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An Unofficial History of the Soviet Space Programme

Micky Lachmann

When?
Tuesday, November 24 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Micky Lachmann

What's the talk about?

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969 - the Americans entered history as the winners of the Space Race. This isn't their story.

Micky Lachmann is going to talk about their competitors the Soviets, and how they managed to beat the Americans to almost every milestone in Space.

It's a story we don't know very well - the Soviets operated under a shroud of almost total secrecy. But some of the early cosmonauts are still alive and have incredible and often terrifying stories to tell. So this is also an account of going to Russia and trying to find these amazing - and mostly bad tempered - men and women.

Micky studied Natural Sciences and then dropped out of a PhD in tropical fish behaviour to work in science journalism. Over 15 years at the BBC he has worked on - among other things - Walking with Beasts, many Horizon's and is partly responsible for bringing Brian Cox to our screens - for which he is very sorry.

Who can predict the future, and how?

Michael Story

When?
Tuesday, September 29 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Michael Story

What's the talk about?

Since 2011, a team of 200 civilians has been predicting the future more accurately than US intelligence agencies. Formed five years ago under the auspices of IARPA (the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, informally known as 'DARPA for spies'), the Good Judgement Project's 'Superforecaster' teams have been forecasting the specifics of North Korean missile programmes, the movement of Russian troops and the longevity of Robert Mugabe, achieving a 50% lower error rate than the previous state of the art.

This talk will cover who makes these forecasts, how they are doing it, and some techniques shown to make nearly anyone more accurate when predicting the future.

Michael Story is a policy researcher and Superforecaster with the Good Judgement Project.

 

"Just for Graphs"

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

When?
Thursday, September 24 2015 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 at Cheltenham Town Hall with their new show "Just for Graphs". 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://www.cheltenhamtownhall.org.uk/event/festival-of-the-spoken-nerd-92354/

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

Iszi Lawrence

When?
Tuesday, July 28 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Iszi Lawrence

What's the talk about?

Skeptic, comedian and voice of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe, Iszi Lawrence is out to delight and inform with her new show The Z List Dead List. The Z List Dead List is a live comedy show about obscure people from History. As a skeptic, Iszi has found a few people from the past that will pique your interest.

Expect woo, violence, sex and death. And a competition.

The show is also a podcast with guest interviews from Jon Ronson, Griff Rhys Jones, Natalie Haynes, Neil Denny, Richard Herring etc. You can find it on iTunes or from www.zlistdeadlist.com

Peter Reynolds

When?
Tuesday, May 26 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Peter Reynolds

What's the talk about?

Peter Reynolds is the leader of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform - the largest, membership-based drug policy lobby group in Britain. CLEAR campaigns for an end to the prohibition of cannabis, most urgently for those who need it as medicine. Peter will explain the background to cannabis prohibition, the latest scientific and medical research and the reality of going head to head with the Daily Mail, the Home Office and those who still promote "Reefer Madness" propaganda.

 

Rob Bailey

When?
Tuesday, April 28 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Rob Bailey

What's the talk about?

Rob Bailey is a Chartered Psychologist, a member of the Magic Circle and a veteran of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where, for 4 years he performed a one-man show as a ‘mind reader’. During that time, he felt increasing unease that although the show was meant to parody psychic powers and encourage critical thinking, he has risked replacing the audience’s beliefs in the paranormal with unwarranted beliefs in impossible psychological powers.

His new show is a response to that: Rob has stripped his routines back to include only genuine psychological principles. He will perform a few routines, followed by explanations (e.g. quirks of bias, memory and perception).

Exclusively for the Skeptics in the Pub audience, he will also discuss his thoughts about the pitfalls of attempting to promote critical thinking by using illusions.

Note: there is some refurbishment going on in the Copa - but we're still there in the upstairs function room.You have to use the back bar entrance (county Court Lane, just off the Promenade between Costa and Jones bootmaker) - if that's confusing, try the entrance you usually use - if it's not open, try the other one...

Ongoing Adventures in the World of Pseudoscience

Michael Marshall

When?
Tuesday, March 31 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

It’s easy to think of pseudoscience existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. Using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism, Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes shocking, and often comic, adventures that lie beneath.

Michael Marshall is the Vice-President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work with the MSS has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

The rise and fall of sexual freedom in the UK

Jerry Barnett

When?
Tuesday, February 24 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

66 Regent Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1HA

Who?
Jerry Barnett

What's the talk about?

Sex is, and will always be, the most controversial subject of them all: we are hard-wired to have strong feelings - both positive and negative - on the subject. Likewise, sexual expression has always stirred up controversy. History can be seen as a repeated cycle; each advance in communications technology (from early sculpture to the Internet) has spurred an explosion of sexual freedom, and explicit sexual expression. Each burst of sexual freedom has, in turn, inevitably led to an anti-sex backlash, and a suppression of earlier sexual artwork. Following peaks of sexual freedom in the 1960s and 1990s, the past decade has been characterised by increasing social conservatism, a rise in censorship activity, and rising intolerance of nudity, erotica and sexual expression, including pornography.

Pornography has been increasingly widely available over the past half-century. Once a preserve of the wealthy, technology has made it ever easier to make and access. Following the sexual revolution of the 1960s, porn became ever more available and acceptable in the United States and much of Europe. The UK authorities, however, have done their best to keep it away from the public, and have built a formidable censorship infrastructure. The Internet broke censorship controls and brought porn to the British masses, but now an alliance of interests - including anti-sex feminists, well-paid regulators and authoritarian state interests - are attempting to reverse the trend. We are entering an era where state censorship is becoming the norm, justified by the "threat" of pornography.

And yet, despite decades of anti-porn activism, strong evidence that sexual expression causes harm is still not forthcoming. Instead, a series of increasingly strident moral panics have arisen to create the conditions for censorship. A new language has arisen, of "objectification", "sexualisation" and "pornification", designed to strike fear into the hearts of parents and lawmakers. Small anti-sex groups, with media help, have successfully created a series of front campaigns, targeting porn, strip clubs, lads mags, Page 3, and even music videos.

This talk will examine the state of British censorship over recent decades, the evidence for and against harm, and the arguments used to justify censorship of sexual expression.

Jerry Barnett is a technologist (former software engineer and consultant) who first accessed the Internet in the 1980s, and stumbled across Internet porn about 10 minutes after that. In the mid-90s, bored of corporate life, he founded a web software company. Among his early clients was a pornographer, and he thus became involved in the very early stages of the online porn industry. Over the past decade he has become increasingly concerned about the drive towards censorship, fuelled by anti-sex moral panics, and has become increasingly involved in anti-censorship activism. In 2013, he founded the Sex & Censorship campaign. He is writing Porn Panic, a history of online pornography and British censorship. He is also a photographer, avid traveller to Africa and lifelong science geek.

Moving from ideology to evidence

Mark Lynas

When?
Wednesday, January 28 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

313-315 High Street,
Cheltenham,
GL50 3HW

We use "The Barn" function room

Who?
Mark Lynas

What's the talk about?

Mark Lynas has challenged the political right over its denial of the reality of climate change, and the political left over its denial of the science on the safety and efficacy of GM crops and nuclear power. Why is it that political ideology continually trumps scientific evidence on some of the key issues facing us today, and how might this affect the future of the planet and its people?

Mark Lynas is a journalist, environmental activist and the author of High TideSix DegreesThe God Species, and Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power. He is a frequent speaker around the world on climate change, biotechnology and nuclear power, and was climate change advisor to the President of the Maldives between 2009 and 2011. In October 2013 he was appointed a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University’s Office of International Programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is also a member of the advisory board of the science advocacy group Sense About Science, and is vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies.

An Atheist's Guide to Holy Scripture

Steve Miller

When?
Tuesday, November 25 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

313-315 High Street,
Cheltenham,
GL50 3HW

We use "The Barn" function room

Who?
Steve Miller

What's the talk about?

It is de rigueur among some atheists to mock The Bible for its Bronze Age science and plentiful examples of barbarous morality. However, Steve Miller will argue that not only is it anachronistic to judge a collection of ancient texts by modern standards, but to do so puts these sceptics firmly in the same indefensible paradigm as biblical literalists.  Like it or not, The Bible remains the central repository of beliefs for two billion of our fellow creatures.  Moreover, it is by far and away the most significant text in all of Western history.  It has shaped our literature, our law, our art and culture, our education system, the fundamentals of science and inquiry, our values, our politics and much else besides.  As such it demands to be taken very seriously indeed.  It is simply not possible to understand our past or present without properly reflecting on this book, its ideas and on the status it has achieved.  Neither is it possible to engage in serious dialogue and debate with Christians without at least a rudimentary understanding of what The Bible is, where it came from, who wrote it and in what languages, when and why it was written, and what it is trying to tell us.

This is not to suggest that The Bible is the inspired and revelatory word of a God.  It is a very much a product of the times and places in which it was created; and aimed directly at the writers’ contemporaneous audience. Thus it is not ‘true’ in the way most Christians understand it to be. But this is not to say it doesn’t contain great ‘truths’.  To disregard it totally, merely because it is almost entirely mythological, is to ‘throw a very large baby out with the bath water’.  It is certainly much too valuable and interesting to abandon it solely to the faithful, where it is regularly abused, mistreated and used as a ventriloquist’s dummy to justify repressive and regressive moral and political views.  The Bible doesn’t belong only to Christianity.  It certainly doesn’t belong exclusively to the fundamentalists.  It is part of our shared heritage, and as such Steve would like to claim it back in the name of all non-believers and free thinkers.

Steve is a regular churchgoer, avid Bible reader and convinced atheist. He’s a psychologist by day, and a keen but amateur theologian, Biblical critic and historian of early Christianity in just about every free moment the rest of his busy life allows.

News from the energy frontier

Professor Jon Butterworth

When?
Tuesday, October 28 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

313-315 High Street,
Cheltenham,
GL50 3HW

We use "The Barn" function room

Who?
Professor Jon Butterworth

What's the talk about?

The discovery of the Higgs boson made headlines around the world. Two scientists, Peter Higgs and François Englert, whose theories predicted its existence, shared a Nobel Prize. The discovery was the culmination of the largest experiment ever run, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. But what really is a Higgs boson and what does it do? How was it found? And what will the LHC do next? Jon Butterworth, a leading member of the ATLAS experiment, will talk about all this and more.

Jon Butterworth is also Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCL, and writes for the Guardian.

Steve Miller, Adrian Belcher, Will Watling, David Smith

When?
Tuesday, September 30 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

313-315 High Street,
Cheltenham,
GL50 3HW

We use "The Barn" function room

Who?
Steve Miller, Adrian Belcher, Will Watling, David Smith

What's the talk about?

This month we'll be having our skeptical pub quiz and social night which was deferred from before the summer.

Steve Miller has agreed to be our quizmaster for the evening - the questions will be science based with a skeptical bent. We'll take teams of up to six people and have a one pound per person donation. 

The money will used for a prize fund for the winning and second place team and the best skeptical based team name as decided by Steve.

Either come along in teams or we can make teams on the night.