Tim Farley Ignites Skepticism at Dragon*Con

October 20, 2014

Over Labor Day weekend I attended the huge Dragon*Con conference in downtown Atlanta. As I have for many years, I was one of the guest speakers for the Skeptics track. I gave several presentations and sat on a few panels. Amid the crazy costumes and crazier schedule I tried to see as many of the other skeptical programs as I could.

One that I caught on the last day was a program created by veteran skeptic Tim Farley. Called Ignite Skepticism, it was a series of short presentations on skeptical topics. Presenters included Ben Blanchard, Ani Aharonian, Vandy Beth Glenn, Pamela Gay, Angie Mattke, Loren Collins, Blake Smith, and Mandisa Thomas. There was an impressive mix of subjects, including Arctic explorers, Obama conspiracy rumors, comet impacts, eyewitness misidentification, chiropractic pseudoscience, the origins of Pasteurization, and skepticism in the Black community.

I contacted Farley, who writes the Skeptical Anniversaries piece in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, to ask about his inspiration:

“I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of lightning talks and in particular the Pecha Kucha and Ignite formats. Both of these formats prescribe an exact slide count and time per slide, forcing the presenter to get on with their thoughts. I think it’s an terrific challenge to a presenter to get a coherent idea across in just five or six minutes. Skepticism has so many little oddball sub-topics, so many of which never get covered at conferences. Short talks are a great way to give those topics a place on stage within a time budget. I mentioned this idea to Derek Colanduno (the director of DragonCon Skeptrack) and he loved it. So I curated it for Derek within his larger schedule of events.

We obviously couldn’t invite guests to fly to Atlanta just to do five minutes, so I looked within a list of people that I knew were attending the show but wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to talk on their own. Some were panelists in other sessions, some were just here to table for their organization. I sent out a couple round of invites and pretty quickly I had enough volunteers to fill a one-hour slot. Everyone seemed excited by the challenge, and I have to say it went really well. We had a very diverse group of people and an equally diverse set of topics.”

Farley was pleased with the program and plans to bring it back again next year. You can find out more about the Ignite Skepticism program here.