Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

On Monday, July 9th, all five hosts of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast attended a meet-and-greet cosponsored by the Bay Area SGU at Ohlone CollegeSGU at Ohlone CollegeSkeptics and the Psychology Department at Ohlone College. Many people have asked me how on earth we were able to pull this off, so I thought I’d share the story.

I was introduced to Evan Bernstein several years ago while attending “The Amaz!ng Meeting” in Las Vegas, NV. I had never heard of the SGU, and casually asked Evan what brought him to TAM. He replied, “Oh, I thought you knew. I’m Evan from the SGU.” I said, “Oh? What’s that?” He said, “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.” I said, “Okay. And what’s the Skeptics Guide to the Universe?” Evan looked a bit taken aback and laughed, saying, “I’m sorry if I look surprised. It’s just that I don’t usually have to explain that here.” He then told me all about their podcast, how it got started, who was on the show with him, etc. He later friended me on Facebook, and we spent the next few years reading and commenting on each other’s posts, and chatting when we saw each other at conventions.

In May, I received a private message from Evan, asking for a favor. He said that he and the other SGU hosts (affectionately known as The Rogues) would be in the Bay Area the next month to give a talk at Google, and were hoping to get together with some local skeptics while they were here. He had talked to Eugenie Scott, but found that they weren’t able to use our usual venue, and was hoping that I might have some ideas. I asked my dean if we might be able to hold the event on our campus, and he agreed so long as it was cosponsored by the Ohlone College Psychology Department (where I’m employed). A few dozen emails later, and we were all set.

The Rogues and I first visited Pixar Studios and were treated to a fascinating tour of the facility. Even though I was a tag-along and the tour was obviously for the SGU hosts, it was very interesting. Later that evening, after fighting rush hour traffic from Emeryville to Fremont, and a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant, the Rogues landed on campus to the delight of over 100 lucky and eager skeptics.

I wish I could have allowed more people to attend, but the limited space provided on campus meant that the Fire Marshal’s and our own campus administrators’ happiness took precedence. The Rogues (Evan Bernstein, Bob Novella, Jay Novella, Steve Novella, and Rebecca Watson) couldn’t have been more approachable and accommodating. They signed autographs, took pictures, and chatted with attendees well into the night. They also brought along SGU tee shirts, pens, buttons, and various other SWAG which they sold to make money to support their travel expenses and future endeavors in skepticism.

The night was not without its hiccups. My favorite was when the lights went out around 7:30 pm, sending me into a panic because I had no idea where the switch was. Campus Police arrived and unlocked the door leading to the timer, which they graciously reset for the remainder of the evening. We also ran out of refreshments within the first hour or so, and the pot that we planned to use for hot water (to make tea) burned out; many thanks to the attendee who noticed this and unplugged the machine.

But, this “small stuff” is meaningless in the end. The larger point is that over 100 people got a chance to mingle with some of their favorite fellow skeptics (the SGU Rogues, as well as each other), and were hopefully further energized to continue with our shared mission of bringing science, skepticism, and critical thinking to the public.

Thanks to all those who attended, and keep an eye out here, as well as on our Facebook page, for more events in the future!

— Sheldon

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