The NZ Skeptics will demonstrate the power of physics over the mind, with a firewalk planned as part of their annual conference in Auckland this August.

“Firewalking can be scary and exhilarating, whether you know the physics behind it or not,” says Skeptics Chair-entity Vicki Hyde. “But if you´ve ever grabbed a hot loaf of bread out of the oven, or quickly tossed a stray ember back onto the fire, you´ll understand that it doesn´t take special powers to handle the heat.”

The heat is on in other topics as well, with the traditional mix of critical thinking, cutting-edge science and the out-right weird making for a diverse and fascinating conference lineup. The wide range of subjects includes the end of the world, attitudes to the use of 1080, the New Zealand Atheist Bus Campaign, how memory can fool us, and the science and history of mass delusions. A range of medical topics will cover immunisation controversies (including the MMR vaccine hoax), an analysis of at the “Unfortunate Experiment” at National Women´s Hospital, and the demonization of fat.

“It´s a great meeting for anyone who wants to find out more about how we think about things, and what we don´t know we know. Along the way you learn a lot, and laugh a lot too,” says Hyde.

The event will include the formal announcement of the Bent Spoon Award, the NZ Skeptics annual award for the greatest example of gullibility in the public arena.

“We had nominations come over the past year ranging from Fonterra´s tacit support for treating serious cattle ailments with water to TVNZ touting the use of psychics to find missing toddlers. We´ve also had nominations for our Bravo Awards for people who demonstrate the rare moments of critical thinking in our media.”

The Butterfly Creek venue near Auckland Airport will provide its own distractions with birds, tropical fish, lizards and crocodiles. The Skeptics say they have no plans to try walking over the latter.

The conference is open to the public. Registrations and further details can be found at the New Zealand Skeptics website:

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