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The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

Sydney Padua

When?
Tuesday, August 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Sydney Padua

What's the talk about?

[Five Leaves Bookshop will be selling Sydney's book at this event]

One hundred years before the first computers were built out of wires and transistors, the Victorian polymath Charles Babbage designed a gigantic steam-powered, punchcard-programmed, cogwheel computer, the Analytical Engine.  His friend Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, completed some of the first programs for the machine, and theorised that one day it could be used for the manipulation of any kind of information. Unfortunately Ada died young and Babbage never built his Engine, leaving their story as one of the greatest what-ifs in the history of science.

Sydney Padua’s cult webcomic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, now a bestselling graphic novel, combines extensive research with alternate-universe comic-book escapes, where the mechanical computer is finally completed and used to build runaway economic models, defeat spelling errors, and of course, fight crime. In this talk she will tell the story of these two fascinating and brilliant eccentrics, and discuss her process of primary-source research and creative transformation. She will also display her 3-d animations of how the Analytical Engine would have looked and operated, some of the first visualisations ever created of that extraordinary machine.

Sydney Padua is a cartoonist and visual effects artist whose animation appears in The Iron Giant, Clash of the Titans, and John Carter. Her work has been featured in Wired and The Economist and she has spoken at Microsoft, Google, the BBC, and the Computer History Museum.

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Tamasin Cave

When?
Tuesday, July 5 2016 at 7:00PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Tamasin Cave

What's the talk about?

NOTE: 7 pm start! 

Tamasin Cave will talk about the UK's £2bn lobbying industry and the tactics they use to bend government to their will: how lobbyists' build relationships with government; their manipulation of the media; the way that they use academics, scientists, think tanks, front groups and others to spread their messages; and their attacks on opposition groups. She will talk about how the private healthcare industry has lobbied to open up the NHS to more private operators - and how schools are going the same way; how energy companies have hired a small army of lobbyists to persuade government and local communities to support fracking; how the 'revolving door' works to support the arms industry; and more.

Tamasin is a writer, campaigner and commentator. Her new book, A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain, co-authored by Andy Rowell, shines a light into one of the darkest and least-understood corners of our political culture: the UK's £2 billion commercial lobbying industry. She is a director of Spinwatch, which investigates corporate PR and lobbying, as well as government spin. Since 2007, she has also led the campaign for transparency regulations for lobbyists

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Ash Pryce

When?
Tuesday, June 7 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

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!

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Alistair Coleman

When?
Tuesday, May 10 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Alistair Coleman

What's the talk about?

As tensions between the west and Kim Jong Un increase, Journalist and North Korea Watcher Alistair Coleman will be talking about the secretive kingdom and asking how much do we really know about North Korea?

 Alistair has worked at BBC Monitoring for over 25 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.

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Understanding How Our Genes Work

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Tuesday, April 5 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We're told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library. With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Dr Kat Arney is a science communicator and award-winning blogger for Cancer Research UK, as well as a freelance science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more.

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Dean Burnett

When?
Tuesday, March 1 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Dean Burnett

What's the talk about?

The hugely popular Guardian Brain Flapping science blogger, Dean Burnett, comes to Nottingham to talk about his new book: The Idiot Brain.

It is a surprising, funny and mind-bending examination of how and why the brain sabotages our behaviour.

Dr Dean Burnett has spent nearly two decades studying the human brain, the most complex, mysterious object in the known universe.
In the same way that flaws begin to show when you spend too much time with one person, over time Burnett has come to learn that the human brain can be quite unreliable.
The Idiot Brain explores the many ways in which the brain does things inefficiently, illogically or just plain stupidly, and how these regularly end up influencing our everyday lives and the world around us.

From attention mechanisms to memory processing, the neuroscience of sleep and the psychology of superstition, The Idiot Brain highlights all manner of ways in which the brain is flawed or shoddy, how these impact on our lives in countless ways, and how it’s OK to laugh at all this regardless.

Note: Dean will be selling (and signing) copies of his book at this event.

On Facebook? Join the Nottingham Skeptics Facebook group for interesting discussions and event invites.

Michael Lachmann

When?
Tuesday, February 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Michael Lachmann

What's the talk about?

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969 - the Americans entered history as the winners of the Space Race. This isn't their story.


Micky Lachmann is going to talk about their competitors the Soviets, and how they managed to beat the Americans to almost every milestone in Space.


It's a story we don't know very well - the Soviets operated under a shroud of almost total secrecy. But some of the early cosmonauts are still alive and have incredible and often terrifying stories to tell. So this is also an account of going to Russia and trying to find these amazing - and mostly bad tempered - men and women.


Micky studied Natural Sciences and then dropped out of a PhD in tropical fish behaviour to work in science journalism. Over 15 years at the BBC he has worked on - among other things - Walking with Beasts, many Horizon's and is partly responsible for bringing Brian Cox to our screens - for which he is very sorry.

Katie Atkinson

When?
Tuesday, January 5 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Katie Atkinson

What's the talk about?

In this talk Katie will provide an insight into the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to show how current research on the topic breaks many of the moulds found in numerous depictions of AI in sci-fi literature and films. She will provide an overview of the main techniques used to represent aspects of intelligent thought and behaviour, and discuss some of the landmark success stories and current state-of-the-art. Katie will further pinpoint some of the challenges that AI researchers face, covering technological, legal and ethical aspects.

Katie Atkinson is Professor of Computer Science and Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool. Academic staff in the Department carry out both pure and applied research in their two main areas of expertise: AI and Algorithms.  In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Computer Science department was ranked 1st in the UK for 4* and 3* research, with 97% of its research being rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Katie's research concerns computational models of argument, with a particular focus on persuasive argumentation in practical reasoning and how this can be applied in domains such as e-Democracy, law and agent systems. She has published over one hundred articles on these, and closely related, subjects. She received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2005.

Emma McClure

When?
Tuesday, December 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Emma McClure

What's the talk about?

A grisly murder scene, a renegade detective pours over the scene. They find an overlooked clue; a hair, a footprint, a shell casing. Detailed analysis matches it to the bad guy. The bad guy goes to jail - this is often how modern day forensics are thought of and how it is often portrayed in shows such as 'CSI' and 'Silent Witness'.

Forensic evidence is seen as conclusive when it comes to catching suspects and deciding if someone is guilty in a criminal trial. How could the traces left behind at a crime scene lie?

The science in areas such as DNA collection has progressed enormously in recent decades allowing for break-throughs in many old and cold cases.

However, we have also seen many high profile exonerations of those previously convicted of the most serious of crimes on seemingly 'conclusive' forensic evidence. This has lead to increasing scrutiny of the way it is analysed, interpreted and presented in the courtroom.

In this talk, prison lawyer Emma McClure explores this issue alongside the amusing, confusing and sometimes tragic consequences of failing to take a skeptical approach to scientific evidence.

David Alnwick

When?
Monday, November 23 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
David Alnwick

What's the talk about?

Mind Reader.  Cult Leader.  Dave.
 
David Alnwick takes his critically acclaimed magic show on tour, gathering new followers in order to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming the leader of his own cult.  Employing practical, real world examples of 'social manipulation', Dave will entertain, excite and inspire.  Come and worship at the feet of your new lord and commander. 
 
After the performance there will be a 30 minute talk on the ideas and techniques employed within the show including some mention on the wider psychology in play.  This will be followed with a 30 minute question and answer session.

Why children are great pretenders, poor problem solvers, and sometimes less clever than crows

Sarah Beck

When?
Tuesday, November 3 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Sarah Beck

What's the talk about?

Young children are excellent imaginers, coming up with all kinds of creative and weird worlds. But what is the imagination really for? Adults use their imaginations to solve problems, but children sometimes struggle with this. In this talk, Sarah Beck will explore how children start to use their imaginations for creative problem solving, using examples of children’s thinking about ‘how things might have been different’ and comparing children’s tool-making to that of clever non-human animals.

 

Sarah Beck is Reader in Cognitive Development at the University of Birmingham. She researches children's thinking about possibility and time, and questions whether adults' thinking in these areas is as sophisticated as we might like to think. She teaches an undergraduate course that compares the cognitive abilities of human children with non-human animals.

 

Ash Pryce

When?
Tuesday, October 6 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

48-52 Canal St
Nottingham
NG1 7EH

Who?
Ash Pryce

What's the talk about?

Hydesville. New York. 1848. The young Fox sisters begin communicating with the spirit of a murdered beggar and spiritualism is born.

This interactive look at a history of talking to the dead will feature an array of magical treats including levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication.

Part magic show, part comedy, part rational inquiry this fun show has regularly packed venues at the Edinburgh fringe.

Ouija Boards

Spirit Slates
Spirit Communication
Stopped Pulses
Spewing ectoplasm
And more...

"Ash Pryce is a naturally funny guy and won't allow his audience to be bored" "Very entertaining" - edfringereview

"Go see" - Edinburgh Skeptics

About Ash

Ash Pryce is a performer and director based in Scotland.  He has written and staged several skeptically themed shows looking at myths & legends, ghosts, psychics and mediumship as well as producing full plays ranging from Faustus to more contemporary original shows in Edinburgh.  He is the founder of Edinburgh Skeptics, the newly started History in the Pub Edinburgh, and runs what is believed to be the worlds first skeptical ghost tour every Fringe.  He lives just outside of Edinburgh with his three Degus, one of which holds a grudge against him.