28th September 2016: Erik Stengler – The Time Travel Paradox in Movies

 

Time travel fascinates scientists and filmmakers alike. As with many other fields of science, fiction takes intriguing ideas and explores them in the realm of “what if?” Whilst Physics has yet to take the leap from theory to experimental evidence, movies have already told us (almost) all that could happen if time-travel were possible.

But time-travel itself goes beyond the boundaries of Physics, and the main issue in this context could be regarded as meta-physical. The time travel paradox (the twin-paradox being its most well-known incarnation) would still hold if Physics were to “allow” time-travel. Filmmakers have either used this paradox as a plot element or tried to cleverly hide it in the story in order to explore other “what ifs”.

So let us for an evening explore an intriguing “what if” of our own: what if the solution to the paradox was found not by a Physicist or a Philosopher, but by a filmmaker? Is it plausible that in their effort to circumvent the paradox, a filmmaker may have actually solved it, perhaps inadvertently?

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors

Erik Stengler is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication. His special interests in this area include Science Museums and Planetariums, Science in Film and, more broadly, how to succeed in communicating science to those not particularly interested in it.

He has extensive experience in Communicating Science informally in Science Centres, through Outreach Projects and in the Media. He has been project manager of various initiatives that range from a Science Van to Courses on Science in the Movies, including a TV children’s show; theatre plays; science programmes for senior citizens, in prisons or in leisure environments; and educational partnerships with Science Historians. He also runs the website www.time-travel.org

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24th August 2016: Dean Burnett – The Idiot Brain

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The hugely popular Guardian Brain Flapping science blogger, Dean Burnett, comes to Bristol to talk about his book: The Idiot Brain. It is a surprising, funny and mind-bending examination of how and why the brain sabotages our behaviour. From attention mechanisms to memory processing, the neuroscience of sleep and the psychology of superstition, The Idiot Brain highlights all manner of ways in which the brain is flawed or shoddy, how these impact on our lives in countless ways, and how it’s OK to laugh at all this regardless.

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors


idiotbrain

 

Dr Dean Burnett has spent nearly two decades studying the human brain, the most complex, mysterious object in the known universe. In the same way that flaws begin to show when you spend too much time with one person, over time Burnett has come to learn that the human brain can be quite unreliable. The Idiot Brain explores the many ways in which the brain does things inefficiently, illogically or just plain stupidly, and how these regularly end up influencing our everyday lives and the world around us.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase on the night.

 

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27th July 2016: Leah Fitzsimmons – Ask for Evidence with Sense about Science

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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 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.

Sense About Science’s 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 what the campaign is going to do next and how you can get involved.

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors


Leah is a virologist at Birmingham University, trying to work out how virus infected cells cheat death and how blocking these interactions might be used to kill cancer cells. As one of Sense About Science’s Ask for Evidence Ambassadors, she is passionate that science should be for everyone and that Ask for Evidence can help make this happen.

 

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22nd June 2016: Karen Douglas – Secrets and Lies: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

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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, Karen will broadly overview what psychologists have found out so far, and will discuss some of her own findings on the causes and consequences of believing in conspiracy theories.

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors


Karen Douglas is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent.  She studies the psychology of conspiracy theories and the social consequences of conspiracism.

 

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25th May 2016: Dr Kimberley Wade – Can Digital Forgeries Change our Memory?

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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.

Kim 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. She 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?

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors


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.

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27th April 2016: Andrew Endersby – Remote Viewing: 10 Ways to Get the Same Experiment Wrong

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For almost 25 years, the US government sponsored research into the potential use of psychic powers in the military. The practice of remote viewing involved the ability to see locations many miles away simply by closing their eyes and reporting any images that come to mind.

In the decades since the US government closed the project, a number of claims of successes have been made by those involved in the project. This talks examines a selection of the most famous claims and uses the original declassified documentation to see how well they stand up to scrutiny: What mistakes were made in the original work and how have the stories changed over time.

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors

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23rd March 2016: Tim Miles – Beyond a Joke?: Why a Sense of Humour Matters

timmiles

The children’s author EB White once quipped: ‘Analysing humour is like dissecting a live frog. No one is interested and the frog dies.’  However, ‘humour studies’ has expanded enormously in universities, in the UK and overseas, in recent years. Why are some neuroscientists spending their time tickling rats? How is laughter being used to combat post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric conditions. Are women as funny as men, and why do some people think otherwise? What do the differences between British and American humour (or humor) say about the difference between the two nations? The answers to these, and other questions, will be explored in a talk that should be both amusing and informative.

DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).
Venue: Smoke and Mirrors


Tim Miles is Reviews Editor of Comedy Studies, and holds a PhD in comedy (yes, honestly). His book on stand-up comedy is due to be published by Routledge in 2016.

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