Well that was QEDCon, and it was good.
For those who don’t know, QED stands for Question. Explore. Discover. QEDCon is a conference about science and other interesting stuff for people with a sceptical view of the world. I was lucky enough to get a free ticket courtesy of Chris Hofstader via Hayley Stevens otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go.
Despite a horrible journey full of wheelchair-access cock-ups, broken trains, delays and my power wheelchair breaking down, I made it to Manchester only three hours late on Friday night and still managed to meet up with @Jules_Clarke and @Karenatetories (Who weren’t going to the conference) and @living_as_if and @Baggelboy. (Who were.) Later on the Friday night I saw @JenClone who I have met before, and @girlonthenet introduced herself to me. I finally got to meet @Psythor and @sillypunk of Pod Delusion fame, as well as @kashfarooq. On Saturday night after trying for constantly to meet for 24 hours I managed to see @LudditeWebDev and then @Tannice_. (You would think being at the same conference, it would be easy to meet up!) On Sunday I unexpectedly bumped into @RogueStardust and Thom who had realised late that QEDCon was just down the road from them. I was also introduced to @TheCharmQuark just as the conference finished.
Amazingly I managed to get up on Saturday in time to have breakfast and be in place for the start of the conference at 9am, despite how tiring my journey was. This has been helped by my sleep pattern being relatively normal at the moment.
The first talk of the day was about werewolves. I hadn’t expected it to be interesting but it turned out to be a fascinating run through the history of real-world beliefs in werewolves, from people who believed they actually were werewolves to people who were accused of being witches who performed rituals to call on the devil to turn them into wolves.
The second session looked like a bit of a rehash to me, covering evolution and creationism so I decamped to the breakout room for panels on Cryptozoology and then Science vs Skepticism. I spent lunchtime with James and Liz of Pod Delusion fame, eating an extremely expensive sandwich from the hotel bar because I didn’t have cash on me to buy a cheap sandwich. In the afternoon I was back in the breakout room for sessions on Mediums and Psychics, Skeptics Beyond the Pub, and then a live recording of The Pod Delusion. I was late for the first session as I had gone via my room and since Karen was out shopping I had no one to push my manual chair and I attempted to self-propel which meant I had to rest when I got there. I arrived at the packed session half an hour late and would not have even attempted to get in but conference volunteers made space for me and ushered me in anyway.
I found the afternoon sessions very interesting. The first panel talked about combating the harm done by mediums and psychics and mentioned the threats of libel lawsuits against people who said anything publicly about that. Simon Singh joined in from the audience too. The second panel talked about interaction between skeptics and some of the people whom they tend to annoy with more talk about libel cases. I found it interesting that in both sessions people talked about ways to engage people with opposing views and how to show people that they may have been deceived, and in both sessions the panel and audience emphasised a more gentle approach than skeptics are known for with less conflict. The Pod Delusion live recording was brilliant and thought provoking, I can recommend listening when it comes out.
I nearly didn’t make it to the evening entertainment. I tried to go out for dinner but I was just so tired and went to bed instead. I made a decision at the last minute to go downstairs for the comedy and since they were running late I also caught the end of the Skeptic awards and saw The Pod Delusion receive the award for best podcast! I was right at the back and actually in the room behind the main hall, just behind the doors. I managed to see and hear most of the comedy but there were quite a lot of immensely annoying people talking loudly both next to me and at the tables in front of me at the back of the hall, and they made it very difficult. Apparently they were so loud that people at the front of the hall were getting annoyed by them.
Despite staying in the bar until 1am talking, I managed to be back in the hall ready for 10am on Sunday morning. I found the first talk by Edzard Ernst to be really informative. He has been conducting proper research into alternative medicines for decades and had some amazing insights and anecdotes about it.
I also unexpectedly enjoyed the talk on UFOs and their history. After that I spent the day with @RogueStardust and Thom who turned up on the Sunday when they realised that the conference was just down the road from them. We heard from D.J. Grothe on How to be a Bad Skeptic (Or a good one if you do the opposite of what he said!) and I was pleased again to hear mention of inclusiveness and less confrontation. There was a rather distressing and eye-opening talk from Maryam Namazie on Secularism, Social Cohesion and Citizenship which highlighted the need for secular state in many Muslim countries for the sake of freedom of religion as well as freedom to have no religion. The final talk was a run through by Joe Nickell of paranormal cases that he had investigated. I personally didn’t find it very interesting but most of the conference were quite happy for him to overrun.
And that was that. Conference over, I was too exhausted for socialising afterwards. I was disappointed that I couldn’t stay for Skeptics in the Curry House too, but we had to catch a coach. I really enjoyed the conference and I definitely want to go next year. (Better start saving!)
Some pictures by @Your_FunnyUncle