16th November 2016: Homeopathy and Bristol

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The last 18 months has seen the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital close its doors, and consultations in Liverpool and the Wirral result in the end of funding for Homeopathic services in those regions. Now, Bristol is one of the last two places in England to offer Homeopathy on the NHS, and it’s time for things to change.

We’ll be looking at how homeopathy is funded through the NHS, how Clinical Commissioning Groups operate, and how, working with the Good Thinking Society, we can put pressure on the CCGs providing it. These NHS bodies in-and-around Bristol that fund homeopathy have previously promised a review, and it’s long overdue. We’ll also be writing letters to local CCGs so if your CCG is either Bristol, Somerset, North Somerset, or South Gloucester, be sure to come down to see what part you can play in ending homeopathy on the NHS. (If you’re not sure which CCG you are in, we’ll be covering all this on the night).

We’ll be starting at 8:30 but unlike our talks, you can come down any time to take part.

Venue: Smoke and Mirrors

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23rd November 2016: Kat Arney – Herding Hemingway’s Cats: How Do Our Genes Work?

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The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, our 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.

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 Kat Arney is a science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more. She has just published her first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats (Bloomsbury Sigma), about how our genes work.

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26th October 2016: Paul Valdes – Climate Change: The Science, the Skeptics, and the Alarmists

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Climate change is one of the most publicly debated and important scientific challenges facing society. Almost everybody has a view on the problem, and with a huge range of opinions from complete denial to doom and gloom merchants. The talk will discuss the science of climate change and highlight what we know and what we still don’t know. It will also offer a few more personal reflections on the challenges of trying to be a scientist working on such a politically important and public topic.

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

Prof. Paul Valdes has spent 25 years studying past, present and future climates. His work focuses on developing the large computer models used to predict future change, and then testing them against past changes, from hundreds to millions of years ago. In 2007, he was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Prize for his work on climate change, and in 2015 he was awarded the Milutin Milankovic Medal by European Geosciences Union.

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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


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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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