All events take place at Butterfly Creek Papillon Room

Friday Night
When What Who Details
18:00 Registration Attendees Conference registration
19:00 Skeptics in the Pub Quiz Fun evening of skeptically themed pub quiz
When What Who Details
8:30 Registration, Tea, Coffee Conference registration
9:20 Introduction and House Rules
9:30 Australian Skeptic’s $100,000 Challenge and the Laws of Physics Ian Bryce We have investigated many dubious claims and activities, some violating the laws of science, and some violating the laws of the land. Many articles have been published, and business plans have been ruined. Encounters include: Power Balance, Winecard, Lutec’s Free Electricity, The Indian Spirit Guide, Rossi’s Cold Fusion, Aquapol’s Rising Damp Repeller, and the Mind Body Spirit festival. This talk will examine those with a scientific slant.
10:20 Morning Tea
10:50 Heed the Taniwha Daniel Hikuroa Hitherto mostly ignored or disregarded by the science community because it seemed to be myth and legend, fantastic and implausible, mātauranga Māori includes knowledge generated using techniques consistent with the scientific method, but explained according to a Māori world view. Taniwha are codified forms of knowledge that serve as warning signs and guardians. This talk will discuss taniwha and their role in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand.
11:40 What to believe? Critical thinking in the face of a surplus of information (and misinformation) Justine Kingsbury Critical thinking has never been more important, nor more difficult, than it is now. We are bombarded with claims from a multitude of sources.  It is tempting to pick a few sources we consider reliable and pay attention only to those – but this risks entrenching ourselves and our views in a clique of like-minded people, potentially missing out on truths that are easier to see from other perspectives and failing to engage with false claims that need to be called out. This talk makes some suggestions about how to behave, as a critical thinker, in the face of a surplus of information.
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Nothing and Nowhere to Hide: Mass Surveillance in the Digital Age Kathleen Kuehn From the 2013 Edward Snowden revelations about global mass surveillance to this year’s Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, it’s become increasingly clear that our everyday communications and transactions are captured and analysed by both state and corporate actors for a wide range of purposes. Political polarisation, widespread digital illiteracy and media-fuelled moral panics often muddy debates around the actual influence and effects surveillance practices have on our everyday lives. Does mass surveillance keep us safer? Hurt democracy? Or does it merely make us better consumers? With an eye towards the evidence, this talk unpacks some of the key debates and effects of mass surveillance in a digital age.
14:10 Methamphetamine testing of ordinary homes – how did New Zealand go insane? Nick Kim Somewhere in the mid-2000s, local authorities in several parts of New Zealand discovered that they were increasingly having to deal with a new type of contaminated site – the clandestine meth lab.  For district and city councils—who have a role in ensuring that buildings are safe and habitable—dealing with chemicals left at former meth labs became a pressing concern. In 2010, the Ministry of Health published a document to guide councils on how such sites should be assessed and remediated. By 2016, a fully-fledged testing industry had developed, but instead of focusing solely on labs, most testing was in ordinary residential houses. Testing for ultra-low levels of meth became firmly embedded in the property market. Families were being advised of critical health risks, houses were being declared uninhabitable, and landlords and tenants were pursuing each other in the Tenancy Tribunal over clean-up costs and perceived health effects. In six short years, New Zealand had gone insane. In 2018, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor released a report that confirmed this diagnosis. How did the residential meth-testing debacle come about? Why did we get it so wrong? Where were the checks and balances? In this talk, Nick will try to piece together what may have happened to our little country, and whether there are any lessons we might learn.
15:00 Afternoon Tea
15:30 Panel Nick Kim, Russell Brown, Dacia Herbulock Meth testing, Housing NZ, and the media
16:30 Butterfly creek/Workshop
18:30 Dinner
When What Who Details
9:30 Is there anyone out there? What birds can teach us about the Fermi Paradox Alex Taylor The search for any evidence of extraterrestrial life has so far drawn a blank. This is something of a puzzle, given the number of stars in the Milky Way, never mind the Universe as a whole. One way to gain insight into this mystery is to send spacecraft to other planets to try to find out how rare life might be across the Universe, as NASA recently did with the Mars rover. Another way is to search for examples of intelligence life here on our planet, to see how rare it is for complex thought to evolve. In this talk I will explain why birds might be an ideal candidate for this type of investigation.
10:20 Morning Tea
10:50 Are We Alone? — The Search for Extraterrestrial Life in the Solar System Kathleen Campbell Little Green (Wo)Men are out; microbes are in. The search for life beyond Earth has accelerated in the past couple of decades since the lull following the Mars Viking missions in the 1970’s. Both the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ and Icy Worlds are receiving intense scrutiny. This talk will cover what, how and why in the quest for ET life in the Solar System in the current and coming decades. We will also touch on the burden of planetary protection for future robotic and human space exploration, and plans for asteroid mining and sending life-seeking probes to exoplanets.
11:40 Who really won the US-Soviet space race? Jennifer Frost My presentation addresses the history of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  The space race was one of the arenas in which the two superpowers battled for global dominance.  It propelled both nations to pursue rapid scientific research and technological advances and demanded massive economic support and political commitment.  I will consider the connections between Cold War politics and superpower science during the 1950s through the 1970s and engage with the question of whether the US or the Soviet Union ‘won’ the Cold War space race.  By bringing a historical perspective to this topic, we see the answer is not a simple one.  Challenging national myths and popular memories requires questioning assumptions about how we analyse and understand the past.
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Can’t believe your eyes or ears? Gavin Ellis Fake news plants the seeds of suspicion and discredits individuals and institutions. It plays on prejudices and breeds intolerance. It is the visible face of a Post-truth Age in which lies are legitimised as ‘alternative facts’ and verifiable facts are undermined with a dismissive ‘truth isn’t truth’. Unchecked, it will weaken what binds society together – trust. This talk examined the dangers and the defences.
14:00 Workshop Everyone Discussion on free speech
14:45 Break/Closing
15:00 Skeptics AGM