SkeptiCal 2018 Speakers

This year our diverse speakers will give you tools to understand bad science & fake news, enlighten you about homelessness & artificial intelligence, protect your children from being hacked and maybe even abducted by aliens...



Yvette "SciBabe" d'Entremont

Everything Is Killing You:
A Marketing Guide For Bad Science

Is butter killing you this week, or is it only okay whipped into your morning brew? What's the deal with eggs now, anyway? An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but which apple, and which doctor? The old health witticisms are being torn down with new information all the time. However, they seem to be replaced with new age marketing BS designed to play into what we want to be true, or worse, what we fear is true.  It's easy to find a thread of truth to scare you about almost anything that seems perfectly safe. How do you separate the signal from the noise when you've heard that your morning wake-up-juice is a carcinogen? Let's tip toe through the minefield of health and wellness to figure out what's being sold to you under the guise of science and, conversely, what's just pretending to be science to scare you. Because if you believe everything you read on the internet, you might believe that everything is killing you. If you take the time to understand the information that the internet is using to scare you, you can enjoy your coffee without worrying.

With a B.A. in theatre, a B.S. in chemistry, and a master's degree in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics, SciBabe combines science and sardonic humor to cut through the hype in social media. Her blog, SciBabe, is dedicated to "clearing up misinformation about science, food, and nutrition. Yvette worked for eight years as an analytical chemist and she currently runs SciBabe full time as she writes and speaks to educate consumers about falsehoods in alternative medicine, the anti-vaccination movement, and the anti-GMO movement


Kyle Polich

Skepticism in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Advancements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) are undeniable. Arthur C. Clark said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.", and while contemporary AI might not yet qualify as sufficiently advanced, it does seem to be converging in that direction.  What should a non-expert know about the field to apply appropriate scientific skepticism?  Let's cut through the hype and discuss how we evaluate the inevitable claims that machines can think.

Kyle Polich hosts the popular Data Skeptic podcast, a show that makes statistics, machine learning, and AI accessible to anyone with an interest in data science. When not podcasting, Kyle runs Data Skeptic LLC, a data science consulting firm that helps companies turn data into a competitive advantage through machine learning and other technologies.  He earned Bachelor & Master of Science degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence. Kyle's analysis of the increasingly popular “Missing 411” pseudo-conspiracy appeared in the pages of Skeptical Inquirer last year.


Carrie Sager

Myths of Homelessness

If we build homeless housing, won't that just attract more homeless people? I read an article about this cool thing they're doing in Utah, why don't we do that? And what about tiny homes? Significant research yields the causes and solutions to homelessness, but public opinion is based on anecdotes and personal observation rather than social science. This talk will look at some of the most common misconceptions and provide a nuanced, evidence-based response on one of the country's most pressing issues. 

Carrie Ellen Sager is Senior Homelessness Program Coordinator for the county of Marin, where she works with local nonprofits and city and county governments to create a coordinated system of care to house the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. Prior to working in Marin, Carrie worked for HomeBase, a nonprofit law firm that works with cities and counties to implement responses to homelessness, and for the ACLU in Washington, DC. She has a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law. She has served on the board of directors of Bay Area Skeptics.


Robert Lustig
The Hacking of the American Child

It’s easy to hack a child. They don’t know the difference between pleasure and happiness, or marketing and propaganda. The primary hackers are the sugar and tech industries.

Robert H. Lustig, M.D., M.S.L. is Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, and the Institute for Health Policy Studies at University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lustig graduated from MIT in 1976, and received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1980. He completed his pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1983, and his clinical fellowship at UCSF in 1984. From there, he spent six years as a research associate in neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University. In 2013 he received his Masters in Studies of Law from UC Hastings College of the Law. 


Laura Sydell
Fake News & Journalistic Integrity

Laura Sydell  is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. 

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Seth Shostak
Are We Being Visited by Beings from Beyond Earth?

One-third of the public thinks that aliens are visiting Earth – or have visited Earth in historical times. This premise doesn’t violate physics, and the Galaxy hosts a trillion planets, providing abundant real estate for cosmic confreres. So could it be true? We’ll consider the logic and the evidence for aliens who are here either to grab our resources, or haul us away for breeding experiments.

Seth Shostak is Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, with degrees in physics and astronomy from Princeton University and Caltech. He has a long history of research in radio astronomy and in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI. Seth has written more than 500 popular articles on science and technology, and hosts the weekly science radio show “Big Picture Science.” He has authored four books. He is a frequent guest and commentator on radio and television. His TV appearances include Larry King Live, Colbert Report, Nightline, and countless Discovery, History Channel, and National Geographic Channel programs.