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Skeptics in the Pub with Maggie Koerth-Baker

Posted on : 01-03-2012 | By : John | In : Skeptics in the Pub

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Maggie Koerth-Baker recently wrote “The trouble with making these kind of decisions, though, is that there’s lots of room for reasonable people to disagree.” She sounds like a reasonable person, so let’s all gang up on her!

Her talk will tell the story of our electric infrastructure–where it came from, how it works today, and how it will have to change to meet the needs of a new generation.

Cover of Maggie Koerth-Baker's new book Ms Koerth-Baker has written a new book called “Before the Lights Go Out” about

“some of the big-picture nuance that gets left out of the day-to-day chatter about energy. What are the big trends that will shape what we can and can’t do over the next 40 years? How does our electricity infrastructure work, and why is that infrastructure a lot more interesting (and a lot more complicated) than most laypeople realize? There’s a lot of storytelling, and some fun and funny history of how our current infrastructure came to be. There’s critical analysis explaining both why we have to solve our energy problem, and why solving it is going to be harder than many climate hawks want to believe. In general, the book is meant to make a confusing subject accessible and offer a more nuanced perspective on a topic that tends to be very ideology driven.”

The book will be published April 10. (Update: Some advanced copies will be available.)

Several of the back-cover reviews are by people who should be very familiar to members of the Boston Skeptics Book Club. Mary Roach (Stiff, Spook and Packing for Mars) called it, “a fine, cracking read.” Carl Zimmer (Parasite Rex) says, “Maggie Koerth-Baker is one of the most innovative science writers at work today. Rather than settling for cheap flash, she burrows deep into many of the biggest mysteries in science and technology and comes out with wonderfully clear explanations”.

Many of the subjects that skeptics deal with, like ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and ESP, are amusing examples of fallacious reasoning and illuminate interesting flaws in perception and the human brain, but, except in the cases of rare individuals, have no important effect on most people’s lives. But a few subjects, such as energy generation, storage and distribution, are areas where science and technology meet society in profound and important ways. I would class it with alternative medicine and religious fundamentalism and their interference with science (particularly in their denial of biology and evolution) and AGW denialism as important topics for applying critical thinking.

When discussing these topics, it is essential to start with a firm factual basis, which is what Ms Koerth-Baker’s book promises to provide.

Please come hear this important talk.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is both a freelancer and the science editor at BoingBoing.net, one of the most widely read blogs in the U.S. Her work has appeared in print publications like Discover, Popular Science, and New Scientist, and online at websites like Scientific American and National Geographic News.

We will be meeting a week later than usual, on April 2, at 7 PM at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Tiny chameleons from Madagascar
Meanwhile, if this subject is too depressing (it shouldn’t be, since we can and will eventually solve it, the only questions being at what cost and who pays), look at the lizards!