I’ll have two updates today, one regarding NECSS and one surrounding the conference.  If you don’t want my stunning recap of my inability to talk, skip to the other one.

NECSS was the sop to those of us who couldn’t make TAM.  The collection of speakers was impressive on paper and NYC Skeptics were spectacular in their dealing with a ticket snafu.  Jamy Ian Swiss served as face of the event and was sufficiently dynamic to hold everyone’s attention.

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Initial impressions of the audience:

  • Shit tons of iPhones and Moleskines.  I was in the elite group of people using both.
  • Had certain aspects of a political rally.  Everyone groaned when someone said Andrew Wakefield and Oprah.
  • Lots of beards, like Linux developer levels of beards.
  • Dress was in three categories: t-shirt w/ponytail, business casual, student formal (lots of sweater vests).
  • Only two black people.

Dr. Paul Offit was the opening speaker regarding why truth regarding health information is so difficult to establish.

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His section on the limits of epidemiological limits was… hilarious, not a term I was anticipating to use.  He described the limits of proof with the example of “you can’t prove I’ve never been to Milwaukee, you can just show a sequence of buildings with me not in front of them.”  Everyone issued a tired sigh when he mentioned chelation therapy and we, as an audience, were able to identify the parade of Nobel laureates.

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe episode was surprisingly milquetoast with some rough silences, mediocre jokes, and a brainfart from each presenter.

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The picture above is a photo-stitch and is huge should you want to zoom in and see the degree to which looks like each speaker was punched in the eye before the event.  Bob Novella looked like he could rip a phone book in half at various points.

The musical lunch presenter was well-meaning and had an interesting anecdote regarding him yelling “BOO” at Michael Behe but the musical content was mediocre at best.

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The afternoon panels were swell and consisted of people vastly more qualified to talk compared to the audience.  Few people had questions and in most cases merely wanted to state something.  I can’t stand Q&As of that type.  If you have something dumb to say to an audience that will forget you, use twitter.

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The presenters stared off into the distance a lot and there was a wonderful set of exchanges between the skeptic activists blaming the media and the journalism instructor that got the rest of the panel to agree with him.

The closing presentation was by Carl Zimmer on the non-descript topic of errors in science reporting.

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In closing the event was very much a “first annual event”.  The audience was excited, the speakers were unsure, and the venue was crappy.  I look forward to seeing how this develops.