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Colin Stuart

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Colin Stuart

What's the talk about?

Tim Peake's recent visit to the International Space Station has placed a fresh spotlight on the latest developments in space exploration. But space travel is still a pretty new area of human endeavour and our ideas about what and who might be out there have constantly shifted over the years. One place this is particularly apparent is in the famous Christmas Lectures held by the Royal Institution each year.

Last year Colin was lucky enough to rummage around in their archives and write a book about 13 of the lectures devoted to space and time. The first was delivered way back in 1881. The last was the 2015 lectures featuring a message from Tim from orbit. And how our ideas have changed. In this talk Colin will be sharing some of the stories from the lectures, along with some of his favourite anecdotes about digging through the archives including finding Carl Sagan's immigration form and Dewar's radioactive notebooks.

Strap in for more than 100 years of astronomical discovery.

When?
Thursday, June 15 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?

What's the talk about?

Various factors have conspired against us (not least that several of us can't be there on the night) so we're not running a meeting this month. So, we're taking a break and we'll see you all next month.

Simon Singh

When?
Thursday, May 18 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Simon Singh

What's the talk about?

**** STOP PRESS ****

We have been trying to book Simon Singh, one of the world's most popular science and maths writers, for a long time now and we finally have a date!

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.

Jenny Josephs

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Jenny Josephs

What's the talk about?

By 2050 the global population will reach 9 billion and this will put ever increasing pressure on food and environmental resources. It will be a challenge to ensure global food security without further damaging the environment with intensified farming practices.

One UN backed solution is to focus on alternative sources of protein, such as insects for food and animal feed. About 2 billion of us already include insects in our diets, though it is still a growing trend in the west.

Insects are described as having a variety of different flavours, from mushroomy to pistachio or pork crackling. They are comparable to beef in protein and contain beneficial nutrients like iron and calcium. Their environmental impact is also minimal, requiring far less water and feed than cattle, and releasing fewer emissions.

During this talk, Jenny will explain how insects might replace some of the meat in our diets and also give some tips on how to cook them. You will be invited to sample some tasty bug snacks after the talk!

Bio: After completing a PhD in Visual Cognition at the University of Southampton, Jenny changed course and started The Bug Shack - a business promoting and selling edible insects. Jenny is a regular speaker at Skeptics events and science festivals and she recently returned from a trip to research attitudes towards eating and farming insects in Thailand and Laos.

*** A change to our advertised programme ***

When?
Thursday, March 16 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
A screening of the award winning film

What's the talk about?

Sadly, our Skeptics speaker this week has just contacted us to say that due to a family bereavement, he will be unable to join us. Obviously, it is impossible at this notice to recruit a replacement.

So instead we offer the opportunity to see the winner of the Best Picture Oscar last year, Spotlight, which recounts the exposure by the Boston Globe of Roman Catholic clerical child abuse, and opened the floodgates that swept away a global coverup conspiracy – an ongoing story, with the location announced just last week of a mass grave of 800 infants in an orphanage in County Galway, run by nuns of the ironically named Bon Secours order.

It acquires even greater topicality from the savage assault on press independence launched by President Erdoğan in Turkey, and now in the US by President Trump. Even here, last week, when the Education Secretary was talking to school heads about grammar schools, filming was banned.

Apart from which, it’s great movie! Come and join us to enjoy it over a pint (equivalent non-acoholic beverages are available, of course).

It’s a full 2 hours, so we’ll start promptly at 7.30, glasses in hand, fully topped up!

How do our genes work?

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Thursday, February 16 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We're told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library.

With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Dr Kat Arney holds a degree in natural sciences and a PhD in developmental biology from Cambridge University, followed by a post-doc at Imperial College, London.

For her day-job Kat is a professional science communicator, media spokesperson, award-winning blogger, podcaster and general comms dogsbody for Cancer Research UK. She counts among her achievements saying the word “boobs” and discussing oral sex on the Today programme, the infamous “drink it down your face” interview, and likening part of the cell division machinery to something out of Star Wars.

Kevin Precious

When?
Thursday, January 19 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Kevin Precious

What's the talk about?

Kevin Precious is a former RE teacher turned stand-up comedian and promoter.  Besides having played many of the top clubs in the land, he also promotes shows in arts centres and theatres under the Barnstormers Comedy banner. He has previously toured the country with a stand-up show entitled 'Not Appropriate', dedicated to the business of teaching.

In between the various comedic activites, he attends his local humanist group - he's an agnostic, folks - where he loves a good old debate about the big questions in life.  Expect jokes and stories then, about his time as an RE teacher, being a humanist, the God-Shaped Hole, and the philosophy of religion... and you can ask him a few questions of your own afterwards, if you wish.

... we're taking a break this month

When?
Thursday, December 15 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?

What's the talk about?

Just a note, in case you're looking - there is no Bedford Skeptics in the Pub this month! See you all in 2017!

Why should we care if our friends are similar to us?

Katherine Woolf

When?
Thursday, November 17 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Katherine Woolf

What's the talk about?

Do you find yourself making friends with people like you? Katherine Woolf draws on her often controversial research to explore why this happens, and its impact on success and injustice. Discover how you can challenge the status quo to create a fairer, more integrated, more successful society.

Dr Katherine Woolf is a Senior Lecturer and academic psychologist working at UCL Medical School finding out what makes people – especially doctors – do really well or really badly. Her work focusses on how and why ethnicity and gender influence success, and how we can use this knowledge to improve fairness and equality. She has recently been discovering how our choice of friends can make a big difference to our success.

A few ways in which your brain will trick you if you let it

Andrew Dart

When?
Thursday, October 20 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Andrew Dart

What's the talk about?

Your brain 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 just a few 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 how our brains will not only show us things that aren't there but also remember things that never happened.

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.

Are we “medicalizing normality”?

Dr Stephen Ginn

When?
Thursday, September 15 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Stephen Ginn

What's the talk about?

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors and psychiatry is a medical speciality which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of mental function i.e. abnormalities of thought, perceptions, emotional and purposeful behaviour. 
Psychiatry is one of the most controversial medical specialities. There are a number of reasons for this, which this talk addresses. These include:
The validity of ‘mental illness’. Mainstream psychiatry is underpinned by an assumption that mental illnesses can be viewed as diseases akin to those that affect other parts of the body. But others argue that mental illness are predominantly social rather than medical in origin, and are used for purposes of control. Szasz famously argued that mental illnesses do not exist at all.
We may agree that mental illness is a valid concept, but how widely should this be applied? Has shyness, for instance, become ‘generalized anxiety disorder’. If it has, does this matter? Many new disorders have appeared with new editions of psychiatric classification manuals and some regard this as ‘medicalizing normality’.
Alongside diagnosis, psychiatric treatments often receive unfavourable scrutiny. The number of prescriptions of antidepressants in England and Wales has increased in recent years. Does this reflect the better recognition and treatment of mental disorders, or the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over doctors’ prescribing? And do these medications actually work? Should more talking therapies be offered instead?
Some say that psychiatrists have no role treating mental illness.  But who should take our place?  No society has satisfactorily cured, integrated, or accepted those with disturbed minds.  Is it unfair to chide psychiatry for its failures, where so many others also come up short? 

Dr Stephen Ginn is a consultant psychiatrist working in North London.  He specializes in in-patient care of people with severe mental illnesses.  He blogs at www.frontierpsychiatrist.co.uk (sadly neglected, but hopefully soon to be resurrected) and tweets at @psychiatrist.  He also co-runs the Art of Psychiatry Society (www.artofpsychiatry.co.uk and @artofpsychiatry) which holds meetings to explore the shared space between psychiatry and the creative arts.

When?
Thursday, August 18 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
-

What's the talk about?

The holiday season is upon us so, as is traditional, we don't have a meeting this month.