I must make a point of never again flying while the All Blacks are playing in the World Cup. I was over the Atlantic for the 1995 final, and flying home from the South Island during this tournament’s quarter-final. The conclusion is plain: if I’m flying, the All Blacks lose. I know this is nonsense, but the power of coincidence is such that when two rare events coincide twice, it’s hard not to feel they must be linked. Even when the main reason for my trip south was to attend the 2007 New Zealand Skeptics’ Conference, where the pitfalls of such superstitious thinking were repeatedly exposed. As always, the event was a hugely enjoyable occasion, with lots of good company, interesting presentations and fine food.
The conference kicked off on Friday evening with a competition to build the best Rife machine, from a pile of assorted components. All of the creations worked as well as the genuine article, an example of which one member had brought along.
Saturday dawned fine, calm and clear (despite a forecast from Ken Ring that the weekend would be “mostly dry, cloudy, and annoyingly windy), and began with a history of magic from local magician Geoff Diggs, who explained why magicians have not come so far since the days they were rated only slightly above freak shows and the man who lifts steel anvils with his private parts. This was followed by a session on alternative medicine. After lunch came talks on psychic hotlines (see NZ Skeptic 84), creationism in Australasia, and a presentation on a recent documentary about big cats in Canterbury which was entertaining if not entirely persuasive. The day concluded with a discussion on the proposal to change the society’s official name from the New Zealand Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (Inc.) to the simpler and more familiar NZ Skeptics. Then it was time for dinner, and the presentation of the annual Bent Spoon and Bravo Awards (see p18). The day finished as it began, with a magician, this time Michael Woolf, who baffled all with his prediction of that day’s Christchurch Press headline several days in advance.
The name change proposal drew widespread support, and was duly actioned at the AGM the following morning. Full details in next issue. More illuminating presentations followed on economics, the dangers (or otherwise) of sodium in food, and the poor correlation between naturalness and goodness. Expect to see some of these items in the next few issues of the NZ Skeptic.
Then it was off to explore the wonders of the mainland. A highlight of the trip was Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World in Wanaka. Stuart, a skeptic of long standing, has a challenge to psychics-see the details at www.psychicchallenge.co.nz
But it’s good to be home. Now if only we could have avoided that flight.