The Amazing Meeting Australia (TAM Oz) kicked off today in Sydney. TAM has become the biggest annual skeptical convention in the world when held in Las Vegas and this year we finally got our own TAM in Sydney. It wouldn't be The Amazing Meeting without The Amazing one himself, James Randi, in attendance. Amazingly Randi has made the trip here too. He has had some quite serious medical issues recently, and he is 82, but he still made the trip down under.
Me and James Randi later in the evening at the SGU dinner.
Randi is truly a nice guy. I am in awe of this man. There is a genuine warmth from him when you meet him. You feel like an old friend. I am honoured I finally got to meet one of my heroes. I've idolised Randi since the first times I saw him on the Don Lane Show back in 1980 when after bending a key the same way the "psychic" Uri Geller did, Don told Randi to piss off. Don stormed off the set leaving a stunned Randi behind. I told Randi I'd been a fan since that moment.
The very first panel for TAM Oz - Paranormal in Australia. Tim Mendham, Ian Bryce, Dr Steve Roberts, James Randi and Barry Williams.
Dr Rachael Dunlop introducing the Science Based Medicine Workshop. That is Dr Steve Novella directly below her.
Dr Steve Novella from the SGU.
Dr Mick Vagg.
Ken Mcleod from Stop The Australian Vaccination Network.
Wendy Wilkinson from Stop The Australian Vaccination Network.
The Skeptical Rogues - Jay Novella, Bob Novella and Evan Bernstein.
Master of Ceremonies Paul Willis from the ABCs Catalyst science TV show.
Randi addresses the crowd. Note the glow from the iPads and smart phones in the crowd. I don't think I ever seen as many iPads in the one place before. I think Twitter almost melted down.
Randi performing the levitating match box trick.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki finally stopped moving for just a second so I could get a non-blurry photo. Hilarious eclectic eccentric exuberant and brilliant presentation by Australia's twelth most trust worthy person and radio Triple J's Science in the Morning presenter.
Funny man, singer, entertainer and podcaster George Hrab belting out one of his funnier songs. He also played his song about loss and death in memoriam of his dog Oscar who passed away a couple of years ago. Yeah, I choked up. Bastard.
George's Twitter Song. Rebecca Watson and Rachael Dunlop read the tweets. Fracking punerific.
After the formalities it was time for the Skeptics Guide to the Universe dinner. I walked in a couple of minutes late to find most of the hundreds of places taken. Me and another bloke (hi Phil) walked over to the only table that had two places left and sat down. Luckily for me I sat down next to Evan Bernstein from the SGU. I swear I didn't know before I sat down. I looked behind me over at the next table and the Guest of Honour himself, James Randi, wasn't more than a metre or two away. Being the hosts, the SGU guides floated from table to table from time to time so after a while Evan left, he thought temporarily, and was replaced by Bob Novella (above). Bob ate with us and I stole things from his plate when he wasn't looking (no I didn't).
Fan boy squee. Brian Dunning from Skeptoid. Excuse me while I squee again. Later in the evening while Brian was distracted I chatted to his lovely wife Lisa for a while. Hmm, that didn't come out right. After my experience at Worldcon a month or so ago I thought the science fiction community was gracious and friendly. The skeptical community makes the SF community look like bitter snobs. These are good people.
What do you call a group of podcasters? I dunno but here are all the podcasters who attended the Skeptics Guide to the Universe dinner. From the left, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein, Dr Rachie Dunlop, Dr Pamela Gay, Jay Novella, Rebecca Watson, Dr Steven Novella, Brian Dunning, Richard Saunders, George Hrab, Eran Segev & Myk Dowling
The table next to ours with Randi and the Australian Skeptics.
James Randi performing an impromptu disappearing spoon trick for us.
Michael, the guy on Randi's left, earlier won an auction for a guest spot on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. I'd kicked off the bidding at $500 dollars but Michael eventually snagged the spot for $1500. Prior to that auction the SGU had auctioned off a guest spot on tomorrow's segment of Science Or Fiction for the live recording of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. The bidding started at $50 and after a few small bids started going up by $100. I jumped in and finally there was only me and another bidder left - unfortunately for me it was an 11 year old kid and his dad (a dentist apparently). Rebecca Watson had spotted the kid and she said she wanted the kid on the show. I knew then it would be lousy of me to keep bidding so I only threw in one more bid for $850. I wasn't going to let them off that cheaply. They bid $900 and we now have a precocious 11 year old podcasting superstar in the making. A self described GSK - generally skeptical kid. Good job Alex.
Below is the video of Randi performing the disappearing spoon trick.
And that was day one.