24th May 2017: Philip Moriarty – The Wow and Woo of Quantum Physics

This is the previously postponed talk from Oct 2017

There is no doubt that quantum physics embodies mind-blowing concepts that force us to question the very nature of reality.  And if there’s a contender for our current best “theory of everything” then quantum mechanics wins hands down.

But, far too often, the word “quantum” signals the worst type of vacuous pseudoscientific gobbledegook. It’s exploited by those who are entirely clueless about the underlying physics — or, worse, should know better — to evoke a misplaced mysticism about the ‘holistic’ nature of the universe. Moreover, when consciousness and quantum collide, the nonsense factor goes through the roof…

Philip Moriarty will aim to tease out the science from the mysticism and show that while quantum physics certainly has its weird and wacky aspects, it’s at heart a theory of waves. That means we can very often easily interpret what’s happening at the quantum level in terms of the everyday world around us – he’ll take a look at what coffee cups, drums, and a SlinkyTM can tell us about the broader nature of the universe (and Deepak Chopra’s place in it).

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

Philip Moriarty is a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham.

26th April 2017: Lydia Finch – Cults and Skepticism: How One Ex Jehovah’s Witness Fell Into the ‘Trap of Independent Thinking’

Lydia Finch was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), but left the organisation at age 18 over twenty years ago.  Recently, she has directed her attention to the harmful practices of JWs and other cults, such as shunning, child abuse, and the forbidding of blood transfusions.

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

Historically the purview of atheist, secular, and humanist organisations, Ms. Finch wants to expose the workings of these cults to the scientific and skeptical communities and show why although, Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered a small fringe religion, their policies should concern the wider community.

22nd February 2017: Henry Drysdale – COMPare: What Happened When We Tried to Correct the Record on 58 Misreported Trials

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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.

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

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.

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25th January 2017: Jeff Bowers – The Practical and Principled Problems with Educational Neuroscience

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The core claim of educational neuroscience is that neuroscience can improve teaching in the classroom. Many strong claims are made about the successes and the promise of this new discipline. By contrast, Jeff Bowers shows that there are no current examples of neuroscience motivating new and effective teaching methods, and argues that neuroscience is unlikely to improve teaching in the future.

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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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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