Last weekend I went to MidSouthCon, a medium-small science fiction convention in Memphis, TN. (Well, Olive Branch, MS, but who’s counting). It was jolly. I ran a Fudge game, I hung out with friends new and old, I got a T-shirt that mixes the standard model of particle physics with Dr. Seussian poetry. And, I was a guest myself; I gave a talk about Second Life, and did a live demo of Second Life. I was also on a panel about “advising the movies”, even though I’ve never actually done that… I have given a talk about how Newton’s Laws hold up in science fiction movies and TV, though, which is probably why the event planners put me on that panel.
However, there was one thing that bothered me greatly. See, they have a number of guests of honor. Their writer guest of honor was Mike Resnick, and their artist guest of honor was Vincent de Fate, both of whom are truly excellent choices. But, even though I’m no longer entirely a working scientist, I have to admit to feeling a little insulted that they chose a crackpot for the scientist guest of honor rather than me. Not that I’m of the stature to deserve an “of honor” position, but at least I’m something of a scientist. I mean, come on people. It’s fine to listen to the crackpots and have fun with them, but calling a UFO Guy the “science guest of honor?”
It’s great to have an open mind. But there is a difference between having an open mind and an open braincase– that is, open in the way that an open circle is not a filled circle….
What’s sad is that a lot of the people who come to these conventions have a lot of interest in science, but don’t know a lot about it. They may have more interest than many in the general public as a result of reading science fiction. They may also have a tendency to want to believe some more fantastical things like UFOs. But we can provide some really interesting real science talks that the public loves. I’ve given science talks at Hypericon for the last four years, and they’ve generally been well received. My talk about the modern picture of the expanding Universe was as mind-blowing as anything that the crackpots come up with, but is also supported by real actual evidence. It’s sad when an opportunity like this is blown on foo-fa and ignorance.