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Sunday, March 21, 2010


HowlerFest 2010

Way back in prehistory, when the world was young and the TalkOrigins archives were less than a megabyte, Ted Holden dubbed the denizens of the USENET forum TalkOrigins Howler Monkeys”, this was taken as a badge of pride, and any meeting of TO contributors was dubbed a HowlerFest.

This weekend some of the old TO regulars, myself, John Wilkins, Chris (“how can he be trusted”) Nedin, Jim (Hominid FAQ) Foley and Chis Ho-Stuart met with PZ Myers in Canberra for an antipodean Howler Fest. We don’t contribute much to TO these days, but we are all still active in appreciation of science, and combating pseudoscience and have our own blogs, or blog at the Panda’s Thumb collective (which grew out of TO).

There was much eating, drinking of caffeinated beverages and some beer called Venom, appreciation of Dickensonia Rex and talking. Lots of talking about a diverse range of subjects (science, pseudoscience, global warming, religion, whose politicians were most insane). Chris and Jim had us take over their living rooms and bedrooms without complaint as we all talked late into the night (and let me say Chris’s couch is very, very comfortable). I won’t talk too much about this, as Professor SteveSteve will blog the meeting over that the Panda’s Thumb, apart from saying we single handeledy increased coffee sales in Canberra that weekend.

However, I do want to recount one incident. People forget that Prof Myers is a developmental biologist, and does experiments with Zebra fish. I work on Alzheimer’s disease, and work with some colleagues on Zebra fish looking at toxicity models. PZ had discovered that a certain free radical scavenger had an interesting and unexpected effect on development; we had found a structurally different free radical scavenger had a similar and unexpected effect on development. We blinked at each other for a moment. Now I’m going to use his scavenger in my experiments next week, and he’s going to use my scavenger in his experiments.

Science is fantastic! Cross seeding of ideas can come from almost anywhere!

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