David Robert Grimes

When?
Wednesday, January 4 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
David Robert Grimes

What's the talk about?

Science and medicine have transformed our lives immeasurably, and never in history have they been more central to our lives and well-being. Yet despite this, there is often a glaring disconnect between the findings of actual science and media reporting of such topics, and consequently there is often a needless chasm between public perception and the evidence on many contentious topics. This can lead to needlessly adversarial and counter-productive discourse of everything from vaccination to climate-change. In this talk, physicist and science journalist Dr. David Robert Grimes discusses the frequent problems in reporting science from misunderstandings to bad statistics to false balance, and discusses the factors that influence this and how such problems can be remedied.

Dr. David Robert Grimes (@drg1985) is a physicist and writes regular opinion and analysis pieces on scientific issues for the Irish Times and the Guardian science, and is a regular panelist on science issues on radio and television. He is joint-recipient of the 2014 Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.

Prof Karen Douglas

When?
Wednesday, February 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Prof Karen Douglas

What's the talk about?

NB: This talk was originally scheduled in July 2016.

Was 9/11 an inside job? Is climate change a hoax? Was Princess Diana murdered? Millions of people appear to think so, disbelieving official explanations for significant events in favour of alternative accounts that are often called ‘conspiracy theories’. In recent years, psychologists have begun to investigate what makes conspiracy theories appealing to so many people. In this talk, I will broadly overview what psychologists have found out so far, and will discuss some of my own findings on the causes and consequences of conspiracy theory belief.

Karen Douglas is a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Kent. In addition to conducting work on the psychology of conspiracy theories, she is involved in projects examining sexism in language, the influence of sexist ideology on attitudes toward pregnant women, and the psychology of internet behaviour.

Henry Drysdale

When?
Wednesday, March 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Henry Drysdale

What's the talk about?

For 6 weeks in late 2015, the COMPare team monitored every clinical trial published in the top 5 medical journals for “outcome switching”: when trialists report something different from what they originally said they would report. Of 67 trials assessed, 58 (87%) were found to contain discrepancies between prespecified and reported outcomes.

Outcome switching is already known to be extremely common, even in top medical journals. But COMPare went one step further: they wrote a letter to the journal for all 58 trials found to contain discrepancies; to correct the record on the individual trials, and to test the “self-correcting” properties of science.

The responses to these letters from journal editors and trial authors were unprecedented, and shed light on the reasons why this problem persists. The aim of COMPare was to fix outcome switching, through correction letters and open discussion. They never expected the levels of misunderstanding and bias at the heart of the issue.

Based at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, COMPare is made up of three senior researchers, 5 graduate-entry medical students, and a programmer. The project was born when one medical student came to the department in search of a project. The idea of monitoring the outcomes in clinical trials was made possible by 4 more medical students, who were recruited to make the vast amount of analysis possible. All assessments are reviewed by senior colleagues, and decisions made at weekly team meetings. There is no specific funding for COMPare: all the students work for free, driven by the desire and opportunity to fix a broken system.

Visit the COMPare website (COMPare-trials.org) for more details about their team, methods, results and blog.

Alom Shaha

When?
Wednesday, April 5 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Alom Shaha

What's the talk about?

NB This talk was originally scheduled for June 2016

Alom Shaha has spent most of his professional life sharing his passion for science and education with the public and currently splits his time between teaching Physics and producing and presenting educational videos. In this talk, Alom tells the story of his first scientific discovery, how and why he became a science teacher, the challenges and rewards of the job, what he thinks science education is for, and how parents can contribute positively to their children's science education.

Alom is a Physics teacher at a comprehensive school in London. When he's not teaching, he works as a film-maker, writer and science communicator. Alom is a trustee of the British Humanist Association, and is the author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook.

Christopher Thresher-Andrews

When?
Wednesday, May 3 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Christopher Thresher-Andrews

What's the talk about?

We live in a country where a large minority of us believe that a secret group of powerful people really control world events, that global-warming is a hoax, and that Diana was definitely assassinated. Conspiracy theories try to convince us about how the world 'really operates', and range from the mundane to the more serious - but aren't they just harmless fun? This talk will give an overview of what psychology can tell us, demonstrating that belief is widespread and not limited to 'tin-foil hat wearers', that conspiracy belief has serious real-world consequences, and why we all have a little conspiracy theorist inside of us. It will summarise the existing psychological findings in an interesting and interactive way, and also provide some exciting results from new experimental work.

Christopher Thresher-Andrews is an Associate Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Forming part of his PhD, his research aims to explore possible psychopathological links to conspiracy belief, and also to place conspiracy theories into a wider political and social context. Some of his best reviews from conspiracy theorists include accusations of being “a government stooge”, “a puppet of the establishment”, “a craven satanic manipulator”, and “a deceptive empty-headed moron with all the intellectual capacity of a squashed potato”.

Dr Martin Graff

When?
Wednesday, June 7 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Martin Graff

What's the talk about?

There is much evidence that being in a good relationship can be beneficial to our health, happiness and general well-being. However, should we resort to online dating in the pursuit of a happy relationship? Psychological research would seem to suggest that online dating may not be the easy answer.

This talk focuses on the reasons why we should be cautious in our online dating pursuits. For example, people make bad decisions in online dating. Furthermore, those we contact are often not what they appear to be. Additionally, there is no evidence that the algorithms employed by dating sites and which purport to match us with a desirable partner actually work in reality. Finally, this talk will conclude with some information on how to maximize our chances in an online dating environment.

Dr Martin Graff is Reader and Head of Research in Psychology at the University of South Wales, UK, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist. He has researched cognitive processes in web-based learning, the formation and dissolution of romantic relationships online and offline, online persuasion and disinhibition. He has written over 50 scientific articles, published widely in the field of Internet behaviour, and presented his work at numerous International Conferences. He writes for Psychology Today magazine and regularly speaks at events in the UK and Internationally.

Iszi Lawrence

When?
Wednesday, July 5 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Iszi Lawrence

What's the talk about?

Skeptic, comedian and voice of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe, Iszi Lawrence is out to delight and inform with her new show The Z List Dead List. The Z List Dead List is a live comedy show about obscure people from History. As a skeptic, Iszi has found a few people from the past that will peak your interest. Expect woo, violence, sex and death. And a competition. The show is also a podcast with guest interviews from Jon Ronson, Griff Rhys Jones, Natalie Haynes, Neil Denny, Richard Herring etc. You can find it on iTunes here: itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-z-list-dead-list/id915778702?mt=2 or go to the website www.zlistdeadlist.com.

Chris Peters

When?
Wednesday, August 2 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Chris Peters

What's the talk about?

Every day, we hear claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, and treat disease. Some of these claims are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not. These claims can't be regulated; every time one is debunked another pops up – like a game of whack-a-mole. So how can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them, or buy their products, then we should ask them for evidence, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens.

The Ask for Evidence campaign has seen people ask a retail chain for the evidence behind its MRSA-resistant pyjamas; ask a juice bar for the evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims; ask the health department about rules for Viagra prescriptions; ask for the studies behind treatments for Crohn's disease, and hundreds more. As a result, claims are being withdrawn and bodies held to account.

This is geeks, working with the public, to park their tanks on the lawn of those who seek to influence us. And it's starting to work. Come and hear how you can help.

Matt Tompkins

When?
Wednesday, September 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Matt Tompkins

What's the talk about?

On Sunday the 18th of November 1877, at 3pm in the afternoon, Wilhelm Wundt, sometimes identified as the 'Founder of Experimental Psychology,' joined hands with a group of academics and bore witness to series of ‘miracles’ in the presence of a visiting American spirit medium. Wundt was unconvinced by what he saw. However, a number of his esteemed colleagues, including world-renowned physicists Gustav Fechner, Wilhelm Weber, and Johann Zöllner, believed that the events they witnessed called for a complete revision of the fundamental laws of physics – a revision that could accommodate immortal fourth-dimensional spirit people. The resulting debate was not itself immortalized in any mainstream psychology text books, but, arguably, it did play a fundamental role in the subsequent emergence of Experimental Psychology as a formal scientific discipline. My talk will examine this debate, briefly surveying the historical context leading up to events, and analyzing the arguments of the various key players, before considering the consequences and their lasting impacts psychology and science in general.

Matt Tompkins is a psychologist and a semi-professional magician. He is currently completing a doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on the relationships between perception, attention, and sleight-of-hand illusions. His most recent paper was published in Frontiers in Psychology, and his research has been featured in the Washington Post and BBC Future.

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Wednesday, October 4 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

Dr Kat Arney is a science communicator and award-winning blogger for Cancer Research UK, as well as a freelance science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more.

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.

Joseph Simcox

When?
Wednesday, November 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Joseph Simcox

What's the talk about?

Joseph Simcox is a World Food Plant Ecologist and Ethnobotanist. As a Botanical Explorer he travels the globe to identify the world’s food plant resources focusing on under-utilized crops and wild species. The basis of his work is to promote the use and cultivation of plants for food and useful components. The harmonious balance between modern man’s infrastructures and nature is necessary if man is to continue to prosper on the planet. His goal is to ensure food security and nutrition for all while developing food systems that mimic nature. Joseph asserts that the identification of wild food plants and their appropriate habitats is the first step to creating sustainable ecosystems.

The improvement of these suitable plants should be one of the world’s foremost civic agendas. Science is often viewed as the sole source of inspiration in our present day psyche, but Joseph argues that much of the greatest inspiration will come when we re-examine the life ways of peoples past. “When we “know” as a society rather than as “experts” what nature offers us all will have the keys to live better, healthier and more rewarding lives. Many of the causes of poverty in today’s world are overlooked because few categorize non-economic indicators of impoverishment. Losing traditional ways is often looked upon as advancement by the people who are trying to “advance” but in the process they ironically become even more poor. We are like those people, but we lost our ways a long-long time ago, it's time to rediscover what we lost!”

Joseph is an international speaker presenting at diverse conferences and symposiums around the world and introducing new perspectives on food resources, food production and the environment. He collaborates with independent growers, industry, universities, governments and non-government organizations in this worldwide effort. He has visited more than 100 countries to date for his field experience.

Dr Julia Shaw

When?
Wednesday, December 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Julia Shaw

What's the talk about?

Is memory just an illusion? Can it be hacked? Dr Julia Shaw will take you on a trip through the various ways in which your brain deceives you into believing that you can reliably form memories - particularly memories of your life experiences. In a turbulent overview of the rich world of the science of our personal past, she will discuss the neurological, perceptual, and social aspects of memory illusions. By the end of it, she’ll have you questioning all your memories, and wondering whether you actually are who you think you are.

Julia Shaw is a memory scientist at London South Bank University who loves to dispel misconceptions and challenge notions of reality. In her research she convinces people that they committed crimes that never actually happened. When she’s not hacking into people’s memories, she is ineffectively Tweeting, or pouring her heart into her science communication, including hawking her popular science book “The Memory Illusion”.

Dr Vanessa Charland

When?
Wednesday, January 17 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Vanessa Charland

What's the talk about?

Near death experiences (NDEs) are increasingly being reported as a clearly identifiable physiological and psychological reality of clinical significance. However, the definition and causes of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. Recent work has shown that NDEs memories cannot be considered as imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that all psychological features of the NDE have a neuronal basis; yet the empirical investigation of the NDE phenomenon remains unexplored. We here propose the scientific study of NDE using integration of data derived from both psychological and neurophysiological approaches. We believe that by bridging data from psychology and neurology of NDE this project will open up a new perspective in the science of NDE by providing a rigorous definition and explanation of the phenomenon.