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Emma McClure

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Laurie Ramsell

When?
Wednesday, February 24 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Laurie Ramsell

What's the talk about?

 What defines us as being human? 

Do we attribute our humanity to a ‘rational soul’?

 

Do we quantify it through our biology?  

 What happens when we can alter our biology, manufacture a soul? If these standard benchmarks are altered then what do we have left, what makes us 'human' anymore? These are the question I have investigated in a new artistic project with Birmingham Open Media, funded by Arts Council England   

 Since the dawn of the 21st century we have had to answer such questions in entirely new contexts; artificial intelligence, cloning, In Vitro Fertilisation, stem cells, and synthetic life. These new arenas of science have opened up the discussion surrounding what it truly means to be human, in an age when we can make them artificially. 

 Over a six month research and development residency, I will be investigating the concept of humanness through the lens of transhumanism; the evolution of humans through technology. The residency will conclude with a final artwork, formed in part from your contribution on the subject. I will be presenting my project, ideas, and research in a half hour talk, after which I would like to open the discussion to the audience, to further understand your hopes, and fears, for the future or such technologies. A worksheet will also be made available to record thoughts and comments towards the project. 

Please join us for an evening of discussion at the Victoria pub, Birmingham, with the Birmingham Skeptics - led by artist Laurie Ramsell, artist in residence and fellow at Birmingham Open Media, investigating near future technologies in his new project 'Novo Sapiens'.

 

This is a free event and there is no charge for attending and participating.

 

 

Dr Fiona MacCallum

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

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Dr Fiona MacCallum

What's the talk about?

 What does the modern family look like? Technology has led to the creation of families that were not previously possible; a woman can become pregnant with, and give birth to, a child who is not genetically related to her. Parents don’t have to be in a female-male couple but can be with a same-sex partner or going it alone. Many assumptions are made about the best situation for children but what is actually known about the psychological effects of being raised in a “non-traditional” family? I’ll discuss research which investigates different family types and asks questions such as does it matter if a child has two mums or two dads? What do parents tell their children about how they were conceived? And when it comes to family relationships, is “blood” really thicker than water? 


Fiona MacCallum is a developmental psychologist with a particular interest in parent-child relationships and their influence on children’s social and emotional wellbeing. She began to research the psychology of new family forms in 1996, and has specialised in the study of non-genetic families. Fiona is an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Warwick.

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.

Sense About Science

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

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Sense About Science

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 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 what the campaign is going to do next and how you can get involved.

 

 

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, December 9 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

Krampus, a demon-like creature from Alpine folklore, punishes naughty children at Christmas - in contrast with Jolly St Nicholas who brings presents. Krampusnacht, usually celebrated on December 5th, involves dressing up as the Krampus and roaming the streets frightening children with chains and bells. The Krampus phenomenon has been re-kindled; growing in popularity in the US and increasingly appearing in the UK.

We'll look at where Christmas really comes from. See if you get candies.... or coal and a thrashing.

Deborah Hyde is editor of the Skeptic Magazine (skeptic.org.uk) and writes about belief in the malign macarbre at www.jourdemayne.com

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated. We suggest £2, or whatever you can afford. Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mind Reader. Cult Leader. Dave

David Alnwick

When?
Wednesday, November 18 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
David Alnwick

What's the talk about?

Please Note - Once again this is not our usual second Wednesdayl Normal service will be resumed in December.

David Alnwick takes his critically acclaied magic show on tour, gathering new followers in order to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming the leader of his own cult. Employing practical, real world examples of 'social manipulation', Dave will entertain, excite and inspire. Come and worship at the feet of your new lord and commander. 

"F***ing Ninja Ginger Wizard" - ThreeWeeks

"COMPLETELY F***ING AWESOME" - The Skinny

"Impossible tricks, indestructible wit, he is charming, fluid and insanely quick!" - #SRCZ

After the performance there will be a 30 minute talk on the ideas and techniques employed within the show including some mention on the wider psychology in play. This will be followed with a 20 minute question and answer session.

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.

Suw Charman-Anderson

When?
Wednesday, October 7 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Suw Charman-Anderson

What's the talk about?

Please Note - This is not our usual second Wednesday!

 

In 2009, Suw Charman-Anderson founded of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. With grassroots events held around the world and thousands of people writing and talking about the women who have inspired them, the day seeks to raise women's profiles and highlight unsung heroines.

Suw will talk about why there's a need for such a day, and also about Ada Lovelace herself. Lauded as the first ever computer programmer, Ada was a gifted mathematician, yet today she faces challenges from many voices as to the veracity of her contributions to computer science. So who was Ada? And what do we know about her work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine?

Suw is a social technologist and, as one of the UK's social media pioneers, has worked with clients worldwide. A freelance journalist, she has written about social media and technology for The Guardian, CIO Magazine and others.

Learn more about Ada Lovelace Day, 13 October 2015, at www.findingada.com or follow the team on Twitter at @findingada. Suw's blog is at www.chocolateandvodka.com and you can follow her on Twitter as @suw.

 

This is a free event, although donations to help fund Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub events are appreciated. We suggest £2, or whatever you can afford. Seats are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Michael Lachmann

When?
Wednesday, September 9 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

Who?
Michael Lachmann

What's the talk about?

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969 - the Americans entered history as the winners of the Space Race. This isn't their story.

Micky Lachmann is going to talk about their competitors the Soviets, and how they managed to beat the Americans to almost every milestone in Space.

It's a story we don't know very well - the Soviets operated under a shroud of almost total secrecy. But some of the early cosmonauts are still alive and have incredible and often terrifying stories to tell. So this is also an account of going to Russia and trying to find these amazing - and mostly bad tempered - men and women.

Micky studied Natural Sciences and then dropped out of a PhD in tropical fish behaviour to work in science journalism. Over 15 years at the BBC he has worked on - among other things - Walking with Beasts, many Horizon's and is partly responsible for bringing Brian Cox to our screens - for which he is very sorry.