinary piece of investigative journalism that realised just how easy it is to dupe people, even those in government.

So another amazing event, and if I have the weekend free I will go to this.

More on QEDCon can be found here.
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