Previous year >>

An Attempted Navigation Through All That Neuro-Bollocks That Is Thrown At Us!

Dr Ashok Jansari

When?
Wednesday, May 17 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr Ashok Jansari

What's the talk about?

The last few decades have seen a massive mushrooming of research into the workings of the most complex system known to mankind, the human brain. Part of this wonderful expansion in knowledge has been the development of ever-more sophisticated techniques for looking at the brain both physically and functionally in vivo rather than needing to wait for a post-mortem autopsy. There is a veritable alphabet-soup of methods available: CT, MRI, EEG, fMRI, ERP, MEG, tDCS to name a few. These techniques have given us fantastic insights into brain functions both in healthy individuals and also in those with neural abnormalities; some of this work has also been enormously beneficial for helping to identify or develop new treatments. However, parallel to this wonderful contribution has been an abuse of this information. Some of this has been by the researchers conducting the studies – there is a sense of ‘believing the hype’ a bit too much. In addition to this, the ‘neuro-revolution’ has been firmly embraced by those who want to legitimise their work – neuro-psychic, neuro-coaching, etc.. It has reached the point where it has even been used by some to drive public policy by using brain scans purporting to show the impact of social deprivation on a child’s brain. In this talk, I will try to navigate you through some of the wonders of the brain but also try to show you that some of what you may hear is better classified as ‘neuro-bollocks’......

My expertise is in mental brain functions that we use on an everyday basis such as memory and face-recognition. I conduct research on healthy individuals, those with brain damage and children who are either typical or have developmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I am one of the UK's experts on face-recognition including face-blindness (also known as 'prosopagnosia') and exceptional face memory (known as 'super-recognition'). Some of the latter work is being done in conjunction with London's Metropolitan Police who are the first police force in the world to strategically use serving officers with exceptional face-memory to apprehend criminal suspects. I have also developed an expertise in being able to 'translate' general issues in psychology and science to the lay-person to make them more accessible.

I have been working in the field for 23 years. I have a degree from arguably the best university in the world (Cambridge), a doctorate from one of the best psychology research departments in the country (Sussex) and worked with two of the most noted neuroscientists in the world (Professors Antonio Damasio and Ralph Adolphs). I have won an award from the International Neuropsychological Society for my research in memory disorders and been awarded a Media Fellowship by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for my skills in communicating science to the general public. In 2011 I was awarded a three-month Wellcome funded Live Science residency at London's Science Museum to conduct one of the largest prevalence studies of super-recognition in the world. I have contributed widely to public engagement with science through TV (both national TV such as the BBC and Channel 4 as well as internationally), radio and print media as well as annual public lectures as part of International Brain Awareness Week. In addition I have lectured extensively throughout Europe, North America, South America, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. For this work, I have been nominated for a British Academy Charles Darwin Award for communicating science to non-specialist audiences. In 2014, I won Best Research Supervisor prize at my university for my ability to teach and inspire students to high levels of research. I teach cognitive psychology and cognitive neuropsychology which are my two specialist areas.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Vice-Chair of the Neuropsychology International Fellowship. My expertise means that I currently collaborate with scientists in 14 other countries spanning 4 continents.

Away from my research, I love travelling (52 countries visited and counting), speak my mother tongue (Gujarati) as well as Italian (I’ve visited Venice over 45 times!) and have an identical twin – I show three-dimensional scans of our brains in lectures to amuse students and then to demonstrate certain issues to do with the brain. I actually have a bit of a ‘wonky’ brain that I love telling students about.....

Webclips of Dr Jansari speaking about his field:

Speaking about the general field of cognitive neuropsychology:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNEeISkv3zQ

Speaking on BBC1’s The One Show:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5Hooty5YMo

Speaking about his ‘super-recognizer’ study at London’s Science Museum:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjeKa9BjT7I

Speaking about face-recognition for Universities Week:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh2t5bWd-Z8

Andrew Dunne

When?
Wednesday, April 19 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Andrew Dunne

What's the talk about?

Change to the originally advertised event.

Jamie Bartlett can't be with us on Wednesday so Skeptic regular Andrew Dunne has stepped in to talk on a 'Skeptic' theme.

Jamie will be with us later in the year.

Please let people who were coming to Jamie's talk know about the change and come and hear something different but no less interesting.

Sally

Jamie Bartlett

When?
Wednesday, April 19 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Jamie Bartlett

What's the talk about?

The dark net is an underworld that stretches from popular social media sites to the most secretive corners of the encrypted web. It is a world that frequently appears in newspaper headlines but one that is little understood, and rarely explored.

For his book The Dark Net Jamie Bartlett spent two years immersed in some of the internet's most shocking and secretive sub-cultures: spending time in secretive 'trolling' forums, interviewing illegal pornographers, buying drugs from the notorious 'Silk Road', following bitcoin enthusiasts, attending live internet sex shows, and hanging out with neo-Nazis.

In his talk, Jamie will suggest they are not as they seem. They are shocking and disturbing, but often extremely innovative. He will discuss the truth of how these internet subcultures work, who is part of them, and what we can learn from them. He will also discuss the problems of meeting and writing about some of the internet's most hated people.

Jamie is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos. His primary research interests are: new political movements and social media research and analysis, internet cultures and security and privacy online. The Dark Net was shortlisted for The Political Award and longlisted for The Orwell Prize. His next book Radicals (Random House) about new radical social and political movements will be released in Spring 2017.

Professor Chris French

When?
Wednesday, March 15 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Professor Chris French

What's the talk about?

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.  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

Chris was also our first speaker at Gravesend Skeptics, giving his talk on 'Weird Science'.  Not only did he help to get the group started but he has supported both Skeptics and the SAM group for the youngsters ever since.

Dr Lynne Kelly

When?
Thursday, March 2 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr Lynne Kelly

What's the talk about?

Without writing, indigenous elders memorised a vast amount of factual information on which survival depended both physically and culturally: knowledge of thousands of animals and plants, astronomical charts, vast navigation networks, genealogies, geography and geology … the list goes on and on. How did they remember so much? And why does this explain the purpose of ancient monuments including Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Nasca Lines? Can we use these memory methods in contemporary life?

This lecture will focus on the transmission of scientific and practical knowledge among small-scale oral cultures across the world, drawing on Australian Aboriginal, Native American, African and Pacific cultures. Dr Kelly will explain the exact mechanisms used and why this explains the purpose of many enigmatic monuments around the world. We have a great deal to learn from the extraordinary mnemonic skills of indigenous cultures.

Dr Kelly lives and works in Australia but is in the UK for a book launch.  Michael Marshall (Good Thinking Society, Gravesend speaker July 2015) heard her when he was in Australia and knowing that she was coming to London kindly asked if she would visit No.84.  This event is in addition to the usual third Wednesday in the month Skeptics, details of which are still at the pending stage.

What happened when we tried to correct the record on 58 misreported clinical trials

Henry Drysdale

When?
Wednesday, February 15 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

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 intention 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.

Dr Erica McAlister

When?
Wednesday, January 18 2017 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr Erica McAlister

What's the talk about?

Why do we need flies?  Well for many reasons from the disposal of dead bodies to our continued enjoyment of chocolate.

Dr McAlister is the Collections Manager for Diptera, Siphonaptera, Archnida and Myriapoda at the National History Museum and oversees a collection of between 3-4 million specimens.  Her specific interests lie within Diptera (true flies), Asilidae (robber or assassin flies) and Mycetophilidae (small flies including gnats).  Her mission is to make us all feel differently about flies - and if you're sceptical about that then come and hear why you might change your mind.

Dr McAlister has been involved in a range of international projects where her expertise is helping with research work involving the mosquito, pollinators and viruses.  Additonally she is very much involved in Public engagement both within the museum and externally.  Externally she has presented a Radio 4 series on Insects (Who's the Pest) as well as appearing in many others (Radio 3, 4 and BBCLondon). She presents talks to Natural History Societies, gives talks for Cafe Scientific, Pub Science and has presented a Summer Lecture for the Royal Society.  She has also participated in Ugly Animals, Science Showoff and Museum Showoff.

 

Were we too busy weighing the pig to feed it?

Dr John Gogarty

When?
Wednesday, December 21 2016 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr John Gogarty

What's the talk about?

Assessment has become a key word in education but there are concerns that we've fallen into the same trap as the pig farmer, "who was so busy weighing the pig that its feeding was forgotten".   It's also something that Dr John Gogarty has been involved with over the last three decades.

At this event he will give a personal view of assessment and examination over the last 30 years.

 

Kevin Precious

When?
Wednesday, November 16 2016 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

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.

Professor Chris Rhodes

When?
Wednesday, October 19 2016 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Professor Chris Rhodes

What's the talk about?

Across the world, 30 billion barrels of crude oil are produced each year, not only for fuel but to make products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals. Nearly all our food production also depends on oil.

However, global existing production of crude oil is in decline by 5% per year, meaning that a compensating equivalent of a new Saudi Arabia must be brought on-stream every 3—4 years. Most of this “new oil” is expected to come from more challenging, unconventional sources, which include fracking shale, deepwater drilling, heavy oil, and tar sands. Within 10 years, it may not be possible to sustain the global supply of oil at present levels. Hence, if we continue as we are, Western civilisation will collapse. Our salvation requires a re-adaptation of how we live, from the global to the local; to a world of small communities far less dependent on transportation. Technology will not save us, unless we cut our energy use and particularly our demand for oil.

Professor Chris Rhodes is Director of Fresh-lands Environmental Actions and is based in Reading. He has written numerous scientific articles and recently published his first novel, University Shambles, a black comedy on the disintegration of the British university system.
 

Why would a former drugs cop want to legalise all drugs?

Neil Woods

When?
Wednesday, September 21 2016 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Neil Woods

What's the talk about?

Ever wanted to know what it’s really like being an undercover drugs detective? Our culture seems to be obsessed with police, drugs, and the underworld - with films and television programmes like The Wire, Trainspotting, Breaking Bad, is the reality any different from fiction?

Neil Woods was a police officer for 23 years, 14 of which were spent undercover. When your day job is spent buying heroin and chasing the most hardened gangsters, can you ever truly switch off from such a life?

With a career spent on the streets, dealing with those who suffer with addiction, what drives a former drugs cop to change his stance and join an organisation comprised of police, MI5, military, and civilians, all of whom campaign to fully reform our drug laws; Neil Woods is Chairman of LEAP UK – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

His memoir, Good Cop, Bad War, is released mid-August 2016 - it has also been serialised in the Mail on Sunday. Neil is a regular media contributor, featuring on Vice, BBC, Channel 5, he has become a powerful voice in the pursuit of evidence-based drug policy.

An Introduction to Discovering Japan Beyond the Clichés

Rob Dyer

When?
Wednesday, August 17 2016 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Rob Dyer

What's the talk about?

Have you ever considered going to Japan for a holiday? Perhaps... perhaps not.

Even for those who have, there can appear to be many barriers, some so challenging that they simply never make the trip. But could it be that we have been fed such a narrow view of the country that we're simply unaware of what lies beyond the clichés we see in the popular media?

Did you know that Japan is made of up of more than 6,800 islands?

Islands like the northern most island of Hokkaido, where you can join ice breaker ships exploring the remote ice floes beneath Siberia. The largest island Honshu, where bears, monkeys and boar still roam wild in the Japanese Alps. Or the sub-tropical southern island of Okinawa, with its crystal clear seas and pure white sand beaches – perfect for diving and sun worshipping.

This talk will look at the question “What is the real Japan?”, challenge some myths and common misconceptions, and offer some surprising insights that will open your mind to the wealth of possibilities for travelling throughout this geographically diverse, culturally rich and ancient country.

Japanese tea will be available for all attendees.

Rob Dyer is a writer, publisher and specialist in business development, strategy and intellectual property.  He founded publishing company dsomedia in 1988.

He has been exploring Japan for nearly twenty years, and shares his passion and adventures via his website www.therealjapan.com.