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Victorian Spirit Photographs

Allison Meier

When?
Monday, July 3 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Allison Meier

What's the talk about?

Can a camera capture ghosts? Almost since photography's 19th century beginnings, some have believed the medium could visualize the spirit world. The technology was developed at a time when the practice of Spiritualism, which spawned seances in the United States and England, was high, and death was equally present, with the American Civil War and cholera epidemics in London.

Spirit photography used photo manipulation to manifest the departed in daguerreotypes in the 19th century, yet even into 2017 the interest in photographs of ghosts remains, haunting click bait articles in publications like the Daily Mail and ghost hunting TV shows. What does this mean about our connection to the photographic gaze, and our beliefs about the afterlife? 

 

Allison C. Meier is a staff writer at Hyperallergic, a New York-based arts publication, and previously served as senior editor at Atlas Obscura. Her byline has appeared in the New York Times, Mental Floss, CityLab, Narratively, Art Desk, and other publications that are open to articles on great trees and forgotten history. She moonlights as a cemetery tour guide in illustrious burial grounds around New York City. 

 

She has very kindly agreed to give us a talk while she is on holiday in the UK. 

£3 to cover expenses

 

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE DON'T MEET IN AUGUST. WE’LL BE BACK ON SEPTEMBER 4 WITH CARLA VALENTINE 

 

How Disgust Rules The World

Richard Firth-Godbehere

When?
Monday, June 5 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Richard Firth-Godbehere

What's the talk about?

Over the last couple of decades, the topic of disgust has risen from the bowels of study to the mainstream of academic life. Probably ancient and universal, disgust is a sensation caused by a perception of boundary violation – that something can get inside us and cause harm.  In one form or another it has guided humanity and other animals away from the contagious and the toxic.

 

Disgust has also acted as a gatekeeper of morality for as far back as we have records, governing humanity’s sense of what is right and wrong as we link violations of cultural norms with feelings of revulsion. The problem is that while disgust might be universal, what causes it is not, and those causes can be a slave to the dictates of the powerful.

Richard Firth-Godbehere knows a lot about disgust. Over the past six years, he has been analysing and dissecting the history, philosophy, and psychology of disgust, culminating in a PhD in the origins of the English understanding of that feeling. He has come to the conclusion that it rules the world. From refusing certain foods to relationships to political opinions and religious beliefs, feelings of revulsion have directed human behaviour in ways matched by almost no other physical sensation. What’s more, we are as fascinated by the disgusting as we are appalled by it. Richard will be explaining how that happens, what disgust is, the history of revulsion and how one thing can always be found at the centre of it: oppression and power.

He will also be offering some six-legged treats and a little insight into your own disgust. Be prepared to be revolted.

£3 to cover expenses.

James Garvey

When?
Monday, May 8 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
James Garvey

What's the talk about?

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT OUR USUAL FIRST MONDAY OF THE MONTH. WE WILL BE BACK TO NORMAL NEXT MONTH

We’re somewhere in the middle of a revolution in persuasion, a shift away from giving reasons, praising evidence and facts to something else, something that operates outside of reason.  It’s changing our minds, our politics and our social world. In this talk we’ll have a look at some techniques of modern political persuasion and come to some conclusions about what it all means.

 

James Garvey works for The Royal Institute of Philosophy and edits The Philosophers' Magazine.  He has written and edited books on the history of ideas, philosophy, the ethics of climate change, consciousness and social and political thought -- his books have been translated into ten languages.  He also writes for The Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the Times Higher Education.  His latest book is The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry That Wants to Change Your Mind. 

 

Jess Spurrell

When?
Monday, April 3 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Jess Spurrell

What's the talk about?

Cryogenics typically works with liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees C or 77 K) and liquid helium (-268.8 degrees C or 4.2 K). Down at these temperatures, all sorts of unusual things can happen - electrical resistance can disappear, almost anything, from frogs to surfers, can levitate, liquid can climb out of its container, biological processes can be slowed almost to a halt. With some deft application of science, some clever calculations and some ingenious engineering, all of this is possible and more - yet for some reason, whenever you say you work in cryogenics, the first thing people ask is, "Do you freeze dead people? Or aliens?"

Join us to uncover some of the incredible things that cryogenics can do - and already has done - for you. We won't be freezing any dead people but we will explain why it's currently not a particularly sensible idea - and we may freeze an alien or two...

Jess Spurrell is about to submit her thesis on Cryogenic Engineering & Superconductivity at the University of Southampton. This is almost entirely unrelated to her MEng degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering with European Studies, which she studied also at the University of Southampton and at the SupAéro institute in Toulouse, France.

 

She has given over 30 talks, workshops and demonstrations around the UK including at Winchester and Brighton Science festivals, Science Show-off, Researchers’ Café, The Science Room @ the Art House and more. Since April 2016 she was also managing the RCUK-funded Talk to US! school-university partnership initiative and since January 2017 this role has morphed into the university’s first School-University Partnership Officer.

James Williams

When?
Monday, March 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
James Williams

What's the talk about?

 One of the most persistent edumyths is learning styles – the idea that there are a number of styles of learning, such as visual, aural or kinaesthetic – and that certain children respond better if teaching is directed towards their preferred learning style. Another used to be ‘brain gym’ – the idea that rubbing key parts of your body could wake your brain up or drinking water gives you energy.

Lots of other edumyths abound – but why do people believe them? Why have we rejected Father Christmas but cling on to the idea that we only use 10% of our brains? In this talk we begin to explore what we believe, why we believe and how sometimes even direct evidence isn’t enough.

James Williams graduated in Geology and trained as a science teacher at the University of London. He then taught science in London and Surrey. He is now a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex.

In 2006 he filmed a six-part TV history/reality series for Channel 4 called 'That'll teach 'em’, taking the role of the deputy head and housemaster in the fictional Charles Darwin school teaching 30 teenagers 1950s style.

His research interests currently revolve around teachers and their knowledge and understanding of the nature of science' and the scientific method. This leads to work on a better understanding of the 'Working Scientifically' approach in the new National Curriculum and public examinations. He also researches the teaching of evolution and the issues surrounding creationism in schools. 

£3 contribution to cover expenses

Dr Joanna Bagniewska

When?
Monday, February 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Dr Joanna Bagniewska

What's the talk about?

Aliens: supremely adaptable, successful and dangerous. A tagline for a sci-fi horror? No, it's the reality around us. Invasive alien species - species that have come, or been brought, from one part of the world to another - can pose a huge threat to our health, finances and biodiversity.

However, we can also learn a lot from them. How do we study them? What do we know about them? Can we stop the invasions? Mink, crabs, hogweed, sea squirts, parakeets, algae, giant rhubarb – the list is growing all the time.

Dr Joanna Bagniewska is a zoologist at the University of Reading specialising in behavioural ecology. In her spare time she does science stand-up comedy. She comes from Poland and is married to Batman.

Jamie Bartlett

When?
Monday, January 9 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Jamie Bartlett

What's the talk about?

The dark net is an underworld that stretches from popular social media sites to the most secretive corners of the encrypted web. It is a world that frequently appears in newspaper headlines but one that is little understood, and rarely explored.

 

For his book The Dark Net Jamie Bartlett spent two years immersed in some of the internet's most shocking and secretive sub-cultures: spending time in secretive 'trolling' forums, interviewing illegal pornographers, buying drugs from the notorious 'Silk Road', following bitcoin enthusiasts, attending live internet sex shows, and hanging out with neo-Nazis.

In his talk, Jamie will suggest they are not as they seem. They are shocking and disturbing, but often extremely innovative. He will discuss the truth of how these internet subcultures work, who is part of them, and what we can learn from them. He will also discuss the problems of meeting and writing about some of the internet's most hated people.

Jamie is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos. His primary research interests are: new political movements and social media research and analysis, internet cultures and security and privacy online. The Dark Net was shortlisted for The Political Award and longlisted for The Orwell Prize. His next book Radicals (Random House) about new radical social and political movements will be released in Spring 2017. 

 

Please note: This is not our usual first Monday of the month but we'll be back to normal in February

Richard Wiseman

When?
Monday, December 5 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Richard Wiseman

What's the talk about?

Ever wanted to entertain your friends and family with amazing science stunts? Professor Richard Wiseman has travelled the world in search of the extraordinary. His Bets You Always Win videos have had over 150 million views on YouTube, and now you can experience the magic live. Discover how to….

….balance a coin on the edge of a bank note

….turn a tea towel into a chicken

….defy gravity

….hypnotise anyone in seconds

and much, much more.

Richard will also be explaining the science behind the stunts and showing some amazing optical illusions.

Professor Wiseman began his career as a cabin boy on a pirate ship where he was known as Tricky Dicky because of his magic tricks involving dubloons and a parrot*. When the parrot died in an incident he still refuses to speak about, he came ashore and became a con man; for years he posed as a successful Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He claims to have written some books but we suspect the parrot actually wrote them.

He is currently on Interpol’s Most Wanted list for crimes against humanity and can be identified by a tattoo of One Direction on his right thigh. Approach with extreme caution.

*some of this may not be true

 

Because it’s our nearest meeting to Christmas, there will be treats. If you’ve been good.

Please note that our January meeting will be on the 9th and then we’re back to our usual first Monday of the month.

Thinking critically about sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Liz Lutgendorff

When?
Monday, November 7 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Liz Lutgendorff

What's the talk about?

 A few years ago Liz Lutgendorff set off an a quest to read the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books, as ranked by NPR’s readers. However, what she found while reading was disheartening - rife with really sexist (and even misogynistic) characters and dialogue, it made her wonder how these could be the top 100 books of the genres she loves?

At the same time the controversy around the Hugo Awards kicked off and we’ve had a backlash against women in geek culture. It felt to Liz that the nostalgia that created that list of 100 books is the same nostalgia that influenced the factions at the Hugo Awards.

This talk will be about thinking critically about what you read, putting your money where your ethics are and reading outside your comfort zone. Warning: what you like is subjective, especially in books, but hopefully this will bring some insight nonetheless.

Liz Lutgendorff is a civil servant by day and PhD student in the history of secularism at night. In between these times she reads a lot and swears even more. In glorious times past she was the deputy editor of the Pod Delusion. At time of writing she has 104 Pokemon in her Pokedex.

Professor Chris French

When?
Monday, October 3 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Professor Chris French

What's the talk about?

Can you remember what last month’s talk was about? Are you sure?

The reliability of human memory is often of central importance when considering reports of ostensibly paranormal events given that one is often assessing the report of the event rather than directly assessing the event itself.

This talk will review the scientific literature on the nature of memory, particularly focussing upon the areas of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and susceptibility to false memories.

We will look at findings from several studies directly addressing the reliability of memory for ostensibly paranormal phenomena. This research indicates that any report of an anomalous event that rests entirely upon human memory should be treated with considerable caution.

Professor Chris French is 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 the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society and an Honorary Member of the Centre for Memory and Law at City University. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences.

Matt Brown

When?
Monday, September 5 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Matt Brown

What's the talk about?

Are the streets of London really paved with gold? Sadly not. But other myths about the capital sound more plausible and have a stubborn knack of persisting. A Union Flag over Buckingham Palace does not mean the Queen is at home. Nylon is not named after NY and London. Jack the Ripper's murders took place on fogless nights. If you thought that the Savoy was the only place in London where you must drive on the right, then you're wrong. If you think Guy Fawkes was executed for masterminding the Gunpowder Plot, then you're doubly wrong.

 

Matt Brown's new book Everything You Know About London Is Wrong reveals the truth behind dozens of stories about the capital. It's an antidote to the many alternative guidebooks that repeat the same old bits of trivia without ever checking the sources. In this talk, he'll turn a skeptical eye on a dozen of his favourite false facts.

Matt is Editor-at-Large of Londonist, a website about London and everything in it. He's been writing professionally about London for more than 10 years and has explored every nook and cranny - including trips down the sewers and onto the roofs of skyscrapers, and an all-night ghost watch in a supposedly haunted museum. 

How thoughts and feelings change how our brain responds to pain

Dr Tim Salomons

When?
Monday, July 4 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

40-42 Chalk Farm Road
Camden
London NW1 8BG

Who?
Dr Tim Salomons

What's the talk about?

How can we learn to gain better control over pain by changing our thoughts and how can a better understanding of the brain help us do this?

Dr Tim Salomons will discuss some of his recent findings suggesting that training individuals to think differently about pain can alter not only their emotional response but their actual sensitivity to painful stimuli.

He is a Lecturer and Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Reading. His work uses functional neuroimaging to examine how pain is processed in the brain and how the brain can alter pain depending on the context in which it occurs. He is particularly interested in how thoughts and feelings change pain and whether the brain can be trained to cope more effectively.

As usual, we will be taking a break in August and we’ll be back on September 5 with Everything You Know About London Is Wrong.