Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cross Canada Skeptical Smackdown - 2011

Once again the Cross Canada Skeptical Smackdown is finished for the year. (And this year it truly was Cross Canada.)

Last year it was really the “Western Canadian Skeptical Smackdown” with the only cities participating being Edmonton and Vancouver. But in 2011, seven different cities at least toyed with the idea. (Three did not actually have events for a variety of reasons, but we do hope they are all able to overcome their complications and participate next year.)

The four cities that were involved were: Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax.

Vancouver competitors await the opening gun...

Halifax joined (making it a coast to coast event) with mere days to go, and as I understand it, the CCSS became the ice-breaker at the first ever Halifax SitP! (Haligonians please feel free to disabuse me of this notion if I am wrong.)

Vancouver’s event saw some real drama as the local lead changed back and forth more than once, and first place was determined by a mere two points. One team dropped out after the first round (having only received two points) and a table of legionnaires who had not come for the quiz, found themselves asking for spare answer sheets by the second round so they could play along.

Yours truly outlines the rules.

Quick rewind: The CCSS is a British style pub-quiz in five rounds focusing on science and skeptical subjects. 20011 was its second year and I dare say it is looking good already for year three. (If you think you might be interested in hosting an event in your city next year, do not hesitate to contact me (Send an email to my garbage email account – I check it irregularly – kgoodkey (at) hotmail (dot) com. You may need to be patient and persistent as sometimes I do go long periods without checking.)

The correct answers are announced.
If you’ve been following along… which I know is only a dozen of you… you know that last year in Vancouver we had a group of local skeptical heavy-weights banded together to make a dream team – “The Big Wang Theory.” And they kicked ass, winning the national title… which is nothing more than that – empty bragging rights. The question here in Vancouver was “were they going to reunite this year to defend their title.” It was a tightly guarded secret. Even I didn’t know until the last of them walked through the door 20 minutes to game time. Once again, they truly were the team to beat, but this year proved considerably harder. They lost the lead in the second round and didn’t get it back until the fourth, and in the final round there was real suspense - - did the upstart (and formed randomly there in the room that evening before the game!) “Everyone but Susan” manage to dethrone the champs?

As I mentioned above, it was a mere two point difference this year – the equivalent of one costly wrong answer in the fourth round – but Big Wang Theory did manage to hold on to their title locally.

The thrill of victory - Big Wang Theory

This year, unlike last year, where both events were held simultaneously, each city ran their event on a day and time of their choosing over the course of the (loosely speaking) weekend. All those events are now over and the scores have been compiled. There is some explanation worth adding at the bottom – hence the asterisks.

Big Wang Theory - 75.5 (VAN)
Everybody But Susan - 73.5 (VAN)
Chernobyl Babies – 69 (OTT)
Skeptics Not Septics - 64 (OTT)
Occam's Mach 3 - 63.5 (OTT)
Team Sexy - 60.5 (VAN)
Magnitude - 58.5 (OTT)
The Haligonians - 57 (HFX)**
Skeptical Believers - 56.5 (VAN)
Alliance of Unholy Eggheads - 56.5 (VAN)
Critical Mass - 55.5 (VAN)
13.37.Pi - 53 (EDM) *(70)
Three Wise Women and the Guy - 48.5 (EDM) *(64)
Chaos Riders - 44.5 (EDM) *(58)

*Due to time constraints the Edmonton event had to skip the fourth round (Too bad, it was my favourite!) The bracketed scores are what each Edmonton team would have finished with if they maintained the same percentage of right and wrong answers in the fourth round as they averaged in the other four rounds.

**The Haligonians – the sole Halifax team – was comprised from the entirety of Halifax SitP attendees that evening. As mentioned above it was used as an ice breaker with people coming and going throughout the event and answers being agreed upon by the ever morphing group as a whole.

The agony of defeat... Everybody but Susan narrowly misses winning the national title.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Four Dark Horsemen Brush on Past....

I am amused.

Sonja McLeod has posted scientifically legitimate information on her Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog.

Whatever you do, don't tell her.  She may feel the need to remove it.

Okay so quick bit of background.
Japan:  Earthquake - arrrrrrgh!
Japan:  Tidal Waves - Aiiieee!
Japan:  Nuclear Power plants in jeopardy:  Holy mother... have we learned nothing about nuclear power safety management?

So it certainly seems if you are following the news that while this situation is very un-cool (no pun intended) at Fukushima Daiichi, that the chances of serious amounts of fallout reaching our shores is currently very small, and there is every reason to expect that chance to dwindle.  Now, do not conflate that statement with the idea that there will be no effect on people half a world away from the plant.  No doubt someone will eventually do the math and come up with some estimate like (I am totally making this number up based on nothing more than a report I read on Chernobyl some years after it happened.) "The average lifespan on earth will be 7 minutes shorter as a result of Fukushima Daiichi." 

In any case the point being that there is no current reason to be taking potassium iodide in B.C.  That part she gets wrong (and if you read the comments it is because "What the CBC says is not gospel to me!" - fair enough... but she's walking up to the paranoia threshold.)

It is also clear upon reading that she is more in favour of other alternative means of preventing radiation (including x-ray) damage... of course, right at the bottom - she could not resist.... homeopathy.