13th December – Prof Leslie Carr – All A.I. Want for Christmas Is You

For our Christmas special, we are delighted to bring back the supremely entertaining Prof Les Carr who gave one of our most popular talks back in July.

We look forward to welcoming him back on Wednesday 13th December!

All A.I. Want for Christmas Is You

Christmas – the stable, the baby, the three wise men – might be called the greatest story ever told, but even God only gave it one star.

Professor Les Carr aims to do better by bringing a seasonal message of good cheer in the latest from science, technology and AI, featuring Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk and ChatGPT as the three ‘wise’ men bringing us unexpected and wildly inappropriate gifts.

Prepare to be entertained!

Brief Bio

Professor Leslie Carr is the Head of the Web and Internet Science research group and a Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton. He started stand-up comedy in 2017 and is a confessional storytelling comedian with a warm and engaging stage presence, performing standup regularly in London and at comedy venues around the South Coast. In 2022 he wrote and performed a show with his daughter, about their family colliding with technology and asking the question “is it easier to teach computers or teenagers to act like humans?”

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

22nd November – Dr Ana Aznar – Smacking children: What does research really say?

Whether or not to smack children still remains a highly controversial topic in some communities. Even though in many countries smacking your child is now illegal, some people still consider that it is the parents’ right to do so.

In this talk, we will examine what the research really says so that parents can understand the consequences of different methods of child-rearing.

Bio

Ana is a developmental psychologist with a special interest in family relations and children’s socio-emotional development. Born and raised in Spain, she moved to London where she completed a BSc in Psychology (The Open University), an MSc in Applied Child Psychology, and a PhD in Developmental Psychology (Kingston University).

Since then, realizing her passion for academia, Ana has worked as an academic at the University of Surrey and Winchester University. She recently moved to Rome where she continues to collaborate with different universities and where she has recently launched REC Parenting, an online platform for parents.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

25th October – Fully Charged with Robert Llewellyn and Dan Caesar

Myths & Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport

We’re excited to announce that for this month’s talk, on Wednesday 25th October, we’ll be hosting the writer, broadcaster and actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten in Red Dwarf, gameshow presenter of Scrapheap Challenge) for an in-depth exploration of ‘Myths & Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport’.

Ten years ago, Robert Llewellyn visited Winchester Skeptics to talk about electric cars. His infectious enthusiasm so transfixed the audience that many cite his talk as the reason they became electric vehicle (EV) owners!

Since then, consumer production models of EVs have become more readily available.

In spite of data which shows EVs are more efficient than fossil fuel vehicles, with reduced CO2, emissions and particulates, in a recent policy U-turn, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kicked back the date for full transition to EVs to 2035, eliciting heavy criticism from the world’s major car manufacturers, who had already invested billions to meet the original deadline.

There’s also been a significant uptick in anti-EV media headlines. Pervasive stories about EVs have returned. Aren’t they too expensive? Too heavy? With dangerously flawed batteries? Can our energy infrastructure even cope with the demand? Are they really ‘greener’ anyway?

With 2023 global fossil fuel subsidies at a mind-blowing $7 trillion (IMF data) it’s no surprise there’s been pushback.

In this talk, Robert Llewellyn and Dan Caesar aim to get us up to speed on progress during the last 10 years of electric vehicle production. They’ll aim to demonstrate how the barriers to electric transport are primarily psychological, not engineering.

Bio

Robert Llewellyn is a British actor, presenter and writer, famous for his thirty-year stretch as the rubber-masked mechanoid Kryten in the much-loved science fiction comedy, ‘Red Dwarf’. With his interest in engineering, Robert then turned his hand to presenting the long-running TV gameshow, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ and also ‘How Do They Do It?’ and ‘Carpool’.

In 2010, after being blown away by early Electric Cars, Robert launched Fully Charged, a YouTube channel focussing on the future of electric vehicles, of all shapes and sizes, and clean energy. Fully Charged has exceeded 55 million views around the world and Robert was recently acknowledged as ‘Tech Legend’ at the T3 Awards.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

27th September – Prof Chris French – The Psychology of Ghosts and Hauntings

Do ghosts exist? If not, how are we to explain why so many people believe in ghosts with many of them claiming to have personally had a ghostly encounter?

This talk attempts to answer these questions by considering a number of psychological factors that may lead someone to reach for a supernatural explanation when in fact a natural explanation would suffice.

Brief Bio

Chris French is Emeritus Professor and 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 and a Patron of UK Humanists.

He has published well over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current 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. His most recent book is “Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience” and his next book, to be published in 2024 by MIT Press, will be “The Science of Weird Shit: Why Our Minds Conjure the Paranormal.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

23rd August – Murray Purves – Predicting the Unpredictable

Modelling the Risks from the FSO Safer Oil Tanker

The FSO SAFER is an oil supertanker moored off the coast of Yemen. Holding over a million barrels of oil – over four times that spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster – it has been left abandoned and neglected since the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war in 2015. This has led to widespread international concern around the possibility of a spill or other release from the vessel, and the human, environmental and commercial impact this could have on the fragile ecosystems and society in which it is located.

With a UN-led operation to transfer oil from the decaying facility now underway, Murray will revisit work carried out between 2019 and 2021 by Riskaware, ACAPS and the Satellite Applications Catapult to support the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
in understanding the potential consequences of a fire or explosion on board the vessel. This work involved distilling thousands of atmospheric and oil spill dispersion model runs into a handful of easily understood visualisations and impact assessments.

Murray will talk about the technical challenges and considerations when carrying out analyses of highly uncertain scenarios, as well as how to effectively communicate technically complex information to a non-technical audience without losing the message (or the concept of uncertainty!).

Brief Bio

Murray Purves is a technical leader and software developer with experience in the defence and security domains. His background is in the application of scientific modelling and simulation to real-world problems – particularly using atmospheric and marine transport and dispersion models. He has also had brief forays into the world of policy, including in arms control and public safety/security. He currently works for Dynamic Intelligence Solutions – an aerospace startup applying  artificial intelligence / machine learning (AI/ML) techniques for counter-unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) tracking and analysis applications.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

QED returns, 23rd-24th September 2023

QED returns, 23rd-24th September 2023 – with Lucky Cooke, Andrew Smyth, Dan Friesen from Knowledge Fight podcast, and more!

Tickets to QED 2023 are on sale now! To get your ticket to the highlight of the skeptical calendar, visit qedcon.org/tickets.

QED, the weekend celebration of science, reason and critical thinking, returns for 2023 with another exciting line-up of main stage speakers, live podcast recordings, panel discussions, interactive workshops, and more.

This year, QED will be taking place on 23rd-24th September at Manchester’s Mercure Piccadilly Hotel, with tickets costing £149 for the weekend (£129 for students/under 18s).

As usual, every single ticket entitles the holder to entry all conference events across the weekend, including a night of comedy and magic on Saturday night, and our completely-free one day Skepticamp event on Friday 22nd September.

Appearing at QED 2023 will be:

  1. Lucy Cooke: best-selling author and broadcaster with a Masters in zoology, Lucy has created history documentaries for the BBC, National Geographic, ITV and Discovery.
  2. Andrew Smyth: Aerospace engineer and baker, Andrew starred in the Netflix series Baking Impossible and made the 2016 final of The Great British Bake Off.
  3. Dan Friesen: co-host of Knowledge Fight, a podcast that dissects right-wing propagandist Alex Jones, Dan worked as an expert consultant in the Sandy Hook defamation cases.
  4. Professor Pragya Agarwal: Geospatial and behavioural data scientist, Pragya was awarded a Transmission Prize in 2022 for ‘making big complex scientific ideas accessible’.
  5. Professor Jason Arday: Sociologist and writer known for his research on race and racism, Jason is the youngest black person ever appointed to a professorship at Cambridge.
  6. Colin Angus: Senior Research Fellow and lead modeller in the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, one of the world’s leading centres for alcohol policy research.
  7. Dr Debbie Ging: Researcher on gender, sexuality and digital media, with a focus on anti-feminist men’s rights politics, incel subculture and the radicalisation of boys and men.
  8. Dr Alice Howarth: Cancer cell biologist, open research advocate and science communicator, Alice is vice president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and deputy editor of The Skeptic.
  9. Dr Joe Ondrak: OSINT Investigator tackling harm caused by online mis- and disinformation, analysing disinformation ranging from hostile state campaigns to domestic conspiracy groups.
  10. Mick West: Author, retired software engineer, and creator of the site Metabunk, which uses crowdsourcing and technical analysis to investigate UFO cases.
  11. Professor Chris French: Professor of Anomalistic Psychology and former editor of The Skeptic, Chris will be leading an interactive workshop on how to test paranormal claims.
  12. InKredulous: Comedy panel show and stalwart of QED, with previous guests including Jon Ronson, Andy Zaltzman, Kate Smurthwaite, Steve Novella, Natalie Haynes and more.
  13. Skeptics with a K: the longest-running skeptical podcast in the UK, featuring Mike Hall, Dr Alice Howarth, and Michael Marshall.
  14. And much more, still to be announced.

So, don’t delay – grab your QED ticket today and we’ll see you in September!

26th July – Prof Leslie Carr – Chatting About ChatGPT: My Life in AI

The rise of AI is a complicated story about advanced research, emerging data oligopolies like Facebook and Google, and big tech venture capitalism. Until recently, the only people who used AI were boffins in University computer laboratories or characters in Hollywood films.

But AI is suddenly affecting everyone with a smartphone and a job. Recent advances in NLP (Natural Language Processing) have led to products like ChatGPT being able to write in a way that is indistinguishable from professional journalists, consultants and researchers.

In this talk, Leslie will explain how AI works, what makes it different from normal computing, and whether AIs are really going to steal your job. Also find out how he became an AI professor because of a misunderstanding over Star Trek when he was five years old.

Brief Bio

Professor Leslie Carr is the Head of the Web and Internet Science research group and a Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton. He started stand-up comedy in 2017 and is a confessional storytelling comedian with a warm and engaging stage presence, performing standup regularly in London and at comedy venues around the South Coast. In 2022 he wrote and performed a show with his daughter, about their family colliding with technology and asking the question “is it easier to teach computers or teenagers to act like humans?”

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

28th June – Stevyn Colgan – Do we need a new witchcraft?

Lockdown was a tough time for many. For freelancers like Stevyn Colgan it meant loss of work and an uncertain future. And so, with the world on hold, he decided to rethink the way he lived. Over the next two years he fixed his physical and mental health and became the happiest, fittest and healthiest he’d been in decades. But the way he did it was by looking back, not forward. He discovered that many of the ‘old ways’ found within folk tradition, witchcraft and druidism actually had strong foundations in science. There’s no woo woo in this talk – Colgan’s contention is that the best way for society to move forward is to learn from the past. Isn’t that the basis of all good science?

Bio

Stevyn Colgan is an artist, speaker, folkie, forager, educator, committee member of the Eccentric Club of Great Britain (est 1781) and the author of ten books. He’s been a chef, a police officer, a comics publisher, a brewer, a Hollywood movie monster maker and is currently a lecturer in criminal and forensic psychology, behavioural science and creative thinking at several UK universities. He was also, for a decade, one of the primary writers of the BBC TV show QI and was on the writing team that won the Rose D’Or for Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity. He’s delivered talks for TED, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and spoken at hundreds of events and festivals all over the world. He’s also appeared on numerous radio shows and podcasts including No Such Thing as a Fish, Josie Long’s Shortcuts, Freakonomics and many more. Originally from Cornwall, he now lives on the Chiltern Hills with a seamstress, a needy pug and a sourdough starter called Bubbles.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

24th May – Women, Wellness and Woo – Alice Howarth

We all want to be well, right? Whether you’re a bit run down and just need a pick me up to get through the next working week, you’re suffering symptoms of a long-standing condition that you just can’t figure out or you’re reaching an age where you want security in your long-term health.

The wellness industry has become ever more popular in an age where chronic illnesses can go undiagnosed for years and access to medical support for mental ill-health is either prohibitively expensive or subject to long wait times. Women and other marginalised people are sometimes dismissed or overlooked in healthcare – where resources are already stretched and spending time really listening to a patient can be difficult even without biases.

To fill the gap, we often turn to the wellness industry; an amorphous, indefinable collection of well doers, businesses and practitioners who offer patients control over their health, empowerment to make medical choices that suit their needs and the gentle ear of a practitioner who’s always willing to listen.

But does the wellness industry really provide answers? Are women really empowered by the range of choices available to them? Is there really a solution to “wellness”?

Bio

Dr Alice Howarth is a scientist and skeptic who is also disabled and chronically ill. She’s spent years navigating the healthcare system while trying to learn how to manage her health conditions at the same time as working in academia and juggling a bunch of roles in the skeptical community.

As a podcaster with Skeptics with a K and writer for The Skeptic, Alice has researched a wide variety of wellness industry hacks and products and practitioners, and the reasons people might feel encouraged to make use of them.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

 

26th April – Dean Burnett – Lost and Found in the Science of Emotion

Why can’t we think straight when hungry? What’s the point of nightmares? And why can’t we forget embarrassing memories?

Emotions can be a pain. After losing his dad to Covid-19, Dean Burnett found himself wondering what life would be like without them. And so, he decided to put his feelings under the microscope – for science.

In this talk, Dean takes us on an incredible journey of discovery, stretching from the origins of life to the end of the universe. Combining expert analysis, brilliant humour and powerful insights into the grieving process, Dean uncovers how, far from holding us back, our emotions make us who we are.

Brief Bio

Dean Burnett, neuroscientist, lecturer, author, blogger, podcaster, pundit, science communicator, comedian and numerous other things, depending on who’s asking and what they need. Previously employed as a psychiatry tutor and lecturer at the Cardiff University Centre for Medical Education, Dean is currently an honorary research associate at Cardiff Psychology School, as well as a Visiting Industry Fellow at Birmingham City University.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.