(Editor's Note: What we have here is a quick note about The Amazing Meeting from one of the fellows who makes TAM such a wonderful time: The kindly, humble, and brilliant Steve Cuno. We publish this in the hopes that those of you waffling over whether or not to attend will read and be inspired to take the plunge. If you are a previous TAM attendee and have strong feelings and/or deep thoughts about the experience, please feel free to contribute your own note by writing here. Thanks. - BKT)
Dear Swift Reader:
When I attended my first TAM, I was a bit, er, skeptical.
I figured that two and a half days of presentations on science and critical thinking would either be fun ... or boring beyond belief.
On the off chance it would be fun, I signed up.
How did it turn out? Let me put it this way. I registered for this year's TAM the day it was announced. It will be my fourth consecutive TAM.
I had hoped for an intellectual experience, and maybe to be entertained. I vastly underestimated TAM. The speakers weren't just good — they were riveting. Their styles ranged from funny to straight, from light-hearted to profound. Their topics were varied, fresh, informative, well-defended, and horizon-broadening.
I had a chance to meet people whom I'd only experienced as names on book covers or as faces on YouTube. James Randi , Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Richard Wiseman, Adam Savage, Harriet Hall, Penn & Teller (Teller ... talks!), Banachek, and others. They were all there. None of them avoided us fans. They milled about in the open, shook hands and chatted. With everyone.
Six hundred people attended TAM that year. (Last year there 1,000+.) We all sat rapt from Thursday morning through Sunday noon. And regretted that it seemed to end so soon.
The information was great and the presenters were amazing. It was more than I'd hoped for. But I have to tell you about the emotional experience. That, I hadn't expected.
There's a sense of camaraderie at TAM. Of fellowship. It is heartening to gather with 1,000 like-minded people. To make new friends from throughout the world who are as passionate as you are about rational thought. To know you're not alone. To realize you're not the only critical thinker out there.
I draw strength from that. I admit that the malarkey-obsessed world can get to me. Connecting with others at TAM gives me hope and recharges my batteries.
Undecided about attending TAM? I shamelessly urge you to go for it.