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Rebecca Nesbit

When?
Wednesday, May 8 2019 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Rebecca Nesbit

What's the talk about?

‘Save the Honeybee’ stories are never far from the news, but is the species really under threat? Given that they are managed by beekeepers, should we see them as livestock not wildlife? Parasites such as the hairworm, on the other hand seldom attract attention – would they be a better use of conservation funds?

Dr Rebecca Nesbit will examine how we set conservation priorities, and whether the arguments for protecting nature really stack up.

Rebecca is an ecologist and writer with a particular interest in the science and ethics of setting conservation priorities. For her PhD she used radars and flight simulators to study butterfly migration, and she now works in science communication. She has written two books: ‘Is that Fish in Your Tomato?’, looking at the fact and fiction of GM foods, and ‘A Column of Smoke’, a novel.

Dara Mojtahedi

When?
Wednesday, April 10 2019 at 7:30PM

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199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Dara Mojtahedi

What's the talk about?

Would you electrocute a puppy if someone asked you to? How about if you were a soldier during the Nazi regime, would you have followed orders and executed innocent bystanders? Whilst these questions may sound unusual— and frankly, a little odd — they serve a purpose in demonstrating how most individuals perceive the causes of evil behaviour.

When asked such questions, people have often confidently answered ‘no’ due to not considering their selves as being evil. However, what people often forget to account for is to the power that situational factors can have on influencing our actions.

Throughout history, notable cases have demonstrated how easy it is for ordinary individuals to be manipulated by their environment into carrying out unspeakable crimes. This talk will be discussing the situational factors that can turn good people evil.

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Dr Dara Mojtahedi is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Huddersfield.

Communicating With Ourselves

Claire Elliott

When?
Wednesday, March 13 2019 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Claire Elliott

What's the talk about?

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) are the anomalous speech-like sounds found on some electronic recordings. For believers, EVP represents communication with paranormal entities and evidence of the afterlife.

For sceptics, it is a product of the recording methods and top-down processing of the listener. Whilst we all experience auditory illusions, research suggests some groups may be more susceptible than others. Claire Elliott's MSc research explored the cognitive-perceptual factors and role of suggestion in illusory speech perception (auditory pareidolia).

The debate surrounding EVP can tell us much about the human tendency to find meaning in random data (apophenia) and desire to believe. With no scientific evidence for the validity of EVP, are we merely communicating with ourselves?

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Claire Elliott’s fascination with the paranormal started young, listening to her Mother’s ghost stories. She spent most of her childhood desperately wanting to see a ghost. She didn’t. Studying psychology has made her a skeptic but she stills goes ghost hunting. Her MSc masters thesis was entitled: ”Specific paranormal beliefs (haunting) and proneness to hallucinate may be implicated in illusory speech perception (auditory pareidolia)”.

She recently wrote an article for The Psychologist magazine on “Meaning in randomness” which explored the research and debate surrounding Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). She regularly gives talks and interviews on her research interests, which include auditory hallucinations, the psychology of paranormal belief, ghost hunting and cryptozoology.

Why is 3 so much bigger than 2?

Ben Barber

When?
Wednesday, February 13 2019 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Ben Barber

What's the talk about?

Maths is about patterns—spotting patterns, then working out whether they carry on forever.  Sometimes you spot patterns in the patterns—similar things happen in different settings—and then you have to ask "why?".

There are lots of places where changing a 2 to a 3 makes all the difference, turning a problem we can solve into one so complicated we may never be able to understand it.  Two player games can be played perfectly by a computer (in theory) but three player games cannot.  It's easy to tell whether exams can be scheduled across two time slots so that no students have any clashes, but very hard to tell whether three time slots are enough. 

In this presentation, Ben Barber will explain some examples of this phenomenon, then speculate wildly about what is going on.

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Ben Barber is a mathematician at the University of Bristol, where he counts the things that don't need to be counted.  He likes to tell stories, and most other things you can do on a stage.

babarber.uk

@bbarber_

We need to get rid of the Boswellox

Emma Smith

When?
Wednesday, January 9 2019 at 7:45PM

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Who?
Emma Smith

What's the talk about?

Are we being inundated with “fake science” and why do people believe the hype? While at a basic level it seems harmless, what threat does the creep of fake science pose? We’ll be taking a look at some evidence of the harm that pursuing alternative therapies can cause people with a cancer diagnosis, and some of the emotional cost.

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Emma Smith studied biochemistry at Imperial College London then stayed on for a Masters and PhD on her favourite topic, immunology. After almost a decade there, she braved the move out of London and joined The Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton as a Postdoc to study multiple myeloma, a white blood cell cancer. In 2010 she left the lab behind after making the decision to work in science communications, and joined Breast Cancer Now for a short while.

In 2012 she moved to a role in the Science Communications team at Cancer Research UK and spent 6 years perfecting the art of science communications at the biggest cancer charity in the world. In 2018 she took up a position at Imperial College London working in the field of volunteer infection studies and vaccines, but most of her talk today is centered around her experiences at CRUK.

For more information:
http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/author/emma-smith/
https://www.hic-vac.org/news
Twitter – @EmmaMarieSmith1, @hic_vac

The Rise of Flat Earth Beliefs

Michael Marshall

When?
Thursday, December 13 2018 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

Please note, this will be held on Thursday, not the normal second Wednesday.

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In 2013, when Michael Marshall first interviewed the Vice President of the Flat Earth society for his show Be Reasonable, people could scarcely believe that anyone could genuinely think the Earth was flat. Five years later, Flat Earth belief has gone mainstream, spawning thousands of hours of YouTube videos, gaining widespread international media coverage, and attracting countless followers. How did we get here?

In this talk, Marshall will talk through his experiences of the Flat Earth movement, take a look at the leaders and some of their reasoning, and report back from the weekend he spent at the UK’s first ever Flat Earth convention.

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Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests, going undercover to expose psychics and quack medics, and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman, and recently won the Ockham Award 2018 for Skeptical Activism.

A Look At How We Tick

Ronald Green

When?
Wednesday, November 14 2018 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Ronald Green

What's the talk about?

Ronald Green will take a skeptical look into what we have been told about time, while delving into the philosophical and scientific ramifications and the centrality of our place within it all. Challenging what is naturally taken for granted, he will forge a link between philosophy and science, blowing away the cobwebs that obscure both.

With time as the core of existence, Ronald's contention that 'now' does not exist opens up questions as to the reality of the past, the potential reality of the future, and leads us to central issues of Reality, Truth, Knowledge, Objectivity, the Self and Consciousness. In brief, a journey that goes to the heart of what it means to be human.

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Ronald Green is the author of "Time To Tell: a look at how we tick" (iff Books, 2018) and "Nothing Matters: a book about nothing" (iff Books, 2011). Philosopher, linguist, author and university lecturer, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on philosophy, linguistics, ESL and the use of Internet in education. His short stories have been published widely.

David Warden

When?
Wednesday, October 10 2018 at 7:30PM

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Who?
David Warden

What's the talk about?

The usual response to scepticism about whether Jesus actually existed is condescension and dismissal. It’s claimed that ‘no reputable scholars’ doubt his existence and that Jesus scepticism is a fringe topic for nutters.

All of this changed in 2014 when historian Richard Carrier published ‘On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt’ – a serious work of scholarship which concludes that, whilst the historical existence of Jesus remains a possibility, the probability of this being true is vanishingly small.

David will take us through the main arguments and let you make your own mind up.

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David Warden has a degree in theology from the University of Kent. He is chairman of Dorset Humanists and an Honorary Member of Humanists UK. 

Liam Brierley

When?
Wednesday, September 12 2018 at 7:30PM

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Liam Brierley

What's the talk about?

We're constantly threatened by outbreaks of new viral diseases, such as SARS and Ebola. This show, first performed at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is an interactive pandemic scenario that explores whether humanity is really at risk of extinction from the next viral outbreak. The room is quarantined because of the discovery of a new virus and we'll need the audience's help as we race to understand where this virus might have come from, whether it could go global, and how we could fight to stay one step ahead.

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Liam Brierley is a statistician and epidemiologist with reseach interests in predicting outbreaks of infectious diseases and teaching methodologies in statistics. Liam is also a media advisor for the Royal Statistical Society, and has spoken to national radio and magazines about how crunching numbers can save lives. He is currently a lecturer in statistics at Coventry University.

Stories from the Frontline of the Future

Mark Stevenson

When?
Wednesday, August 8 2018 at 7:30PM

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Mark Stevenson

What's the talk about?

Our systems are failing. Old models – for education, healthcare, government, food production and energy supply – are creaking under the weight of modern challenges. As the world’s population heads towards 10 billion, it is clear we need new approaches. 

Futurologist Mark Stevenson sets out to find them, uncovering an enthralling picture of what can be done to address the world’s most pressing dilemmas, a journey that offers a much needed dose of down-to-earth optimism. It is a window on (and a roadmap to) a different and better future.

Mark will be fitting as much as possible into his talk - this is a 100 mile-an-hour tour into the future, but fear not, there will be a time for questions and answers in the second half and for unpacking some of his ideas more fully!

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Mark Stevenson is a writer, entrepreneur, broadcaster, reluctant futurologist and founder of The League of Pragmatic Optimists. He has written for Radio 4, the Times, Sunday Times, Wall Street Journal, Telegraph, Guardian and New Statesman, and is the author of the critically acclaimed An Optimist’s Tour of the Future.

We Do Things Differently

@optimistontour 

Norman Fenton

When?
Wednesday, June 13 2018 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Norman Fenton

What's the talk about?

Every day in the news we are bombarded with statistics about risk: whether it is the health risks or benefits of consuming certain types of food and drink, the risk of climate ‘events’ from different types of human activity or the risks associated with different modes of transport, the narratives are often contradictory and difficult to understand.

In fact, Norman would argue that most of the statistics about risk that you read about are either misleading or completely flawed. This is due to basic misunderstandings of probability.

This talk will highlight how such misunderstandings often lead to flawed decision-making in many critical areas such as medicine, the law and transport safety planning. He will highlight how a simple mathematical formula (Bayes’ Theorem) can help avoid most of these errors when coupled with causal models of risk.

Bayesian reasoning and analysis offers us a remarkable insight into why the world behaves the way it does and how we can prepare ourselves for future events. This presentation is informed by many years of work in risk assessment which ranges from helping the aviation authorities to avoid mid-air collisions through to interpreting forensic evidence in murder trials, and even beating the bookies at football betting.

Speaker

Norman Fenton is Professor of Risk Information Management at Queen Mary London University and is also a Director of Agena, a company that specialises in risk management for critical systems. Norman, who is a mathematician by training, works on quantitative risk assessment. This typically involves analysing and predicting the probabilities of unknown events using Bayesian statistical methods including especially causal, probabilistic models (Bayesian networks). This type of reasoning enables improved assessment by taking account of both statistical data and also expert judgment.

In April 2014 Norman was awarded one of the prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grants (BAYES-KNOWLEDGE) to focus on these issues. Norman's experience in risk assessment covers a wide range of application domains such as legal reasoning (he has been an expert witness in major criminal and civil cases), medical analytics, vehicle reliability, embedded software, transport systems, financial services, and football prediction.

Norman has a special interest in raising public awareness of the importance of probability theory and Bayesian reasoning in everyday life (including how to present such reasoning in simple lay terms) and he maintains a website dedicated to this and also a blog focusing on probability and the law. In March 2015 Norman presented the award-winning BBC documentary Climate Change by Numbers.

Rebecca Fox

When?
Wednesday, May 9 2018 at 7:30PM

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Who?
Rebecca Fox

What's the talk about?

Most of us weren't born reasonable. We were born into a superstitious culture with only our ramshackle primate brains to try and figure out what’s going on. Reason, an appreciation for evidence and critical thinking skills are virtues that most of us had to fight for and that we have to work hard to keep up in difficult situations.

Rebecca is no exception, she grew up believing many strange things and has had to train herself to think critically. Instead of being embarrassed by our former beliefs Rebecca thinks it is important to have compassion for and interest in what we used to believe and why we believed it. Instead of feeling shame for having been wrong, we should be proud that we had the courage to overturn beliefs that proved to be wrong.

In this talk Rebecca will discuss who she was before, and after she ‘became reasonable’ and overturn the myth that there is such a thing as ‘perfectly reasonable’ we are all, after all, a work in progress.

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Rebecca is passionate about skeptical education because she has found the tools of skepticism to be profoundly empowering. Learning to think clearly has made her safer, more confident and happier. Drawing on her experience as a skeptical educator and comic book artist she will present some ideas that will help you improve your critical thinking skills and the way you think about how you think.