TAM 6. Best. Ever.

By Phil Plait | June 23, 2008 12:30 pm

I’m back from The Amaz!ng Meeting 6. After 9+ hours of sleep last night (and still in the red by about 7 hours), I’m slowly restarting myself back into the real world.

It’ll be impossible to describe all that happened in Vegas. It would be like… like… like coming home from TAM and trying to describe it. No other analogy works.

But here are some highlights and quick thoughts:

  • We had over 900 people attending. TAM 1 had fewer than 200. Hold tight. We’ll be growing more in coming years too.
  • Mrs. BA’s first TAM. That was cool. She loved it. Not having an empty hotel room to come back to at night is very, very nice. That’s the hardest part about traveling, I think.
  • Neil Tyson’s keynote speech was great. Funny, informative, uplifting… he ran over time, but the audience (including moi) cheered him on to continue. That’s the soonest we’ve ever thrown the schedule out the window; usually it’s not until the first afternoon session. I’m not sure why anyone bothers to put times on the schedule. It might make sense to extend the meetings a day longer.
  • I hung out with Adam Savage, who rocks rocks rocks.
  • We broke the world record for most spoons simultaneously bent and broken: 800+
  • My talk was shorter than usual to make room for other, new guests, but I think it went pretty well. Lots of laughs, lots of amazement (it was about weird things in the solar system that are so freaking odd that there’s no need to make up dumb stuff like a face on Mars or Planet X). Highlight for me: I was talking about high winds on Neptune, clocked at 2200 kph. I look around the room, and see Adam Savage laughing at this like it was the coolest thing he had ever heard. I love that guy.
  • What is it with red-headed Skepchicks? Way over-represented statistically. Of course, I love this.
  • Speaking of which, there were lots of young women attending, which was fantastic. It’s good to see more women getting into skepticism. Not enough minorities, though, but still, it increases every year. That’s very heartening.
  • Got my Quirkology book signed by Richard Wiseman.
  • Watched a clip from The Skeptologists. Wow, it looks fantastic. The audience loved it, and I got lots of people coming up and congratulating me. Stay tuned for more info as it comes in.
  • Did two audio and one video interview. Coolness. Adam Savage (left, from Rebecca’s Flickr page) did a walk-on in my Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast interview. We talked Mythbusters, Moon Hoax, and such. How hawsome is that?
  • Realized this is my sixth trip to Vegas, and have never bet a dime while there (except the JREF poker tourney).
  • Aussies brought me Minties! Man, I love those guys. Also, other people gave me various and sundry knick-knacks. To all: thanks.
  • Got flamed by Hal, PZ, Michael Shermer, and even Richard Saunders. But that’s OK, I’m used to dealing with abject jealousy.
  • Speaking of which, I hung out with Richard quite a bit, but it’s never enough. What a good friend and wonderful man. I’ll see him again at Dragon*Con.
  • I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out with PZ, who had to leave early to go to another conference. That’s too bad; I was hoping to go out for seafood with him! But he gave me a very nice, if deservedly snarky intro to my talk.
  • Derek and Swoopy were there! W00t!
  • Got my Skepchick calendar signed by a few of the ‘chicks. Incidentally, ARealGirl is at the apex of human beingness. She rawks.
  • Saw Penn & Teller’s show with Mrs. BA, who spent most of it LOLing. Penn gave a shout-out to Randi, who was in the audience.
  • Had no time at all to do any short on-camera interviews with other speakers. I suck.
  • Learned that I need better tech. Like, a net-accessible phone or something. Not being able to Twitter or blog except from the hotel room was sucky.
  • Coming home to over 400 Facebook friend requests. That’ll learn me to blog about FB and ask for people to add me. :-)
  • Banachek. Man, is he the best mentalist in the Universe. Wow. Also a super nice guy. His wife is teh awesome too.
  • Had the incredible honor of presenting Randi with an award from all of us at TAM; a trophy cup filled with notes from attendees on how he has changed our lives. That was just overwhelming. I choked up a little on stage. What Randi has done is very important to me, and to all of us. That will always be my favorite memory of the meeting. (Photo courtesy my good friend Paul Harris.)
  • JREF sold out of my books, 60 or more. Cool. I signed a lot of them.
  • Speaking of which, I was asked over and again when the next book comes out, so I added a slide to my talk at the last minute to talk about it. October 20, for those scoring at home.
  • Coffee at the Flamingo is not too bad. Nice to be home to my own machine, though.
  • … and of course, met a bazillion cool, skeptical, intelligent people.

And let me say this. I sit in my house, blogging away, reading the web, sometimes doing laundry, scooping the cat litter, playing with the dog, and occasionally remembering to put pants on. So it’s a funny, semi-secluded lifestyle. But at TAM, I was surrounded by hundreds of people, all wanting to learn more about the real Universe. That is so refreshing we don’t have an adequate word in English for it.

But it got better. I met a whole pile of people who said they got into skepticism because they read my blog. Some came to TAM to see me. Me! That was, well, amazing. Another thing: a while back I told a young woman named Elizabeth to go to a TAM. She did, and met Michael. Now they’re married. How about that?

To everyone who reads this blog and attended TAM: thank you so much. Thank you for your support, thank you for coming, thank you for just being curious about life. To those I met and talked to, hi again! To those I didn’t, next time be pushier!

And to those who didn’t come to TAM 6, well, you need to come to the next one. They just keep getting better.

Finally, to Randi, who I know reads this blog: thanks. There is a reason we all call you Amazing. You are. We all came to TAM to honor you and your works. Maybe it’s a bit selfish: I consider all of us in the skeptical movement to be part of your works, so in a way we came to celebrate ourselves. But the love for you there was palpable. Thanks for everything you’ve done.

Comments (62)

  1. SOOOOOOOOOOO Jealous. Maybe next year, or the next, or the next…

  2. Geran Smith

    If you have text messaging on your phone, you can use that to send in some Tweets to Twitter. I do it a lot when I am traveling and can’t get on a computer.

  3. Benjamin

    Wooo-hooo!!! I met James Randi, Michael Shermer, Adam Savage, Penn & Teller and bent a spoon for Dr. Wiseman! Oh, and I met some guy named Phil Plait.

    As Phil said TAM 6 was great! It was my first Amazing Meeting and I’m already planning to go back for TAM 7 in July of 09. If you’re interested in science, skepticism or just want to meet 1,000 of nicest and most ineresting people on the planet…Go to The Amazing Meeting 7!

    And Phil don’t take that crap from PZ. Your energy and enthusiasum made Dr. PZ look like a sloth trying to crawl out of a black hole’s event horizon.

    Benjamin

    PS – Just an obnoxious cross post – Don’t forget to look into the ongoing saga of the GIANT GLOWING CROSS OF DOOM!

    PPS – Hal Bidlack for President.

  4. Phil, I’m bummed I didn’t get to hang out with you enough this year. But that was my problem all weekend. SO MANY COOL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE that I basically didn’t have time to see everyone. Plus, like every year, I met new people and made new friends. I heart TAM so much…

  5. My only experience with the Flamingo, in my first and last trip to Vegas, involved really dire food poisoning. I’m never going back, not even for TAM. If I’m ever that sick again in my life, it’ll be too soon.

    But I’m glad it worked for you. And it does sound totally cool.

  6. Brian Gefrich

    I am absolutely on board for TAM 7. That sounds like incredible fun.

  7. I am GREEN with envy, which actually goes quite well with my red Skepchick hair. Hehe.

    The budget can only support one con a year, and this year it’s DENVENTION. Phil, will we see you there?

  8. Michelle

    Darn that sounded awesome! I probably can’t make it to next year. Or the other one after that… And such. Getting there would be a massive pain for me. But I’ll be sure the buy the DVD. :P

  9. Brango

    [quote]Hold tight. We’ll be growing more in coming years too.[/quote]

    It could grow even more if it became more pleb affordable!

  10. aster1man

    TAM6 was awesome. Phil’s talk was one of the highlights, it reminded me of why I entered science in the first place.

    Just like the professional science conferences there is a lot more going on than the schedule displays. Being on ‘the outside’ and somewhat of an introvert I know I missed out on a lot. Any pointers on how to get more involved next year?

  11. Kaptain K

    WOW!! Over 48 hours without a blog posting You must be terribly into withdrawal. ;)

  12. I’m telling you, we redheads are taking over! As it should be! :D

  13. Mary

    Take a peek at the other TAM guest speakers’ blogs. Dittos all around. Most meetings and conventions, these super geeks are happy to blend in with the wall. At TAM, they were in the presence of other super geeks (humbling) and totally agog to be treated with respect and admiration by fans – our superstars, our super geeks. Scientists have fans? I met Mrs BA. What a treat! Phil definitely married up. I had a great time at TAM and plan to attend 7.

  14. Thomas Siefert

    I think we BA blogees might have to confront you in an intervention, you don’t need to be on the net constantly!
    Go do your thing, giving it 100% attention, then come back and blog about it when you’re done.

  15. MP

    So many links, so many references to TAM in this post, and not one link to the TAM website nor any sort of explanation as to what it is. Fortunately, google helped me:

    http://www.randi.org/joom/content/view/17/29/

    Sounds like it was quite the event!

  16. With all of the books you signed and hands you shook this weekend, I’m sure it’s all a blur, but I just wanted to thank you for being so nice and signing a copy of Bad Astronomy for the woman from Seattle who got sick at her first TAM. At first I chided my husband for saying that I “adore” you but now I think he was right on the money. And I did make it downstairs to hear you and Adam. :)

  17. PuckishOne

    With all of the books you signed and hands you shook this weekend, I’m sure it’s all a blur, but I just wanted to thank you for being so nice and signing a copy of Bad Astronomy for the woman from Seattle who got sick at her first TAM. At first I chided my husband for saying that I “adore” you but now I think he was right on the money.

  18. Phil:
    You said:

    “But at TAM, I was surrounded by hundreds of people, all wanting to learn more about the real Universe. That is so refreshing we don’t have an adequate word in English for it.”

    But I think there -IS- a phrase for it:
    Outreach astronomy!

    It’s my favorite part of the science, talking to people about their home, the Universe. I just can’t get enough of it. You don’t need a telescope or even a green laser, just enthusiasm and a bit of background knowledge. I work with Girl Scouts mostly, though I have done a bit of outreach with Cub Scouts & the odd church group as well. It’s what gets me up in the morning. Now if I could just get a job doing it for a living… :grin:
    Rich in Charlottesville

  19. Chip

    I want to come to TAM7! :D

  20. Larry

    Whoa, there, BA! Don’t you know that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Please try and be a little more discrete next time.

  21. I actually saw the whole Skeptologists pilot (shown during Saturday’s lunch). I had a choice between eating lunch, or watching this pilot.

    IMHO, you came across brilliantly. You, by far, had the best jokes, and humour is one of those things that can make a or break a show. The only thing the show was missing was more ‘abject jealousy’ from the other cast members, similar to what I saw that weekend from guys like PZ and Shermer.

  22. ummmm….I thought people were legally prohibited from telling anyone about what happens in Vegas?

    Anyway, sad I couldn’t make it, but I have started my TAM7 fund. Here’s hoping its still in North America (send it to the east-coast!)

  23. Kevin L.

    Well, that decides it: I’m saving up my vacation days to go to the next Amaz!ng Meeting.

    Awesome post. I wish I could have been there!

  24. STrimmer

    This was my second TAM and I will go to everyone after this…..It is a great experiance to meet great people and chat with some of the speakers.

    I got to talk to several of the speaker and even got BA to sign my BA book…

    I always get depressed after TAM, knowing I will have to wait a whole other year for the next..

  25. What is it with Phil and PZ? Can’t you be friends, as nice, skeptical intelligent people?

    And stop holding TAM on the other side of the world damnit!

  26. Jeffersonian

    “Not enough minorities”
    Haha! A perfect oxymoron.

    Vegas is hawsome, for sure. If you can’t have fun at Vegas, then you’re a person that does NOT know how to have fun. As for betting, the geek’s game is craps. It’s hawsome. Just learn the math first and then throw them bones.

    “Learned that I need better tech”
    You’re so 2005! God that must be embarrassing. Amazing humans even survived the 1990s dark ages.

    Randi’s great.
    So was Carlin; his death is a loss.

  27. glued

    Ok, now I’m seriously convinced that Phil will be guesting in the Mythbusters NASA special..

    Too much Savage-Plait camaraderie going on.. :P

  28. Too TAM many pix

    As of this post, they are still in preview format. They need to be scrubbed and cleaned, but enjoy these TAM6 preview pix for now.

  29. Stark

    Gaaaahhhhhh! Next year. Definitely next year.

  30. glued: I wish. But no, I was just a consultant. But Adam is a friend, and way too much fun to hang out with. His stories… well, they’re pretty much what you’d expect. But better. :-)

  31. Ken Norton

    Phil, it was great to meet you. I’m the guy who took 4 TAMs to introduce myself. I work at that certain search company in Mountain View, and I was serious about having you come speak to us. I guarantee I can pack a room of people eager to hear you speak.

    Ken

  32. “Learned that I need better tech. Like, a net-accessible phone or something. Not being able to Twitter or blog except from the hotel room was sucky”

    There’s a wonderful Canadian invention, called a Blackberry. That’ll do you… I think

  33. I cannot remember what I said about you Phil. I did have in my slide that we are friends and the word “YEAH”.

  34. glued

    Darn it Phil, you burst my bubble. :D

  35. Nes

    I was so bummed that I wasn’t able to go to this one – PZ and Phil? How could I not go? Unfortunately, due to lack of funds and circumstances beyond my control, I couldn’t.

    However, after reading this, I am resolved to make it to the next one; even if I have to live off of ramen noodles for 6 months to afford it!

  36. kel

    Oh man! That’s sounds completely Amazing! I want your life Phil.

    I really really hope I can make it to a TAM sometime in the near future. As much as I usually love being a poor university student, there are times when a little more cash (and not living somewhere as far away as Australia!) would be nice.

    One day. One day.

  37. kordic

    Thanks for your talk Phil, it was certainly one of the days highlights!

  38. Ragutis

    Damn. Damn damn damn damn damn. Damn.

    OK, next year, I’m going. Seriously. I’ve had it up to here reading about how fantastic amazing these are year after year and never making getting to one a priority. And redheads? That does it! Committing myself now and starting a TAM 7 fund.

    Thanks for the summary. Now catch up on your Doctor Who. Turn Left was a much better episode than I expected and the ending is begging for you to make a post.

  39. Ragutis

    Ack! I did my strike tags wrong. I was trying to strike fantastic. let’s see if they work now.

  40. Grand Lunar

    I am very much down that I was unable to attend TAM 6!
    It sounds like there was so much fun.

    I would’ve loved to see Randi, Adam Savage, and Neil Tyson (and the rest, including you Phil!) in person.

    What’s worse for me is that I’ll probably not even be able to attend next years, or maybe the year after that!
    I don’t know IF I’ll be able to attend a TAM meeting.

    But enough about me.

    These meetings do show that skepticism is popular, that critical thinking can yield big results, and that science is cool.

    I hold these meetings far in awe over any political campaigns.

  41. Awww Phil, you’re getting me all choked up too!

    Reading this entry today has warmed my heart even more. I’ve been tap-dancing on freaking clouds since I left TAM, because of all the fun I had and people I met.

    I loved how you responded to the indecent roasting, both to the crowd and to me, later. hee hee. And don’t worry, I won’t say bad words on this comment.

    Thanks, Phil!

  42. Minties eh. They’re ok I guess but they’re not Violet Crumbles. Try and get some of your other Aussie friends to bring some Violet Crumbles over to you next time you see them.

  43. JC in Seattle

    Phil,

    It was a pleasure meeting you at TAM6. It is so encouraging to meet somebody who has successfully taken the baton from Carl and run with it so well. You demonstrate drive, charisma, and passion in the field of natural science. I trust that you will draw many others into our camp. Keep doing what you are doing, you are a success.

    Jonathan Christian
    Seattle, WA

  44. Hola! Awesome seeing you again this year – yes, us gingers are indeed taking over. I wonder if there’s something about red hair which predisposes one to being a skeptic? I can’t wait until next year’s TAM, they just keep getting better.

    -Lola (Jas)

  45. PhantomPhoton

    “Speaking of which, there were lots of young women attending, which was fantastic. It’s good to see more women getting into skepticism.”

    Say no more, I’m there!
    A handsome young geek guy needs no further reasons to go. :p Oh and I don’t mind an overabundance of redheaded ladies either.
    But anyway on a more serious note, I’ll look into TAM next year. This sounds like it is right up my alley.

  46. CJ

    I was one of the MANY first TAMers there and I absolutely LOVED every minute of it. I didn’t get my BA book signed because I bought it on the third day, and all throughout the third day I was too busy finding skepchicks to sign my calendar to do anything productive (although I did get my Wiseman spoon signed by Banachek, how cool is that!). I will find you next year to get you to sign both of your books that I’ll have by then.

    A friend I met at TAM took this picture and I’m using this quote you had when I think of a good idea to get myself into the skepdude calendar.

    http://lh3.ggpht.com/sgerbic/SGBvwp20BgI/AAAAAAAACOI/RX9vEn8ZVlg/IMG_7907.jpg?imgmax=912

    I looking forward to TAM 7.

  47. JKH

    What a fantastic event!

    Every year I intend to get there. Every year something impedes me.

    It is roaring up my list of things I must do before I die. GOT TO GET TO A DAMN TAM!!!

  48. Peter B

    Aaaaagh! I was SO going to go.

    You see, the week after TAM 6 is the World Archaeological Congress 6, in Ireland, and I was going to give a talk there about pseudo-archaeology. It would have been a wonderful trip around the world with my wife and son – TAM, WAC and a bit of European sightseeing.

    We’d just got our son’s passport, I’d paid for WAC…

    …and then I came down seriously sick, with six weeks in hospital. So no TAM, no WAC, and no European sightseeing.

    *sigh*

    I just hope the next WAC aligns so well with another TAM…

  49. Ade

    Sounds fun, but Vegas is rather a long way from London.

  50. what everyone else said.

    and cj: you will always have the honor of being my first minion. you rawk.

    and quit talking about doctor who! i have “turn left” on my computer, but am really really trying not to watch it until my tim3po gets home on thursday.

  51. sudopod

    I’m one of those people you introduced to skepticism. Bad Astronomy was pretty much the first thing thing I cared about on the net when I was introduced to the intarwebs back around 1998.

    I was drawn in by the bad movie reviews and stayed for everything else. I lol’d heartily. :)

    Thanks for all of the hard work!

  52. It was my first TAM and it was truly amazing! My husband and I had a fantastic time. We’re still processing it all. It was great to see you again Phil!

  53. IBY

    Im so jealous, I want to be there! >_< And Phil, skepticism was introduced to me by you, and in turn, many of my world views changed, so thanks! :)

  54. MO Man

    I’ve attended two TAM’s but now that I am collecting that old SS, the cost, especially if I bring the wife who wants to come just as much as I do, is way too high. Has anyone thought about holding it on the East Coast in odd years so that some of us could drive to it? I really, really want to attend one more just to see Hal Bidlack while he is still a kid. Oh, sure, the other guys are OK, too.

  55. Big Frankie C

    This was my first TAM as well… I am usually immune to fan-boy syndrome. I’m a life-long metalhead, and I have met Th guys in Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slayer, Anthrax, Danzig, and several other people I rock out to very day, and I had no problem talking to them. Then I get to TAM… I ride on an elevator for 13 floors with Dr Tyson, and can’t say a word, after very briefly saying hi to Phil in the hallway, I take 2 days to chat with him, and all I can do is mention Thundarr the Barbarian (as it related to Planet-X silliness). Although I did chat with a bunch of really cool people, and had a fantastic time. I already started my TAM7 fund with the money I had left over from this one.

    Words and stuff,
    Big Frankie

  56. Kitty

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_71w093cflg

    sorry the video will make you kind of seasick…and I ran out of memory space before Randi could talk!!!

  57. Normal Dude

    I went to TAM 6 and it was fantastic. Best vacation ever. I even got a picture and signature from Phil.

    If you haven’t been, you need to go.

  58. This was my second TAM. Both were an absolute blast! Your talk was awe-inspiring, Phil.

  59. drzzzs

    Agree it was an awesome meeting!!

    While there, I did not realize that the “other side” of TAM 6 was so crowded. It could explain the the chill I felt while at the Flamingo – maybe it was not the aggressive air-conditioning

    (found via Google)

    Million Ghost March On For This Weekend

    by Dean Terry
    The Million Ghost March is set to take place this weekend, June 19-22, 2008 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clairvoyants, mediums and psychics worldwide have been invited to contact spirits. The Million Ghost March is being held in protest of an annual Skeptics Convention taking place there.

    “For too long, paranormal skeptics have mocked people with a curiosity about ghosts, spirits and the afterlife. The Million Ghost March was conceived as an opportunity to turn the tables on these unimaginative naysayers,” said Peter Fenton, organizer of the massive effort. Called the Amazing Meeting 6, the Skeptics Convention is organized by magician The Amazing Randi and will feature guest speakers including a cast member of the Mythbusters, magicians Penn & Teller and cable news pundit Christopher Hutchins.

    To protest this annual gathering of professional non-believers, volunteer clairvoyants and psychic mediums are inviting deceased spirits and ghosts to haunt Las Vegas in an unprecedented Million Ghost March.

    Many celebrity spirits are expected to join the march. Celebrity ghosts including gangster Bugsy Siegel, entertainers George Jessel, Liberace and Tupac Shakur, the legendary Rat Pack and journalist Hunter S. Thompson are all expected to be there.

    For more information on this event, contact: Peter Fenton 541-686-5630 askdocparanormal@gmail.com or go to Peter Fenton’s blog Ask Doc Paranormal.

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