25th March 2020 – Sian Williams: The age of antibiotic resistance

Cornerstones of modern medicine are at risk due to drug-resistant infections, with routine surgery, common illnesses and minor injuries becoming potentially life-threatening. People are already dying from drug-resistant infections, and as more drugs stop working, more lives will be put in danger. Everyone is at risk. Sian Williams will discuss the causes behind this major public health issue and how organizations such as the Wellcome Trust are helping to address the challenge. 

Sian will also explore why we’re not seeing new antibiotics entering the market, the ethical dilemmas involved in the decision to prescribe new drugs, and how we could help GPs stop over-prescription of antibiotics. 

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!

Sian Williams is a Policy Officer with the Wellcome Trust’s Drug-Resistant Infections priority programme, a team with a £175m commitment to address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. The programme works with scientists and policy makers to advocate for and support evidence-based decision making globally.  She earned a 1st class honours degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

26th August 2020 – Stephan Lewandowsky: Fighting fake news with cognitive science

How do we stop the spread of misinformation?

The psychologist’s traditional answer is to target individual cognitive failures such as poor reasoning. Stephan Lewandowsky argues this is no longer enough. The problem must be viewed in the wider context of inequality, polarization, fragmented media and distrust in science. 

Stephan advocates for IT architectures designed with cognitive principles in mind. Such “technocognition” systems will encourage the sharing of truth and discourage the spreading of lies. 

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and social media fees. If you cannot afford to donate, 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!

If you would like to see some magic before the talk, close-up magicians will be performing tableside in the bar from 6:30pm.

Speaker biography

Stephan Lewandowsky is 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.

He was Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition from 2006-2008 and was an Australian Professorial Fellow from 2007 to 2012. Stephan was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council in 2011.

Until early this year he was digital content editor for the Psychonomic Society, a global organization for researchers in Experimental Psychology founded in 1959.

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. 

8th September 2020 Making a Psychopath


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NOTE THIS EVENT IS NOT ON OUR USUAL WEDNESDAY AND NOT AT OUR USUAL VENUE.

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Find out what truly makes a psychopath, from the leading expert who helped to create Killing Eve’s Villanelle

Dr Mark Freestone has worked on some of the most interesting, infamous and disturbing psychopath cases of recent times and is now sharing his phenomenal insight.

Case by fascinating case, get to know seven of the most dangerous minds that Dr Freestone has encountered over the last 15 years; these are up close accounts of some of Britain’s most psychopathic criminals, and what can happen if you fall victim to their supreme powers of manipulation.

Dr Freestone will explore the many factors that make a psychopath, the complexities and contradictions of their emotions and behaviour, and the lives they live in and out of institutions. This discussion will open a window into the world of those who operate in a void of human emotion … and what can be done to control them.

Dr Freestone will be doing a book signing after the talk. Copies of “Making a Psychopath” will be on sale at the venue. 

Timing and event details 

DOORS: 19:00

START: 19:30

Admission is FREE but during the interval we asks for donations. This is to cover speaker expenses and social media fees. If you cannot afford to donate, please do not! If you can, £3-£5 would be greatly appreciated.

Venue: The Square Club, Berkeley Square Hotel, 15 Berkeley Square

Speaker biography

Mark Freestone PhD is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London. 

He has worked in prisons and forensic mental health services for over 15 years as a researcher and clinician, including in the High Secure Category A prison estate, which houses some of the UK’s most notorious and high-risk criminals. 

He has also worked at Rampton and Broadmoor Special Hospitals – institutions which have housed the likes of the Yorkshire ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Moors Murderer Ian Brady, Levi Bellfield and Charles Bronson – as part of the Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD) Programme. 

He is a consultant to BBC America’s Killing Eve, an editor of the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology and currently an advisor to NHS England on services for men and women with a diagnosis of severe personality disorder.