25th May – Medieval Weather Forecasting: Science, not Magic – Anne Lawrence-Mathers

The basis for modern weather forecasting

It is a truth universally acknowledged – at least among non-medievalists – that classical scientific knowledge died with the Roman Empire and had to be disinterred once the Middle Ages were over. This talk will demonstrate that this belief is mistaken, using the example of medieval weather forecasting. Ancient astronomers had no satisfactory answer to the important question of how seasonal weather can vary so much from one year to another and from place to place. Medieval European meteorologists had complex and data-driven answers, based on the work of astronomers and astrologers in the Arab Empire. The models used could produce forecasts for any chosen date and location – but appear magical to modern critics because of their use of astrology.

This talk will look at the methods used in making these forecasts, with practical examples. It will go further and argue that these laid the basis for modern weather forecasting.

Brief Bio

Anne Lawrence-Mathers is a Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. She is a specialist in the history of magic and its relationship with science, and is the author of The True History of Merlin the Magician and Medieval Meteorology as well as co-author of Magic in Medieval Society. She has written for Weather, Physics Today and Pour la Science, and is currently writing a book on medieval magical texts as well as co-editing the Arc Companion to Magic, Science and the Medieval Construction of the Natural.

For those who don’t know this

Talks are on the last Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Arc (formerly The Discovery Centre) in Winchester. Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and cards. The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support The Arc by indulging in the available drinks and snacks before and during the event. There is a small car park adjacent to The Arc, or use the nearby Tower car park. You are also welcome to join us for the traditional post-talk curry.

27th Apr – Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How we Find and Lose Our Way – Michael Bond

So, are men are better than women at navigation?

This talk discusses how humans acquired wayfinding and navigation skills over our evolutionary past, the methods that early humans used to stay orientated in unfamiliar surroundings, the brain mechanisms behind our spatial and navigation skills and how they are related to memory and other cognitive functions, and why there are such stark individual differences in wayfinding skills (including the oft-debated question of whether men are better than women).

Michael Bond

Michael Bond, who won the 2015 British Psychological Society Prize for The Power of Others, is a freelance science writer and editor. A consultant with New Scientist, he specializes in psychology and social behaviour, and how people interact with their environments.

He has been writing on psychology and human behaviour for more than fifteen years as a regular contributor to New Scientist, Nature, Prospect, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, and others. During the Arab Spring, he also served as lead researcher for the Royal Society report on science in Egypt.

Michael’s latest book  is Wayfinding – The art and science of how we find and lose our way.

The Talks

Talks are on the last Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Arc (formerly The Discovery Centre) in Winchester. Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and cards (not Amex). The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support The Arc by indulging in the available drinks and snacks before and during the event. There is a small car park adjacent to The Arc, or use the nearby Tower car park. You are also welcome to join us for the traditional post-talk curry.

 

Skeptics in Spaaace!

On 28 May  this year we’ll be following in the footsteps of our Muppet friends and heading into Space – well at least we’ll be heading to the closest thing for us, The National Space Centre in Leicester. It’s a long time since we’ve had an outing like this, meeting up at an interesting place, and it’s always enjoyable!

The Space Centre is open from 10am; they recommend getting tickets in advance. Some people have had problems with the website and have had to email them, but they have been very helpful.

Some of us have also booked to stay at the Premier Inn Leicester (Forest East) on the night of the 27th May. It’s not too far and is one of the best value places to stay. We will be in the pub there from 7pm so we can meet up then.

It will be great to see people there. If you want to let us know you’re joining us, so that we can look out for you, please contact us via the contact page on our website.

Useful Links – Summary

https://spacecentre.co.uk/

https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/england/leicestershire/leicester/leicester-forest-east.html

Wed 30th March 2022 – at the Arc (formerly called the Winchester Discovery Centre) – Demolishing Babel

At Last!

It’s been a Long Time.  Much longer than any of us guessed. Almost exactly 2 years.

But, at the new scheduled timeslot – the last Wednesday of every month at 7.00 for 7:30 pm – the talks start again!

The venue’s the same, but with a new name – now refurbished as The Arc.

Our first event of the new era features one of our most popular speakers, Dr Keith Kahn-Harris.

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris.

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer, based in London. He is a senior lecturer at Leo Baeck College, an associate lecturer and honorary fellow at Birkbeck College, and the project director of the European Jewish Research Archive at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The author of seven books, editor of several collections and many articles and reviews, his career bridges academia and multiple other worlds.

He will be talking about demolishing the Babel myth.

The Babel Myth

The Babel myth suggests that when humans cannot understand each other, this will inevitably lead to conflict. Yet is this really true? In this talk, Dr Keith Kahn-Harris will suggest that not understanding languages can actually be a tool for peace-making. More than that, without the pressure to understand, we can properly appreciate the wonder and joy of language. In his book The Babel Message: A Love Letter to  Languagehe shows how a seemingly insignificant piece of paper – the multilingual warning message inside a Kinder Surprise Egg – can be the starting point for a linguistic adventure. In this talk he will take the adventure beyond the book and invite the audience to join him on it.

So you know

Talks are on the last Wednesday of every month, starting at 7:30, at The Arc (formerly The Discovery Centre) in Winchester. Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and cards (not Amex). The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support The Arc by indulging in the available drinks and snacks before and during the event. There is a small car park adjacent to The Arc, or use the nearby Tower car park. You are also welcome to join us for the traditional post-talk curry.

We encourage you to follow the Hampshire Cultural Trust guidelines on Covid Safety. You can find them here.

10th Feb – Examining Moon Hoaxers’ Greatest Hits – Brian Eggo

Kato Mukasa’s talk on modern Humanism in Africa has unfortunately had to be deferred due to circumstance beyond our control. Watch this space for its reappearance a little later in the year!

The irrepressible and always witty and entertaining Brian Eggo has stepped up to the plate with this piece on the Moon Hoaxers…

Just over fifty years ago we landed on the moon … or did we???

Err… Yes, we did.

We really did. Honest.

Unfortunately we live in a time where a disturbingly large proportion of the population happily spread misinformation, distrust (real) experts, and fuel the flames of conspiracy despite overwhelming evidence.

If you delve into the unpleasant world of moon hoaxer groups you’ll see that the same set of claims crop up time after time. So, we’re going to take an express tour through their ‘top’ items – with your help!

Brian

Brian Eggo is most definitely NOT a rocket scientist. He is however the primary mouthpiece of Glasgow Skeptics, an occasional writer for The Skeptic, and he’s even got a degree in Engineering.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm GMT on the 10th February.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

** Postponed ** 10th Feb – Modern Humanism in Africa – Kato Mukasa

 

We are delighted to have Humanist and Human Rights lawyer from Uganda to talk about Humanism.

For this talk, Kato will be drawing from two of his more recent books: The God Business and the Death of Reason in Africa (2021), and: Modern Humanism, and How to make it work for the People.

He will explore the history of religion in Africa, both traditional religions and those imported by colonists, and the effect that religion has had on the lives and the thinking of people in Uganda and further afield throughout Africa.

Kato will also talk about his view of practical Humanism, how it should not be restricted to conferences and lecture theatres, but be taken to the grassroots where it can be seen in action. Modern Humanism is more concerned with activism and there are several ways through which Humanism can be made more relevant

Bio

Kato Mukasa is a Ugandan lawyer; he is the Executive Director of Legal Relief Frontiers LTD, a non governmental organization which provides Legal Relief services to the poor in Uganda. Over the years in his practice as a lawyer he has handled human rights cases which involve supporting LGBTQ rights, abused children, rape victims and victims of land evictions among others. He has espoused these views on local media and has a number of published books, such as ‘Challenging the myths about homosexuality’.

Kato is also a Humanist in a country where only 0.2% of the population identify as non-religious. Having had a keen interest in religion in his early teens, he was eventually expelled from his Catholic high school for refusing to attend mass.

He is the chair of Uganda Humanist Association the oldest Humanist organization in Africa, and a former member of the board of directors of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

In 2007 he co-founded the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability to promote critical thinking and human rights. Its monthly campus discussions are attended by people of faith and non-believers. It also sponsors students and assists young mothers in acquiring entrepreneurship skills, among other programs. He is the founding director of Pearl Vocational Training College and Pearl Mukasa Memorial High School, schools which provide education to the marginalized urban and rural poor, young mothers and needy students.
Sadly it is perhaps not surprising that views such as these, in a very traditional and religious country, have make him the target of attacks.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm GMT on the 10th February.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

9th December – Inside the White Rose: an anti-vaxx, Covid conspiracy theory ecosystem

Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s talk has unfortunately had to be deferred due to circumstances outside of hers and our control. But she will be back in the New Year -so look out for announcements!

So, instead, the ever engaging Michael Marshall will be talking on a considerably topical subject.

When 2020 brought with it a new strain of coronavirus, the world was plunged into confusion and uncertainty. While most people accepted the realities of the virus, little white stickers began to appear in public around the world claiming it was all a hoax. The graffiti was part of a co-ordinated grassroots campaign, urging members of the public to join their encrypted messaging channels…

So that’s what Michael Marshall, full-time skeptical investigator and activist, did.

Find out what months undercover in the messaging app Telegram showed Michael, and how the Covid crisis radicalised vaccine hesitant members of the public.

This week’s talk is a change to the originally-scheduled event, and will also feature the announcement of the 2021 Ockham Award and Rusty Razor.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm GMT on the 9th December.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

** Postponed ** 9th December – Francesca Stavrokopoulou – God: an Anatomy

Three thousand years ago, in the Southwest Asian lands we now call Israel and Palestine, a group of people worshipped a complex pantheon of deities, led by a father god called El. El had seventy children, who were gods in their own right. One of them was a minor storm deity, known as Yahweh. Yahweh had a body, a wife, offspring and colleagues. He fought monsters and mortals. He gorged on food and wine, wrote books, and took walks and naps. But he would become something far larger and far more abstract: the God of the great monotheistic religions.

But as Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou reveals, God’s cultural DNA stretches back centuries before the Bible was written, and persists in the tics and twitches of our own society, whether we are believers or not. The Bible has shaped our ideas about God and religion, but also our cultural preferences about human existence and experience; our concept of life and death; our attitude to sex and gender; our habits of eating and drinking; our understanding of history. Examining God’s body, from his head to his hands, feet and genitals, she shows how the Western idea of God developed. She explores the places and artefacts that shaped our view of this singular God and the ancient religions and societies of the biblical world. And in doing so she analyses not only the origins of our oldest monotheistic religions, but also the origins of Western culture.

Brief Bio

Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou studied theology at Oxford and is currently Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter. The author of a number of academic works, she also presented the BBC 2 documentary series The Bible’s Buried Secrets. She regularly appears on BBC1’s The BigQuestions and Sunday Morning Live, and has appeared on several Radio 4 shows, including Woman’s Hour, The Infinite Monkey Cage and The Museum of Curiosity.

She writes for the Guardian, the Mail on Sunday, and the Times Literary Supplement, and has appeared at numerous public events, including the Cheltenham Science Festival, the World Humanist Congress,and Conway Hall’s annual London Thinks festival. Her contribution (on the same subject as the book) to Dan Snow’s History Hits podcast is one of its most popular episodes.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm GMT on the 9th December.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.


Skeptics of the Round Table – live – in the Pub!

There is no meeting in December.

The next one will be Wednesday 12th January 2022.

Join us at the Bishop On The Bridge. At 7:00 pm GMT.

We will have a table booked. Be there if you can – you will be most welcome!

11th November – The woos and woes of Wikipedia – Annika Harrison

An opportunity for skeptical activism or a conspiratory club?

Wikipedia is known as an international encyclopaedia. But is it also a worldwide network with secret members, seeking to influence humankind? Or is it a web forum, where one can publish their opinion? How does Wikipedia work? And how can you make a difference?

Even among skeptics, Wikipedia is still looked at with scrutiny. Is it reliable? Are there mechanisms and processes to make Wikipedia more valid and protected?

This Skeptics in the Pub Online presentation will answer all these questions and more.

Annika Harrison

Annika Harrison is a member of GWUP, the German skeptics organisation. She is also a proud member of the European Skeptics Podcast (ESP) and writes interviews and reports for the online section of the Skeptical Inquirer. She joined Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia in 2017 and most enjoys recording audio introductions to further the richness of pages concerning Skepticism.

Professionally, she is a teacher of English and history at a comprehensive school close to Cologne, Germany.

Annika is married and a mother of one.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm GMT on the 11th November.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.


Skeptics of the Round Table – live – in the Pub!

Wednesday 10th November – Skeptics of the Round Table is in an actual pub!

Join us at the Bishop On The Bridge. At 7:00 pm GMT.

We have a table booked. Be there if you can – you will be most welcome!

14th October – Michael Brooks – The Art of More

The Art of More: How Mathematics Created Civilisation

We have a problem with mathematics. Half of the UK’s adults live with nothing more than the mathematical skills they learned at primary school, and many people experience a tangible fear when facing anything to do with numbers. The root of the problem lies in the fact that no one is ever taught what maths actually is.

In this talk, Michael Brooks lays out the essence of mathematics, explains why it muddles our brains and explores the reasons humans have persevered with it when other species rarely bother counting beyond 3.

Animals tend to refer to this uncharted territory as just “more”, but it is here that human uniqueness is found. Once we understand how mathematics – the art of more — connects ancient Babylon to modern banking, world heritage architecture to the worldwide web, and the I-Ching to the iPhone, we can begin to see mathematics as more than just a maze of numbers: we see it as the pinnacle of human achievement.

Dr Michael Brooks

Michael Brooks is a science writer with a PhD in quantum physics, and the author of several books, including the bestselling 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense and The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook, a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year.

When and Where

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on the 14th October.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.


Skeptics of the Round Table – live – in the Pub!

Wednesday 13th October – Skeptics of the Round Table is once again in an actual pub!

Join us at the Bishop On The Bridge. At 7:00 pm UK time.

We have a table booked. Be there if you can – you will be most welcome!