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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.

Our quest to uncover them

Dr Gordon Wright

When?
Wednesday, August 16 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Dr Gordon Wright

What's the talk about?

Gordon is a psychologist researching deception and other aspects of devious personality and behaviour. Although his mother doesn’t entirely approve, Gordon finds it a fascinating topic of general interest and of applied value to intelligence gathering, investigations and the criminal justice system.

As a long time Skeptic in the Pub regular, Gordon is keen to share some of the insights he has gleaned on the liars and cheats around us in everyday life, how this transfers to criminal investigations (and Facebook stalking), but also to touch upon some of the moral and ethical conundrums associated with deception, lie detection, manipulation and intelligence gathering. Well, that’s the plan, but knowing Gordon, it’ll go off topic pretty quickly...
 

Jamie Bartlett

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

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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 latest book Radicals (Random House) about new radical social and political movements has just been published.

How humans evolved a nose for cooked food

Tom Husband

When?
Wednesday, June 21 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

84 Parrock Road
Gravesend
Kent
DA12 1QF

Who?
Tom Husband

What's the talk about?

How did mankind evolve to enjoy the smell of barbecued food?  Frankly we don’t know but the relevant research is fascinating, taking in the work of a 19th century French prodigy, Pavlov and his dogs, and a suite of elegant experiments designed to measure which smells new born babies like best.  Find out what turns us onto the foods we love and the eating habits we share with our ancestors at this fascinating talk.

Tom Husband is a science writer and teacher who is fascinated by the chemistry of the every day and this talk combines his twin passions for the chemistry of food and of life.  His book The Chemistry of Human Nature was recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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

Dr Ashok Jansari

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.