UFOs will soon be seen in Hamilton – that´s the confident prediction of the NZ Skeptics Society.

The Society will kick off its annual three-day conference with its usual light-hearted launch on Friday 26 September. This year conference attendees will be challenged to make their own UFOs to see who can produce the most convincing indication of alien spacecraft.

“Fake UFOs have a long history in the field,” says Chair-entity Vicki Hyde. “Though you´d find any card-carrying Skeptic would give their eye-teeth for a real close encounter. Most of our members consider it a reasonable bet that there is other intelligent life somewhere out there – we´re not convinced they´re playing silly hide-and-seek games with Earthlings however.”

Magicians Mark Robinson and Nathan Grange will demonstrate how even the skeptically minded can flummoxed by the trained hand. Physician Martin Wallace will provide an understanding of how brains can be fooled into thinking a sugar pill is an effective treatment, making the placebo effect a huge money-spinner for the alternative medicine industry.

“Skeptics´ conferences always have a mix of laughter and learning,” says Hyde. “It draws people who want to ask questions and gain a better understanding of how we view the world, whether right or wrong in those views.”

Auckland University Philosophy graduate Matthew Dentith will ask whether the paranormal can be saved from the laws of science. Waikato University’s Alison Campbell says we should tell the great stories of science as a form of human endeavour if we want students or society to see science as relevant. On a more serious note, Auckland lecturer and forensic physician Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith will point out the dangers of jumping to conclusions when diagnosing sexual abuse.

The conference will see the announcement of the annual Bent Spoon Award which the Society gives for the most gullible, credulous story in the media, as well as the Bravo Awards for those reporters who have applied some critical thinking to coverage of science, pseudo- science and the paranormal.

The conference is open to non-members; conference fees are $45/30 (waged/unwaged). Further information and a registration form can be found at http://skeptics.org.nz

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