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Michael Marshall

When?
Wednesday, August 15 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

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.

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.

Richard Clarke

When?
Wednesday, July 18 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Richard Clarke

What's the talk about?

Recent data from the World Health Organisation has indicated a fourfold increase in cases of measles in 2017 compared to previous year (from 5,273 to 21,315 cases) across the European region (www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/press- releases/2018/europe-observes- a-4- fold- increase-in- measles-cases- in-2017- compared-to- previous-year). These cases subsequently lead to hundreds of hospitalisations and 35 recorded deaths. While some of these cases were in those too young to be vaccinated, or those that had other health concerns that made vaccination inadvisable, the majority of the cases were in people who had actively made a choice to avoid immunisation.

The reasons why an individual may refuse a vaccine that is backed by extremely strong safety and efficacy evidence are wide ranging and complex. In this talk, Richard will introduce you to the concept of 'Vaccine Hesitancy' and explain how risk perception, uncertainty, social influence and above all trust plays a role in vaccine delay, selection and refusal.

Richard Clarke is a health psychologist and 3rd year PhD candidate with The Vaccine Confidence Project (www.vaccineconfidence.org/) based at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The academic field of vaccination is very wide, Richard's area of expertise focuses on the fluffy social science related to vaccine delivery. For all things vaccine science please visit The Vaccine Knowledge Project at www.vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/

Dr Claire Benson

When?
Wednesday, June 20 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr Claire Benson

What's the talk about?

Since Grenfell Tower there has been much in the media on the subject of tall buildings and fires.  For us, as a group of 'Skeptics', it's sometimes hard to know where the truth lies so we are delighted that Dr Claire Benson has agreed to come and talk to us.  Claire is a fire and explosion scientist and she'll be sharing an expert's view on issues such as what building fire safety is supposed to do, common areas of failure in tall building fire safety, how we've ended up with a system that 'isn't fit for purpose' (according to the government's own inquiry), and what we need to do moving forwards to stop it happening again.

Based at London South Bank University, Dr Benson has over 10 years’ experience researching and lecturing as part of the Explosion and Fire Research Group.  She has a PhD in chemical engineering, specialising in high pressure oxygen system safety and has conducted research for the London Fire Brigade, Sellafield Ltd and the Ministry of Defence, and collaborated with the British Standards Institution, the Health and Safety Executive, and numerous aerospace and industrial engineering companies.  She initially studied forensics and the investigative skills acquired in this context are now used when she is looking for root causes of fire-related incidents.  With this background Claire has additionally done work with the London Fire Brigade, and has helped assess car fires for health and safety lessons, and completed projects on how arson data is shared with the police.

On Twitter find Claire @PyroClaire

Philip Moffitt

When?
Wednesday, May 16 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Philip Moffitt

What's the talk about?

Philip Moffitt's work and research has exposed a number of stubborn myths related to technology and the post-Internet society, in particular to the Internet of Things (IoT).  In this talk he'll begin by outlining what is meant by the IoT and then look at associated issues including an analysis of how technology shapes - and is shaped by - our shared culture and history.  He will then combine historical case studies of previous technological innovations with practical tasks to build IoT devices so that the potential benefits and challenges of the IoT are collaboratively explored.

Unlike those who claim that the IoT will ultimately either imprison us or emancipate us; Philip will suggest that its true power, and its long-term relationships with human agency, will only be revealed when it is conceived as one of many taken-for-granted mediators of our human activity.  This will require analysing how we got to this point, exposing and then normalising relationships between the IoT and other cultural mediators.  This thinking exercise is often sadly neglected by engineers and strategists.  Feel free to bring along your own ideas and discussion points!

Philip is a Chartered Engineer and Facilities Manager.  He has previously designed, built and managed energy and utilities systems, provided consultation in the assurance and reliability of critical national infrastructure, and been an ethical hacker for industrial control systems in water and wastewater engineering.  He is currently conducting original research into the democratization of technology in work and learning for remote teams in high risk environments.  He is also a STEM ambassador and a regular contributor to the SAM sessions for the youngsters at No. 84 (https://gravesendsam.info/).
 

David Whiteland

When?
Wednesday, April 18 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
David Whiteland

What's the talk about?

Open data is data that is explicitly made available for anyone to use, for free. It's not an especially new idea, but perhaps its time has come since the web made digital sharing so easy. But who benefits from free data? How does it help? Who cares, honestly, about plotting council boundaries? What does good data look like? Who is custodian of a nation's data? If taxpayers' money funds the collection of a dataset, can the government sell that data back to them? Can someone really talk enthusiastically about postcodes?

Until recently Dave Whiteland worked with civic tech charity mySociety (www.mysociety.org).  For seven years he worked on projects involving local government and even UK parliament, and travelled widely with mySociety's international team to help people all over the world who are working with, or fighting for, open data. He was part of the ongoing 'EveryPolitician' project aiming to provide open data on every politician in the world. In this informal, non-technical talk he'll explain some of the basics of this overlooked but important topic. He'll look at some of open data's success stories as well as its nasty tangles and despicable villains. You'll never look at your postcode in the same way again.

Rebecca Fox

When?
Wednesday, March 21 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

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.

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.

Here's a link to Rebecca's website: http://rebeccaonpaper.com/

Mick Davies

When?
Wednesday, February 21 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Mick Davies

What's the talk about?

Mick Davies has an interest in conspiracy theories and in particular ideas being explored based on recent research in Cambridge into the effect of the internet on their propagation.  He'll consider the conditions for their fermentation and offer some explanations of how the internet has transformed the reproductivity and survivability of conspiracy theories.  If time permits he'll conclude by considering one of the last great battles for truth before the arrival of advanced social media, the libel trial of holocaust denier David Irving and wonders how different it might have been if rerun after the great explosion of YouTube.

Mick is a social scientist with particular interest in global education and teaches and tutors education postgrads part time at Cambridge.  His active research is in the field of education -  addressing approaches to critical thinking and its application to language learning in Asian countries.  He also brings students over to Cambridge from overseas universities, mostly from Japan, to undertake short courses.  He remains joyfully and buoyantly sceptical despite the efforts of many to convert him to a different viewpoint.

Dr James Davies

When?
Wednesday, January 17 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr James Davies

What's the talk about?

Dr James Davies, reader in social anthropology and mental health at the University of Roehampton, looked into the construction of the psychiatrists' bible, the DSM, and was surprised and disturbed by what he found.  At this talk he shares the results of his research.

James is also a psychotherapist, who started working for the NHS in 2004. He is the co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP), which is secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence.

He is the author of the bestselling book Cracked, which was his first book written for a wider audience. It is a critical exploration of modern-day psychiatry based on interviews with leaders of the profession.  He has also written for the media with his articles appearing in The Times, The New Scientist, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Therapy Today, Mad in America and Salon.  He has spoken on BBC Radio 4 (The Today Programme & PM), Sky News, BBC World News, BBC World Service, LBC, ITV’s This Morning and various national and local radio stations. Additionally he has extensively consulted for the BBC, ITV and other media outlets on matters pertaining to mental health.

Magic, ghosts, and the origins of experimental psychology

Matt Tompkins

When?
Wednesday, December 20 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Matt Tompkins

What's the talk about?

On Sunday the 18th of November 1877, at 3pm in the afternoon, Wilhelm Wundt, sometimes identified as the 'Founder of Experimental Psychology,' joined hands with a group of academics and bore witness to series of ‘miracles’ in the presence of a visiting American spirit medium. Wundt was unconvinced by what he saw. However, a number of his esteemed colleagues, including world-renowned physicists Gustav Fechner, Wilhelm Weber, and Johann Zöllner, believed that the events they witnessed called for a complete revision of the fundamental laws of physics – a revision that could accommodate immortal fourth-dimensional spirit people. The resulting debate was not itself immortalized in any mainstream psychology text books, but, arguably, it did play a fundamental role in the subsequent emergence of Experimental Psychology as a formal scientific discipline. My talk will examine this debate, briefly surveying the historical context leading up to events, and analyzing the arguments of the various key players, before considering the consequences and their lasting impacts psychology and science in general.

Matt Tompkins is a psychologist and a semi-professional magician. He is currently completing a doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on the relationships between perception, attention, and sleight-of-hand illusions. His most recent paper was published in Frontiers in Psychology, and his research has been featured in the Washington Post and BBC Future. 

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

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
James Williams

What's the talk about?

James Williams lectures in education at the University of Sussex and has seen a range of 'edumyths' come and go. One of the most persistent is learning styles – the idea that there are a number of styles of learning, such as visual, aural or kinaesthetic – and that certain children respond better if teaching is directed towards their preferred learning style. Another used to be ‘brain gym’ – the idea that rubbing key parts of your body could wake your brain up or drinking water gives you energy. There are many others and in this talk James begins to explore what we believe, why we believe and how sometimes even direct evidence isn’t enough.

James graduated in Geology and trained as a science teacher at the University of London. He then taught science in London and Surrey. He is now a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex.

In 2006 he filmed a six-part TV history/reality series for Channel 4 called 'That'll teach 'em’, taking the role of the deputy head and housemaster in the fictional Charles Darwin school teaching 30 teenagers 1950s style.

His research interests currently revolve around teachers and their knowledge and understanding of the nature of science' and the scientific method. This leads to work on a better understanding of the 'Working Scientifically' approach in the new National Curriculum and public examinations. He also researches the teaching of evolution and the issues surrounding creationism in schools.

Costs and Benefits

Jane Ogden

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

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Jane Ogden

What's the talk about?

‘Do no harm’ underpins medical practice yet much has been written about medical iatrogenesis. Health psychology explores the links between psychology and physical health. This talk analyses research exploring medication adherence, help seeking, screening and behaviour change to argue that all interventions have the potential for both benefit and harm. Accordingly, health psychology may have inadvertently contributed to psychological harms (eg lead times, anxiety, risk compensation, rebound effects), medical harms (eg. Medication side effects, unnecessary procedures) and social harms (eg. financial costs, increased consultations rates). Such harms may result from medicalization or pharmaceuticalisation. They may also reflect the ways in which we manage probabilities and an optimistic bias that emphasises benefit over cost. Or they may reflect a change in the way we understand mortality and a belief that even death can be controlled, or even avoided, by the individual.

After completing her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry Jane Ogden lectured first at Middlesex University then Kings College London. She joined the University of Surrey as Professor in Health Psychology in 2005. She teaches psychology, medical, vet, nutrition and dietician students to think more psychological about physical health. Her research focuses on eating behaviour and obesity management, aspects of women’s health and communication. She has published 6 books and over 170 papers. She is also a regular contributor to the media and writes a regular column for The Conversation.

Peter Bleakley

When?
Wednesday, September 20 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Peter Bleakley

What's the talk about?

Peter Bleakley teaches Art and Design, Religious Education, and Philosophy and Politics at a secondary school and believes that they are all a highly interconnected quest for truth and growth rather than incompatible or hostile to each other.  He is an artist, teacher and lay minister who is ecstatic about recent developments in quantum physics and theoretical and experimental science. 

Expect a visual and mental feast, to have your assumptions challenged, and to be enthused about new ways to experience and appreciate Art, Religion and Science in what some have described as our new 21st century Age of Alchemy.