Wednesday, 28 October 2020: Andy Parker – Should we block the sun to cool the Earth?

Two hundred years ago, a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia rocked the globe. Mount Tambora shot a vast cloud of sulfur-dioxide more than 20 miles high into the stratosphere. The cloud spread globally, reflecting sunlight and cooling the earth by three degrees. 1816 is marked in the climate annals as The Year Without a Summer.

Observing this natural cooling effect, scientists started wondering: could we deliberately mimic volcanoes and spray reflective aerosols into the stratosphere to cool the planet?  This science is known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM).

SRM sounds crazy and in time it might prove to be crazy, but it might also prove to be helpful at reducing some of the risks of climate change to which Earth is already committed. Andy Parker will make the case that SRM needs to be taken more seriously and more funds must be invested in researching this potentially planet-saving technology.

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Andy Parker is an honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. He has worked on solar radiation management geoengineering (SRM) for over a decade: first as a Senior Policy Adviser at the Royal Society then as a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the IASS Potsdam.

Since January 2018 Andy’s main focus has been directing the SRM Governance Initiative (SRMGI), an international project that seeks to build the capacity of climate-vulnerable countries of the Global South to evaluate the potential risks and benefits of SRM. He has been the main architect for the project since it was launched in 2010.

Andy has published opinion pieces in Nature, Nature Geoscience and the Washington Post, led the production of the Royal Society’s “Geoengineering the Climate” report, and was a member of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s expert working group on geoengineering. 

Andy is not a proponent of deploying SRM but is a strong supporter of research in order to make an informed decision or whether to implement or reject it. Andy says “It’s source of some pride that my work has been described as pathetic, hysterical, idiotic, and EVIL EVIL EVIL by the readers of the Daily Mail.”

23rd September 2020 – Robert Massey: The Moon

Humans have been fascinated with our nearest heavenly body, the Earth’s Moon, since prehistoric times. 2019 marked 50 years since we set foot on the Moon during the Apollo space missions. 

Join astronomer Dr Robert Massey for an illustrated talk about how our obsession with the Moon has manifested itself in the sciences and visual arts, from earliest ritualistic drawings and objects, Romantic symbolism and silent movies, to scientific observation, photography, and space race propaganda.

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Venue: Smoke & Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Dr Robert Massey is Deputy Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society, where he spends his days making the case for astronomy to the wider world. Before joining the RAS, his career took him from PhD research in Manchester on the Orion nebula to teaching, local politics, and then a stint as Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. With the art historian Dr Alexandra Loske, he published Moon: Art, Science, Culture to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

26th August 2020 – Stephan Lewandowsky

[Talk details to follow]

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Venue: Smoke & Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Admission is free but we ask for donations to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs. If you can afford it, a contribution of £3-5 would be greatly appreciated.  

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Stephan Lewandowsky chair of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology. His research focuses on the public’s understanding of science and why people often embrace beliefs at odds with scientific evidence.

With John Cook, he wrote “The Debunking Handbook”, a review of research on debunking falsehoods and a guide to better practices for doing so. Much of “The Debunking Handbook” focuses on “backfire effects”, whereby telling people that they are wrong often reinforces their prior beliefs, rather than weakening them.

Professor Lewandowsky has also extensively surveyed the public opinion on climate change, which beliefs correlate with climate change denial and which groups are most likely to change their views when presented with evidence. His findings have contributed to what is now known as the Gateway Belief Model.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Washington College and an MA and PhD from the University of Toronto, and is the recipient of the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. 

In 2015, Professor Lewandowsky was elected a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), an organization which arguably started the modern skeptical movement with its foundation in 1976. 

22nd July 2020 – Matt Tompkins: The spectacle of illusion

Is seeing believing? Is believing seeing? How can we hope to conduct experiments on things that only exist within our minds, and, on a related note, can scientists ever be trusted to study deception without being deceived themselves? What can scientists learn about the mind from the illusions developed and practiced by professional magicians? Join magician and experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins, author of The Spectacle of Illusion, for a fascinating talk exploring the psychology of magic.

Everyone’s heard, and most of us have told, a story about an uncanny or supernatural seeming experience. Accounts of wondrous and impossible phenomena can be found around the world throughout recorded history. These extraordinary events often seem to be facilitated by extra-ordinary individuals: sorcerers, spiritual mediums, psychic sensitives. Such phenomena have even been reported under ‘test conditions’, witnessed by scientists—men professionally trained in the practice of empirical observation. To date, such events have not led conventional scientists to embrace the reality of supernatural phenomena- but they have arguably led to scientific breakthroughs how we understand the psychology of illusion.

This talk will feature a mixture of storytelling and magical scientific demonstrations to explore how scientists, past and present, have approached the study of illusion. Matt will discuss how magic played a weird but fundamental role in the in the establishment of psychology as a scientific discipline, and how he and other contemporary researchers have been using magic tricks to create new experiments in order to investigate human memory, perception, and reasoning.

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Matt Tompkins American magician-turned-psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins completed his DPhil in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. Previously, he had obtained a BA in Psychology at the State University of New York at Geneseo and an MSc in Psychological Research from Oxford. He is currently a Visiting Academic at The Queen’s College, Oxford and also works as a freelance writer.

His research, which has been featured across various international media outlets, including the Washington Post and BBC Future, focuses on the cognitive psychology of illusions. Matt was working as professional magician before he began his academic career, and his experiences performing continue to influence his work. He is the first member of The Magic Circle to have been admitted on the basis of a peer-reviewed scientific publication. His new book, The Spectacle of Illusion, explores the historical and contemporary relationships between scientists, magicians, and fraudulent mystics.

24 June 2020 – Steve Wright: Greta may yet fly again! Flying taxis and electric planes

The science fiction of the 1950s imagined that by now middle-class families would be commuting to work in flying cars. That hasn’t happened, but within five years consumers may find themselves making journeys in something close: the flying taxi. Such “electric vertical take-off and landing” (eVTOL) systems will fly a small number of passengers up to 20 miles quickly, cheaply and without burning carbon. Dr Steve Wright will discuss the engineering and regulatory challenges for these vehicles and how soon we might see them in Bristol.

Dr Wright will also look further ahead to 2040 and 2050, when the aviation industry might finally crack the carbon challenge and produce electric planes. Greta Thunburg may yet fly again! But will batteries become light and powerful enough to make such dreams realistic? And will electric planes be safe?

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Venue: Smoke & Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Dr Steve Wright is a Senior Research Fellow and lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of the West of England. He has spent 25 years as a software, electronics and systems engineer at Rolls-Royce, ST Microelectronics, and Airbus. He has contributed to the development of the Airbus A320, A330, A340, A380, A400M, A350, and Boeing 747, 757, 767, and 777. 

Dr Wright’s research is focused on Avionics and Aircraft Systems, particularly in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). He founded the Unmanned Flight Laboratory (UFL) at the UWE, developing UAV technologies for a variety of industrial customers.

27th May 2020 – Eugene Byrne: Bristol Bullsh!t

What happened when a medieval merchant’s wife got hold of the elixir of life? (Hint: It didn’t end well.) Which rock ‘n’ roll star fathered a love child at the Hippodrome? Where did our own local Spring-Heeled Jack attack? Was there really a serial killer at work in the docks and which Bristol office block was HQ for the assassination of Princess Di? 

For more than 30 years local historian, author and journalist Eugene Byrne has been filing away historical yarns, plus the tall tales he’s heard in the pub or newsroom. Learn all about them at Skeptics in the Pub!

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Eugene Byrne is a Bristol-based author, historian and journalist who has written science fiction novels and short stories as well as several books on Bristol’s history, including The Bristol Story (with artist Simon Gurr) and a brief history of council housing in Bristol (with artist Anthony Forbes) for Homes For Heroes 100 celebrations in 2019. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at UWE and is editor of the Bristol Post’s weekly Bristol Times local history pull-out. 

22 April 2020 – Alice Sheppard: Astronomical misconceptions

Alice Sheppard has acted as ambassador for astronomy for over a decade. During that time, she has encountered all sorts of misunderstandings. These include the ideas that astronomy can predict the future, that it’s a waste of money, that it matters what we call Pluto, and that stargazing is a subject best left to men! In this whiplash tour, Alice will explore some of the most common misconceptions and set the record straight.

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and marketing costs such as social media fees and flyers. If you cannot afford to make a donation please do not. If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors, 8 Denmark Street

Two for one pizzas available from the bar! 10% off all drinks!

Alice Sheppard studied Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia before rediscovering astronomy through Galaxy Zoo, whose first discussion forum she led for five years. She began writing articles and giving public talks on how ordinary citizens, when equipped with the right tools, can teach each other astronomy and make their own discoveries. During this period Alice also co-founded Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub!

She gained a postgraduate diploma in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Queen Mary University of London in 2014, and is now Community Manager at University College London Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS). ExciteS investigates and supports public involvement in science. She is also the Citizen Science Officer at the Society for Popular Astronomy.

Although employed by a university, Alice does not consider herself an academic but rather an example of what members of the public can achieve scientifically outside the academic environment.