Previous year >>

Timandra Harkness

When?
Wednesday, April 12 2017 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Timandra Harkness

What's the talk about?

 Big Data knows where you’ve been and who your friends are. It knows what you like and what makes you angry. It can predict what you’ll buy, where you’ll be the victim of crime and when you’ll have a heart attack. Big Data knows you better than you know yourself, or so it claims.

But how well do you know big data?

From science to smart cities, business to politics, self-quantification to the Internet of Things, people are talking about big data as a force for change Privacy, democracy, even our ideas of who we are, could be transformed. You don’t need to be a Silicon Valley tech prodigy to understand what’s going on.

Timandra Harkness writes comedy, not computer code. The only programs she makes are on the radio. If she can understand what’s going on, so can you. Some of the ideas underlying Big Data are based on the kind of mathematics anybody can grasp: different measures that are correlated in predictable patterns; the relationship between the average of a population and what that tells you about an individual; how we study networks and connections to learn something new about the big picture. Others, though harder to grasp in theory, are familiar in practice: apps on our  phones that locate us on a map, or count our steps; internet search engines that predict what we’d like to buy; websites that translate other languages into  English.

But big data isn’t just neat mathematics or clever technology. It has implications for all of us.

Timandra asks the big questions about where it’s taking us: is it too big for its boots, or does it think too small? Are you a data point or a human being? She aims to leave you armed and ready to decide what you think about one of the decade’s big ideas: big data.

We'll get some copies of Timandra's book in so that you have the opportunity to have a signed edition.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Victoria Stiles

When?
Wednesday, March 8 2017 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Victoria Stiles

What's the talk about?

We've reached a situation which shouldn't have been possible. It is now almost inevitable that the Nazis will appear as a cautionary example in any political discussion and yet this year has seen the rise to prominence of groups which openly share many of the their beliefs and even borrow their symbols. It appears that knowing about the past is not the same as learning from history, but is it reasonable to expect history to teach us anything at all?

Victoria Stiles is a freelance researcher and consultant in the field of Modern European History and specialises in the portrayal of imperial history and national stereotypes within Nazi Germany. This year she was called a historian by the LAD Bible, which has more than justified the time she spent getting a PhD.

In this talk she will explain some of the ways in which historians use and assess evidence, how they draw parallels between events in different times and places and how they arrive at an account of the past which they are willing to call "a history". She is very keen to hear the audiece's thoughts on what they want history and historians to do for them.

Is there anything from our past which can shed light on our current situation? This talk won't provide all the answers but maybe together we can formulate some better questions.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Christopher Berry

When?
Wednesday, February 8 2017 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Christopher Berry

What's the talk about?

Our best theory of gravity is Einstein's general relativity. This describes gravitation as the bending of space and time. The theory predicts the existence of black holes and gravitational waves. The first direct observation of gravitational waves was made in 2015 by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, this signal came from the merger of two black holes. Since then, LIGO has observed one, possibly two, other binary black hole mergers. Gravitational waves can reveal many details about objects like black holes which are otherwise invisible, and this new form of astronomy could greatly expand our understanding of the Universe. This talk will introduce gravitational-wave astronomy and discuss the discoveries made so far.

Christopher studied for his PhD at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, where he worked on what we could learn about gravity and black holes with a space-based gravitational wave detector. After finishing his PhD in 2013, he started work at the University of Birmingham, where he joined the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Since then, he's been working on how to measure properties of the sources of gravitational wave signals as detected by ground-based detectors like LIGO. He was part of the group who analysed LIGO's first observations of gravitational waves in 2015.

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

David Alnwick

When?
Wednesday, November 9 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
David Alnwick

What's the talk about?

 Back again from the Edinburgh Fringe, Dave Alnwick brings his brand new show on a Sceptic tour of the UK. 

'Mind Wizard' is the journey of how Dave began performing magic and mind reading. 

As always the 50 minute performance will be followed by a 30 minute talk with a Q&A session.  The talk will discuss the wider psychology in play during the performance."

Henry Drysdale

When?
Wednesday, October 12 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Henry Drysdale

What's the talk about?

 Description

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.

 

Bio

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.

 

Let us know you are coming on the Facebook Event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1338242676199608/


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

 

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Kevin Precious

When?
Wednesday, September 14 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Kevin Precious

What's the talk about?

 Kevin Precious is a former RE teacher turned stand-up comedian and promoter.  Besides having played many of the top clubs in the land, he also promotes shows in arts centres and theatres under the Barnstormers Comedy banner. He has previously toured the country with a stand-up show entitled 'Not Appropriate', dedicated to the business of teaching


In between the various comedic activites, he attends his local humanist group - he's an agnostic, folks - where he loves a good old debate about the big questions in life.  Expect jokes and stories then, about his time as an RE teacher, being a humanist, the God-Shaped Hole, and the philosophy of religion... and you can ask him a few questions of your own afterwards, if you wish.

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Dr Jovan Byford

When?
Wednesday, August 10 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Dr Jovan Byford

What's the talk about?

 Most significant events in the world today - be it an unexpected election result, a terror attack, the death of a public figure, a plane crash or a meteorological anomaly - generate a flutter of conspiracy speculations. Those who propound conspiracy theories about these events are often dismissed as paranoid, crazy or absurd, as well as politically suspect. At the same time, we constantly face revelations about political cover-ups, about secrecy and collusion, which suggest that the notion of conspiracy might in fact be a useful concept when thinking about power in contemporary society. The talk, which is based on my book Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction looks at how we might productively navigate the fuzzy boundaries between theories about actual conspiracies which reveal the often secretive political and economic order, and the bogus, far fetched and often politically damaging conspiracy theories.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Emma McClure

When?
Wednesday, July 13 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Emma McClure

What's the talk about?

 We've all seen it: A renegade detective pores over the scene of a grisly murder. They find an overlooked clue; a hair, a footprint, a shell casing. Detailed forensic analysis matches the clue to the bad guy, and the bad guy goes to jail. This is how modern day forensics are portrayed in shows such as 'CSI' and 'Silent Witness'; forensic evidence is seen as conclusive when it comes to catching suspects and deciding if someone is guilty in a criminal trial. But, at a time when shows like Serial and Making a Murderer have brough miscarriages of justice to international prominence, Emma McClure will explain how the traces left behind at a crime scene can sometimes lie.

The science in areas such as DNA collection has progressed enormously in recent decades allowing for breakthroughs in many old and cold cases. However, we have also seen many high profile exonerations of those previously convicted of the most serious of crimes on seemingly 'conclusive' forensic evidence. This has lead to increasing scrutiny of the way it is analysed, interpreted and presented in the courtroom.

In this talk, prison lawyer Emma McClure examines the issues with forensic techniques, highlighting the amusing, confusing and sometimes tragic consequences of failing to take a skeptical approach to evidence in the field of forensic science.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Dr Nick Hawes

When?
Wednesday, June 8 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Dr Nick Hawes

What's the talk about?

Abstract: It’s inevitable, isn't it? One day robots will take over the world, either through some kind of violent rebellion, or through the back door -- by taking all our jobs. Aren't we throwing caution to the wind by ignoring this threat? Well, by explaining some of the basic principles behind artificial intelligence and robotics, I'm going to try to convince you that all those science fiction writers are wrong, and whilst robots will have a large part to play in our future, you don't need to worry about the effect they'll have on our existence.

Bio: Nick Hawes is a Reader in Autonomous Intelligent Robotics in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. His research is in the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to create intelligent, autonomous robots that can work with or for humans. He is a passionate believer in public engagement with AI and robotics and was selected to give the Lord Kelvin Award Lecture at the 2013 British Science Festival.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Prof Gina Rippon

When?
Wednesday, May 11 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Prof Gina Rippon

What's the talk about?

There is a long history of debate about biological sex differences and their part in determining gender roles, with the ‘biology is destiny’ mantra being used to legitimise imbalances in these roles. The tradition is continuing, with new brain imaging techniques being hailed as sources of evidence of the ‘essential’ differences between men and women, and the concept of ‘hardwiring’ sneaking into popular parlance as a brain-based explanation for all kinds of gender gaps.

But the field is littered with many problems. Some are the product of ill-informed popular science writing ( neurotrash)  based on the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what brain imaging can tell us. Some, unfortunately involve poor science, with scientists using outdated and disproved stereotypes to design and interpret their research (neurosexism). These problems obscure or ignore the ‘neuronews’, the breakthroughs in our understanding of how plastic and permeable our brains are, and how the concept of ‘hard-wiring’ should be condemned to the dustbin of neurohistory.

This talk aims to offer ways of rooting out the neurotrash, stamping out the neurosexism and making way for neuronews.

Gina Rippon is Professor of Cognitive NeuroImaging in the Aston Brain Centre at Aston University. She has a background in psychology and physiology and uses brain imaging techniques such as Magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the relationship between patterns of brain activation and human sensory, cognitive and affective processes. Most recently her work has been in the field of developmental disorders such as autism.  She has served as President of the British Psychophysiology Society (now the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience).

She also writes and speaks on the use of neuroimaging techniques In the study of sex/gender differences, recently featured in the BBC  Horizon programme “Is your Brain Male or Female?”.  She is additionally involved in activities around the public communication of science, particularly in challenging the misuse of neuroscience to support gender stereotypes, and in work to correct the under-representation of women in STEM subjects. She has recently been appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association. 

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

 

 

 

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Wednesday, April 13 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

 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.

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. She has published her first book, Herding Hemingway's Cats, about how our genes work. You can order it here:http://bit.ly/HerdingHemingwaysCats

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.

Jonathan Courtney

When?
Wednesday, March 9 2016 at 7:30PM

Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Jonathan Courtney

What's the talk about?

As citizens of a wealthy country, we have immense power to improve the lives of others less fortunate than us. But too often, we fail to consider how much of an impact our charitable donations actually have, and as a result, the charities we donate to often make little to no difference in the real world, and sometimes even make things worse. However, by donating to the most cost-effective charities, we can make a huge difference to people’s lives at a negligible cost to ourselves. How much good can you do?

Jonathan Courtney has a Masters in Philosophy from Oxford and is Assistant Executive Director and Director of Outreach for Giving What We Can, a charity evaluator that advocates giving to the most cost-effective charities.

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated.  Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are unable to stand for the duration of the talk let us know beforehand and we will reserve one for you.