Okay, I seem to have survived Dragon*Con.

Yes, I go every year. No, I don’t wear costumes. (Although I appreciate some of those who do. [Some. Spandex is a privilege, not a right.]) No, I don’t stand in line for autographs by aging semi-celebrities. No, I don’t own any comic books.

But it’s inarguable that Dragon*Con probably increases the average IQ of Atlanta by ten points when it comes to town. And if you take 40,000 intelligent people, probably 1% of them are going to want to discuss things like space travel (real, not Star Trek), science, and skepticism. That’s where the Space and Science Track comes in. This year, we had experts talking about antimatter-based cancer therapy, Generation IV nuclear reactors, Bose-Einstein condensates, Mars exploration, and the radiation environment for satellites. (Oh, and the Mythbusters team.) And me.

I gave five presentations on four topics: What’s in the labs at Georgia Tech, the hydrogen myth, space access, and XCOR. For people who have found this page looking for copies of my slides, most of them are posted here.

My final presentation, Halfway to Anywhere, was in the last time slot of the last day… and 25 people showed up, and stayed an extra half hour asking questions until I finally ran them off! (The title is from a quote by Robert Heinlein: “Reach low orbit, and you’re halfway to anywhere in the solar system.”) This is an ongoing experiment for me in breaking the tyranny of PowerPoint (although these days, I’m using Keynote, which is just astonishingly better). I started creating this presentation after attending a seminar by Edward Tufte. If he comes to your town, you should make a point of attending one of these… he’s wonderful.

Anyhow, I’ve evolved an hour-long presentation which consists of 146 slides… only one of which has any words on it. (The Heinlein quote above.) The remainder are just images… one after the other after the other in rapid succession. You have to pay attention since you can’t just read the text. And you can’t check email on your BlackBerry because you’d miss three slides. It works wonderfully well, and I’m proud of it.

However, of those 140-odd images, probably 100 of them are violating somebody’s copyright somewhere. I don’t have the time or the money to chase down publication rights, or to replace everything with Creative Commons imagery (which isn’t as complete as you’d like yet). So that Keynote stack isn’t being posted. You’ll have to catch me in person for that.

But — to bring this long and rambling blog posting to something work-related — it’s an interesting example of what you can do with presentations if you get away from the standard text templates and force yourself into something more expressive. I guarantee that any entrepreneur pitching me with 146 slides and no text would have my attention!