Clarion Blog Post Up! And Skepticamp!

New post of mine up over at the Clarion Blog. I talk about my seven days of drilling in the Bighorn Basin, this time from the perspective of what the experience felt like.

Skepticamp Colorado Springs was today, and it was awesome and tons of fun. This one was split into two rooms, which put us all in the unfortunate position of having to choose between speakers – but also meant there was more variety. There were a lot of fun talks. As always, I loved Bryan and Baxter, Karen Stollznow, and Stuart Robbins. John Rising did a great job organizing the event, and also did an interesting talk on the history of ghost photography.

We also had a couple of guys from the Airforce Academy: Dr. Carlos Bertha and Dr. Barry Fagin. Dr. Bertha started the morning with an interesting talk about Fideism, which is basically the position of unreasoning “because I said so” faith. It was enough philosophy to be interesting but not so much it made me want to tear my hair out, and it was generally interesting. And it was a good explanation why sometimes, you just have to give up an argument and agree to disagree, because no amount of logic will really penetrate. Dr. Fagin I had more mixed feelings on. He gave two talks, actually. The first in the morning was basically a libertarian ranty rant about how we should be skeptical about politics, where he said he’d be goring his own ox as well but didn’t really. He said some things about economics that I desperately wish Mike had been there for, since I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Mike say bitchy things about just those things in the past. But Dr. Fagin’s second talk was absolutely awesome, about how skepticism brings with it a rich inner life. It was extremely well done and was a nice end cap for the day.

I did a talk as well, about the basics of the Bighorn Basin Coring Project, what we’re hoping to find out about the PETM, what the PETM and ELMO are, and why this is an important topic to discuss. I moved my talk so that I could see Stuart’s entire topic. This meant that I actually gave mine at the same time our local global climate change denier was giving his. Which I think was probably for the best, or we might well have just been heckling the crap out of each other during our respective talks and never would have gotten anywhere. I feel like my talk went pretty well. I was nervous as hell. I always am about public speaking, and this I was trying to talk about some basic isotope ratio stuff, and I still get so turned around with those at times. But apparently I didn’t sound nervous at all, and I was enthused and interesting, so go me! I think that teaching has helped my public speaking, to the point that I at least manage to not throw a lot of garbage “uh” and “you know” in, even if I’m nervous.

Correction from my talk: I got on an excited roll and said something about there being a rainforest of some sort in Antarctica. Let the record show that this was a mistake on my part, where I confused two separate and interesting things in my head. There’s evidence of a very high-latitude (80N paleolatitude) seasonal rainforest in Arctic Canada during the middle Eocene1. And there’s evidence that during the PETM, Antarctica had a subtropical humid episode – so it got a lot warmer and a lot more humid than today’s Antarctica2. So there was season rainforest that moved up into the Arctic, but I have no idea what the vegetation might have been like in Antarctica during the PETM. I tried to do a quick and dirty paper search and didn’t come up with anything, so it could be that we just don’t know. Antarctica isn’t the most hospitable place to go searching for fossilized pollen. But if you don’t believe me about the proto-Potomac, read this cool paper.

Boy, is my face red.

Anyway, my parents came to Skepticamp! It was their first one. Though I’m sure it wasn’t at all intimidating after going to TAM. But my parents are super awesome.

Afterward, we all went to Jack Quinn’s, and I drank two ciders despite the fact that I had no business drinking anything stronger than water after the Evan-induced beer binge last night. (Though I somehow managed to escape my richly-deserved hangover this morning, so who knows.) I had some excellent bangers and mash.

Where will the next Colorado Skepticamp be?

1 – Jahren, A.H., and Sternberg, L.S.L., 2003, Humidity estimate for the middle Eocene Arctic rain forest: Geology, v. 31, p. 463-466.

2- Robert, C., and Kennett, J.P., 1994, Antarctic subtropical humid episode at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary: Clay-mineral evidence: Geology, v. 22, p. 211-214.

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