Stupendous Speaker Spotlight: Hemant Mehta

Bloggerauthor, tireless activist and overall awesome person Hemant Mehta totally lives up to the name of his infamous blog, the Friendly Atheist. Hemant firmly believes that you can be friendly and an atheist at the same time, and he strives to be a constant example.

Hemant wants to be a resource for parents, teachers, friends, and young atheists and show them the best way to deal with teachers and administrators who promote faith in public schools, handle the peer pressure and ostracism that may come with being an outspoken atheist, and create successful student groups that encourage conversation over conversion. He does this by doing things like establishing and serving on the board of directors for the Foundation Beyond Belief, writing a book about that one time he literally sold his “soul” on E-Bay and more recently has written a Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.

Currently, Hemant is working on his popular podcast “The Atheist Voice” which is a series of YouTube discussions, has written for CNN on the topic of atheism in millennials, and for the “Room for Debate” series in the New York Times. Hemant is returning to Skepticon 7  and we have missed him dearly! Please help us get Hemant to Springfield this November so that you can get a hug and a high five from the friendliest atheist ever! If you want your chance at bro-hugs, please donate to Skepticon, we’re about $11,000.00 short of our goal, but together we can make this happen!!!!


Why do YOU donate to Skepticon?

No, seriously, we really want to know why three hundred and forty-one of you Skepticonites think Skepticon is worth it! Until we sat down and counted all of you that donated in 2014, we didn’t realize just how many of you there were that think Skepticon 7 is important enough to spend money on! We are SO CLOSE to hitting $30,000.00 that we’ve started picking up sympathetic vibrations!!! It’s like our fluorine is ready and waiting for your francium!!! We’re so close we’re nearly touching like Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Man”!!!!! You get the idea.

We know that some people donate because they feel it’s important to promote scientific education in the “buckle of the bible belt”. And we would certainly guess that a lot of you who have donated to Skepticon because they are attending and feel like they’re paying their way. We’ve even hypothesized that some of you do it because you’re tired of hearing us beg. (that’s not what this post is about, though if you REALLY want to, we certainly won’t stop you from donating lol)

As organizers we certainly donate a lot of our time, and we do it because it gives us a sense of purpose or meaning. We do it because it’s really amazing to see how happy you all are- it’s like being Santa Clause (only real)!!!!!! It feels really good to give back to our community, and to think that we’re making the world a better place for a whole lot of people.

So why do YOU donate to Skepticon? Warm fuzzies? Total altruism? Giving back for a great past experience? Comment on our blog, tweet at us, shoot us a Facebook message! We’d love to know what makes you tick!!!! Just like a proton, we’re positive that the more you tell us, the better we can make the conference experience for you! Thanks for putting up with the art & science jokes, hopefully they were periodically funny…


Share Our Call to Artists and Win

We are still looking for people to share their art with us at Skepticon! Share this post on your Facebook or Twitter, and you’ll be entered to win a free Skepticon Themed Surlyramic!!! “Surly” Amy Roth has been kind enough to organize our first ever Planetary Science Art Show, but we need artists!

The only rules to the art show are the art has to have something to do with planetary science and no nudity. (we have to say it.) We can’t hang anything on the walls so it needs to be art that can sit on a table or people need to bring their own easels (the hotel has a few, but no guarantees there will be enough for everyone). Artists need to handle their own sales and be willing to donate at least 10% of any sales back to Skepticon. Everyone who intends to participate must e-mail Amy ([email protected]) with a description of what they are making so she knows to expect your piece.

This is going to be sooooo fuuuun!!!! Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an epic artist, please participate! The more the merrier! And don’t forget to donate to Skepticon so we can make it even more awesome!


Spiffy Speaker Spotlight on Peggy Mason

We have the honor of presenting Peggy Mason, PhD to you lovely Skepticonites. Peggy is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. She received both her BA in Biology and her PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard. She actually wrote a single-author textbook that’s designed for medical students. Translation: She’s smarter than hell and we couldn’t be happier to have her at this years event!!!!!

In her research, Peggy uses a variety of methods to find out the biological basis behind empathy and helping behavior. Her current work actually involves studying empathy in rats (not the Splinter/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kind). She wants to understand the basic biology that influences pro-social behavior. Our favorite thing about Peggy Mason is that she can distill all the super crazy sciency stuff down into something your average person can understand and relate to on her super fun blog The Brain is So Cool.

“In an effort to assess the value of empathic behavior, we tested rats who were devoted chocolate chip-eaters: when given a bowl of 20 chips, they ate more than 7 chocolate chips on average. These rats were placed in an arena with two restrainers, one containing 5 chocolate chips… and the other containing their trapped cagemate. As it turned out, they opened both restrainers…  This finding told us that releasing a cagemate has a value on par with chocolate. Amazing! …It also turned out that the free rat ate only 3.5 chips on average, leaving 1.5 chips for his cagemate. This remarkable result told me that these rats are far more generous with their chocolate than my sister-in-law.” -Peggy

Our second favorite thing is that when she heard about the new venue’s teal glitter floors, she was all in. She’s our kind of scientist… Obsessed with rats, happy feelings, chocolate, and glitter. We’re thinking that there might be a correlation between happy feelings and glitter. Someone needs to mock up some graphs before November so we can see the correlation between glitter and happy feelings! While you’re at it, please donate to Skepticon so that we can afford to give you more of these kinds of nifty bells and whistles!

Want to be Cool? Pre-Order a SK7 T-Shirt

All the cool  kids are pre-ordering Skepticon 7 T-Shirts! You can be cool too! Pre-order your shirt in the next few weeks and we’ll have them shipped by the beginning of November. The only way of guaranteeing yourself a SK7 shirt is to pre-order one.

In a moment of unusual seriousness, we have to say that in the last few years we’ve ordered far too many and ended up giving some of them away as prizes and donating the rest to a local homeless shelter. While it’s awesome to use the extras for prizes or helping the needy, we’d prefer to put our time and money into cooler prizes like Cards Against Humanity box sets and sponsoring lifesaving blood drives. In an effort to cut excess spending and keep the conference as cheap as humanly possible, we won’t be ordering as many shirts this year. While we do plan to have a small handful at the event, you run the risk of missing out if you don’t pre-order.

Back to our normal standard of silliness…..  You may think you’re cool. But if you don’t have the latest Skepticon t-shirt to wear, YOU’LL NEVER BE KARLEY-WEARING-A-DINO-MASK-AND-SKEPTICON-SHIRT LEVEL OF COOL!!!!!!

Karley Johnston in SK6 shirt

Special thanks to Karley for sharing her SK6 shirt with us. Also, we seriously don’t know how we’ve lived this long without owning dinosaur masks.

Our Donors are so Stinkin’ Cool!

Ada Lovelace

We asked for support to bring the Ada Initiative to Skepticon 7, and our donors dropped everything and funded the $5,000.00 they needed in ONE DAY!!!!!!!!!! That means that the executive director, Valerie Aurora, will teach an Ally Skills Workshop at Skepticon 7!!!!! If you’re happy and you know it, tweet a bunch! (with the #skeptics4ada hashtag)

If you’ve been off the grid and have no idea what we’re talking about, the Ada Initiative describes their Ally Skills Workshop thusly:

“The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men simple, everyday ways to support women in their workplaces and communities. Participants learn techniques that work at the office, at conferences, and online. The skills we teach are relevant everywhere, including skills particularly relevant to open technology and culture communities. At the end of the workshop, participants will feel more confident in speaking up to support women, be more aware of the challenges facing women in their workplaces and communities, and have closer relationships with the other participants.”

They normally charge the average bear a fee to put on this workshop, so we’re getting a stupendous deal because a few awesome donors chose to help out the Ada Initiative and Skpticon 7!!!!  DO NOT miss out!!!! For more information, check out the below links, and if you’d like to continue helping Skepticon 7 be the most bad-ass conference that ever happened, you can help finish funding the rest of the conference here! (we still have a ways to go before November)

Help the Ada Initiative Come to Skepticon (Lauren’s blog post from October 1)

Ada Initiative’s Ally Workshop (Ada Initiative’s Blog post from October 1)

(P.S. The Ada Initiative is named for Countess Ada Lovelace, widely acknowledged as the world’s first computer programmer. Since she published the source code of her program, the world’s first programmer was also a woman open source programmer. SO COOL!!!! #themoreyouknow)

Spiffy Speaker Spotlight: Jamie Kilstein

If you’ve been watching tv or listening to podcasts lately, you’ve probably seen Jamie Kilstein. And you’ve probably laughed your ass off! Jamie is coming to Skepticon 7 with his BFF John Frusciante to give us “Addicted to Friendship”, their unique mix of improv, politics and comedy.

Tim Minchin said that “Jamie Kilstein is at once irresistibly endearing and wonderfully audacious. Watching his work is like going to cuddle a puppy and having it hump your leg. But funnier.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!!!!  Besides The Conn O’Brien Show, MSNBC’s Up with Chris and Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Totally Biased on FX, and tons more, Jamie also co-hosts Citizen Radio with Allison Kilkenny (The Nation), which is dedicated to covering the stories that the mainstream, corporate media ignores. He’s co-authored #NEWSFAIL which was just published. You know you’ve totally made it when your latest CD, What Alive People Do, spends its first week released at number one on both the iTunes and Amazon comedy charts. Before totally making it as a multi-talented super star, he actually lived out of his car and dropped out of high school.

“Take that, life!” -Jamie Kilstein

If you want to see some bro-love/improv done by the amazing Jamie Kilstein (and super special guest John Frusciante), please help us get him to Springfield, MO by November! We’re pulling in donations slowly but surely! You guys have donated an amazing $26,757.00 towards our goal of $40,000.00, but Skepticon is less than 50 days away! Please help by donating today!

Stellar Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Nicole Gugliucci

” Stellar!” You know, like stars and stuff! Get it!? Cause you know who likes stars a WHOLE LOT?!? Dr. Nicole Gugliucci. She’s an astronomer, writer, educator, skeptic, self proclaimed “maker-of-tiny-comets”, and an all around geek. Nicole has made it her mission to study and share the universe, which makes her a big star in our rather spacey-wacey themed Skepticon. Known as the “NoisyAstronomer,” she earned a doctorate studying radio astronomy and now leads the informal education efforts of the citizen science project CosmoQuest.

Her Noisy Astronomer blog is mainly a collection of writings on science, astronomy, education, news, geekiness, feminism, skepticism, and anything else. We have a feeling the Skeptiprom: Journey Through the Starsmos is going to be a pretty big hit with Nicole.

Her dissertation and previous research focused on radio astronomy instrumentation. While us average folks are listening to music stars like Elvis and Kanye, Dr. Nicole Gugliucci likes to spend her time listening to the big gassy stars. That’s how it works, right? Well, maybe metaphorically. We’ll all just have to attend her talk to find out.

If you want to learn about the mysteries of the universe, please help us get Nicole to Springfield, MO. We only have 55 days to do it! For us to get Nicole to Springfield, it takes us about $850 dollars. If a couple generous people gave up their morning lattes until Sk7, we’d have that in the bag! Please donate to Skepticon so we can all hang out in a few weeks!!!

Free T-Shirt Giveaway Starts Today

The first winners of our t-shirt giveaway extravaganza have been drawn: Jashin Lin and Karley Johnston… come on down and claim your prize! Please contact us via Facebook or email us at [email protected] with your shirt size and shipping address!

Everyone else is probably super duper jealous! “How do I get MY free Skepticon 6 shirt!?” You ask.

Keep an eye on the official Skepticon Facebook and Twitter page, that’s how! We will post a specific link weekly, if you share or retweet it, you’ll be entered into that week’s drawing!!!! Yay!!! Such easy! Wow!! We may spice things up and give away other merchandise or secret surprises, so stay tuned!

If you would like to buy merch or pre-order the Skepticon 7 shirt, please visit our merch store!

Also, only 57 days to go and about 18 grand to raise, so please donate today to help feed the dinosaurs!