Welcome to Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub.

Skeptics in the Pub was founded in London by Dr Scott Campbell in 1999. The aim is to provide opportunities for people who are interested in science, skepticism, rationalism and critical thinking to socialise and discuss matters of interest, usually with a guest speaker. There are now over fifty groups across the country. Their websites will give you a great idea of what Skeptics are, what happens at a SitP event and so on.

Cheltenham SitP was conceived in November 2010.

Please register for updates and send us your suggestions for speakers and how best to spread the word. You can also follow Chelt_SitP on Twitter, visit us on Facebook Google+ or EventBrite. Also see our Newbie Friendly Policy!

 

Philip Moriarty

When?
Tuesday, February 23 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Philip Moriarty

What's the talk about?

There is no doubt that quantum physics embodies mind-blowing concepts that force us to question the very nature of reality.  And if there’s a contender for our current best “theory of everything” then quantum mechanics wins hands down.

But, far too often, the word “quantum” signals the worst type of vacuous pseudoscientific gobbledegook. It’s exploited by those who are entirely clueless about the underlying physics -- or, worse, should know better -- to evoke a misplaced mysticism about the ‘holistic’ nature of the universe. Moreover, when consciousness and quantum collide, the nonsense factor goes through the roof…

Philip Moriarty will aim to tease out the science from the mysticism and show that while quantum physics certainly has its weird and wacky aspects, it’s at heart a theory of waves. That means we can very often easily interpret what’s happening at the quantum level in terms of the everyday world around us – he’ll take a look at what coffee cups, drums, and a SlinkyTM can tell us about the broader nature of the universe (and Deepak Chopra’s place in it).

Philip Moriarty is a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham. He tweets at @Moriarty2112 and blogs at www.muircheart.wordpress.com.

Updates from the front line

Gregory Ashton

When?
Tuesday, March 29 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Gregory Ashton

What's the talk about?

Late in 1915 Einstein presented the final form of his theory of gravity: General Relativity. This description of nature has so far stood the test of countless rigorous tests and has led to many new insights from exotic black-holes to the shape of the universe itself.  Not long after its publication, in 1916, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational-waves, small ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself. At that time Einstein expected that these would be so small as to remain undetectable. However, advances in technology and our understanding of astrophysics have led many to believe that, on this at least, Einstein was wrong. This motivated the establishment of an international effort, the LIGO/Virgo collaboration,  to detect gravitational waves.

In this talk Greg will discuss the historical significance or Einstein's General Relativity, the relevance of gravitational waves and their potential and describe the current status of the LIGO/Virgo detectors.

Greg Ashton is in the final stages of completing a PhD in General Relativity at the University of Southampton where he studies neutron stars, the compact objects left over after some super-novae events. He is a member of the LIGO/Virgo collaboration, a group of scientists seeking to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves, use them to explore the fundamental physics of gravity, and develop the emerging field of gravitational wave science as a tool of astronomical discovery

Sarah Foxen

When?
Tuesday, May 31 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Sarah Foxen

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.

Ian Ridpath

When?
Tuesday, June 28 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Ian Ridpath

What's the talk about?

According to one estimate, around 100 UFOs are sighted worldwide every 24 hours – that’s one every 15 minutes. What’s causing all these reports? Are they, as believers claim, evidence that we are being visited by aliens from other planets? Or is there a more prosaic explanation?

This hard-hitting talk by Ian Ridpath, astronomy writer and UFO sceptic, traces the growth of the flying saucer myth since the first sighting in 1947, and demonstrates some of the most common causes of UFO reports. The talk will discuss the implications of formerly top-secret government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, and will end with Ian’s first-hand account of his own research into the Rendlesham Forest incident, a major event outside a US Air Force base at Woodbridge in Suffolk, still widely regarded as among the best UFO cases ever. 

Ian Ridpath is a writer, editor, and long-time UFO skeptic. As an amateur astronomer, he is particularly interested in the way that celestial objects are misperceived as UFOs. He is probably best known for investigating and solving the Rendlesham Forest UFO case, sometimes termed Britain’s Roswell, which will form part of his talk.

How do our genes work?

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Tuesday, July 26 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

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 just published her first book, Herding Hemingway's Cats, about how our genes work.

Stevyn Colgan

When?
Tuesday, September 27 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Stevyn Colgan

What's the talk about?

Given the bewildering variety of life on Earth – all stemming from one self-replicating molecule – can we really predict what life on other worlds is like? Maybe not. But we can imagine what it isn’t like.

Stevyn Colgan has been involved with aliens for three decades. He’s held Jabba the Hutt’s face, helped sculpt creatures for Bruce Willis to shoot at, and had a script accepted for Doctor Who in the 1980s. In this entertaining talk, you’ll hear about feuding gangs of scientists, film directors with less imagination than children, and the perils of concrete poo. You’ll also come to realise that if we really are intelligently designed, we’re an illogical and inefficient system.

Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, songwriter, speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He is one of the ‘Elves’ that research and write the popular BBC TV series QI and co-writes its sister show, The Museum of Curiosity, for BBC Radio 4. He has given hundreds of talks across the UK and USA and is a regular at festivals and events such as Skeptics in the Pub, QEDCon, Cornbury, Hay, Cheltenham, Latitude and the Edinburgh Fringe and previously was our Skeptical Bobby speaker.
He is a contributor to the bestselling QI books and annuals and is the author of ‘Joined-Up Thinking, Constable Colgan’s Connectoscope’, ‘Henhwedhlow: The Clotted Cream of Cornish Folk Tales’, ‘The Third Condiment’, ‘Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road?’ and co-wrote ‘Saving Bletchley Park’ with Dr Sue Black. He's currently working on his new book A Murder To Die For.

How Neurononsense Joined Psychobabble To Keep Women In Their Place

Professor Gina Rippon

When?
Tuesday, October 25 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Professor 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.

 

When?
Tuesday, November 29 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Dr Katie Steckles

What's the talk about?

 Details coming soon

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