I am back from The Amaz!ng Meeting 6 in Las Vegas, and it was one of the most incredible times I have ever experienced.
This annual meeting is a congregation of people who come together to celebrate all of the facets of the diamond that is ‘skepticism’; defending science and the scientific method, promoting critical thinking, attacking anti-science, debunking paranormal claims, exposing frauds and con artists – just to name a few. This year’s meeting did not disappoint in any respects.
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), the hosts of TAM, put on quite a conference for the rest of us. James Randi himself was as gregarious as he was accessible to us all. His staff was accommodating in every way to us at The Skeptics’ Guide, as well as the other organizations and individuals that were represented at the conference. The guests that they lined up were fascinating, and JREF made sure that we had an opportunity to interview just about every guest speaker. Most of all, I was very humbled that I had the honor of taking the stage at TAM not once, but twice, as The SGU presented live shows on Friday and Saturday mornings. To say that I actually shared a stage at a conference with James Randi as the host is an experience I can not sufficiently describe in writing, and one that I will never forget.
The guests at TAM were all fantastic. We had a chance to interview just about every guest speaker, along with Randi as well, and while I would have liked to have actually seen more of the conference, we sort of had our own private TAM conference as we conducted the interviews during the main events on Friday and Saturday. During the interviews, I had the honor to sit next to the likes of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage of ‘The Mythbusters’, Banachek, and Matthew Chapman (Charles Darwin’s great great grandson). Talk about humbling! Not to mention Professor Richard Wiseman, Dr. Phil Plait, Dr. Ben Goldacre, Dr. Michael Shermer, and Dr. PZ Meyers. Had I paid for a year of college tuition, I would not have been better educated by a more knowledgeable group of scholars. The fact that many of these giants in their respective fields of expertise actually knew who I was from The SGU podcast, and treating me as they would any other of their fellow presenters at TAM was absolutely tremendous. In the immortal words of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey: “I’m not worthy!”
As if things could not get any better, compounding this tremendous experience was the copious amount of praise, positive feedback, and sheer admiration from The SGU fans that comprised a nice percentage of the audience. There were SGU listeners lining up to talk to me, to have their picture taken with me, and to have me sign their books or T-shirts. This was, by far, the most unexpected part of TAM for me, and also, by far, the most gratifying part of my TAM experience. It was absolutely surreal. For example, on Friday night at our “Dinner with The SGU” party, where we thought we would have about 60 people attending (based on the number of Facebook registrations), we wound up having 90 people packed like sardines in the restaurant, and they were turning away more at the door because the restaurant ran out of seating. I heard that those that were turned away went to another venue that held about 75 people, filling that to capacity as well, and then having to turn people away from that impromptu gathering. (We have taken note of this, and next year, we are going to do a better accounting of the number of attendees so that no one has to be turned away.) As Steve, Bob, Jay, Rebecca, and I made the rounds at the dinner party (I barely ate because we were so busy just trying to get around to every table to say hello to everyone) we had a brief few minutes at which all 5 of us were visiting the same table. As that happened, our fans all gathered around us with cameras in hand, snapping photos as we sat at this one table. The best way to picture this scene is as if we were on the red carpet on Oscar night. Flashes were going off like crazy, people were raising their drinks and toasting us, and I felt like I had a permanent grin plastered on my face. The SGU listeners were treating us as if we were Hollywood celebrities in their midst. It was entirely humbling, practically indescribable, genuinely affectionate, tremendous fun, and totally surreal.
Over the coming weeks, you will be hearing segments of the interviews and portions of our live performances on the SGU podcast. I hope we sufficiently captured the essence of the meeting, the greatness of the guests, and the emotional experience that made this meeting a very special event for us all. To all of you that I had the pleasure of meeting in person, I am deeply touched by your outpouring of appreciation for the work that Steve and the cast brings you each week. As I told so many of you this past weekend, for as much as you appreciate the work that we do, we are equally grateful for your listernership and support and your help in spreading our message to the masses.
Plans for TAM 7 have begun. The JREF “unofficially” announced that the dates are July 9-12, 2009 and the location will be The South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa. JREF should have an official announcement coming in the next few weeks, and The SGU will most certainly be back for TAM 7, so mark your calendars now.
Thank you, again, to everyone, for your support, listenership, and continued efforts to spread the skeptical word. We, meaning all of you right along side with us at The SGU, are the the ground troops in the never-ending battle to beat back the forces that threaten science, rationality, and critical thinking. For as much as TAM 6 was an experience that I will never forget, it is all of you who are the ones that are truly amaz!ing.