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From Carl Sagan to Tim Peake

Colin Stuart

When?
Thursday, February 2 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Colin Stuart

What's the talk about?

Tim Peake's recent visit to the International Space Station has placed a fresh spotlight on the latest developments in space exploration. But space travel is still a pretty new area of human endeavour and our ideas about what and who might be out there have constantly shifted over the years. One place this is particularly apparent is in the famous Christmas Lectures held by the Royal Institution each year.

Last year Colin was lucky enough to rummage around in their archives and write a book about 13 of the lectures devoted to space and time. The first was delivered way back in 1881. The last was the 2015 lectures featuring a message from Tim from orbit (he also wrote the foreword for the book). And how our ideas have changed. In this talk Colin will be sharing some of the stories from the lectures, along with some of his favourite anecdotes about digging through the archives including finding Carl Sagan's immigration form and Dewar's radioactive notebooks.

Colin Stuart (@skyponderer) is an astronomy author, writer and speaker who talks to tens of thousands of people a year about the universe and he regularly writes for magazines including BBC Focus and New Scientist.

www.colinstuart.net

Or ever

Stevyn Colgan

When?
Thursday, October 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Stevyn Colgan

What's the talk about?

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.

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

Good Cop, Bad War

Neil Woods

When?
Thursday, September 1 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Neil Woods

What's the talk about?

 Why would a former drugs cop want to legalise all drugs?
Neil Woods: Good Cop, Bad War

Ever wanted to know what it’s really like being an undercover drugs detective? Our culture seems to be obsessed with police, drugs, and the underworld - with films and television programmes like The Wire, Trainspotting, Breaking Bad, is the reality any different from fiction?
Neil Woods was a police officer for 23 years, 14 of which were spent undercover. When your day job is spent buying heroin and chasing the most hardened gangsters, can you ever truly switch off from such a life?
With a career spent on the streets, dealing with those who suffer with addiction, what drives a former drugs cop to change his stance and join an organisation comprised of police, MI5, military, and civilians, all of whom campaign to fully reform our drug laws; Neil Woods is Chairman of LEAP UK – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
His memoir, Good Cop, Bad War, is released mid-August 2016 - it has also been serialised in the Mail on Sunday. Neil is a regular media contributor, featuring on Vice, BBC, Channel 5, he has become a powerful voice in the pursuit of evidence-based drug policy. 

the costs and benefits of psychological research and its links with medicine

Jane Ogden

When?
Thursday, July 7 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Jane Ogden

What's the talk about?

‘Do no harm’ underpins medical practice yet much has been written about medical iatrogenesis.   Health psychology explores the links between psychology and physical health.   This talk analyses research exploring medication adherence, help seeking, screening and behaviour change to argue that all interventions have the potential for both benefit and harm.  Accordingly, health psychology may have inadvertently contributed to psychological harms (eg lead times, anxiety, risk compensation, rebound effects), medical harms (eg. Medication side effects, unnecessary procedures) and social harms (eg. financial costs, increased consultations rates).   Such harms may result from medicalization or pharmaceuticalisation. They may also reflect the ways in which we manage probabilities and an optimistic bias that emphasises benefit over cost.  Or they may reflect a change in the way we understand mortality and a belief that even death can be controlled, or even avoided, by the individual.

 

After completing her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry Jane Ogden lectured first at Middlesex University then Kings College London.  She joined the University of Surrey as Professor in Health Psychology in 2005.  She teaches psychology, medical, vet, nutrition and dietician students to think more psychological about physical health.  Her research focuses on eating behaviour and obesity management, aspects of women’s health and communication.  She has published 6 books and over 170 papers.  She is also a regular contributor to the media and writes a regular column for The Conversation. 

 

 

 

When?
Monday, June 13 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Ash Pryce

What's the talk about?

 

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Gather ye round the traveling caravan, as Snake Oil Salesman Ash Pryce demonstrates the miraculous curative abilities of psychic surgery, taught to your humble trickster by a wise man in the Philippines (or a magicians tool book, whichever sounds more wondrous). See with amazement the telekinetic forces at work as you learn how to move objects with your mind, psychically manipulate your finest silverware and read the minds of your peers.  Or maybe, it’ all just a trick?

  

Whereas the sister show How to Talk to the Dead looked specifically at spirit communication in the past, How to be a Psychic Conman will look at the more incredible, magical side of psychic claims that persist today. The types of demonstrations that blur the line between the honest deception of magic, and the dishonesty of those hoping to make a quick buck out of your deep rooted beliefs.

  

The show will involve demonstrations and explanations of telekinesis tricks, metal bending, psychic surgery and remote viewing as well as look at government funded research into psychic phenomena, and the shoddy protocols that allowed “psychics” to beat the legendary Zener card experiments in the 1930s.

  

And if that wasn’t enough, interspersed throughout the show will be numerous on stage demonstrations of mentalism to add an extra layer of entertainment to the proceedings. 

  

Warning to those on the front row… there will be blood!

 

Brexit or No?

Panel

When?
Thursday, April 7 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Panel

What's the talk about?

Whilst we won't be able to definitively answer the question of staying or leaving at this event, we should be able to perhaps answer some of the hot topics of the day with our panel members.

Alan Bullion

Dr Alan Bullion lives in Tunbridge Wells and works in London as Principal Analyst and Special Reports Publisher for Informa Agribusiness intelligence.

Alan stood as a Lib Dem European parliamentary candidate in 2014, and for Sevenoaks in the 2010 and 2015 general elections. He is a member of the National Executive of the European Movement and often speaks on the EU to local schools and colleges. Alan studied as a mature student with the Open University and completed a PhD on the Tamil Tigers at the University of Southampton. He is also an active member of the Campaign for Real Ale and United Nations Association.      

Adrian Ekins-Daukes

1965-1973 Ministry of Defence

1973-1980 Department of Trade & Industry

1980-1985 Foreign Office (attached to UKREP to the EU, Brussels) - Counsellor, Internal Market

1985-1998 EU Council of Ministers (Director, Internal Market)

2000 - 2007 Borough Councillor, Tunbridge Wells (Rusthall, Culverden)

2014- present Chairman, West Kent European Movement

James Rigby

James arrived recently in Tunbridge Wells having lived previously in North London and Essex.  He lives with his partner and between them they have six children, a dog and two cats.  His preference for Brexit is driven by his skepticism in the ability of governments generally to act on behalf of the people they are meant to serve.  The bigger such governments are, the more inefficient and more distant they will be from the needs of the people and governments don’t get bigger or more distant that the EU.  This is a once-only opportunity to rid ourselves of a big bureaucratic inefficient distant layer of government; we’d be fools not to take it.  He is a fierce champion of individual rights and freedoms and describes himself as a Libertarian.  He supports free trade, which might indicate support for the EU but, as we know, the EU is a protectionist organisation against the wider world.  James supports free trade globally.  Such is his passion for personal freedom and liberty that he, with friends, created a registered political party called Pro Liberty.  The party is currently dormant, but when the time is right….

Tim Pendry

Tim Pendry is co-founder of the Democratic Left Network - http://www.democraticleftnetwork.com – and on the Advisory Boards of the Democracy Movement and Leave.EU He is also a resident of Tunbridge Wells. He has a long history of involvement in both international business and in British grassroots politics.

He was twice Deputy Chair of the Labour Finance & Industry Group and was Co-ordinator of the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance within the Labour Party in the mid-1990s as well as being involved in projects such as the foundation of the think-tanks Demos and Catalyst and the refinancing (through the trades unions) of Tribune. He founded the controversial investigative journalism website – www.exaronews.com

His position on the European Union is fundamentally based on criticism of its undemocratic nature, on the illusion of peace and security it offers now that it is part of the forward march of neo-liberal imperialism, the incompetence of its elites at everything they touch (notably over migration) and its systematic buying up of special interests at the cost of long term sound economics.

 

 

Examining the world's least predictable government

When?
Thursday, March 3 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Alistair Coleman

What's the talk about?

 As the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea continues to dominate headlines, journalist and North Korea analyst Alistair Coleman explains how the political system in Pyongyang came to be that way,and asks what hope is there for the country's 26 million people. Is North Korea a threat to the west, and if it is, what can we do about the world's least predictable government?

Alistair has worked at BBC Monitoring for 24 years, part of the World Service which watches and analyses the world's open source media. Starting his career as a technician, he specialises in studying media behaviour in North Korea for significant changes in tone that could betray changes in policy.

Alistair is a multiple award-winning blogger who enjoys questioning extremism, idiocy and dubious claims; including political blow-hards, religion, stage psychics, homeopaths and quackery.

The Placebo Effect Mystery

Kevin Friery

When?
Thursday, February 4 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Kevin Friery

What's the talk about?

Kevin Friery is a skeptical Psychotherapist. With a background in Psychology and Counselling he has been closely involved with the world of psychological therapies since a time when they hadn't discovered the 'C' in CBT.

One of his claims to fame (try and stop him talking about it!) is that he has appeared several times on BBC 1's The Big Questions offering the voice of skepticism and reason in the face of some very vocal True Believers.

A Bit Of Slap & Tickle takes a close and skeptical look at some of the 'treatments' for common mental health conditions, and looks at the people who profess themselves to be 'practitioners'. It looks at the meaning of effectiveness and explores our relationship with placebos and comes up with some uncomfortable conclusions.

Doors 8pm for an 8:30pm start (Kevin will be on his way from Heathrow, so might be a little later than usual)

Using critical thinking to question yourself and others

Tannice Hemming

When?
Thursday, January 14 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Tannice Hemming

What's the talk about?

Today's world is full of misinformation, myths and mystery - so how do you make sure you're not taken for a ride or (even worse) propagating false 'facts' yourself?

Tannice's talk will briefly cover why we buy into false beliefs, the context behind faith in the seemingly spurious claims of quack 'therapists', cures and snake oil salespeople and how we're all guilty of believing what we want to sometimes. Open your mind to the possibility your brain might fall out and then stitch it all back together with Tannice's quick guide to silliness, stupidity and scepticism.

Tannice was a Founding Member of the South East Skeptics Society as well as Host of Guildford Skeptics in the Pub for three and a half years. She takes over Tunbridge Wells Skeptics in the Pub, with her husband, Jacques Hemming.... this month!

Tannice has spoken across the country on the subject of Autism including the 2012 Edinburgh Skeptics on the Fringe (and Tunbridge Wells in August 2012, where she met Jacques for the first time!) and featured on a panel at the popular science and skepticism event, QED.

She is a currently an Assistant Editor for the Skeptic Magazine and her specialist interests involve vaccinations, psychology and learning disabilities.

Professor Chris Rhodes

When?
Thursday, December 3 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

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.

How we get science coverage wrong

David Robert Grimes

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

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
David Robert Grimes

What's the talk about?

Science and medicine have transformed our lives immeasurably, and never in history have they been more central to our lives and well-being. Yet despite this, there is often a glaring disconnect between the findings of actual science and media reporting of such topics, and consequently there is often a needless chasm between public perception and the evidence on many contentious topics. This can lead to needlessly adversarial and counter-productive discourse of everything from vaccination to climate-change. In this talk, physicist and science journalist Dr. David Robert Grimes discusses the frequent problems in reporting science from misunderstandings to bad statistics to false balance, and discusses the factors that influence this and how such problems can be remedied.

Dr. David Robert Grimes (@drg1985) is a physicist and writes regular opinion and analysis pieces on scientific issues for the Irish Times and the Guardian science, and is a regular panelist on science issues on radio and television. He is joint-recipient of the 2014 Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.

Can A Non-Existent God Really Cure Alcoholism?

Jonathan Stewart

When?
Thursday, October 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

39 Mount Ephraim
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 8AA

Who?
Jonathan Stewart

What's the talk about?

In recent years Alcoholics Anonymous has become a widely accepted, media approved treatment for problem drinkers.  Yet while AA’s social worth is rarely challenged its efficacy rate, estimated to be 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?  

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 Brighton on programmes validated and awarded by University of Sussex, and is a PhD researcher at University of Southampton.  Author of a long-running column in Guitarist magazine, Jon has also published widely in peer reviewed journals and books.  An active and sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 14 years, Jon quit the fellowship in early 2014.  His blog "Leaving AA, Staying Sober" is at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com