I am now heading back from Boston to NYC (my final stop) after a whistlestop tour doing Skeptics in the Pub on Tuesday and a talk at Harvard Medical school today.


Harvard Campus at Cambridge, MW.

The talk I gave today was scheduled for 30 mins but stretched out to 2 hrs as a result of lots of questions and discussion. I was assured by the head of the department that this is in fact a good sign since it means people were interested enough to firstly, stick around and then have their interest piqued enough to want to probe further. Apparently you should only be worried if half the group gets up and leaves to do experiments. So, even though I got a sort of hammering (and almost missed my bus), it was a productive hammering nonetheless. And having people from Harvard Medical School hold you captive for 2 hrs and offer suggestions and pose probing questions can only be a good thing.


The Blue Man group - hard to take seriously after Arrested Development took the piss.

Boston Skeptics also invited me to be the guest speaker at SiTP on Tuesday night in Cambridge, near Harvard Square (you can watch the video here).

Boston Skeptics in the Pub – Rachael Dunlop – Sept. 15, 2009 from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.

I did spark a slight panic, only made clear to me when I received a text message from Brian Dunning. After I had not arrived by 6:30 pm, the organisers became worried that they had no way to contact me me to find out my whereabouts…or did they?

As is the way of Web2.0, Rebecca put a call out over Twitter to find someone who could contact me. I was alighting from a cab out the front of the pub when I got a text message from Brian Dunning telling me I was required “immediately” at the pub! In the meantime, rumours circulated that I had been kidnapped by Ben Affleck who is in town shooting a film. Sadly this was not true, the much more mundane excuse of being stuck in traffic as a result of Ben Affleck being in town was all I could profer up. Actually, in hindsight, I should have been more worried about being abducted by Adam Sandler and forced to watch his awful excuses for comedy filums. You may not be surprised to learn that Adam has brought monkeys to the set of his movie; I know this because they were evacuated from a large hotel last night when a gas leak was detected. He should stop doing this – they almost always out-act him. But then perhaps this is not a bad distraction.


A strange creature has emerged from the depths of Lake Champlain in Vermont. So, naturally we call him "Champ" the pleiosaur.

Speaking of strange creatures, it seems NSW shares something in common with the state of Vermont in the USA. I spotted this notice on the side of a delivery truck in Boston. Just prior to leaving Sydney, news broke that an Australian crytozoologist had spotted what he believes to be a pleiosaurs in a river near Sydney. It seems this is not an isolated problem. Emblazoned on the side of a truck in Boston, I discovered that Vermont has a similar problem. Their pleiosaurs is named as “Champ”, and the creature has apparently been spotted over 300 times.

Boston is also the epicentre of the unusual performance art group, The Blue Man Group. And you haven’t seen Boston until you’ve seen them, or so the poster says. I must admit I have some trouble taking the Blue Man Group seriously, although I’m sure they are a top class bunch of blokes. But after Arrested Development did a show centred around Tobias attempting to join them after mistaking a poster for a depression support group for the group, it is a little hard to think of them with a straight face.

Even with such a busy schedule I did have time to look around Harvard University yesterday. As you can imagine it is a very impressive campus, reminiscent of its English counterpart, steeped in history and rich in perfectly manicured gardens and historical buildings. Harvard Yard is a large expanse of grassed and tree covered area where students loll about on garden chairs reading texts or playing frisbie. The library towers over the yard at one end, literally dwarfing all other buildings.

The imposing Harvard Library towers over the Yard.

The imposing Harvard Library towers over the Yard.

I had just enough time to wander through the maze of colleges, where students live in semester, to get to the numerous Law school buildings. The surrounding areas are very English in their architecture and garden design. Like Cambridge in the UK, Cambridge, MA is steeped in academia and culture. The town itself is dominated by a student population owing to the numerous universities and colleges in the are. And all highly prestigious; from MIT, to Harvard and Tufts University.

One thing that struck me today at Harvard medical school in the Cell Biology Department, was the cramped environment. Just like the labs I saw at Vanderbilt, a private university with plenty of cash to throw around, the lab space was small, dark and very basic. But despite this, some of the best scientific work in the world is done in the Harvard Medical School and surrounding research facilities.

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  • Melbourne _pete

    Wasnt Tobias also involved in some “junk science”, being America’s first “Analrapist”? lol

  • GeorgeRic

    Skepticism is great because it looks at ideas, carefully evaluating. Ideas just recently expanded with ‘contiguous dimensional worlds’, and the debate will never be the same.
    With the existence of ‘Techie Worlds’ (available at amazon.com) believers in Christianity can hold their views utilizing sound logic, clear thinking and a mechanistic view of worlds. Applying Flatland’s concept of contiguous dimensional worlds, Trinity, Resurrection, Judgment and soul are sensible and mechanically viable beliefs. ‘Techie Worlds’ follows that rule of science by which individual details are tested for their conformity to the overarching hypothesis. Admittedly, agnostics may choose not to follow such obvious and sensible logic, but no longer can they denigrate believers for fuzzy thinking. Moslems and pagans who read and understand the sound logic of the Flatland concept must adopt the reasonable Trinitarian view. ‘Techie Worlds’ will make them abandon the ways of terror an adopt the way of love. Techie Worlds is not standard preacher-prattle. Only by reading it can you open your mind to its valid way of understanding Christianity.

  • @Mooselet, thanks for the correction, fixed now! I have nothing against the Blue Man Group, having never seen them. ’twas simply a comment on the Arrested Development Episode. I will be sure to see them next time I am in Boston – a beautiful city, and I hope to be back very soon. Cheers

  • I know this is nit-picky, but I’m originally from the Boston area and just need to fix one teeny-tiny error… Massachusetts is abbreviated MA, not MS. I think MS is Missouri or Mississippi. So it would be Cambridge, MA. Sorry. 🙂

    Boston is a great city to be a tourist in and personally I think you can really see the city with Blue Man Group. Now can you say “Harvard Yard” like a true Bostonian?

  • Ah – people have been noticing the recent ‘audio diary’ of Dragon*Con and do we have a few gamers in our audience, apart from me, it appears. 😉 I think you’ll be in for a lecture about the contribution of Dungeons and Dragons to our cultural milieu… :p

  • Hey keep your religious disparaging of my hobby to yourself 🙂

    D30 = shorthand for 30 sided dice. pff and you’ve been to dragoncon

  • D30? What the devil is this?

  • At some point in the future you and I need to talk dice and the necessity of a D30, if Kylie hasn’t already briefed you.

    SO can we call you the world famous Dr Rachie yet :p

  • Jober

    Great story! Although the Bostonians/Cambridgites might be a little peeved that you’ve placed them in the state of Missouri (MS) rather than the, ahem, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA). 😉