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Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, December 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

THE ORIGINAL TALK SCHEDULED FOR THIS MONTH BY DR JULIA SHAW HAS UNFORTUNATELY BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO UNFORESEEABLE CIRCUMSTANCES.

We tend to think of fairies as kindly, gossamer-winged creatures who grant wishes. But Tinkerbell has a lot to answer for!

Some people did sincerely believe in fairies, but the characteristics, behaviour - and even the appearance - of the supernatural creatures were very changeable, reflecting the inconstant circumstances and environments of the humans who recounted the tales.

Our modern caricatures are the end product of a bowdlerising process which has filtered out so much of the potent danger that original, folkloric fairies represented.

Deborah Hyde is editor of The Skeptic (skeptic.org.uk) and writes about belief in the malign macabre at http://www.deborahhyde.com / @jourdemayne

Prof Chris French

When?
Wednesday, November 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Prof Chris French

What's the talk about?

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A CHANGE TO OUR ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED TALK. DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES JOSEPH SIMCOX IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.

This talk will describe my experience of taking part in a documentary investigating reincarnation claims amongst the Druse in Lebanon. The Druse are a religious sect for whom reincarnation is a central belief. The general conceptual problems with reincarnation will be outlined as will the specific problems associated with the Druse version. Case histories that were featured in the documentary are presented and discussed. A plausible alternative (non-paranormal) explanation for apparent past-life memories is outlined. It is argued that, regardless of the truth of such beliefs, believing in reincarnation has been beneficial for the Druse.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a Patron of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He writes for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent books are Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Wednesday, October 4 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

Dr Kat Arney is a science communicator and award-winning blogger for Cancer Research UK, as well as a freelance science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more.

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We're told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library.

With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Matt Tompkins

When?
Wednesday, September 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Matt Tompkins

What's the talk about?

On Sunday the 18th of November 1877, at 3pm in the afternoon, Wilhelm Wundt, sometimes identified as the 'Founder of Experimental Psychology,' joined hands with a group of academics and bore witness to series of ‘miracles’ in the presence of a visiting American spirit medium. Wundt was unconvinced by what he saw. However, a number of his esteemed colleagues, including world-renowned physicists Gustav Fechner, Wilhelm Weber, and Johann Zöllner, believed that the events they witnessed called for a complete revision of the fundamental laws of physics – a revision that could accommodate immortal fourth-dimensional spirit people. The resulting debate was not itself immortalized in any mainstream psychology text books, but, arguably, it did play a fundamental role in the subsequent emergence of Experimental Psychology as a formal scientific discipline. My talk will examine this debate, briefly surveying the historical context leading up to events, and analyzing the arguments of the various key players, before considering the consequences and their lasting impacts psychology and science in general.

Matt Tompkins is a psychologist and a semi-professional magician. He is currently completing a doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on the relationships between perception, attention, and sleight-of-hand illusions. His most recent paper was published in Frontiers in Psychology, and his research has been featured in the Washington Post and BBC Future.

Chris Peters

When?
Wednesday, August 2 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Chris Peters

What's the talk about?

Every day, we hear claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, and treat disease. Some of these claims are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not. These claims can't be regulated; every time one is debunked another pops up – like a game of whack-a-mole. So how can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them, or buy their products, then we should ask them for evidence, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens.

The Ask for Evidence campaign has seen people ask a retail chain for the evidence behind its MRSA-resistant pyjamas; ask a juice bar for the evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims; ask the health department about rules for Viagra prescriptions; ask for the studies behind treatments for Crohn's disease, and hundreds more. As a result, claims are being withdrawn and bodies held to account.

This is geeks, working with the public, to park their tanks on the lawn of those who seek to influence us. And it's starting to work. Come and hear how you can help.

Iszi Lawrence

When?
Wednesday, July 5 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Iszi Lawrence

What's the talk about?

Skeptic, comedian and voice of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe, Iszi Lawrence is out to delight and inform with her new show The Z List Dead List. The Z List Dead List is a live comedy show about obscure people from History. As a skeptic, Iszi has found a few people from the past that will peak your interest. Expect woo, violence, sex and death. And a competition. The show is also a podcast with guest interviews from Jon Ronson, Griff Rhys Jones, Natalie Haynes, Neil Denny, Richard Herring etc. You can find it on iTunes here: itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-z-list-dead-list/id915778702?mt=2 or go to the website www.zlistdeadlist.com.

Dr Martin Graff

When?
Wednesday, June 7 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Martin Graff

What's the talk about?

There is much evidence that being in a good relationship can be beneficial to our health, happiness and general well-being. However, should we resort to online dating in the pursuit of a happy relationship? Psychological research would seem to suggest that online dating may not be the easy answer.

This talk focuses on the reasons why we should be cautious in our online dating pursuits. For example, people make bad decisions in online dating. Furthermore, those we contact are often not what they appear to be. Additionally, there is no evidence that the algorithms employed by dating sites and which purport to match us with a desirable partner actually work in reality. Finally, this talk will conclude with some information on how to maximize our chances in an online dating environment.

Dr Martin Graff is Reader and Head of Research in Psychology at the University of South Wales, UK, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist. He has researched cognitive processes in web-based learning, the formation and dissolution of romantic relationships online and offline, online persuasion and disinhibition. He has written over 50 scientific articles, published widely in the field of Internet behaviour, and presented his work at numerous International Conferences. He writes for Psychology Today magazine and regularly speaks at events in the UK and Internationally.

Christopher Thresher-Andrews

When?
Wednesday, May 3 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Christopher Thresher-Andrews

What's the talk about?

We live in a country where a large minority of us believe that a secret group of powerful people really control world events, that global-warming is a hoax, and that Diana was definitely assassinated. Conspiracy theories try to convince us about how the world 'really operates', and range from the mundane to the more serious - but aren't they just harmless fun? This talk will give an overview of what psychology can tell us, demonstrating that belief is widespread and not limited to 'tin-foil hat wearers', that conspiracy belief has serious real-world consequences, and why we all have a little conspiracy theorist inside of us. It will summarise the existing psychological findings in an interesting and interactive way, and also provide some exciting results from new experimental work.

Christopher Thresher-Andrews is an Associate Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Forming part of his PhD, his research aims to explore possible psychopathological links to conspiracy belief, and also to place conspiracy theories into a wider political and social context. Some of his best reviews from conspiracy theorists include accusations of being “a government stooge”, “a puppet of the establishment”, “a craven satanic manipulator”, and “a deceptive empty-headed moron with all the intellectual capacity of a squashed potato”.

Alom Shaha

When?
Wednesday, April 5 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Alom Shaha

What's the talk about?

NB This talk was originally scheduled for June 2016

Alom Shaha has spent most of his professional life sharing his passion for science and education with the public and currently splits his time between teaching Physics and producing and presenting educational videos. In this talk, Alom tells the story of his first scientific discovery, how and why he became a science teacher, the challenges and rewards of the job, what he thinks science education is for, and how parents can contribute positively to their children's science education.

Alom is a Physics teacher at a comprehensive school in London. When he's not teaching, he works as a film-maker, writer and science communicator. Alom is a trustee of the British Humanist Association, and is the author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook.

Henry Drysdale

When?
Wednesday, March 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Henry Drysdale

What's the talk about?

For 6 weeks in late 2015, the COMPare team monitored every clinical trial published in the top 5 medical journals for “outcome switching”: when trialists report something different from what they originally said they would report. Of 67 trials assessed, 58 (87%) were found to contain discrepancies between prespecified and reported outcomes.

Outcome switching is already known to be extremely common, even in top medical journals. But COMPare went one step further: they wrote a letter to the journal for all 58 trials found to contain discrepancies; to correct the record on the individual trials, and to test the “self-correcting” properties of science.

The responses to these letters from journal editors and trial authors were unprecedented, and shed light on the reasons why this problem persists. The aim of COMPare was to fix outcome switching, through correction letters and open discussion. They never expected the levels of misunderstanding and bias at the heart of the issue.

Based at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, COMPare is made up of three senior researchers, 5 graduate-entry medical students, and a programmer. The project was born when one medical student came to the department in search of a project. The idea of monitoring the outcomes in clinical trials was made possible by 4 more medical students, who were recruited to make the vast amount of analysis possible. All assessments are reviewed by senior colleagues, and decisions made at weekly team meetings. There is no specific funding for COMPare: all the students work for free, driven by the desire and opportunity to fix a broken system.

Visit the COMPare website (COMPare-trials.org) for more details about their team, methods, results and blog.

Prof Chris French

When?
Wednesday, February 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Prof Chris French

What's the talk about?

NB: This replaces the original talk by Karen Douglas who due to unforeseen circumstances has had to postpone.

In the context of the current huge increase in historical sexual abuse allegations, it is instructive to consider the Satanic panic that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the beliefs that fuelled that wave of hysteria are not supported by any convincing empirical evidence. This includes the widely accepted notion of repression as well as the alleged link between Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD; now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID) and Satanic abuse. The evidence put forward to support the claim that Satanic abuse was real and widespread came from two equally dubious sources: children interrogated using inappropriate highly suggestive questioning and memories ostensibly “recovered” from adults during therapy. There is no physical forensic evidence to support the existence of Satanic ritual abuse. The truth is that victims of sexual abuse are far more likely to remember being abused than to repress such memories.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Patron of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic, co-edited with Wendy Grossman (2010, Philosophy Press), Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan). Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench

David Robert Grimes

When?
Wednesday, January 4 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
David Robert Grimes

What's the talk about?

Science and medicine have transformed our lives immeasurably, and never in history have they been more central to our lives and well-being. Yet despite this, there is often a glaring disconnect between the findings of actual science and media reporting of such topics, and consequently there is often a needless chasm between public perception and the evidence on many contentious topics. This can lead to needlessly adversarial and counter-productive discourse of everything from vaccination to climate-change. In this talk, physicist and science journalist Dr. David Robert Grimes discusses the frequent problems in reporting science from misunderstandings to bad statistics to false balance, and discusses the factors that influence this and how such problems can be remedied.

Dr. David Robert Grimes (@drg1985) is a physicist and writes regular opinion and analysis pieces on scientific issues for the Irish Times and the Guardian science, and is a regular panelist on science issues on radio and television. He is joint-recipient of the 2014 Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.