After a night on the beer, Day 2 of TAM London started off with a lot of water and coffee...
The first talk of the day was by Marcus Chown, who gave a talk on the "Top 10 Bonkers Things About The Universe" (much of which is covered here). For instance, all the matter that makes up the human race is actually only the size of a sugar cube - by virtue of the fact that the majority of an atom is empty space. Also, time isn't constant as it is influenced by gravity. The closer you are to a strong gravitational force (i.e. large mass), the slower time actually goes, meaning someone at the top of a staircase is ageing faster than someone at the bottom. Oh and he ended with a space montage to the sound of Ziggy Stardust. Nice.
DJ Grothe then gave probably the only talk of the weekend that was solely about skepticism. He issued a bit of a rallying call and encouraged everyone to be more active, in setting up skeptical blogs, sceptical meetings and so on. So I'll dedicate this post to you DJ. Happy? :-D
Today's panel discussion was hosted by Rebecca Watson and was on "Technology and New Media". The panelists were Gia Milinovich, Kate Russell, Neil Denny and Martin Robbins (who live blogged the whole conference). They spoke about blogs, podcasts, twitter as well as 'old media' and the vast differences between them.
Melinda Gebbie was the next speaker and she was interviewed by Rebecca Watson about her new book, Lost Girls, which is basically a pornographic story made from the point of view of women. She wrote the book to fill a niche that she explains exists because almost all pornography is currently made from a man's perspective. As one of the questioners said, basically porn with a plot then. This segment didn't seem to have much to do with skepticism though, as one blogger points out here.
The last talk before lunch was one I was really looking forward too. Unfortunately, Stephen Fry couldn't make it and the consolation was a pre-recorded interview with him and Tim Minchin. It wasn't bad, but to be honest, Minchin (understandably) isn't much of an interviewer (it was more of a two-way conversation really) and whoever edited the footage needs to be sacked. So I was a bit disappointed but it was interesting to hear his opinion on skepticism and his mastery of the language was evident on several occasions.
Graham Linehan was interviewed by Jon Ronson straight after lunch, an encounter that was always likely to be entertaining. Although the subject matter of Twitter did provide for some interesting discussion (and several very funny videos), I was hoping to hear a bit more about Linehan's experiences writing Father Ted, Black Books, etc. Down with this sort of thing...
The next speaker was guaranteed to get a good reception. PZ Myers talks about tone and how "we shouldn't gratuitously obnoxious, we should be purposefully obnoxious." His talk was good but the highlight was the Q and A session. The organisers gave him a bit longer than other speakers as it was obvious a lot of people would want to ask questions. And PZ is in his element when he has to think on his feet. His answers were always engaging, concise and appropriate. Oh and did I mention that I met him. Just in case here's the pic again...
The last talk of the weekend went to Alan Moore, creator of comic book franchises such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I have to be honest, I was struggling as this stage, the previous night was really catching up with me. Moore proceeded to recite a poem about the town where he grew up that seemed to go on for at least 20-25 minutes. Not the best end to the weekend in my opinion (then again, I'm not a comic book fan).
And that was it! Randi closed the conference and everyone said their goodbyes. All in all, it was an Amazing experience and I would recommended it to anyone who is interested in skeptical thinking and general science. Or if you just want to have 3 nights on the beer in a row.