The 2010 Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium

I really have to give those guys at McGill University’s Office for Science and Society credit. They’re fast. Remember how I pointed out that I’ve been away at the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium? This year, the theme was Confronting Pseudoscience: A Call to Action, and I got to share the stage with Michael Shermer, Ben Goldacre, and, of course, our host, “Dr. Joe” Schwarcz. Sadly, I couldn’t stay to see The Amazing Randi do his thing yesterday evening, but at least I did get to have breakfast with him before I left.

In any case, the reason I have to hand it to Dr. Joe and his team at McGill is because they’ve already uploaded all the videos for symposium events. Here’s the main page with the videos (the 2010 Trottier Symposium occurred on October 17, 18, and 19), and here are the individual links:

And, because I can’t resist, here are some photos taken with various people’s cell phone cameras. First, we have a lovely poster of woo that I saw at the restaurant where we had lunch on Sunday and just had to snap a quick picture of:


Bummer that we missed the event.

Sadly, even the McGill University Bookstore is not entirely immune to woo. Fortunately, the alternative medicine section was quite tiny compared to the science and medicine sections, and Dr. Joe is around McGill to try to make sure that things don’t get too far out of hand. But it did exist, and Michael Shermer and I couldn’t resist mugging a bit with a reflexology book while Dr. Joe observed off camera with a bemused look on his face:


I also got to hang out a bit with Ben Goldacre, who is a really fun guy. Sadly, our schedule was so packed that I never got a chance to hit a pub and hoist a pint with him. I did, however, manage to persuade Ben that he really does need to check out a certain obscure British SF show from the late 1970s/early 1980s that continues to inspire a “friend” of mine:


I also got to meet Dr. Richard Margolese, who is a huge name in breast surgery, having been a major player in many of the classic NSABP studies that defined how we treat breast cancer today. Foolishly, I never got my picture taken with him, but you can see him in the roundtable discussion we had as proof that I was in the same room with him, at least.

Finally, here’s the crew:

From left to right: Dr. Joe Schwarcz, James Randi, Dr. Ben Goldacre, yours truly, Lorne Trottier, and Dr. Michael Shermer.

Not pictured is Emily Shore, who did incredible work organizing the event, herding the cats, and making sure speakers got to where they needed to be when they needed to be there. A great time was had by all, and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Dr. Ariel Fenster (to whose chemistry class I gave a talk on Tuesday), Dr. David Harpp, Emily Shore, and, of course, Lorne Trottier, who funds this conference every year and, I hope, will continue to fund it for years to come.

Posted in: Announcements, Science and Medicine, Science and the Media

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34 thoughts on “The 2010 Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium

  1. FelixO says:


    That’s blown it for me then, I’m on Linux.

  2. David Gorski says:

    There are MP3s, but unfortunately it’s only sound. That’s fine for the roundtable, at least.

  3. phayes says:

    “In any case, the reason I have to hand it to Dr. Joe and his team at McGill is because they already have the videos up for all the events.”

    Good grief! I don’t think I’ve seen media (tech.) handled this badly in a long time. Where are the alternative format video files for those of us without access to Silverlight? There appear to be mp3 audio files there too, but clicking on the icons results in a “server reset” message.

    While I’m here… The website seems to be badly misconfigured or underpowered and has been for a very long time. Has no-one else noticed the intermittent extremely long delays?

  4. tmac57 says:

    “Has no-one else noticed the intermittent extremely long delays?”
    Yes, I have been having problems for some time now,but I never complain because,hey,these people are doing a tremendous amount of work gratis. But yeah, it is slow. Neurologica had similar problems awhile back,but it seems to be fine now.

  5. rwk says:

    Wow! Great pictures!
    But James Randi needs to see a chiropractor and Dr.Gorski needs
    a treadmill.
    Dr.Gorski, did you get to ask Ben Goldacre what he thinks about
    our healthcare system?

  6. phayes says:


    It’s not complaining – it’s pointing out a serious problem which they may not know about so that they can complain (if they’re paying for the faulty service) or otherwise get it fixed.

  7. David Gorski says:

    Your “pointing out a serious problem” was, quite frankly, done in a more obnoxious way than was necessary to get the point across. By the way, I did forward a link to this post to the organizers to point out the complaints, but I also included an apology for the tone, which, IMHO, was unnecessarily disparaging given the nature of the complaint.

  8. It was awesome to see you guys! Thanks for coming up – we don’t usually get people coming by our way. Toronto seems like a bit of dip in the gravitational field.

    Hopefully we’ll keep McGill on the straight and narrow – we’ve avoided most of the quackademic nonsense so far too.

  9. Alexie says:

    Either I’m not reading this properly, or you’ve left out the most crucial point: what’s the obscure British 1970s sci-fi??

  10. David Gorski says:


    But James Randi needs to see a chiropractor and Dr.Gorski needs a treadmill.

    Stay classy, rwk. Stay classy.

  11. phayes says:

    ?! The “pointing out a serious problem” refers solely to my clearly unobnoxious remarks about the issue with this website. My entirely separate and less polite remarks about the Symposium videos were not addressed directly to McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, not intended or desired by me to be communicated directly to them in that form, and likely would’ve been expressed completely differently if they had been.

    If obnoxiousness has been unnecessarily communicated along with *your* complaint to the McGill Office, it seems to me the blame for that can hardly be laid entirely at my door.

  12. Chris says:

    Looking at the main video page I noticed that older videos had choices of format. I assume given more time there will be wmv and mp4 files of the more recent talks. Just be patient.

  13. skeptiverse says:


    not really wanting to get into an argument, but, even your latest post is reasonably obnoxious. It may be that you do not intend to, but it comes across that way.

    back to the topic at hand

    Is it just me or does Ben Goldacre look alot like that singer Josh Groban????

  14. David Gorski says:

    Who is Josh Groban?


    I have to point out that you posted in on a public forum in response to a post about the Trottier Symposium calling their video handling “the worst you’ve seen in a long time.” I knew that the people who organized the symposium read this blog on a daily basis. That’s why they invited me. They like SBM and what we do here. I knew they’d see your comment eventually; so, because I like and admire them, I decided to try to decrease the offense.

    Really, a good rule of thumb when posting in online forums is not to post anything that you wouldn’t send in an e-mail to your intended target. I’ll admit that I haven’t always adhered to that rule, but I’ve tried.

  15. Dawn says:

    @rwk: when you are James Randi’s age and have had his health issues, let us know how good you look, OK? As for Dr Gorski: having met him in person, I think he actually looks pretty good in these pictures; healthy and in good company.

    @phayes: your comments are really rude and obnoxious. You could have readily made them more polite and still gotten your point across. We all know there are occasional loading problems with SBM. If they get severe, we email the SBM staff or contact them on their personal blogs.

    Geez. Some people shouldn’t be let out in public to comment on blogs.

    @Dr Gorski: can’t help you on Josh Groban. I am a cultural illiterate when it comes to musicians. My husband nearly left me when we were newly married and I admitted I didn’t know Eric Clapton was in the band Cream. I like music, I just don’t know (or pay attention) to who belongs to in a band.

  16. Josh Groban? ohh…if I was twenty years younger and could tolerate music without any edge what so ever, he’d be my sweetie.

    You guys, you know there’s this thing called google. Quite useful, upon occasion. :)

  17. Josh Groban – Google images

    Never heard of him. (I see he has a Christmas album, so it’s probably ok that I never heard of him.)

  18. Dawn says:

    @micheleinmichigan: yeah, google works, but since, AFAIK, I haven’t heard any of his music, still means nothing to me. :)

    He is cute, I’ll give him that.

    @Alison Cummins: Xmas albums sell. Money talks. Wouldn’t be a point for or against him in my mind. I’ll happily listen to Xmas music in December but no earlier than that. And my Xmas music of choice is Mediaeval Baebes anyway.

  19. I note that you guys don’t have a Donate button up top. Maybe you should. I’d donate, and I promise that I won’t transform from a cranky argumentative commenter into an entitled cranky argumentative commenter.

    I further note that you display the following disclaimer down bottom: “The advertisements below do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog, its authors, or host.” Which is interesting, considering that there are no advertisements below.

  20. “I haven’t heard any of his music, still means nothing to me.”

    Imagine listening to a Thomas Kinkade painting…

    Now I’m being mean and I can’t even carry a tune. He certainly sounds like a perfectly nice young man.

  21. Dawn RE Christmas albums: yeah, and Dolly Parton has at least one so it’s not an absolute exclusion criterion. (Note that I did say maybe.) (Boney M had a Christmas album but it wasn’t any good.)

    Nina Simone and Tom Waits do not have Christmas albums. It’s true they weren’t/aren’t as rich as Dolly Parton, but Dolly Parton isn’t as rich as the Rolling Stones, who don’t have a Christmas album either.

    So it’s not *just* the money.

    And yes for the Mediaeval Baebes!

  22. Just the thought of Tom Waits making a Christmas album makes me immensely happy (in a dark, misery loves company kind of way). Now, I am depressed that it doesn’t exist.

  23. But at least I have this.

  24. Dawn says:

    @micheleinmichigan: re: Tom Waits xmas album: I always knew you had an evil streak in you. :O

  25. @dawn

    Good tip on the Mediaeval Baebes by the way. I had not heard of them. Took me a minute to shift from Tom Waits mode, but I’m liking them now.

    Also, I like to think I have a good streak. ;)

  26. rwk says:

    you’re right. I hope I look as good as JR when I’m eighty.
    And I apologize about the comment on Dr.Gorski’s big gut
    in the picture w/BG.
    Actually, Ben Goldacre looks “full” as well. Maybe it was just
    too much food and drink.
    Just remember to suck it in when having a picture taken.

  27. rwk – Here’s the deal. When you insult someone, the idea is to make them look stupid.

  28. Dawn says:

    @micheleinmichigan: the Baebes are great. I have several of their albums on my iPod. I was introduced to them by my best friend, who is a Michigander too. And I agree you have a good streak. Probably several of them. Never met a Michigander who didn’t (yeah, that’s where I’m from too, originally…and my parents and sister are still outside Detroit.).

    @rwk: given that, unlike you, I have met Dr Gorski in person (and, if anything, I think he’s rather too thin!), I can see that his position and his shirt may make him look heavier than he is. However, I’m not trying to be obnoxious and insult people, either.

  29. Dawn – shhhh – you’re not supposed to tell anyone about the positive attributes of Michigan, it disrupts the storyline. :-).

  30. Dawn says:

    (looks around guiltily, creeps away) Sorry, micheleinmichigan. It won’t happen again. :)

  31. Draal says:

    I thought that Dr. Gorski’s presentation wasn’t attention grabbing (i.e. boring). It wouldn’t be fair for me to provide a more detailed review on the presentation delivery since I stopped watching it after about 15 mins before I skipped to the next speaker. I’m not saying the content was bad.

  32. tmac57 says:

    I second Allison Cummins suggestion on a donate button.I think that many of us that frequent this site appreciate it enough to support it.
    Now on the topic of Christmas albums (that was the subject of this blog post wasn’t it?), I submit this:
    ‘Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart’

    Haven’t heard it,but I think that is pretty close to a Tom Waits comparison.

  33. phayes says:


    @David Gorski

    Thanks for the – admittedly – hypocritical advice but since most of the Internet is not like this, and now that I know that you have such extremely easily offended acquaintances, whose defense you will leap to in this manner, I think I’ll just apply the ‘rule of thumb’ I found most appropriate the only other time I encountered something like this in an online forum (John Stone & fans in CiF, IIRC).


    I’ll still read your and your colleagues’ excellent articles of course. :)

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