The Big Science Night on Friday 22 August was quite a success, I think, I’m definitely glad I went.

The 4 hour event featured Simon Pampena – the Stand-up Mathematician, Dr Jim Patrick – Chief Scientist at Cochlear, Dr Michael Shermer from the US Skeptics Society, and Dr Fred Watson – Astronomer-in-Charge, Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Hosted by Bernie Hobbs from ABC’s New Inventors, with Dr Paul Willis from ABC’s Catalyst program interviewing Shermer.

What  a stellar line up, four very interesting seminars and to top it off they had wine tasting and a live Jazz trio playing during the breaks. What more could a man ask for – wine and intellectual stimulation (except for perhaps some stimulation of another kind :wink: ).

So, I guess you are wondering how the night panned out. Well proceedings started at 5:30pm with the wine tasting and jazz music. For me the pick of the wines was the Battle of Bosworth Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Kalleske Clarry’s Grenache Shiraz a close second. All wines on show (eight of) were organic and/or bio-dynamic, I must say the organic/bio-dynamic wines have come along way since I first tasted some about 10 years ago.

At about 6:30pm we all proceeded to the first conference hall to watch Simon Pampena; who gave us “The Maths Olympics Show”. I haven’t laughed so much at maths in my whole life. This guy was hilarious and at the same time enlightening about maths and how little our country cares about it. He demonstrated how we were actually coming first in the medal tally at the Beijing Olympics, by comparing the number of medals to the population. Sounds dry in my writing of it, but trust me it was hilarious and quite intriguing. Next he showed us the statistics from the recent International Maths Olympics. Australia came about ninth, but wait, he applied the same math to the results as he did for the athletic Olympics; guess where Australia came then: First – No, tenth perhaps – No; we actually came 44th. As he pointed out, it is a disgrace that this country pumps $500,000,000 into sports but hardly anything into maths and science.

So on to the next lecture (in the larger hall as a lot of people had turned up, perhaps more than they were expecting?) by Dr Patrick, a lot drier than the first one but still quite interesting. He gave us a brief potted history of the cochlear hearing implant and how it works. I guess as an electronics tech I found this a bit more interesting than some of the other people in the crowd. It really is quite amazing how they can give hearing back to deaf people, and they are currently working on a device to give sight back to blind people! It just goes to show what science can do for humanity.

So onto our first break, listen to some more jazz, a bit of mingling and another glass of the Cab Sav; only one, I had to drive home after all (all 160km).

During the break I went up and introduced myself to Rachel, Rachel had been dragged up on stage during Simon’s show and I had noticed a red A lapel badge on her blouse. She was with a group of friends all who were all wearing Skeptic badges and about half who were also wearing the A badge (now available at Richard Dawkins site, I like the idea of the lapel pin much better than the T-shirt, a bit less “in your face”). It turns out the Skeptic badge was from Shermer’s Skeptic site and this group had been to lunch with Shermer, then spent the afternoon in the pub with him. I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Now to the talk with Dr Michael Shermer, this was quite interesting, Dr Paul Willis  kept the questions coming and got some interesting insights from Shermer.  It was quite informal (obvious that both of them had been imbibing of the free wine) but Shermer still made some good points about skepticism, rationality, religion and conspiracy theories. Pity I didn’t record it, and can’t remember what he said.

Just some orange juice during this break, the long drive and all.

Then on to the final talk with Fred Watson, who discussed Space Tourism. He was an excellent, enthusiastic and funny speaker and covered the whole history (albeit only a short history so far) of space tourism and also what might be available in the future. His talk also explained all the physics (well, some of the basics) behind space exploration and the problems with going into space. He even talked about the space QUID. After all, a space tourist always needs some money to buy cocktails at their space hotel.

Then the long drive home, the 320Km round trip was worth it, I had a top night, as I’m sure just about everyone else did. Heck, I even saw Bernie Hobbs have a minor wardrobe malfunction. :-)

One thing I almost didn’t mention, when I went up and introduced myself to Rachel, she was talking to some guy in a suit, who wandered off shortly after to get a drink. She said to me “do you know who that guy was?”, me “no”, she “only Michael Shermer himself” me “uh, oh, erh, he looks different in his photo“; me, thinking, “where’s a hole to bury yourself when you need one”.


Brought to you whilst sitting on the lounge, watching music videos, and drinking a glass, or few, of a nice sparkling Shiraz. Cheers !!

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PS. Special Hug to Poodles who’s having a bit of a bad time at the moment.

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One Comment to “the Big Science Night”

  1. [...] that debate, but I’m quite sure your hilarious take on it is quite accurate. I saw Shermer at the Big Science Night and wouldn’t be surprised if he did says this: Shermer: Does God Exist? No. Thank you very [...]

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