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The Psychology of Magic

Oliver MEech

When?
Wednesday, October 7 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Oliver MEech

What's the talk about?

The real secret to magic tricks is that they're not about fooling the eyes, but bamboozling the brain. Every trick is a real-world psychology experiment. Discover how magicians can offer eye-opening insights into the way we think and act Oliver Meech is a magician. He studied Psychology at Oxford University, Magic at The Magic Circle, and combines the two in critically-acclaimed shows, talks and books.

Evolution and Aliens...

Stevyn Colgan

When?
Wednesday, August 5 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Stevyn Colgan

What's the talk about?

Given the bewildering variety of life on Earth – all stemming from one self-replicating molecule – can we really predict what life on other worlds is like? Maybe not. But we can imagine what it isn’t like.

Stevyn Colgan has been involved with aliens for three decades. He’s held Jabba the Hutt’s face, helped sculpt creatures for Bruce Willis to shoot at and had a script accepted for Doctor Who in the 1980s. In this entertaining talk you’ll hear about feuding gangs of scientists, film directors with less imagination than children, and the perils of concrete poo.

You’ll also come to realise that if we really are intelligently designed, the designer needs their head examined.

Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, songwriter, speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He is one of the ‘Elves’ that research and writethe popular BBC TV series QI and co-writes its sister show, The Museum of Curiosity, for BBC Radio 4.

He has given hundreds of talks across the UK and USA and is a regular at festivals and events such as Skeptics in the Pub, QEDCon, Cornbury, Hay, Cheltenham, Latitude and the Edinburgh Fringe. He is a contributor to the bestselling QI books and annuals and is the author of Joined-Up Thinking, Constable Colgan’s Connectoscope, Henhwedhlow: The Clotted Cream of Cornish Folk Tales, The Third Condiment, Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road? and co-wrote Saving Bletchley Park with Dr Sue Black.

Dr Martin Poulter

When?
Wednesday, July 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Dr Martin Poulter

What's the talk about?

Scientology has been described in the States as “ruthless, litigious and lucrative” and in this country as “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”, yet it boasts global success and has made hundreds of millions of dollars. Thanks to the Internet, it now faces an unprecedented global opposition. The scary secrets of Scientology and its recruitment methods will be exposed in this talk. It will be useful for anyone wanting to set up their own lucrative cult.


Martin Poulter first encountered skepticism while a teenager. He has a Philosophy and Psychology degree from Oxford University and a PhD in Philosophy of Science from the University of Bristol. He has been a Scientology-watcher since 1995, when he was threatened with legal action over material he posted online. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the SubGenius, which offers eternal spiritual salvation or triple your money back.

From the first galaxies to the origins of life

Dr Sarah Kendrew

When?
Wednesday, June 3 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Dr Sarah Kendrew

What's the talk about?

The James Webb Space Telescope, a collaboration between space agencies in the US, Europe and Canada, will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as the foremost space telescope in 2018. Its unprecedented size, sensitivity and suite of instruments will revolutionise our view on the Universe, from showing us how the very first galaxies formed to revealing the atmospheres of planets outside our own solar system, where life may be forming. Sarah Kendrew will give an overview of the mission and the exciting science it will do after launch. She'll talk about where the mission is right now, from her personal involvement in one of JWST's 4 instruments, MIRI.

Sarah Kendrew is an astronomer at the University of Oxford. She works on optical and infrared instrumentation for the observatories of the future, and researches how stars form in the Milky Way Galaxy. Website: http://skendrew.github.io/ Twitter: @sarahkendrew

When?
Wednesday, May 6 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Professor Chris Rhodes

What's the talk about?

Across the world, 30 billion barrels of crude oil are produced each year, not only for fuel but to make products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals. Nearly all our food also depends on oil.

 

However, world oil production is set to decline within 5 years. If we continue as we are, Western civilisation will collapse. Our salvation requires a re-adaptation of how we live, from the global to the local; to a world of small communities far less dependent on transportation. Technology will not save us, unless we cut our energy use and particularly our demand for oil. Fracking is being hailed as the solution. Is this the case?

 

Professor Chris Rhodes is Director of Fresh-lands Environmental Actions and is based in Reading. He has written numerous scientific articles and recently published his first novel, University Shambles, a black comedy on the disintegration of the British university system.

 

Professor Rhodes will have copies of his book available to purchase.

Useful Tool or Robot Overlords?

When?
Wednesday, April 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Dr Allan Tucker

What's the talk about?

Artificial Intelligence has been a staple of popular culture for generations from promises of a Leisure Age when robots would do all of our work while we lived in luxury to scare stories where robots turn against their masters.


Dr Tucker looks at some of the key figures in AI in the last century through to the state-of-the-art learning machines that are all around us today and asks whether we will ever really have intelligent machines that are comparable to humans.

Dr Allan Tucker is senior lecturer in computer science at Brunel University. His research focuses on designing algorithms that can learn models from data to predict the future and assist experts in making decisions. His biomedical work includes long term projects with Moorfields Eye Hospital exploring models of eye disease and he collaborates with Leiden University Medical Centre on models of gene regulation.

50 Shades of Doubt

When?
Wednesday, March 4 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Me!

What's the talk about?

Very little of note. Oooh there was an AGM, sort of, as well. Self deprecation is my favourite form of humour. I just wish I was good at it.

When?
Wednesday, February 4 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Professor Essi Viding

What's the talk about?

Professor Viding studies the heritable, environmental, and developmental aspects of persistent antisocial behaviour. She will talk about how various different factors interact to produce antisocial personality traits, and how despite superficial similarities in antisocial behaviour, antisocial personality traits may correlate with different developmental risk factors, genotypes, and health problems.

 

Professor Viding is a Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit and Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University College London.

 

The evolution of sex determination and sex differences in animals

Professor Judith Mank

When?
Wednesday, December 3 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Professor Judith Mank

What's the talk about?

Professor Mank talks about the evolution of sex differences in animals. She wants to understand the diversity of sex determination - from the familiar X and Y chromosomes in humans, to temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles, the development of males from unfertilized eggs in bees, and sequential hermaphroditic fish that switch from one sex to the other during their lives and explain how it evolves so rapidly in animals. She also studies how the evolution of separate sexes leads to inevitable conflicts between them, some of which can be resolved and some of which we just have to live with.

Judith Mank is Professor of Evolutionary and Comparative Biology at University College London, where she and her research group study the genetics of sex and sexual conflict in a lot of different animals, from birds and fish to flies.

Professor Chris French

When?
Wednesday, November 12 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Professor Chris French

What's the talk about?

(NOTE: THIS IS ONE WEEK LATER THAN OUR USUAL EVENTS)
 

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as “paranormal”. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. This presentation will provide an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors. This approach will be illustrated with examples relating to a range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.
 

Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 120 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep, co-edited with Wendy Grossman, Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke, and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience co-authored with Anna Stone. Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench

Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science

Andy Lewis

When?
Wednesday, October 1 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Andy Lewis

What's the talk about?

With Michael Gove and the coalition approving new Steiner Schools to open under the Free School Programme, it is timely to look closely at the origins and beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the occult movement of Anthroposophy. Steiner was a mystic who believed he had direct clairvoyant access to cosmic knowledge. As such he developed an esoteric belief system based on karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes. His visions gave insights into architecture, art, dance, agriculture, medicine, education, science and diet. His racial hierarchy of spiritual developmental resonated in Germany in the early 20th Century turning a personal belief into a worldwide movement. Today we find hundreds of anthroposphically inspired organisations in the UK alone: everything from Steiner Schools, Biodynamic farms to banks, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, charities and cheese makers.

Andy Lewis has been trying to lift the veil on the inner secrets of the movement and will discuss how this secretive movement has direct impact on public life.

Follow him on Twitter @lecanardnoir or read his excellent blog www.quackometer.net.

When?
Wednesday, September 3 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

16 King Street
Maidenhead
Berkshire
SL6 1EF

Who?
Jonny Scaramanga

What's the talk about?