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Topical discussion for skeptics

TBA

When?
Tuesday, March 11 2014 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
TBA

What's the talk about?

 After a busy February with two excellent Brighton SitP events, we'll be doing something a little different in March.

Instead of hosting a solitary speaker, we will have a panel of 4 people who will field questions from the audience. It'll be pretty fast-moving and with an additional twist in that there will be opportunities for audience members to take a seat on the panel too. 

Any subject will be fair game, from local politics to the meaning of life so if there's something you'd like to contribute just come along.

Free entry for this one! Panellists to be confirmed shortly.

Special Brighton Science Fest Event

Michael Brooks

When?
Tuesday, February 25 2014 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Michael Brooks

What's the talk about?

 The atom. The Big Bang. DNA. Natural selection. All ideas that have revolutionised science – and that were dismissed out of hand when they first appeared.

The surprises haven’t stopped: there's a whole new wave of unexpected insights that are shaping the future of scientific discovery. There are the cosmological observations that might rewrite our history of the universe, novel biological ideas behind our will to live, the possibility that humans are quantum beings, that women and men need entirely different medicines, that the cosmos is a computer (with us as the programmers), that time is an illusion and that merging humans with other species is a good idea.

In this talk, Michael Brooks will explore all these ideas and more - which may all turn out to be wrong. That's the problem with science: you're always working at the edge of uncertainty and you never know when someone's going to push you off...

£2 on the door - tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/256662

Bad stats or an egalitarian bible?

Chris Snowdon

When?
Tuesday, February 11 2014 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Chris Snowdon

What's the talk about?

 One of the themes of the 2014 Brighton Science Festival is "fairness". As discussions about fairness in society grow longer, the probabilty of someone citing 2009's "The Spirit Level" approaches 1. 

Christopher Snowdon, author of "The Spirit Level Delusion"  will be challenging the theory asserted in the best-selling book "The Spirit Level" that 'more equal societies almost always do better'. (Here's the wikipedia entry for "The Spirit Level" )

By fact-checking the book's statistics and reviewing the scientific literature, he will argue that there is no correlation between income inequality and a country's health, happiness and well-being. The hypothesis in "The Spirit Level" is, he says, based on selective evidence and flawed reasoning.

What do you think? Everyone is very welcome to come along and join the debate.

£2 on the door or £2.20 advance http://www.wegottickets.com/event/254978

 

Jonny Scaramanga

When?
Tuesday, January 14 2014 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Jonny Scaramanga

What's the talk about?

 Jonny Scaramanga was raised as a Christian fundamentalist and attended a strict evangelical school in Bath in the 1990s. He appeared on BBC2's As Seen on TV and Video Nation multiple times in this time to discuss his faith. He has since discovered that everything he thought was true was wrong. He writes about his experiences at the popularLeaving Fundamentalism blog.

In his talk, Jonny will give an insight to what life is like in an Accelerated Christian Education school. There are sixty of these fundamentalist institutions in the UK, which teach Young Earth Creationism as fact. The Bible is taught as an infallible authority, and alternative viewpoints are not discussed or even considered.

Tickets £2 on the door - advance tickets £2.20 http://www.wegottickets.com/event/254977

Mark Henderson

When?
Tuesday, November 12 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Mark Henderson

What's the talk about?

There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. 158 have a background in business, 90 have been political advisers or organisers, and 86 are lawyers. Only one of them is a scientist. Is it any wonder that politics so often lets science down, and fails to exploit its skeptical methods to design policies that are fit for purpose?

In the Geek Manifesto, published by Bantam Press in May 2012, Mark Henderson explores this disconnect between science and politics, and charts the emergence of a new force that is promising to mend it. From the Simon Singh libel case to the sacking of David Nutt and the Science is Vital campaign, people who care about science are starting to stand up to be counted. The geeks are coming -- and our country needs us.

Tickets are available here

How to avoid bad thinking in the hi-fi world

Ben Hardwidge

When?
Tuesday, August 13 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Ben Hardwidge

What's the talk about?

Join tech journalist and hi-fi enthusiast Ben Hardwidge as he tackles some of the pervasive myths about digital and analogue audio and video. Does vinyl really sound better than CD, and how do we define 'better'? Does oxygen-free cabling really improve sound quality, and what's the difference between a £5 cable and a £400 one? The answers are more complicated than you might imagine.

In this talk, Ben aims to go beyond the usual talk of ones and zeros, and provide a grounding in exactly how analogue and digital audio works, from the RIAA curve to the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem, as well as exploring the evidence for what humans can actually hear, and the need for fair testing. Forget the vague talk about open sound, warm notes and vibrant tones, this is where we focus on the hard evidence.

Ben Hardwidge is the editor of Custom PC magazine, and former reviews editor of PC Pro magazine. He's reviewed many sound cards and audio production PCs, and has also been a hi-fi enthusiast and record collector for 20 years. 

Tickets for this event are available from the venue's website.

An adventure through the history and art of the tarot

Dr Joely Black

When?
Tuesday, July 9 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Dr Joely Black

What's the talk about?

Dr Joely Black brings us a fascinating history of the game of tarot, how it spread through Europe from the east and how it was transformed into an oracle. She’ll also discuss the art behind the tarot, how the narrative of the Trumps evolved, and the fake history developed in the 19th century to make the tarot sexier and less mundane. As well as this, she'll cover how ordering of the cards have changed over time, how many popular franchises have used the tarot in marketing, and the reasons for the differences between tarot in Latin and Anglophone countries.

Joely Black has a PhD in Geography from Lancaster University. She writes fantasy books and short stories, enjoys archery and Dungeons and Dragons and once trained as a ninja. She says ‘I have more weapons in my living room than most people would consider strictly healthy.’  She once spent a year adventuring in the world of new age philosophy, and even has a Reiki II qualification. She set up Greater Manchester Skeptic Society’s book club, SkepLit, in 2011, and has been running it since then.

Her personal/writing website is http://joelyblack.com and she also keeps a gaming diary at http://thecharmquark.wordpress.com. Her Twitter handle is@TheCharmQuark.

Tickets for this event are now available from the venue's website.

Investigations into dubious and dishonest science

David Colquhoun

When?
Tuesday, June 11 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
David Colquhoun

What's the talk about?

One of the UK's most outspoken and well-qualified opponents of alternative medicine and bad science, pharmacologist David Colquhoun runs the DC's Improbable Science blog, which is devoted to criticism of scientific fraud and quackery. It has a particular focus on alternative medicine, including homeopathy, Traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and other practices, which he calls 'pure gobbledygook'.

In addition to his outspoken disapproval of alternative medicine in academia, Colquhoun frequently speaks against misrepresentation of alternative medicine as science in the media, and against governmental support of it. His blog discusses also wider problems in science, medicine and Higher Education. It was listed among the 100 best blogs in 2009. It was blog of the week in the New Statesman (30 May 2010). And in 2012 it was co-winner of the first UK Science Blog Prize, awarded by the Good Thinking Society.

Colquhoun was a member of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), a regulatory body for alternative medicine in the UK. Colquhoun has stated he was surprised at being accepted for the position. However, he was dismissed in August 2010.

Colquhoun, FRS is a British pharmacologist at University College London (UCL). He has contributed to the general theory of receptor and synaptic mechanisms of single ion channel function. He previously held the A.J. Clark chair of Pharmacology at UCL, and was the Hon. Director of the Wellcome Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1985 and an honorary fellow of UCL in 2004. Colquhoun runs the website DC's Improbable Science, which is critical of pseudoscience, particularly alternative medicine, and managerialism.

Tickets for this event are now available here.

Anthroposophy and spiritual science

Andy Lewis

When?
Wednesday, May 22 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Andy Lewis

What's the talk about?

With Michael Gove and the coalition approving new Steiner Schools to open under the Free School Programme, it is timely to look closely at the origins and beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the occult movement of Anthroposophy. Steiner was a mystic who believed he had direct clairvoyant access to cosmic knowledge. As such he developed an esoteric belief system based on karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes.

His visions gave insights into architecture, art, dance, agriculture, medicine, education, science and diet. His racial hierarchy of spiritual developmental resonated in Germany in the early 20th Century turning a personal belief into a worldwide movement. Today we find hundreds of anthroposphically inspired organisations in the UK alone: everything from Steiner Schools, Biodynamic farms to banks, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, charities and cheese makers.

Andy Lewis runs The Quackometer - a blog dedicated to investigating quackery, health beliefs and pseudoscience. In this talk he'll reveal his findings after looking into the inner secrets of the secretive Anthroposophy movement, and analysing its direct impact on public life.

Tickets for this event are now available from the venue's website.

Robert says no

Robert Llewellyn

When?
Tuesday, April 9 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Robert Llewellyn

What's the talk about?

Electric cars? They're rubbish aren't they?! Nothing but glorified golf carts that take forever to charge and then run out of power on the way to the shops. Try finding somewhere to charge them. They cost a fortune to buy and another fortune to replace the battery when its range drops to half. You don't want to believe all that nonsense about them being environmentally-friendly. They are actually worse than petrol-powered cars because the batteries are made from dirty lithium and use electricity made from dirtier coal. There isn't even enough lithium in the world to make all the new batteries we'd need anyway. Electric cars are just rubbish. Aren't they? - Robert says no. This evening he'll tell us why he thinks we need to put away our prejudices and think seriously about electric vehicles as the future of transport.

Robert Llewellyn is an actor, writer, comedian, TV presenter and self-described wishy-washy liberal best known for playing the android Kryten in the long-running BBC sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. He presented Scrapheap Challenge for 10 years and these days he can be seen on TV presenting the shows Car-Pool on Dave and How Do They Do It? on Channel 5. He is probably the UK's most prominent advocate of electric vehicles (EV) and presents a YouTube-based show called Fully Charged which documents current developments in the electric vehicle industry. He also writes a column for the EV website The Charging Point. He has been notably critical of BBC Top Gear's position on electric vehicles -  a case in point being the Top Gear "review" of the Tesla V in 2008 which is currently the subject of a lawsuit by Tesla. This February he debated the motion "This House Believes Electric Cars are the Future of Transport" at the Oxford Union. The motion was carried.

This is event is now sold-out sorry. We will not have any spaces available on the door.

Inside the Weird World of Scientology

John Sweeney

When?
Tuesday, March 12 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
John Sweeney

What's the talk about?

Celebrities such as Tom Cruise say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree. Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on and followed and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera and his infamous 'exploding tomato' clip was seen by millions around the world.

In his new book, The Church of Fear, Sweeney tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined, to its current followers who say it's the solution to many of mankind's problems. In this talk, Sweeney, who has been branded a 'liar and perjurer' by the Church of Scientology, and 'genuinely evil' by scientologist bloggers, will discuss some of his experiences with the Church of Scientology, as one of the very few reporters who've been brave enough to take it on.

 Tickets (£2) available here.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Tuesday, February 12 2013 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Ditchling Road
Brighton
BN1 4SB

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

The werewolf is an enduring motif. Though there are many good werewolves in folkore, the prevalent type is the ravaging, insatiable beast. The werewolf so often stands for the heart of darkness of the human soul. This talk will explore how the motif was used during one of Europe's darkest eras - the Great Witch Hunt of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

 

Deborah is the Managing Editor of The Skeptic Magazine and also blogs as Jourdemayne

You can also follow her on Twitter