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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