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Statistics, Covid19 and fake news

When?
Thursday, January 21 2021 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
David Spiegelhalter (Royal Society video of a talk)

What's the talk about?

As we still can't get together in person, here is our first Zoom session of 2021 - at 7.30pm on Thursday 21st January (the normal Skeptics night). The subject should be of interest to both Skeptics and Humanist audiences.

To kick off our meeting we will be showing a YouTube discussion (with some fascinating slides illustrating the points made) between Cambridge Professor David Spiegelhalter, given this year’s Michael Faraday award for the effective public presentation of science by the Royal Society, in recognition of his efforts to demystify some of the heavy statistics around the current CV19 pandemic, and BBC regular (presenter of “More or Less” on R4), Tim Harford. A lot of mutual back-slapping going on here, but also a lot about combatting “fake news”, and the perils of ill-considered presentation of numbers-based results (and some thoughts on the need for all of us to have some basic skills in understanding them). This conversation lasts around an hour, but we can pause it for discussion of burning questions from any of you at any point, and then continue -  and we will be taking a refreshment break about an hour in, as we will when we can meet in person again in NESC, before opening it up for general discussion.

David Spiegelhalter is a very engaging speaker and really knows his topic - if you don't know the name, you'll probably recognise the face from TV, as he's interviewed quite regularly.

There will be no registration required - I'll send a link to everyone on the mailing list the evening before, so you will need to registered on our mailing list to receive it. Just click on the link and you're in!

Fancy finding out how to live a long and healthy life?

Ariane Sherine

When?
Thursday, November 19 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Ariane Sherine

What's the talk about?

After her very well received talk last year, Ariane Sherine returns with a new subject that is important to us all. 

Fancy finding out how to live a long and healthy life? Look no further. Comedy writer and Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine has teamed up with public health consultant David Conrad to analyse the scientific evidence behind 100 different factors that affect life expectancy.

Could drinking green tea really prolong your life? How about gardening? Is regular sex more about pleasure than health? Why does standing up a lot make a difference to longevity? And is it worth cutting out red meat or even turning vegan in order to blow out 100 candles on your birthday cake? 

This funny and potentially lifesaving talk will reveal the answers to all these questions and more.

Ariane will be signing copies of her new book HOW TO LIVE TO 100 after the talk.

Ariane Sherine is the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the bestselling celebrity anthology The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. She has written for BBC1’s My Family, Channel 4’s Countdown and BBC2’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, as well as for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Daily Mash, New Statesman and New Humanist. She lives in London with her eight-year-old daughter Lily.

 

*** EVENT POSTONED ***

Prof. Lewis Dartnell

When?
Thursday, September 17 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Prof. Lewis Dartnell

What's the talk about?

*** EVENT POSTPONED TO A LATER DATE ***


We'll try to re-arrange this event as early as we possibly can. Keep checking back here for details, or subscribe to our mailing list on the right.

When we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, revolutions, and technological advances. But how has the Earth itself determined our destiny? How has our planet made us?

As a species we are shaped by our environment. Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

By taking us through millennia of human history, and billions of years into our planet's past, Professor Lewis Dartnell tells us the ultimate origin story. When we reach the point where history becomes science we see a vast web of connections that underwrites our modern world and helps us face the challenges of the future.

From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, Origins reveals the Earth's awesome impact on the shape of human civilizations.

ORIGINS is the Sunday Times top history book of the year, a Waterstones 'Best of 2019' book, on iNews' 11 best popular science books for 2019, and a Mail on Sunday recommended science and nature book.

 Origins by Lewis Dartnell stands comparison with Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens... A thrilling piece of Big History' -- THE SUNDAY TIMES

 Dartnell's story is beautifully written and organized. His infectious curiosity and enthusiasm tug the reader from page to page, synthesizing geology, oceanography, meteorology, geography, palaeontology, archaeology and political history in a manner that recalls Jared Diamond's classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel.'  -- NATURE

"Dartnell's approach is encyclopedic, marked by both a broad sweep and a passion for details." -- WASHINGTON POST

 Dartnell has found the perfect blend of science and history. This is a book that will not only challenge our preconceptions about the past, but should make us think very carefully about humanity's future' -- MAIL ON SUNDAY


Prof. Lewis Dartnell  is an astrobiology researcher based at the University of Westminster, studying how microbial life, and signs of its existence, might persist on the surface of Mars. Alongside his research he writes regular science articles in newspapers and magazines, and has appeared in TV shows such as BBC Horizon, Wonders of the Universe, and documentaries on National Geographic, Discovery and History channels. Both ORIGINS and his previous book,  THE KNOWLEDGE: How To Rebuild Our World After An Apocalypse'  are Sunday Times bestsellers.

*** GOING AHEAD, ON-LINE OVER ZOOM ***

Alastair Lichten

When?
Thursday, August 20 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Alastair Lichten

What's the talk about?

This event was originally scheduled for July, but for obvious reasons couldn't go ahead. Registration details are at the bottom, and can be found in our regular newsletter The Bedfordshire Sceptic.

We are delighted that The National Secular Society's Alastair Lichten has agreed to talk to us on this very important subject. In view of the Black Lives Matter campaign and further shocking examples  of discrimination in our society, we need to take a close look at whether our education system is preventing proper integration and inclusiveness.

With all sorts of organisations free to run Academy Schools or Free Schools, why shouldn't the various churches and faiths be running schools? Isn't it right that parents have real choice, and shouldn't their faith be part of that? Surely that is all fair, and they do better than ordinary schools, don't they? And they've worked really well in Northern Ireland.

From faith schools to coercive worship, and from confessional RE to faith based sex education, our school system is full of inappropriate religious influence, privilege and discrimination. But it doesn't need to be this way, our many fantastic community schools show how we can move towards a secular, inclusive education system.

The National Secular Society's head of education, Alastair Lichten, will talk about the Society's No More Faith Schools campaign, along with their other education focussed campaigns.

Alastair Lichten is the Society's head of education, joined the NSS in 2014 to work on a variety of their campaigns, before focusing on education. He currently coordinates the No More Faith Schools campaign.

Numbers will be limited to 100 and the event will require pre-registration by clicking here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (note that the link you receive is unique to you and can't be shared).

5G or not 5G

Sean Slater

When?
Thursday, June 25 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Sean Slater

What's the talk about?

Note: Sean Slater has agreed to help us pilot our first on-line Bedford Skeptics. Also note that isn't our usual Thursday, so check the date above. To register for the event see the links further down.

5th generation mobile networks are coming in for increasing criticism by otherwise reputable sources and commentators. Its been demonised as mind-control, as using ‘untested, weapons-grade, ultra-high frequency technology’ and to cause severe harm to the population, including causing CoronaVirus, just by existing. Is it a back-door for governments to manage their population through technology? Are we simply leaving ourselves open to overseas countries to infiltrate our national infrastructure? Are there real dangers to this new technology? Sean Slater will try and address these fears head on and create some clarity around what 5G is and what it is not.

Sean has worked in the mobile phone business for over 25 years and has seen 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G being rolled out by several different networks. He is also the vice-chair of Edinburgh Skeptics and as such has taken an interest in the pseudoscience surrounding his industry.

Twitter - @TheTrueScotsman

Zoom Meeting: the number of attendees is limited to 100, so the event will require registration. Once registered, you'll receive a unique link (which is unique to you and can't be shared).

You can register for free here - you can share this link with friends and family, so they can register individually.

If you're not familiar with Zoom, then our guide is here
 

*** Unlikely to go ahead in the present circumstances***

Dr Richard Clarke

When?
Thursday, April 16 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Richard Clarke

What's the talk about?

Effective Altruism is the idea behind a growing movement of philosophy, science and evidence minded individuals with a passion to doing as much good as they possible can. Effective Altruism involves using a combination of the head (reason, logic and evidence) and the heart (empathy/compassion) to systematically fight towards making the world a better place for all that live in it. As skeptics we apply critical thinking to a wide range of topics in our everyday lives however our charity and altruistic behaviours often gets a free pass. In this talk we will explore why this is the case and how a few small choices in your life can have life changing positive impact on someone else’s.

Richard is a health psychologist and skeptic currently conducting research in the area of information seeking and vaccine hesitancy with the Vaccine Confidence Project based at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine and due to the reasoning behind Effective Altruism in 2014 he decided to pledge 10% of his income over the course of his life time to charities that are likely to have the most impact in the world.

For those who would like to read up a little on the subject, the book "The Life You Can Save" by Peter Singer,  often peoples entry point into Effective Altruism, has now been made free to download here  (also in audible form).
 

Heading for Extinction

Robin Launder

When?
Thursday, March 19 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Robin Launder

What's the talk about?

*** Sad to say, we've decided that we have no option but to postpone this talk due to the current circumstances. We will re-schedule the talk as soon as we safely can. ***

Details of the postponed event:

Robin will deliver ‘the’ Extinction Rebellion (XR) talk, a talk that many XR speakers have delivered up and down the country, and indeed in many countries across the globe – such has been the phenomenal growth of XR. It will give you a picture of the ecological and  climate emergency that we are facing, and (more importantly!) what we can do about it. So, certainly, there will be elements of the talk that are gloomy, to say the least, but there will also be a hopeful element All is not lost if we act now and we act decisively.

Robin’s view is that the messages contained within the XR talk are completely consistent with humanist (and by extension, Skeptical) thinking. To find out whether you agree, come along and have a listen.

Robin Launder is a school speaker for Humanists UK, a trainer of humanist UK school speakers, and also a ‘faith tutor’ at Eton College, that is, he runs humanist sessions for students who do not want to attend Sunday chapel. In addition, he is also an activist and speaker for Extinction Rebellion (XR), the  ecological and climate activist group.

Pete Comley

When?
Thursday, February 20 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Pete Comley

What's the talk about?

We all know what inflation is – or do we?

Pete Comley is one of the few inflation experts in the UK who not only knows his CPIs from his RPIs, but why the subtle differences in the way they are calculated affect all our lives.

He will also make you think about what inflation really is. What exactly causes it – or sometimes more precisely who does?  Why does it exist? Who benefits from it and how?

He will also look into the historical patterns of inflation and show why the world  may soon be heading into a century of near zero levels of inflation.

Pete Comley is the author of both Inflation Matters and Inflation Tax books. He was a regular commentator on inflation on the radio. His first book, Monkey with a Pin, was published in 2012. It exposed how most private investors’ returns are much worse in real life than the theoretical returns promoted by the finance industry. It went viral and was downloaded by over 10,000 people. His second book, Inflation Tax: The Plan To Deal With The Debts was published in 2013.

You might describe Pete as an author with an inquiring mind. He is not one to blindly accept the orthodoxy and conventional wisdom. Instead, he forms his opinions by painstakingly re-evaluating the facts – and by joining the dots sometimes coming to different conclusions.

He has a degree in psychology and has worked for most of his career in market research. He’s well known within the industry as a conference speaker and also an innovator. He was the first person to run commercial online surveys in the UK in the mid-1990s. He founded the first UK online market research agency in 1998. The company is now called Join the Dots and has its head office in Manchester.

The Rise of Flat Earth Belief

Michael Marshall

When?
Thursday, January 16 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

In 2013, when Michael Marshall first interviewed the Vice President of the Flat Earth society for his show Be Reasonable, people could scarcely believe that anyone could genuinely think the Earth was flat. Five years later, Flat Earth belief has gone mainstream, spawning thousands of hours of YouTube videos, gaining widespread international media coverage, and attracting countless followers. How did we get here?

In this talk, Marshall will talk through his experiences of the Flat Earth movement, take a look at the leaders and some of their reasoning, and report back from the weekend he spent at the UK’s first ever Flat Earth convention.

Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast.

His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests, going undercover to expose psychics and quack medics, and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

Are we nearly there yet?

Dr Alice Howarth

When?
Thursday, November 21 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Alice Howarth

What's the talk about?

One in two of us will suffer with cancer in our lifetime and almost all of us have some experience of the disease.

But do we really know what cancer is and how we can work towards a cure?

Is a cure even possible?

And how can we arm ourselves with the right information to help us prevent and treat cancer?

Alice is a researcher who works in the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Liverpool and has worked with both non-profit and for-profit organisations. In this talk she will discuss what cancer is, how it works and just how we are working towards understanding and curing the disease. She will talk about the complexities of research and some of the big success stories that relate directly to some of the many types of cancer. Only when we understand the difficulties we face can we discern between bogus cancer treatment claims and genuine scientific advancement in this field.

Ritual Protection of Hearth & Home

James Wright

When?
Thursday, October 17 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
James Wright

What's the talk about?

Physical objects have been placed behind the walls, under the thresholds and within the hearths of historic buildings for centuries. Discoveries of dried cats, witch bottles and ancient shoes have become common during building works. The explanation for these items is less common - as they were often deliberately placed to ritually protect house and occupants from evil spirits, witches and demons.

James Wright is an archaeologist, Lecturer and Author.

James returns to Bedford Skeptics in the Pub after his excellent, and very well received, talk on historic graffiti last year. I'll be there, clutching my garlick.

*** Change of Date ***

Sam Gibbs

When?
Thursday, September 12 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Sam Gibbs

What's the talk about?

Note the change of date for this month's Skeptics - we've been lucky to grab Sam while he was in the UK, so we've had to change the date to make it possible.

‘Voyage to the Cosmos’. The talk will focus on the latest discoveries that have revealed tantalizing details of the workings of the Universe. Our cosmic voyage will look into some of the BIG questions such as the acceleration of the universe, extra-terrestrial life, black holes, supernovae, and the extraordinary realm of the quantum universe and the nature of matter.

Amateur Astronomer and Informal Science Educator Sam Gibbs brings with him a wealth of experience. With 40 years as an amateur astronomer and over 20 years developing and conducting public outreach and informal science programs for the public domain, he has delivered engaging educational exhibitions, lectures, astronomy programs and special outreach services to over 250,000 people in 7 countries.

Remember that the talk will be one week earlier than usual, on Thursday, 12th September. It will still be at the North End Social Club, doors open at 19:00 for a start at 19:30.