There are upcoming Less Wrong meetups in:

Cities with regularly scheduled meetups:  New York, Berkeley, Mountain View, Cambridge, MA, Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco, Irvine.

If you'd like to talk with other LW-ers face to face, and there is no meetup in your area, consider starting your own meetup; it's easy (more resources here). Check one out, stretch your rationality skills, and have fun!

To reduce front page clutter, the new plan is for meetups to be initially posted in the Discussion section, and for me to make a promoted post "upcoming meetups" post every Friday that links to every meet-up that has been planned for the next two weeks. [HT: Carl Shulman.] Please let me know if I omit your meetup.

Please note that for people to see your meetup announcement, you should post your meetup before the Friday before your meetup!

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As noted, the Boston / Cambridge meetup group has a meeting approximately every other Sunday at 2pm in Kendall. This week we also have a bonus activity.

As LW user Chronophasiac describes it:

I and a few other Less Wrong readers are trying to make fire.

No, seriously.

We're building the "technology tree" of humanity from the bottom up, both as a bit of fun and an exercise in group problem-solving. I've been experimenting with basic stone tools and rope. The next step is to start a fire, using nothing but what we can make ourselves out of pre-technological raw materials. So far our best bet is to make a bow drill:

We'd like to invite the Cambridge LW meetup group to participate in our first attempt, tentatively scheduled for this Sunday at 4pm to coincide with the normally scheduled meetup.

I'm soliciting the meetup group for location suggestions. We would like to carry out this activity in a heavily wooded area. We'll need access to many different kinds of plants: young saplings to make rope, birch trees to make kindling, and so on. We'd also like it to be T-accessible and as close to Cambridge as possible.

This is a rain-or-shine event. I'll be bringing a cordless drill and pre-made wooden parts, plus tinder and lighter fluid. Fire WILL be made, even if we have to cheat.


Did it work?

Well, we failed pretty badly.

The friction methods appear horrendously difficult to actually implement. We were unable to produce an ember with an electric drill, using a dry pine dowel and board.

What's our next plan? Someone at the meetup suggested making a lens to focus the sunlight out of clear ice. I think we might have a shot at getting that to work, though we'd have to freeze the ice ourselves.

I think the main issue was that, doing this in an urban setting, we didn't have access to natural wood; the wood we brought was sanded, probably pressure-treated, and (while the packaging didn't say anything about that) possibly also treated with chemicals to make it hard to burn. It was also humid (it had just rained) and windy.


All the below quotes on fire-making are from Primitive Technology, a Book of Earth Skills, a copy of which I have lying around.

"Your biggest chore will be finding the right materials in your part of the world. If possible, find out what the local ancients used; they know best since their survival depended on these materials...The char you produce will be your best clue as to whether or not the materials you have chosen will work. If your hand drill is producing large amounts of very finely textured char quickly, then you have the right materials...Downward pressure is equally as important as spinning speed...Once you have your smoldering ember, remain calm. The ember will burn for quite awhile, giving you plenty of time to carefully place it into the tinder nest and gently fan it into flames."--"Tips for First Time Hand-drill Friction Fire Makers", Paul Schweighardt

"A quicker test [of whether a piece of wood will work for fire-making] is to examine the char that is ground off as you twirl the spindle on the hearth board. The rule of thumb, literally, is to run the char between thumb and forefinger. If it is coarse and gritty then reject that particular piece of wood. If it is very fine, like face powder, then you have a good chance of twirling up a fire."--"The Miracle of Fire by Friction", Dick Baugh

There is also a list of species found in the San Francisco Bay area that are good for spindles, hearth boards, and tinder. I don't know how much overlap there would be with your region, but I see cottonwood (Populus) and box elder (Acer negundo) listed as good for both hearth boards and spindles, and you might could get ahold of them.

Keep us posted!

Total wow that you are attempting this! As well as being awesome, rebuilding the tech tree has clear saving-the-world implications so I'm totally in favour. Make sure to document the project on a blog.

(I feel like someone has tried this before but my Googling doesn't show anything up. If there is a book or blog out there it might give you some useful tips. Make sure you don't reinvent the wheel when it comes to reinventing the wheel).

Total wow that you are attempting this! As well as being awesome, rebuilding the tech tree has clear saving-the-world implications so I'm totally in favour.

Nick Szabo discusses a related idea here and here. Specifically, finding small subsets of modern technology that can be used to recreate the rest, and ideally also create more copies of themselves.


If one of you wants to blog about this, I'd certainly be interested in following your progress.

Great solution! Very minor detail: I would suggest listing the cities in alphabetical order in the heading rather than time order.

I'd also suggest "Cambridge MA" as there's another Cambridge that has also had meetups (and having originally come from there, I confess it confuses me every single time)

I would suggest listing the cities in alphabetical order in the heading rather than time order.

Sounds like a good idea to me too.

The St Louis group has stopped meeting for the summer (all but one of us are college students who live elsewhere during the summer). I've updated the wiki to reflect this.

I know a few people weren't here during the semester and wanted to meet up during the summer. Don't let our absence stop you! It's just as easy to arrange a meetup yourself.

Should the Houston May 22 meetup be added to this post or should it want until the next one?


The San Francisco group is now meeting weekly. I've updated the wiki page with the information.

Thanks; added.

Thank you!

The Seattle group has been meeting every other Sunday, and I have updated the wikipage to reflect this.

Thanks; added.

Good solution!

I too applaud the new "digest" format.

Nice! Glad to see you consolidating these.

Some spaces are missing in your original post, so I'd guess you're having the

problem. When that happens I copy/paste my post into a text file and do a find-and-replace on
and on
and replace them with nothingness. Then I paste the text back into LW and update.



It would be nice if there were still a way to reward meetup organizers with nontrivial karma. For relatively new users the gain in karma from a meetup post used to be significant, and this probably helped cause more meetups to happen. (I wasn't going to bring this up because of the self-serving element, but nobody else has, and I have been voting up a lot of meetup posts for exactly this reason.)

Any chance of a regular meetup getting started in the DFW area?

Edit: Before anyone tells me to start one myself, my intention with asking this question was polling to see if anyone else actually lives there.

Next Sunday in Houston:

If you want to make a trip out of it the location where it is being held should be open from 11:00 in the morning until the meeting.

Thank you Anna.