Saturday, November 18, 2023

Shadow of a Doubt - November 2023


November 2023

NCAS Public Lecture Series

The Times They Are(n't) a-Changin'

Scott Snell
President, National Capital Area Skeptics

Saturday, November 18, 1:30pm - 4:00pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
Connie Morella Library
7400 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

 Also a YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

Back and forth we go.  Are you tired (literally tired) of switching your clocks one hour back every Fall and one hour forward every Spring? Why do we go to all the trouble?  Do we have any good alternatives?  What’s been tried before, or tried elsewhere?

Polls show that the public is divided on what to do.  But even the experts can’t agree among themselves. Meanwhile, the US Congress and some state legislatures have introduced legislation to alter standard time.

You're encouraged to Google the topic to prepare for this event.  We’re seeking a lively informed discussion, online and in person, focused on problem-solving.

Scott Snell is a flight software engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, tending the onboard computer of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. He received his BS in physics from the University of Maryland. A charter member of NCAS, he has served as its president since 2018.

Refreshments will be available.

Eldrich Investigations and a Discount for NCAS
"Cults and cryptids collide when a curious Washingtonian investigates local unexplained phenomena.  Explore the lure of the unknown and its entanglement with DC history in this multi-chapter adventure across the city."

At the start of the pandemic, the local Rorschach Theatre company created a unique theatrical experience that extended over the course of 9-10 months. It was originally a way for the show to go on when the pandemic shut down stage performances, but it has been so successful that they are continuing into their 4th year with an all-new story beginning this month (November 2023).

Rorschach often incorporates elements of fantasy, horror, and/or supernatural. This coming season the Eldrich Investigations project involves themes particularly close to NCAS. The company has extended a 20% discount to NCAS members.

Subscribers receive a monthly box or envelope with maps, directions to locales around DC, and other artifacts such as postcards, telegrams, and various trinkets that help unfold a story over the course of 9-10 months. You investigate these locations at your own pace, on your own time. They also provide online videos for those who can't visit in person.

For the discount, use code NCAS when subscribing here:

Sounds a bit like an expanded version of our NCAS Skeptours!

November PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, November 18 at 2 PM ET.  Brian 'Happie' Foshee will present "How Are We Deceived?"  He'll "explore how others deceive us, and the world of magic. Unraveling the psychology and techniques involved, we'll gain insights to navigate the intricate web of deceit that surrounds us. Welcome to the enigmatic world of deception and magic."  Event details at

A Report on CSICon 2023
By Curtis Haymore

This year’s CSICon was my first in a few years and it was as fun and interesting as previous CSICons and TAMs. Attending CSICon conferences requires a big commitment of time and money, but each one I have attended proved worth it.

Attendees about filled the large hall and nearly a third of them appeared to be first-time attendees, based on how many raised their hands in response to emcee George Hrab's question. Every conversation I had that started with “How did you become interested in this conference?” led to a multitude of interesting stories about people’s histories and revelations.

The presentations were mostly half-hour, which led to snappy and very focused talks, and allowed a wide range of speakers.

I signed up for the two workshops. “Magic for Skeptics” was entertaining and insightful from even the simplest things. Psychologist Richard Wiseman in particular always makes me smile. Jim Underdown and Kenny Biddle led the “Investigating and Testing Extraordinary Claims” workshop. Kenny is fun, entertaining, and curious. CSI is in good hands with Kenny as its new chief investigator.

Thursday night was the Richard Dawkins lecture, “Science, the Poetry of Reality, Jewel in Humanity’s Crown.” It was really wonderful, deeply thoughtful, filled with his well-crafted language. He reminded me of Christopher Hitchens…having a rare gift to form thoughts around interesting stories and analogies, and speak so well.

Friday night was devoted to Bill Nye receiving the Richard Dawkins Award from Dawkins, followed by their conversation. Nye was passionate, relaxed, and entertaining. As CEO of The Planetary Society, he advocated for robotic and human travel to other planets. I’m skeptical about human space exploration, but he has me reconsidering it—at least to Mars.

One highlight of Saturday’s program was an informative talk on vaccines by Dr. Paul Offit. Even though I thought I knew a lot about the vaccine rollouts—I really didn’t understand the background he gave about the research on the variants and the vaccines and decisions for use—I wonder if he is available to talk with some of my relatives (please!). There was a theme around education and communication of scientific understanding and critical thinking skills, which gave at least some hope for better reasoning among future generations. Health/wellness reporter Rina Raphael described how she became a skeptical reporter on that industry, which was fascinating.  Naomi Oreskes’ talk about her impressive new book, “The Big Myth,” co-authored with Erik Conway about “the magic of the market,” provided information I hadn’t seen or at least hadn’t seen put together in the way she had.

Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post talked about fact-checking. We should all be grateful for the exhausting work of all of the fact-checking groups and organizations, and depressed on how little shame and repentance that work engenders.

Between Nye, Wiseman, Penn & Teller, comedian Leighann Lord, and George Hrab, there were plenty of laughs to go along with the learning.

If you need a skeptical boost in your life, try attending the next CSICon.

(CSICon 2023, sponsored by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry / Center for Inquiry / Skeptical Inquirer magazine was held October 26-29 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.)

NCAS Membership
At its September 20 meeting, the NCAS Board of Directors approved a change in membership classifications, effective October 1.  Formerly in two classifications, Single and Double, membership now comprises one or two individuals at the same home address.  In addition to simplifying transactions for the NCAS treasurer, this represents a per-person reduction in membership costs.  The former Single membership cost now covers up to two people.  Consider adding a 2nd person in your household to your NCAS membership at no extra cost!  Both will be able to vote separately in the annual NCAS board of directors election.  Send an email to to add a 2nd person to your membership.  We hope to add members, and of course a student or other young person is always welcome for the future of skepticism.  Also see

Shadow Light
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Time to Renew?
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