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A Few More Ways In Which Your Brain Will Trick You If You Let It

Andrew Dart

When?
Tuesday, August 22 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Andrew Dart

What's the talk about?

Tickets: £3.00 advance / £4.00 on the door
Box Office: http://buytickets.at/cambridgeskeptics/108743

Back by popular demand for the next installment, following our busiest talk of 2016!

Your brain still hates you. This is the only conclusion I can come to given how many tricks it will play on you if you let it. This talk will cover more of the many, many ways in which our brains try to deceive us on an almost constant basis. Drawing on the extensive psychological literature on these topics and presenting a number of worrying, and often humorous, real world examples of what happens when people fall for these tricks, this talk will look at the biases we all have, the lies we tell ourselves, and the shortcuts our brains will take if we let them.

Andrew Dart has a master’s degree in Research Psychology and spent four years studying how pre-existing religious and paranormal beliefs literally affect the way we see the world around us. He is the author of a beginner's guide to skepticism and a science book for children and is currently working on a novel. He works as a support technician for a software company where he spends as much of his day combating bad logic as he does technical issues. When not doing this he can often be found wandering the byways of Cambridgeshire, reading books, watching philosophy videos on YouTube, and writing pointless computer programs.

--Building Your Skeptical Toolkit--

You can buy Andrew's book from here: http://amzn.eu/aq170uq
 
Around the world belief in the paranormal and pseudoscience is running rampant. 40% of people in the UK believe in haunted houses, governments employ dowsing devices to detect bombs and people give away all they have in the belief that the world is about to end…again. In this modern age it seems we need reason and critical thinking skills more than ever.
 
Building your Skeptical Toolkit will help equip you with the tools you will need to start exploring this amazing world of ours as it really is and accurately enable you to evaluate the claims of psychics, conspiracy theorists and everyone in between. It will help you to see behind the myths and trickery, the fake science and unfounded claims, that fill our modern lives and discover the amazing and beautiful reality that lies beyond.
 
“Dart has hit the bullseye. Everyone who reads this book will find new dimensions in the world around them, that previously seemed impenetrable and insoluble. It’s an amazing place, once Dart shows you how to see past the roadblocks put up by your own brain.”
 
Brian Dunning, Skeptoid.com

How Neurononsense Joined Psychobabble To Keep Women In Their Place

Gina Rippon

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

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
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.

--- No Ticket Event - Free Entry ---
If you enjoy the event please share a £3.00 donation towards speaker expenses and running costs. Cambridghe Skeptics is a not-for-profit community organisation funded on public donations.

Simon Singh

When?
Thursday, July 20 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Simon Singh

What's the talk about?

Tickets: SOLD OUT
A limited number of tickets may be available on the door in case of no shows on a first-come-first served basis.

Bestselling author Simon Singh discusses his career as a science writer. He will cover “Fermat’s Last Theorem” (the first book about mathematics to become a No.1 bestseller in the UK), The Code Book (a history of cryptography) and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (an examination of the mind-blowing mathematics hidden in the world’s most successful TV show).

Simon's books include:

Fermat's Last Theorem (1997) – the theorem's initial conjecture and eventual proof

The Code Book (1999) – a history of cryptography – ISBN 978-1-85702-879-9

Big Bang (2004) – discusses models for the origin of the universe – ISBN 0-00-719382-3

Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial (2008) (with Edzard Ernst) – examines various types of alternative medicine, finds lack of evidence – ISBN 0-593-06129-2

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (2013) – highlights mathematical references in The Simpsons – ISBN 1-620-40277-7

In 1983, he was part of the UA2 experiment in CERN. In 1990 Singh joined the BBC's Science and Features Department, where he was a producer and director working on programmes such as Tomorrow's World and Horizon. Singh was introduced to Richard Wiseman through their collaboration on Tomorrow's World. At Wiseman's suggestion, Singh directed a segment about politicians lying in different mediums, and getting the public's opinion on if the person was lying or not.

Singh directed his BAFTA award-winning documentary about the world's most notorious mathematical problem entitled "Fermat's Last Theorem" in 1996. The film was memorable for its opening shot of a middle-aged mathematician, Andrew Wiles, holding back tears as he recalled the moment when he finally realised how to resolve the fundamental error in his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. The documentary was originally transmitted in October 1997 as an edition of the BBC Horizon series. It was also aired in America as part of the NOVA series. The Proof, as it was re-titled, was nominated for an Emmy Award.

On 19 April 2008, The Guardian published Singh's column "Beware the Spinal Trap", an article that was critical of the practice of chiropractic and which resulted in Singh being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). The article developed the theme of the book that Singh and Edzard Ernst had published, Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, and made various statements about the lack of usefulness of chiropractic "for such problems as ear infections and infant colic". A "furious backlash" to the lawsuit resulted in the filing of formal complaints of false advertising against more than 500 individual chiropractors within one 24-hour period, with one national chiropractic organisation ordering its members to take down their websites. Simon won the case and this resulted in a change of libel law in this country.

Using Maths And A Little Psychology

Rumit Somaiya

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

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Rumit Somaiya

What's the talk about?

Rumit Somaiya has spent the past 25 years touring casinos throughout the world with his team. Their aim is simply to overcome the 'House Advantage' using all cerebral methods available, in order to amass fortunes. Historically 'Blackjack', 'Pontoon' and '21' have been the games of choice. The most well known method is 'card counting' which is surprisingly easy to learn but many other legal methods of 'casino advantage play' will be discussed.

--- No Ticket Event - Free Entry ---
If you enjoy the event please share a £3.00 donation towards speaker expenses and running costs. Cambridghe Skeptics is a not-for-profit community organisation funded on public donations.

Value Alignment and AI Override

Stuart Armstrong

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

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Stuart Armstrong

What's the talk about?

People are talking about the risks of AI, and the importance of AI alignment. But what does this mean in practice? And what can be done about it?This talk attempts to inject some formal rigour into both those questions. If there's time, we'll also look at why answers in the area are so fraught and varied, and why expertise is of limited use.

Stuart Armstrong's research at the Future of Humanity Institute centres on formal decision theory, general existential risk, the risks and possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI), assessing expertise and predictions, and anthropic (self-locating) probability.

He has been working on several methods of analysing the likelihood of certain outcomes and in making decisions under the resulting uncertainty, as well as specific measures for reducing AI risk. His collaboration with DeepMind on Interruptibility has been mentioned in over 100 media articles.

His Oxford D.Phil was in parabolic geometry, calculating the holonomy of projective and conformal Cartan geometries. He later transitioned into computational biochemistry, designing several new ways to rapidly compare putative bioactive molecules for virtual screening of medicinal compounds.

After the event there will be a short presentation by the Cambridge Critical Thinking Society, followed by an informal discussion group on the evenings talk which is open to anyone who wishes to continue the debate.

Tickets:
No ticket event. We ask for a £3.00 donation per person towards speaker expenses and advertising costs.

Paul Ewans

When?
Tuesday, April 25 2017 at 7:00PM

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Paul Ewans

What's the talk about?

The overwhelming majority of schools in Uganda are religious foundations offering an exclusively Christian or Moslem education to their pupils. By contrast, the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust (UHST) raises money in the UK to support a small number of inclusive charitable schools founded by Ugandan Humanists. These schools provide a liberal secular education to orphans and other needy children, and do not discriminate on grounds of religious, social or ethnic background. They are now giving more than 1000 children from deprived rural areas both a good education and opportunities in life that go beyond subsistence farming on the family plot. 

Paul Ewans, a UHST trustee, will describe the progress the schools have made to date and outline what remains to be done to make the schools self-sufficient and secure their future.

Julian Huppert

When?
Tuesday, March 28 2017 at 7:00PM

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Where?

9a Bridge Street
Cambridge
CB2 1UB

Who?
Julian Huppert

What's the talk about?

2016 was a year of political upheaval, not least in the UK and America. A common concern on both sides of the pond was the apparent relegation of fact and rational discourse in favour of an appeal to emotion, shrill voices and the embrace of dubious and erroneous facts. Julian Huppert, LibDem MP for Cambridge 2010-2015 joins us to share his views. Was it really like this or not? Was it worse than ever? What’s the future prospect for rational debate in parliament and civil society?


This will be Julian’s second visit to Skeptics in the Pub. It’s sure to be a stimulating evening of discussion and debate.

Andrew Copson (British Humanist Association)

When?
Thursday, March 23 2017 at 7:00PM

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Andrew Copson (British Humanist Association)

What's the talk about?

Humanism comes in for a lot of criticism from a number of different angles. Some see it is an immoral approach to life, some as nihilistic. By examining a few of the most common objections to Humanism we learn more about them, to what extent they are fair, and how to counter them. We also learn more about Humanism.

Andrew Copson will talk about objections to Humanism and discuss the importance of being self critical, as well as some useful tips on how to counter any of the objections should you ever come up against them.

Andrew became Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association in January 2010 after five years coordinating the BHA’s education and public affairs work. His writing on humanist and secularist issues has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and New Statesman as well as in various journals and he has represented the BHA and Humanism extensively on television news on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, as well as on television programmes such as Newsnight, The Daily Politics, Sunday Morning Live and The Big Questions. He has also appeared on radio on programmes from Today, You and Yours, Sunday, The World Tonight, The World at One, The Last Word and Beyond Belief on the BBC, to local and national commercial radio stations.

Brian Eggo

When?
Tuesday, February 28 2017 at 7:00PM

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Where?

2 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LF

Who?
Brian Eggo

What's the talk about?

Every December a string of ‘psychics’ across the world use their clairvoyant powers to make predictions for the coming year, with varying degrees of success. In this talk Brian Eggo from Glasgow Skeptics will take a look at things a little closer to home. What type of predictions have Scottish psychics made in the past? What did they think was in store for us in recent years? Will they be willing to go on the record? He will also make a bold attempt to recreate the recreation of ‘The Hurkos Experiment’ – prepare to be underwhelmed!


Brian is the main organiser and primary mouthpiece of Glasgow Skeptics. As such, he has an unhealthy interest in the equally amusing and frustrating realms of woo & pseudoscience. This has caused him to spend way too much of his own money on the type of things he encourages other people not to spend their money on. He occasionally dabbles in skeptical activism when prompted, and has been known to make some awful puns on podcasts. His day job is in Training & Development, which explains a lot. Find out more on the Glasgow Skeptics website or by following him on twitter @brianeggo A video of Brian can be viewed here on the Facebook page.

Viren Swami

When?
Tuesday, January 31 2017 at 7:00PM

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Where?

20a Portugal Place
CB5 8AF

Who?
Viren Swami

What's the talk about?

Can science explain how we form relationships? This talk looks at how factors such as geography, appearance, personality, and similarity affect who we fall for and why.

When it comes to relationships, there’s no shortage of advice from self-help ‘experts’, pick-up artists, and glossy magazines. But modern-day myths of attraction often have no basis in fact or – worse – are rooted in little more than misogyny. In this talk, Prof Viren Swami, one of the world’s leading experts in the psychology of romantic attraction, debunks these myths and draws on cutting-edge research to provide a ground-breaking and evidence-based account of relationship formation. He'll present a very simple idea: that there are no ‘laws of attraction’, no foolproof methods or strategies for getting someone to date you. But this isn’t to say that there’s nothing to be gained from studying attraction. Based on science rather than self-help clichés, Prof Swami looks at how factors such as geography, appearance, personality, and similarity affect who we fall for and why.

Viren Swami is Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, where his research is focused on body image and human appearance and, separately, the psychology of conspiracy theories. He is the author of over two hundred academic papers and three books, including Attraction Explained and The Psychology of Physical Attraction.

Emily St.Denny

When?
Tuesday, November 29 2016 at 7:00PM

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Where?

20a Portugal Place
CB5 8AF

Who?
Emily St.Denny

What's the talk about?

Emily St.Denny is a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University and a research assistant on the ESRC funded Scottish Center on Constitutional Change. Her doctoral research focuses on why contemporary French prostitution policy has changed the way it has in the last fifty years. She is fascinated by how moral and ‘common sense’ claims often come to be used to inform societies on the ‘only’ way or the ‘right’ way to politically address intricate human experiences, especially in the realm of sexuality and the body.

This talk is about how the ideas that citizens and politicians have about prostitution influences government policy. Contemporary prostitution policy in France, England, Wales and Sweden are used as a lens through which to investigate the strategies, challenges and incongruities behind policy making on a social issue that people feel strongly about. More broadly, the processes through which governments collect, evaluate and interpret ‘evidence’ on complex social phenomena to inform policy making are unpicked to reveal how disconnected ‘evidence-based policy’ can sometimes be from science. 

Sarah Beck

When?
Tuesday, October 25 2016 at 7:00PM

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Where?

20a Portugal Place
CB5 8AF

Who?
Sarah Beck

What's the talk about?

Sarah Beck is Reader in Cognitive Development at the University of Birmingham. She researches children's thinking about possibility and time, and questions whether adults' thinking in these areas is as sophisticated as we might like to think. She teaches an undergraduate course that compares the cognitive abilities of human children with non-human animals.

Young children are excellent imaginers, coming up with all kinds of creative and weird worlds. But what is the imagination really for? Adults use their imaginations to solve problems, but children sometimes struggle with this. In this talk, Sarah Beck will explore how children start to use their imaginations for creative problem solving, using examples of children’s thinking about ‘how things might have been different’ and comparing children’s tool-making to that of clever non-human animals.