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Mirko Gutjahr

When?
Thursday, January 21 2021 at 7:00PM

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Mirko Gutjahr

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Watch via twitch.tv/SitP - no need to register or book

Light bulbs in antiquity? UFO landing sites in Peru? Giant pyramids in the Balkans? Authors like Erich von Däniken or TV shows like “Ancient Aliens” accuse archaeologists of hiding important discoveries and masking the truth. According to them the monumental buildings of the past were created not by our ancestors but by aliens or extradimensional beings. At first glance this appears harmless – fantasies written by science fiction authors. However, those claims are deeply rooted in creationist and racist ideas. In times when fewer and fewer people trust in science such views become more popular and thus give rise to right-wing esoteric ideologies. This talk sheds light on the problem of “pseudo-archeology” and will try to prove that real archeology is much more exciting – and true – than archaeological fantasies.

Mirko Gutjahr is an archaeologist and historian working at as a scientific advisor at “Luthergedenkstätten”, a Martin Luther memorial foundation with five museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites at three locations in Saxony-Anhalt. He also produces German language podcasts about curious facts from history. One of his podcasts has been translated into English at https://play.acast.com/s/secretcabinet


 

Rosie Campbell

When?
Thursday, January 14 2021 at 7:00PM

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Rosie Campbell

What's the talk about?

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As AI becomes increasingly advanced, it promises many benefits but also comes with risks. How can we mitigate these risks while preserving scientific inquiry and openness? Who is responsible for anticipating the impacts of AI research, and how can they do so effectively? What changes, if any, need to be made to the peer review process? In this talk, we’ll explore these tensions and how they are playing out right now in the AI community. AI is not the first high-stakes, ‘dual-use’ field to face these questions. Taking inspiration from fields like cybersecurity and biosecurity, we’ll look at possible approaches to responsible publication, their strengths and limitations, and how they might be used in practice for AI.

Rosie Campbell leads the Safety-Critical AI program at the Partnership on AI, a multistakeholder nonprofit shaping the future of responsible AI. Her main focus is on responsible publication and deployment practices for increasingly advanced AI. Previously, she was Assistant Director of the Center for Human-Compatible AI at UC Berkeley, a Research Engineer at BBC R&D, and cofounder of Manchester Futurists. Her academic background spans physics, philosophy, and computer science. Rosie is also a productivity nerd and enjoys thinking about how to optimize systems, and how to use reason and evidence to improve the world.

Jo Marchant

When?
Thursday, December 10 2020 at 7:00PM

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Jo Marchant

What's the talk about?

For most of human history, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are – our religious beliefs, power structures, scientific advances and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. And that disconnect comes at a cost. In her latest book, The Human Cosmos, Jo Marchant takes us on a tour through the history of humanity’s relationship with the heavens. We travel to the Hall of the Bulls in Lascaux and witness the winter solstice at a 5,000-year-old tomb at Newgrange. We visit Medieval monks grappling with the nature of time and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover how light reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are with Einstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same. A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search for extraterrestrial life. And we discover why stargazing can be really, really good for us. It is time for us to rediscover the full potential of the universe we inhabit, its wonder, its effect on our health, and its potential for inspiration and revelation.

Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist. She has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, London, and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College. She has worked as an editor at New Scientist and Nature, and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, Wired, Observer, New York Times and Washington Post. She is the author of Decoding the Heavens, shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, and Cure, shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.

Find the talk at twitch.tv/sitp from 6:45pm.  There's no need to register or book.

Noah Lugeons

When?
Thursday, December 3 2020 at 7:00PM

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Noah Lugeons

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Why did America do so badly? When the COVID-19 crisis reached America, the US had more resources and expertise at its disposal to confront the threat than any nation on the planet, and yet the American response was homicidally inefficient. Why? Noah Lugeons goes beyond bad leadership to discuss the root of the problem: Religion. When a crisis arose that required a scientific solution, religion’s response ranged from useless to detrimental. From churches ignoring state lockdowns to televangelists declaring the disease miraculously eradicated, to pastors suing their governors for enforcing public safety measures, religion was at the forefront of virtually every misguided step towards catastrophe the United States took.

Noah Lugeons is the author of Outbreak: A Crisis of Faith – How Religion Ruined Our Global Pandemic, in which he explores the themes of this talk in-depth. As the Podcast Award-winning host of The Scathing Atheist, Noah has spent almost a decade reporting on the most terrifying trends in American religiosity.

Find the talk at twitch.tv/sitp from 6:45pm.  There's no need to register or book.

Dr Jennifer Wadsworth

When?
Thursday, November 26 2020 at 7:00PM

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Dr Jennifer Wadsworth

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What is planetary protection? Is it even important? Because it sounds like it’s either an incredibly exciting space battle strategy from Independence Day or an exceedingly dull health and safety class that future generations will be subjected to. In reality it’s kind of both (except that thankfully it’s not from Independence Day). I’m a space scientist who recently finished my postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center, California, where I spent my time developing new ideas to help in the often-overlooked field of planetary protection. I’ll (hopefully) convince you of its importance for our continued exploration of the solar system and how it can even be applied to help solve some of our problems here on Earth.

Jennifer Wadsworth is an astrobiologist who did her PhD at the University of Edinburgh and recently completed her postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center, California. She’s particularly interested in how microbes can survive extreme radiation environments … or not, as the case may be! She enjoys long walks on the beach, and subjecting bacteria to a plethora of lethal conditions. For science.

Find the talk at twitch.tv/sitp from 6:45pm.  There's no need to register or book.

Pixie Turner

When?
Thursday, November 19 2020 at 7:00PM

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Who?
Pixie Turner

What's the talk about?

Find the talk at twitch.tv/sitp from 6:45pm.  There's no need to register or book.

There's a double bill this week - for the second instalment check below Pixie's talk details.

Social media is a major part of modern life. Most of us can’t imagine not using it, and it’s unrealistic to assume that’s even possible. We are only just beginning to understand the influence these platforms have over our decisions around food and health, with many of these processes happening without our even being fully aware.

But maybe we should be aware.

From influencers deciding what the foods we buy to government policy, via food shaming and comparison envy, activism and extremism, the role social media plays is now undeniable. In her latest book ‘The Insta-Food Diet’, nutritionist Pixie Turner looks at the various ways social media has affected our food choices, our restaurants, and our food policy. She aims to arm readers with knowledge and tactics, so they can take back control and make social media work for them

Pixie Turner is a registered nutritionist (RNutr), trainee psychotherapist and science communicator. Alongside her degrees in biochemistry and nutrition, she also has over 130,000 followers on her ‘Pixie Nutrition‘ social media accounts. Pixie has been featured as a nutrition expert on BBC, Sky and Channel 5, and divides her time between her clinic, social media, teaching, hosting her podcast, public speaking, and looking after her growing collection of houseplants. She has written several books, with the most recent, The Insta-Food Diet, looking at the way in which social media has shaped the way we eat.

Also: The Ockham Awards

Michael Marshall will be hosting the Ockham Awards ceremony, find out who will win the coveted Award for Skeptical Activism and The Rusty Razor, awarded to an individual or organisation who has been the most prominent promoter of unscientific ideas in the last 12 months.

Dr Steve Barrett

When?
Thursday, November 12 2020 at 7:00PM

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Dr Steve Barrett

What's the talk about?

As a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Physics, my research interests span all aspects of imaging, image processing and image analysis. This includes medical imaging (biophysics), scanning probe microscopy of atoms, molecules and surfaces (nanophysics), microscopy of earth materials (geophysics) and astrophotography.

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Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers

Tim Harford

When?
Thursday, November 5 2020 at 7:00PM

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Tim Harford

What's the talk about?

Join this talk via twitch.tv/sitp from 18:45 on November 5th 2020 - it's  open to all and there's no need to register with Twitch.

When was the last time you read a grand statement, accompanied by a large number, and wondered whether it could really be true? Statistics are vital in helping us tell stories – we see them in the papers, on social media, and we hear them used in everyday conversation – and yet we doubt them more than ever. But numbers – in the right hands – have the power to change the world for the better. Contrary to popular belief, good statistics are not a trick, although they are a kind of magic. Good statistics are not smoke and mirrors; in fact, they help us see more clearly. Good statistics are like a telescope for an astronomer, a microscope for a bacteriologist, or an X-ray for a radiologist. If we are willing to let them, good statistics help us see things about the world around us and about ourselves – both large and small – that we would not be able to see in any other way.

In How to Make the World Add Up, Tim Harford draws on his experience as both an economist and presenter of the BBC’s radio show More or Less. He takes us deep into the world of disinformation and obfuscation, bad research and misplaced motivation to find those priceless jewels of data and analysis that make communicating with numbers worthwhile. Harford’s characters range from the art forger who conned the Nazis to the stripper who fell in love with the most powerful congressman in Washington, to famous data detectives such as John Maynard Keynes, Daniel Kahneman and Florence Nightingale. He reveals how we can evaluate the claims that surround us with confidence, curiosity and a healthy level of scepticism.

Using ten simple rules for understanding numbers – plus one golden rule – this extraordinarily insightful book shows how if we keep our wits about us, thinking carefully about the way numbers are sourced and presented, we can look around us and see with crystal clarity how the world adds up.

Tim is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of The Next Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy, Messy, and the million-selling The Undercover Economist. Tim is a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4’s More or Less, the iTunes-topping series ‘Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy’, and the new podcast ‘Cautionary Tales’. Tim has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House. He is an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Tim was made an OBE for services to improving economic understanding in the New Year honours of 2019.

Professors Richard Wiseman and Chris French

When?
Saturday, October 31 2020 at 7:00PM

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Professors Richard Wiseman and Chris French

What's the talk about?

An extra event for Halloween.

October 31st is Halloween – traditionally the scariest night of the year (although we’re a bit more scared about what might happen in the US election a few days later).

All things considered, it’s pretty safe to say that this has been a slightly unsettling year for lots of people and the last thing we need right now is a bunch of ghosts and ghouls turning up and causing havoc on Halloween.

Fear not, however, because we’re pleased to say that ghosts don’t actually exist.

But if ghosts aren’t real, why do so many people believe that they’ve seen one? How can we explain the supernatural experiences people have reported? How do places develop a reputation for being haunted? What are those things that go bump in the night?

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and author. For years, he has researched the science behind the paranormal.

At 7 pm on Saturday 31st October, he will be discussing the natural explanations behind the supernatural and showing how the paranormal is perfectly normal. Richard will be Interviewed by his good friend Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths.
Richard Wiseman

Professor Richard Wiseman has been described by a Scientific American columnist as ‘…one of the most interesting and innovative experimental psychologists in the world today.’ His books have sold over 3 million copies and he regularly appears on the media. Richard also presents keynote talks to organisations across the world, including The Swiss Economic Forum, Google and Amazon.

He holds Britain’s only Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is one of the most followed psychologists on Twitter, and the Independent On Sunday chose him as one of the top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live.

Richard is a Member of the Inner Magic Circle, a Director of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and has created psychology-based YouTube videos that have attracted over 500 million views. He also acts as a creative consultant, including work with Derren Brown, The Twilight Zone and the hit television show, Brain Games.
 

Chris French
Professor Chris French is the 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 has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current 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. His most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

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Britt Hermes

When?
Thursday, October 29 2020 at 7:00PM

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Britt Hermes

What's the talk about?

Naturopathy is scary! For three years, I practiced as a licensed “naturopathic doctor” in the United States. The overwhelming majority of naturopathic care relies extensively on dubious alternative therapies, rather than established protocols based on medical and scientific research. In this Halloween-themed talk, I share the experiences that led to my interest in natural medicine, some spooky naturopathic practices, and how I became the most hated naturopath in the world.

Britt Hermes is a writer, scientist, and a former naturopathic doctor. She practiced as a licensed naturopath in the United States and then left the profession after realizing naturopathy is a pseudoscientific ideology. Since this time, Britt has been working to understand and communicate how she was tricked by alternative medicine, so others do not repeat her mistake. She now writes to expose issues with naturopathy, the current rising profession in alternative medicine. Her work focuses on the deceptions naturopathic practitioners employ to scam patients and contrive legitimacy in political arenas. She hopes her stories will protect patients from the false beliefs and bogus treatments sold by alternative medicine practitioners. Hermes is currently living in Germany where she is completing her doctorate in evolutionary genomics.

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Aaron Rabinowitz

When?
Thursday, October 22 2020 at 7:00PM

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Aaron Rabinowitz

What's the talk about?

Skepticism and ethics are both essential features of a flourishing life but what should skeptics and critical thinkers know about ethics, and how should those beliefs motivate us to action? Philosopher Aaron Rabinowitz will put forward the case that skeptics should believe that ethics is real and free will is not, and will argue that adopting these two beliefs gives us the tools we need to improve the world through applied skepticism in a way that’s compassionate without being toothless.

Aaron Rabinowitz is a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University, and host of the Embrace The Void and Philosophers in Space podcast.

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Brooke Magnanti

When?
Thursday, October 15 2020 at 7:00PM

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Brooke Magnanti

What's the talk about?

As the US Presidential election draws near, the world has become fascinated with the seemingly new phenomena of Qanon and other wide-ranging conspiracy theories taking over social media and mainstream politics. However, the genesis of these groups is years old and comes from a surprising place: the global anti-sex trafficking movement. Brooke Magnanti discusses what happens when well-meaning causes are sidelined by bad stats and bad faith actors seize the opportunity in the service of a more worrying trend.

Brooke Magnanti is a scientist and author. She is writer of the bestselling Belle de Jour series of books, which were adapted into the hit ITV show “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” starring Billie Piper. She is also the writer of crime thrillers The Turning Tide and You Don’t Know Me.

Brooke was born in west central Florida in 1975. She earned a Ph.D. in the Forensic Pathology department there, specialising in human decomposition and postmortem identification. She has worked in forensic science, epidemiology, chemoinformatics and cancer research.

Watch the talk using this link from 6:45pm on Thursday October 15th 2020: twitch.tv/sitp