An Introduction To The Amaz!ng Meeting
The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM for short) is an annual conference celebrating science and skepticism sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation, and is considered by many to be the premier skeptical event of the year. The conference boasts a dazzling array of speakers, side-events, and entertainment. Frequent guests include Adam Savage of MythBusters, Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, magicians Penn & Teller, Richard Dawkins, the cast of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and—of course—James “The Amazing” Randi.
The JREF was founded in 1996 by conjurer and skeptic James Randi, who is most famous for his numerous appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and for his Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. The organization’s primary goal is to educate the public and the media with regard to the dangers of accepting unproven claims. The JREF also supports research into paranormal claims under controlled scientific experimental conditions.
The Amaz!ng Meeting began as a modest conference attended by 150 people in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the JREF is based. Since the first TAM in 2003 interest in the conference has swelled; it moved to Las Vegas the next year, and by TAM 8 in 2010 the conference had more than 1300 attendees. The JREF also sponsors international TAM satellite conferences, with the first TAM London taking place in 2009 and the inaugural TAM Australia in 2010.
If you attend a TAM conference, you can expect amazing speakers and panel discussions on a wide range of topics, from creationism to climate change, from feminism to grass-roots skeptical activism, from genetic engineering to the latest in quirky psychological research. Without exception the speakers are incredibly friendly and welcoming people and the atmosphere is inviting and grand. The conference boasts many side-events, featuring workshops, additional panel discussions, and even musical performances by the likes of Roy Zimmerman and George Hrab.
It’s common to start off your day at The Amaz!ng Meeting with coffee and pastries while attending a live taping of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and end the day at the SGU Dinner or with one of Rebecca Watson’s infamous parties. You’ll get to hobnob with your skeptical heroes and witness events that will be talked about in skeptical circles for years to come (I’m looking at you, “Don’t Be a Dick”!).
But if you can’t attend, don’t despair! Some of the talks from past years are available for free on Vimeo, and from time to time the JREF will produce DVDs of the entire conference.
And hey, there’s always next year!
If you want to hear more about The Amaz!ng Meeting 8, which I attended, here are some highlights in which I give an overview of TAM, discuss the opening remarks, recap Adam Savage’s presentation, and give my perspective on Phil Plait’s speech. And if you’re not familiar with TAM 8’s “Don’t Be a Dick” controversy, I’m sure that Phil Plait would be willing to fill you in: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.