Where I’ll Be: CONvergence/SkepchickCON 2014!

Mad Art Lab made a craft! Well, one of the children who participated in our Scientist Paper Dolls Sandbox  at CONvergence 2013 did. Photo by Jamie Bernstein.

Mad Art Lab made a craft! Well, one of the children who participated in our Scientist Paper Dolls Sandbox at CONvergence 2013 did. Photo by Jamie Bernstein.

Every year, the Skepchick Network and Freethought Blogs get together to host a science and skepticism track at CONvergence in Minneapolis over the 4th of July weekend. This will be my third year participating in programming, and every year it just keeps getting better.

CONvergence is one of my favorite cons to attend, for many reasons. Reason number 1, the big one, is that they work hard year to year to make things more and more inclusive and more safe, both in programming and social spaces. Melanie, our kickass track director, has worked incredibly hard to create a balance of science and skepticism programming that will appear to anyone. She’s taken feedback from a wide variety of strong *ahem, guilty as charged* personalities, who all aren’t shy about bringing up issues they see with representation and somehow taken all of that feedback and made it into a programming schedule that I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of. And that’s just the SkepchickCON panels. Looking at the rest of what the con has to offer, they’ve gone even further in trying to make science fiction and fantasy programming that not only avoids some of the pitfalls of typical convention programming (hello, straight, cis, white male gaze), but actively looks those challenges in the eye, says “hey, let’s talk about this issue”, and sits everyone down for an honest discussion about concerns. Over free giant bowls of soup from the Con Suite.

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Ignorance, Explainers, and Knowing What We Don’t Know

One of the most interesting parts of being a knowledge omnivore is discovering a blind spot. You can be pursuing some obscure technology that existed for 5 years at the turn of the century and suddenly you stumble on Omnipresent Bit of Modern Life That You Do Not Understand. At All.

That was me, last week. I’ve been researching the real technological roots of Steapunk science for a talk I’m giving at the Steampunk Empire Symposium at the end of April. I found myself down a rabbit hole of dead end steam tech innovations when I started wondering how we switched from external combustion engines (aka steam-based) to internal combustion engines. So I started looking up the early history of internal combustion. The first thing I noticed was that internal combustion engines were developed much earlier than I thought they were (1876 for the gasoline engine and 1878 for diesel! How cool!). The second thing I noticed was that I was lost when the articles were talking about variations on internal combustion engines.

Completely and totally lost.

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