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When?
Wednesday, July 15 2015 at 8:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?

What's the talk about?

 
 
In anticipation of our talk this month, Ash Pryce’s ‘How to Talk to the Dead’, we are holding a séance and spiritualism evening. We will be looking at various tricks and techniques employed by mediums throughout history and performing our own séance where we will try and contact the dead. Alongside the main séance will be a mix of miscellaneous mysticism including a crystal ball and tarot card readings.
 
START: 20:30
Admission is FREE!
 
This event is for entertainment and educational purposes only, and we will be approaching the topic at hand with a skeptical, scientific outlook
 

Can God Cure Alcoholism?

Jon Stewart

When?
Wednesday, June 24 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Jon Stewart

What's the talk about?

Alcoholics Anonymous has become a widely accepted and media approved treatment for problem drinkers. Yet while AA’s social worth is rarely challenged its efficacy rate, which some critics estimate at around 5%-10%, appears comparable to that of spontaneous remission. Can a non-existent "Higher Power" really offer meaningful solutions to the debilitating and frequently fatal condition of alcoholism? If so, what happens to all those alcoholic atheists and skeptics? How did AA become the go-to treatment modality for one of the great social health scourges of our age? It’s the twenty first century, is this really the best we can do?  
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
Jon Stewart was co-founder, guitarist and co-songwriter for platinum-selling Britpop band Sleeper, with whom he enjoyed three UK Top 10 albums and eight UK Top 40 singles.  Jon currently lectures in cultural history at BIMM Institute on programmes validated and awarded by University of Sussex.  He is also a PhD researcher at University of Southampton.  Author of a long-running column in Guitarist magazine, Jon has published a wide range of research in peer reviewed journals and collections of academic essays.  An active sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 14 years, Jon quit the fellowship in early 2014.
 
Jon's blog "Leaving AA, Staying Sober" is at jonsleeper.wordpress.com.
 

 

Viewings and Discussion of Video-based Skepticism Online and On TV

When?
Wednesday, June 17 2015 at 8:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?

What's the talk about?

In the age of the Internet, skepticism and skeptical outreach have broadened in both the forms of delivery medium, and accessibility of production means. From blogs to podcasts and beyond, it’s easier than ever for people to ingest and create skeptical output. Of all of these mediums, video is arguably the most compelling. YouTube and similar sites seem perfect for this form of skeptical outreach but as with anything, there are pros and cons.

On June 17th, the Bristol Skeptics Society will be hosting a screening of some of the best, funniest, or most popular skeptic videos from across the web and TV , including informative videos and funny sketches. Alongside the viewing we’ll be discussing individual videos as well as the very concept of videos as skeptical outreach.

Come down to Smoke and Mirrors bar from 20:30 to join in the discussion and watch some videos on the big screen.


Video submission:

The whole evening will be based around submissions from the audience and anyone who wants to share a skeptical video they think others would like to watch.

You can submit videos by:

 

Godwin's Law, Holocaust Denial, and Historical Evidence

Vicky Stiles

When?
Wednesday, May 27 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Vicky Stiles

What's the talk about?

The Third Reich was a large, complex, modern state with a thriving mass media, diverse population, and fruitful trade and cultural links with the rest of the world. The ideology behind National Socialism drew upon well-established strands of nationalist and racialist thinking as well as centuries-old anti-Semitism, and the Nazi Party and its government used cutting-edge technology and techniques to give these ideas the broadest possible audience and appeal.
 
All too often, this baffling web of networks, policies and overlapping interest groups, which changed constantly over the twelve years the Third Reich lasted, gets reduced to the ideas and actions of just one man. From the top of the ivory tower, to the very bottom of the bottom half of the internet, this talk will explore what Adolf Hitler means to all of us, and how our obsession with him is sucking the meaning out one of our most potent historical symbols: the Holocaust.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
 
Victoria Stiles recently completed a PhD in History at the University of Nottingham and is a co-organiser of the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. Her research encompasses stereotype formation, the manipulation of evidence and attitudes towards imperialism in Nazi Germany, as well as Anglo-German relations. She occasionally blogs about her sources and what it means to "do" history at tattyjackets.blogspot.com.

Richard Burdett

When?
Wednesday, April 22 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Richard Burdett

What's the talk about?

Richard Burdett looks at advertising from both the consumer’s and the advertiser’s perspective. Can consumers trust what they’re seeing, reading, hearing and clicking on? And, in an increasingly fragmented and fractured media environment, can advertisers trust the data on which they’re making multi-million pound investment decisions?
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
Richard began his career at Saatchi & Saatchi, spending eleven years working with clients such as BA, BP, Cadbury Schweppes and Sainsbury’s. He then moved from advertising to the fledgling world of multi-channel television, initially as Head of Ad Sales for The Discovery Channel and subsequently as Head of Marketing for UKTV. Next stop was Vice Chairman of CIA (now MEC) one of the world’s largest media buying agencies. In 2003 he became Head of 4Creative, Channel 4’s in-house ad agency, working on shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives, Shameless and Jamie’s School Dinners as well as the launches of More4 and Film4.
 
He is currently MD of Horse & Country TV, a thematic channel which does exactly what it says on the tin. The channel has brought over fifty new advertisers on to TV and was one of five nominees for Best Factual Channel in this year’s Broadcast awards, up against BBC3, BBC4, Discovery and History.

Prof. Jim Dunwell

When?
Wednesday, March 25 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Prof. Jim Dunwell

What's the talk about?

Jim Dunwell is Professor of Plant Biotechnology at the University of Reading where his research projects include plant genetics and physiology. Previously he spent 10 years in industry developing methods for the production of transgenic (GM) plants. He has a longstanding interest in the regulation of GM crops and is a member of the Defra Advisory Committee for Releases to the Environment (ACRE), the group that advises the UK government on the growing of GM crops in the field.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
In this talk Professor Dunwell will discuss the 30 year history of transgenic (GM) plants and their present position in global agriculture. This will include details of the various types of crops being grown now, and what types of crops are in the development phase. He will also consider how such crops are tested for their possible impact on human and environmental safety, how they are regulated prior to commercial cultivation, and the contrasting attitudes to GM crops in various parts of the world.

When?
Wednesday, March 18 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?

What's the talk about?

The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising and is one of the skeptical community’s biggest allies against false claims in adverts and product websites. 


Reporting ads to the ASA however can feel intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the process. Thankfully it isn’t as complicated as it may seem, and there are plenty of tools out there to make it even easier. 

Come down to Smoke and Mirrors on the 18th March from 7:30 when we look at these tools, discuss the best way to deal with the ASA, and learn more about how the ASA deals with adverts making false claims.

And An Introduction to SpeakEzee

Prof. Bruce Hood

When?
Wednesday, February 25 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

80 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QY

Who?
Prof. Bruce Hood

What's the talk about?

Please Note: This event has had a change of venue and will now be held at Hamilton House.
 
What makes the human brain so special? What makes us human? In this talk Professor Bruce Hood will reveal an intriguing hypothesis about the evolution of prosociality and the future of human interactions.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
Professor Bruce Hood is an award-winning psychologist, and Director of the Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol.

 

A History

John Stabler

When?
Wednesday, January 28 2015 at 7:00PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
John Stabler

What's the talk about?

In 1976 an arcade game called Death Race allowed players to run down pixelated black and white "gremlins" that were labelled as pedestrians. It was heavily criticised in the media and the modern campaign against violent video games was born.
 
Technology and computer graphics evolved to allow violence to be depicted in even more gratuitous and realistic ways. Once video gameds went mainstream they were increasingly linked to acts of teen violence.
 
This talk presents a timeline of violent video games: showing the games themselves, the advances in technology that enabled them, what outraged the media, the campaigns and court-cases that resulted and some of the scientific studies that have been used in the ensuing arguments.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
John Stabler, by day, works as a computer programmer for a small company in Cardiff.
By night he is a roguish, red wine supping know-it-all who likes to annoy people who talk nonsense by pointing out just how absurd what they say is .John is current caretaker host of Cardiff Skeptics In The Pub.
John loves science, skepticism, philosophy and programming stuff. He also likes mentalism & illusion, comedy, movies and gaming.
 
WARNING: This talk will feature videos showing media and video game violence (including physical & sexual violence and gore) which is not suitable for under 18s or people who are sensitive to such material.

An Honest Liar

When?
Wednesday, December 17 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?

What's the talk about?

Please Note: The date of this event has been changed to 17th Dec, a week later than originally advertised. Apologies for any inconvenience this causes.
 
Each December we try and do something different on the second Wednesday of the month as there is no talk two weeks later. This year we're going to have a viewing of the documentary film about James Randi, "An Honest Liar". 
 
The film itself was recently aired on BBC Four under its Storyville strand of programming. So come down to Smoke and Mirrors and watch it on the big screen.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3).

 
AN HONEST LIAR is a feature documentary about the world-famous magician, escape artist, and world-renowned enemy of deception, James ‘The Amazing’ Randi. The film brings to life Randi’s intricate investigations that publicly exposed psychics, faith healers, and con-artists with quasi-religious fervor. A master deceiver who came out of the closet at the age of 81, Randi created fictional characters, fake psychics, and even turned his partner of 25 years, the artist Jose Alvarez, into a sham guru named Carlos. But when a shocking revelation in Randi’s personal life is discovered, it isn’t clear whether Randi is still the deceiver – or the deceived.

 

Stevyn Colgan

When?
Wednesday, November 26 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Stevyn Colgan

What's the talk about?

Skepticism and critical thinking isn’t just about UFOs, bad pharma and Creationism. It’s about the everyday things too. 
 
During his 30 years in the Metropolitan Police Service Stevyn Colgan found himself frequently challenging the traditional or ‘accepted’ ways of doing things; critical thinking and his own natural skepticism led him to explore different way of doing things, often innovative and unusual. These included using wizards to tackle street gambling, lollipops to stop anti-social behaviour and dog shows to prevent homicides. Ultimately, he was asked by Scotland Yard and the Home Office to be part of an experimental unit to explore some of these new ideas, many of which have now found their way into everyday policing across the UK.
The Skeptical Bobby is all about grass-roots skepticism and why we should be critical thinkers in every aspect of our lives.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, songwriter, speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He is one of the ‘Elves’ that supply the questions for the popular BBC TV series QI and co-writes its sister show, The Museum of Curiosity, for BBC Radio 4. He has, among other things, been a chef, a potato picker, a milkman and a police officer. He has written briefing notes for two Prime Ministers and TV scripts for Gerry Anderson and Doctor Who. He’s helped build dinosaur skeletons for the Natural History Museum, movie monsters for Bruce Willis to shoot at, and was the official artist for the 2006 National Children’s Book Fair. He has been set on fire twice, been shot at once, and has given hundreds of talks across the UK and USA on a variety of subjects from problem solving to Cornish mythology to why he believes that he wasn’t even vaguely intelligently designed.
 
‘Superb talk at QEDCon by Stevyn Colgan. Intelligent and humane’ – Prof Richard Dawkins
 
Follow him on Twitter: @stevyncolgan
 

 

Prof. Christopher French

When?
Wednesday, October 22 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

8 Denmark Street, Bristol, BS1 5DQ

Who?
Prof. Christopher French

What's the talk about?

Opinion polls repeatedly show relatively high levels of belief in ghosts even in modern Western societies. Furthermore, a sizeable minority of the population claim to have personally encountered a ghost. This talk will consider a number of factors that may lead people to claim that they have experienced a ghost even though they may not in fact have done so. Topics covered will include hoaxes, sincere misinterpretation of natural phenomena, hallucinatory experiences and pareidolia (seeing things that are not there), the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, the possible role of complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound, photographic evidence, EVP, and the role of the media.
 
DOORS: 19:00
START: 19:30
Admission is FREE and there will be a collection during the interval (suggested donation £3-5).

 
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