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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.

and other myths about food and health

Pixie Turner

When?
Thursday, July 18 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Pixie Turner

What's the talk about?

Despite a wealth of information at our fingertips there are still so many things we get wrong about our health, and with a new diet book out every other day it’s no wonder people are confused. What should we be eating? When? How often? Just how important is food when it comes to our overall health?

Humans have always been a bit weird around food. We’re told eating certain foods are the key to living longer, some foods are ‘sinful’ or ‘bad’, that ‘you are what you eat’, and that we must seek to obtain health at all costs. All this means we follow crazy diets that make things worse rather than better, and have a population where most of us dislike our bodies.

Pixie will unpack why diet and nutrition misinformation is so problematic, on social media, in mass media, and on a public health level, and why we could all benefit from taking a moment to assess our personal relationship with food. Expect some mythbusting, diet rants, and lots of fully-referenced evidence-based science.

Pixie is a nutritionist (ANutr), food blogger, and science communicator. She graduated with a First Class degree in Biochemistry, and went on to complete a Masters in Nutrition with Distinction. She is the brains behind the 'Pixie Nutrition' social media accounts, which aim to infiltrate the wellness movement and debunk nutrition misinformation online. In addition, she has been featured as a nutrition expert on BBC and Channel 5, and in publications such as Red magazine, Evening Standard, Grazia, the Telegraph and more. Her first book, ‘The Wellness Rebel’ was published early 2018, with her second book, ‘The No Need to Diet Book’ released March 2019

A confused person's guide to therapy, counselling and self-help

Ariane Sherine

When?
Thursday, June 20 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Ariane Sherine

What's the talk about?

Comedy writer and journalist Ariane Sherine created and organised the Atheist Bus Campaign, persuading Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association to support her and buses with variations on the slogan 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life' ran in 13 countries across the globe.

As a result, Ariane received an Inbox full of hate mail from Christians, which eventually led to a major nervous breakdown and suicidal ideation. She ended her journalistic career, and didn't write again for over three years.

In this talk, she will tell the full story of how therapy and medication saved her life, prompting her to write her new book, Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person's Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help.

Ariane will also be signing copies of Talk Yourself Better after the talk.

What people have said about Talk Yourself Better:

'Brilliant' makes the baffling comprehensible.' JEREMY VINE

'What an excellent, long-overdue idea! A super-accessible guide, through the bewildering marketplace of modern therapy, to ease our noble search for help.' DERREN BROWN

'How do we cope with this brutal world? In this witty, revealing book Ariane Sherine runs through the ways. An excellent, funny and thought-provoking read for all who seek answers.' ARTHUR SMITH

'What makes Ariane Sherine's Talk Yourself Better stand out from the crowd is its accessibility and humour; to be able to discuss difficult things with a lightness of touch and a comedy that does not trivialise is a rare skill indeed. This, combined with the honest - and often deeply moving - stories of clients and practitioners alike, makes this the ideal introduction to for anyone considering therapy for the first time.' BRIAN BILSTON

ARIANE SHERINE

Ariane Sherine is the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the bestselling celebrity book 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 Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, New Statesman, New Humanist and The Spectator. She lives in London with her seven-year-old daughter, Lily.

Skepticism and the Supernatural Pre-Industrial Europe

Jon Kaneko-James

When?
Thursday, May 16 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Jon Kaneko-James

What's the talk about?

Along with Johannes Nider's Formicarius, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger's 15th century book, Malleus Maleficarum, became the manual for a vigorous campaign of European Witch Hunting.

Protestant London saw 67 witch trials in the decade of 1600-1610: both before and after the accession of the witch hunting King James.

In the world of publishing, 1598 to 1610 saw a huge growth in fairy-themed literature, with both the rural and urban sick seeking the help of 'fairy' empowered Cunning Folk in the absence of trained medics.

But did everyone actually believe in it?

Author and researcher Jon Kaneko-James will examine the hidden language of equivocation found in medieval chronicles, the differing nature of experience, and the existence of skeptical narratives in pre-industrial Europe.

Cerys Bradley

When?
Thursday, April 18 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Cerys Bradley

What's the talk about?

For decades, science has been fascinated by the LGBTQ+ community. What makes gay people gay? How does sexuality affect one's behaviour, appearance, or ability to raise children? These are the questions that science has asked and the answers have had an impact not only within the scientific world, but also on public policy and the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. Given the highly politicised nature of the topic, it is perhaps not surprising to discover biases and prejudices hidden in the construction, conduction, and conclusions of these studies but are they still valuable contributions to science?

Join scientist Cerys Bradley, a part time comedian and full time gay, as they look at the science conducted in answer of these questions

The single best work of glyptic art from the Aegean Bronze Age

Charles Baily

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Charles Baily

What's the talk about?

Sadly, the speaker we had booked for this month had to withdraw so, to save wasting good drinking time, we are offering a home-grown topic.

In 2015, a team of archaeologists from Cincinnati University, discovered and excavated, just a few hundred metres from the so-called Palace of Nestor at Pylos in southwest Greece, a hitherto unknown princely tomb. Like the Palace, it dates from the Mycenaean period, the late Bronze Age, about 1450BC.

Uniquely for the period, it contained no pottery at all – all the grave goods were of metal, precious and otherwise, or gemstones. This was a very high status burial indeed.

Most of the objects recovered were published in 2016. But there was one that was so heavily encrusted with limescale, and merited such careful cleaning, that it did not go public until 2017, and such was its quality that it attracted a lot of attention, from scholars and laymen alike.

What distinguishes it, among other things, is a level of realism in anatomical portrayal that is not seen again until the Hellenistic period, a full thousand years later, and then, following the arrival of Christianity, not again until the Renaissance.

This talk will describe its recovery and put it into the context of its time and place; and – because the discovery of any such freakish artefact always invites scepticism (aha!) about its authenticity – consider the possibility that it could be a fake.

Charles chairs Bedfordshire Humanists and is an organiser of Bedford Skeptics in the Pub. He studied the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age as part of his degree course, and has followed developments in the field with close attention for the last 50 years. He is involved with local archeeological digs and museums.

As this is a replacement topic, we may even forego the customary contribution buckets!

Looking at the history, motives and present day construction of anti-Jewish prejudice

Dr Daniel Allington

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Daniel Allington

What's the talk about?

With antisemitism in the news at the moment and seemingly tearing the Labour party apart, this topic just couldn't be more bang up-to-date.

"Antisemitism was fundamental to the historical development of conspiracy theories - and conspiracy theories remain fundamental to contemporary antisemitism. In this talk, Dr Daniel Allington of the Campaign Against Antisemitism and King's College, London, explains why Jew-hate is different from other kinds of hate and why it is able to flourish in contemporary political culture."
 

Colin Stuart

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Colin Stuart

What's the talk about?

After his very well received talk last year - 13 Journeys Through Space and Time, Colin returns with a new subject.

In The Traveller's Guide to Mars, Colin Stuart will examine our fascination with the Red Planet, our attempts to explore it and send humans there in the not-to-distant future.

The Hidden Story of the Hopes, Fears and Desires of a Nation

James Wright

When?
Thursday, November 15 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
James Wright

What's the talk about?

Note change of programme from that originally advertised following the speaker being unavailable!

Modern graffiti is often seen as transgressive and moronic. However, look closely in the light of a torch at the walls of our historic buildings, trees, caves and rockfaces and you will see a world of graffiti left that illuminates the psychology of our ancestors. The study of historic graffiti enables us to hear the lost voices of ordinary individuals through their images of daisywheels, ships sailing across the walls, knights drawing their swords, demons stalking the stonework and every animal imaginable…

James Wright is an archaeologist, lecturer and author
 

... By Someone Who Tried Everything Else

Rebecca Fox

When?
Thursday, October 18 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Rebecca Fox

What's the talk about?

Most of us weren't born reasonable. We were born into a superstitious culture with only our ramshackle primate brains to try and figure out what’s going on. Reason, an appreciation for evidence and critical thinking skills are virtues that most of us had to fight for and that we have to work hard to keep up in difficult situations.

Rebecca is no exception, she grew up believing many strange things and has had to train herself to think critically. Instead of being embarrassed by our former beliefs Rebecca thinks it is important to have compassion for and interest in what we used to believe and why we believed it. Instead of feeling shame for having been wrong, we should be proud that we had the courage to overturn beliefs that proved to be wrong.

In this talk Rebecca will discuss who she was before, and after she ‘became reasonable’ and overturn the myth that there is such a thing as ‘perfectly reasonable’ we are all, after all, a work in progress.


Rebecca Fox is passionate about skeptical education because she has found the tools of skepticism to be profoundly empowering. Learning to think clearly has made her safer, more confident and happier. Drawing on her experience as a skeptical educator and comic book artist she will present some ideas that will help you improve your critical thinking skills and the way you think about how you think.

Note the change of programme

When?
Thursday, September 20 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Video plus discussion

What's the talk about?

As announced, our speaker has had to withdraw, due to unexpected pressure of work, but we are, as ever, reluctant to deny our faithful following (and ourselves) an excuse to spend an evening down the pub, so we are offering an alternative.

Skeptics regulars will recall the recent visit of Jamie Bartlett, on the Dark Web.

In August last year, BBC2 broadcast a mini-series he made called Hidden Secrets of Silicon Valley. There were two parts, the first on the effects of AI on business and employment, the second on the effect on politics.

The latter issue has since blown up bigtime, with Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation for the Guardian and Observer into the nefarious activities of Cambridge Analytica, Vote Leave and BeLeave in the EU referendum campaign. Jamie gets ahead of the game, exposing the contribution of CA and Facebook to the Trump presidential campaign, featuring a characteristically evasive and obfuscating interview with Alexander Nix, and an interview with the woman who ran Project Alamo, responsible for using the personal ‘preferences’ (i.e. psychographic) data extracted by Daniel Kazinski (interview with him, too) from Facebook clicks and ‘likes’.

The first programme considers the effects of Silicon Valley’s concentration of creative talent and venture capital, and the capacity to ‘disrupt’ (key word – remember Tony Seba on electric vehicles?) existing industrial, commercial and social models, with supposedly (and possibly genuinely) benign motives, but questions how benign the effects may turn out to be. Uber and AirBnB receive not unqualified approval.

Both programmes are, imho, excellent, and I am reluctant to offer any recommendation for which one we use. Both will be available, so perhaps we could decide on the night by, say, a referendum. What could possibly go wrong?