Michael Head

When?
Wednesday, March 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Michael Head

What's the talk about?

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Too many people are just not fussed about vaccines, or worse, they actively preach and campaign against them, with more than the occasional dollop of an absence of morality.

Plus there’s the desperate search for an ebola vaccine, the imperfections of the tuberculosis vaccine, the waning immunity over time of the pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation, that HIV vaccine that just won’t come, and the annual guesswork that is the composition of the influenza vaccine. It’s a complicated business, alright.

This presentation will walk you through some facts and figures, highlight the new vaccines in the pipeline and provide an insight into the public health danger posed by those who, even today, still try and tell you the MMR vaccine gives your child autism (it doesn’t, by the way).

Michael Head is a senior research fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, and a visiting academic in the Farr Institute for Health Informatics at University College London. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web. 

Dr Kimberley Wade

When?
Wednesday, April 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kimberley Wade

What's the talk about?

Suggestive techniques can lead people to remember wholly false childhood events such as being lost in a shopping mall or being hospitalized overnight. Although most false memory research has relied on some form of verbal suggestion to influence what people recall, recent research shows that photographs—both genuine and doctored—can create havoc in memory too. I will discuss the extent to which images and videos can influence memory for significant, recent experiences, and show that people might even confess to, or testify about, events that never happened if they are confronted with fabricated evidence. I will also discuss new research on people with highly superior autobiographical memories. These people demonstrate incredibly detailed and robust memories, but are they immune to memory errors?

Dr Kim Wade is an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Warwick. She is a cognitive psychologist specialising in autobiographical memory and memory distortions, best known for her research demonstrating the power of doctored images to produce false memories. Kim is especially interested in the mechanisms that drive the development of false memories, and in refining the theories that explain false memory phenomena. Her research is published in many high-impact journals, and appears frequently in the media, in undergraduate texts, and in books for the educated layperson.

Andrew Copson

When?
Wednesday, May 4 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Andrew Copson

What's the talk about?

At this event, Andrew Copson will give an overview of humanism: what it is, what it is not, its history and its long association with skepticism. Andrew will also talk about the British Humanist Association: their aims and the work that they do. Andrew Copson is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association.

Andrew became Chief Executive in January 2010 after five years coordinating the BHA's education and public affairs work. His writing on humanist and secularist issues has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and New Statesman as well as in various journals and he has represented the BHA and Humanism extensively on television news on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, as well as on television programmes such as Newsnight, Daily Politics and The Big Questions. He has also appeared on radio on programmes from Today, Sunday, The World at One, The Last Word and Beyond Belief on the BBC, to local and national commercial radio stations.

Alom Shaha

When?
Wednesday, June 1 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Alom Shaha

What's the talk about?

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.

Prof Karen Douglas

When?
Wednesday, July 6 2016 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?

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.

Hayley Stevens

When?
Wednesday, August 10 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Hayley Stevens

What's the talk about?

NB: Please note this talk has been moved to Wednesday 10th August at the speaker's request.

A Skeptic’s Guide to Ghost Hunting' will offer some unique insight into modern paranormal research. Hayley Stevens will introduce you to the bizarre world of modern ghost hunting, explain how to spot sham ghost hunting claims, and how all is not what is seems when it comes to things that go bump in the night...

Described as ' ... the Scully end of the Mulder-Scully X-Files spectrum' by The Times, Hayley Stevens is one of the UK's most vocal skeptical paranormal researchers and has been investigating ghost cases for over a decade, ever since she was a teenager. Her writing can be found in Skeptical Inquirer, The Skeptic, Paranormal Magazine and more and she regularly speaks across Europe about investigating the paranormal as a non-believer.

Stephen Volk

When?
Wednesday, September 7 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Stephen Volk

What's the talk about?

How does a childhood interest in ghost stories and horror grow into a fascination with the scientific study of the paranormal? And how does that in turn feed back into creating dramas about the supernatural?

Stephen Volk is an avowed sceptic, yet repeatedly drawn to telling tales of the spooky and other-worldly, in books, on stage, on film and for the small screen, working both in Britain and in Hollywood.

He will be talking about his reasons for writing in the genre and his attitude to his subject matter, beginning with the dubious success of the controversial (some say legendary) 1992 BBC Halloween “hoax” Ghostwatch – which jammed the switchboard at the BBC and caused questions to be raised in Parliament – continuing with his experience as creator and lead writer of the 2005-6 peak-time drama series Afterlife, about a troubled medium (Lesley Sharp) and an even more troubled psychologist (Andrew Lincoln), which ran for two award-winning seasons on ITV.

He will also describe how his 1920s-set screenplay for The Awakening (2011), starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West was influenced directly by the history of psychical research.

His latest TV show also straddles the areas of fear, psychology and belief: a three-part adaptation of Phil Rickman’s novel Midwinter of the Spirit, premiering on ITV in Autumn 2015, and starring two-time BAFTA-winner Anna Maxwell Martin as C of E “Deliverance Minister” (exorcist to you and me) Merrily Watkins.

Stephen Volk’s many screenplays include The Guardian, co-written with the director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin, and Ken Russell’s Gothic starring Natasha Richardson and Gabriel Byrne. His ghostly stage play The Chapel of Unrest was presented in 2013 at London’s Bush Theatre starring Jim Broadbent and Reece Shearsmith, and his play about the Fox sisters, Answering Spirits, appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.

His short stories have been chosen for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Best British Mysteries, and Best British Horror, he has been a Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and his second collection, Monsters in the Heart, won the British Fantasy Award in 2014. His highly-acclaimed novella Whitstable, featuring revered Hammer horror star Peter Cushing, has just been accompanied by a follow-up, Leytonstone, about the boyhood of Alfred Hitchcock.

www.stephenvolk.net

Dr Ashok Jansari

When?
Wednesday, October 5 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Ashok Jansari

What's the talk about?

The last few decades have seen a massive mushrooming of research into the workings of the most complex system known to mankind, the human brain. Part of this wonderful expansion in knowledge has been the development of ever-more sophisticated techniques for looking at the brain both physically and functionally in vivo rather than needing to wait for a post-mortem autopsy. There is a veritable alphabet-soup of methods available: CT, MRI, EEG, fMRI, ERP, MEG, tDCS to name a few. These techniques have given us fantastic insights into brain functions both in healthy individuals and also in those with neural abnormalities; some of this work has also been enormously beneficial for helping to identify or develop new treatments. However, parallel to this wonderful contribution has been an abuse of this information. Some of this has been by the researchers conducting the studies – there is a sense of ‘believing the hype’ a bit too much. In addition to this, the ‘neuro-revolution’ has been firmly embraced by those who want to legitimise their work – neuro-psychic, neuro-coaching, etc.. It has reached the point where it has even been used by some to drive public policy by using brain scans purporting to show the impact of social deprivation on a child’s brain. In this talk, I will try to navigate you through some of the wonders of the brain but also try to show you that some of what you may hear is better classified as ‘neuro-bollocks’......

My expertise is in mental brain functions that we use on an everyday basis such as memory and face-recognition. I conduct research on healthy individuals, those with brain damage and children who are either typical or have developmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I am one of the UK's experts on face-recognition including face-blindness (also known as 'prosopagnosia') and exceptional face memory (known as 'super-recognition'). Some of the latter work is being done in conjunction with London's Metropolitan Police who are the first police force in the world to strategically use serving officers with exceptional face-memory to apprehend criminal suspects. I have also developed an expertise in being able to 'translate' general issues in psychology and science to the lay-person to make them more accessible.

I have been working in the field for 23 years. I have a degree from arguably the best university in the world (Cambridge), a doctorate from one of the best psychology research departments in the country (Sussex) and worked with two of the most noted neuroscientists in the world (Professors Antonio Damasio and Ralph Adolphs). I have won an award from the International Neuropsychological Society for my research in memory disorders and been awarded a Media Fellowship by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for my skills in communicating science to the general public. In 2011 I was awarded a three-month Wellcome funded Live Science residency at London's Science Museum to conduct one of the largest prevalence studies of super-recognition in the world. I have contributed widely to public engagement with science through TV (both national TV such as the BBC and Channel 4 as well as internationally), radio and print media as well as annual public lectures as part of International Brain Awareness Week. In addition I have lectured extensively throughout Europe, North America, South America, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. For this work, I have been nominated for a British Academy Charles Darwin Award for communicating science to non-specialist audiences. In 2014, I won Best Research Supervisor prize at my university for my ability to teach and inspire students to high levels of research. I teach cognitive psychology and cognitive neuropsychology which are my two specialist areas.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Vice-Chair of the Neuropsychology International Fellowship. My expertise means that I currently collaborate with scientists in 14 other countries spanning 4 continents.

Away from my research, I love travelling (52 countries visited and counting), speak my mother tongue (Gujarati) as well as Italian (I’ve visited Venice over 45 times!) and have an identical twin – I show three-dimensional scans of our brains in lectures to amuse students and then to demonstrate certain issues to do with the brain. I actually have a bit of a ‘wonky’ brain that I love telling students about.....

Webclips of Dr Jansari speaking about his field:

Speaking about the general field of cognitive neuropsychology:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNEeISkv3zQ

Speaking on BBC1’s The One Show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5Hooty5YMo

Speaking about his ‘super-recognizer’ study at London’s Science Museum:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjeKa9BjT7I

Speaking about face-recognition for Universities Week:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh2t5bWd-Z8

Michael Marshall

When?
Wednesday, November 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

Homeopathy is one of the most widely debunked forms of alternative medicine – yet homeopathic remedies adorn the shelves of respected pharmacies and are funded by taxpayers on the NHS. How big a problem is this? Using information and personal experiences gathered during his last 6 years of campaigning against homeopathy, Michael Marshall will highlight how much money is spent on homeopathic remedies, how this gives undeserved credibility to homeopathy, how such remedies can lead to genuine harm and what you can do to help.

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 and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.