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You Can't Polish a Nerd

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

When?
Wednesday, September 20 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

Parabola Arts Centre
Parabola Road
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
GL50 3AA

Who?
Festival of the Spoken Nerd

What's the talk about?

Our friends and former SitP Speakers from the Festival of the Spoken Nerd are back in Cheltenham with their new show "You Can't Polish a Nerd". We thought it would be nice to have a social event including a trip there and a meet up afterwards for drinks etc..

Details of the show are at:

http://cheltenhamcomedy.com/line-up/2017/Festival-of-the-Spoken-Nerd

Note: this is not a Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub Event, so please arrange your own tickets and we'll see you there.

A Critical Review of Safeguarding

Robert DS Brown

When?
Tuesday, June 27 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Robert DS Brown

What's the talk about?

"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition" is a critical review of Safeguarding over the years and how perceptions, reality and myth impact on how we view child protection and the protection of the vulnerable in the 21st Century.

Robert Brown is a former Head of Public Protection for Devon and Cornwall Police serving as a police officer for over 30 years he gained an insight into the need for improved responses around protecting the young and the vulnerable and the difficulties in finding the balance between protecting the public and individual rights. Having retired from the Police he now works for the Catholic Church as the Safeguarding Coordinator for the Diocese of Plymouth which covers Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.

Johno Pearce

When?
Tuesday, May 30 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Johno Pearce

What's the talk about?

This century has seen the emergence of Islam as a religion closely connected to violence and terrorism. With regrettable regularity the latest religiously inspired terror attack fills the news broadcasts around the world whether they be the work of ISIS, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or other such group. However these events are also vociferously condemned by peacful Islamic groups as being distinctly against the teachings fo the Qu'ran. Islam is a religion of peace and unity for many Muslim across the world.

To investigate whether is a part of Islam, and to what extent, Jonathan will examine in turn; the Qu'ran, the history of the prophet of Muhammad, and modern day interpretations given by Muslims. However regardless of his conclusion Jonathan will consider what role political expediency plays in accepting the narrative that fundamentalists are acting outside of the religion. It may be more desirable to accept a more moderate interpretation of Islam, even if it is less accurate.

Jonathan is a philosopher and author of several books of philosophy and theology. He is a founding member of both Tippling Philosophers and the Skeptic Ink Network.

Matt Tompkins

When?
Tuesday, April 25 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

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. This 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.

Jenny Josephs

When?
Tuesday, March 28 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Jenny Josephs

What's the talk about?

By 2050 the global population will reach 9 billion and this will put ever increasing pressure on food and environmental resources. It will be a challenge to ensure global food security without further damaging the environment with intensified farming practices.

One UN backed solution is to focus on alternative sources of protein, such as insects for food and animal feed. About 2 billion of us already include insects in our diets, though it is still a growing trend in the west.

Insects are described as having a variety of different flavours, from mushroomy to pistachio or pork crackling. They are comparable to beef in protein and contain beneficial nutrients like iron and calcium. Their environmental impact is also minimal, requiring far less water and feed than cattle, and releasing fewer emissions.

During this talk, Jenny will explain how insects might replace some of the meat in our diets and also give some tips on how to cook them. You will be invited to sample some tasty bug snacks after the talk!

After completing a PhD in Visual Cognition at the University of Southampton, Jenny changed course and started The Bug Shack - a business promoting and selling edible insects. Jenny is a regular speaker at Skeptics events and science festivals and she recently returned from a trip to research attitudes towards eating and farming insects in Thailand and Laos.

 

Terry Sharp

When?
Tuesday, February 28 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Terry Sharp

What's the talk about?

This talk will focus on the challenges in determining the role of food and diet in our well-being and longevity and will demonstrate some of the trends in food consumption and patterns of life expectancy from the early 20th Century onwards.

Terry graduated in Chemistry from the University of Sussex and, to avoid having to find a job, hitch-hiked to Afghanistan instead. On returning to the UK he further put off having to work by studying for a PhD in development of flavours in food. He finally landed a job with a major biscuit company, working in R&D. After 10 good years there, he left to join ICI, in a joint venture that developed Quorn and brought it to the market. His final job in the UK was running a team in the largest food consultancy in the world and, after 12 years there, was headhunted to work as Technical Director for one of the major food companies in South Africa. He retired in 2012 but stayed on in Durban for the World Cup before returning to the UK. Since then he has consulted in the UK, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Dubai and Brazil.

 

Dr Katie Steckles

When?
Tuesday, January 31 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Dr Katie Steckles

What's the talk about?

We all know that people with maths, science and technology skills are experienced at problem-solving. But how useful are those skills in the real world? Mathematician and speaker Katie Steckles will show you some mathematical, logical and geometrical tricks to solve some of everyday life's minor challenges - from tying your shoelace to changing a duvet cover, and plenty of others. You'll never fold a t-shirt the same way again!

Katie Steckles is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, on BBC radio, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. She enjoys doing puzzles, solving the Rubik's cube and baking things shaped like maths.

Note: This month we'll be downstairs in the Front Bar in the Copa

How and why the infrastructure of science is broken

Henry Drysdale

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

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

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 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 teammethodsresults and blog.

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.

 

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.

Kat Arney

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

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

More than two metres of DNA is packed inside every one of your cells, encoding 20,000 or so genes, tangled into a mass of molecular spaghetti. Hidden within these strands are the instructions that tell cells when and where to turn genes on or off. But while the language of genes has become common parlance in the media, a clear understanding of what they do and how they work has not.

We know our genes make our eyes blue, our hair curly or our bellies bulge, and they control our risks of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism, and Alzheimer’s. Advances in genetic medicine hold huge promise, and as researchers discover more about molecular genetic switches and what happens when they don’t work properly, a four-dimensional picture of DNA is being built.

Rather than static strings of code, this dynamic biological library will give us new insight on DNA, the text of the cookbook of life, and help inform our medical and ethical practices for future generations. Figuring out how it all works is a major challenge for researchers around the world. And what they’re discovering is that far from genes being a fixed, deterministic blueprint, things are much more random and wobbly than anyone expected.

Science writer and broadcaster Dr Kat Arney draws on her expertise in the world of genetics and the stories in her new book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats, to take a look inside our genes.

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.