Tuesday 26 November 2013

The Round-up Week Ending 24/11/13

This week’s round-up has been brought to you courtesy of Jade Quarrel who you’ll find running our book group each month. The next one is on Sunday 15th of December and is covering Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to read the book, gen up on the ideas and join in the discussion. Keep track of all our upcoming events on our other website

I’ll now hand you over to Jade.

Top scientists reveals that science is mostly made up for the riches and glamour. Lets hope they don’t hear about it in Texas where they are on their way to approving textbooks containing the still disputed theory of evolution. Despite debates around the theory one of its earliest proponents (Wallace) has been honoured.

Those scientists have been researching the inheritance of fear and have found that mice inherit the fears of their fathers this research has been described as ground breaking and complete rubbish. .

 Research relating to how the brain operates is given a human feel by Voytek describing the sensation of holding a brain. Incidentally I saw the Welcome exhibition on the brain and Manchester science museum and was struck by how beautiful MRI scans can be (Katherine Dowson) Whilst Neuroskeptic ponders the neuroscience of everyday life and what (if anything) prevents neuroscience from explaining all human behaviour more is discovered about memory but I forget what and we learn more about how synthetics experience sex. If this inspires you then there may be an app to turn you into a scientist

In IT news something clever happened with a quantum computer and a world record but I don’t really understand what…And
the Smithsonian has released a new 3D modeling tool, complete with scans of some of its most famous objects so we now have the ability to print 3D mammoths (everybody likes mammoths). Whilst we are trying to recreate ancient life the US government are attempting to protect currently endangered species by destroying large stocks of ivory.

There have been plenty of things to look at this month; Open culture features the homes and studies of philosophers including Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. How did I not know that Nietzsche had a book called The Gay Science?  Shane Gehlert takes us on a tour of the solar system and this solar system gif is beautiful too. This time lapse map of every nuclear explosion on earth is informative, chilling and beautiful.

Christians are excited at a new way to hear the gospel (with thanks to Britney)  The restyling of the catholic church is causing some concern with the mafia. Changes in legislation are causing concern for the church with a Springfield bishop performing exorcisms on the day same sex marriage becomes law. The threat to marriage must seem very real with the news that atheist marriages may last longer than those sanctified in the church. 

This week’s round-up was put together by SitP organiser Jade Quarrell. If you'd like a go at doing it let us know.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Weekly Round-up Week Ending 17/11/2014

Welcome to the better late than never weekly round-up.

I want to start off by saying how grateful we are to Dr Tim Grant on his inaugural Skeptics in the Pub talk last week. It was a highly entertaining and illustrative exploration of forensic linguistics. For those of you that want to know more here’s a set of links that you’ll enjoy. First off is a paper Tim wrote on the linguistic analysis of SMS messages in the case of the murder of Amanda Birks. Here’s a more recent article on the linguistic clues that reveal your true twitter identity. This is the Gender Guesser webpage that he demonstrated in his talk. And finally link to the Centre for Forensic Linguistics.

Not one but two tales of university sports based misogyny made the news this week as first Stirling University Men’s Hockey Team and then Cardiff University’s Football team disgraced themselves. There was further dismay when Cellular Solutions revealed their unbalanced staffing structure. And whilst we’re talking of balance here’s a statement from their managing director on the subject.

Let’s move on the little explored territory of paranormal kitchen based phenomena. Firstly the mysterious case of the suicidal robot cleaner that apparently chose to end it all with a cooker and then the terrifying tale of spontaneous towel combustion. Actually, after reading those stories I can see why they’re little explored.

According to some scientists this is the fossil remains of the “oldest ever complete example of life on Earth”. Although according to others it might not be. But hey, that’s how scientists think as any baby would know. However, if you’re a scientist and you stumble across the oldest actual living creature, what do you do? Kill it of course mwuhahaha!

Here’s an article on quantum physics and the afterlife from the Daily Mail that I swear is word for word a conversation I had as a drunken student many years ago.

Here’s a little something for you cycling fans out there. A great set of films on the science of bike design.

Some visuals for you now starting with the photographically documented story of a family’s experience of werewolf syndrome. Click here for one of those eye bending optical illusion things. And not particularly skeptical but still oh so good, high speed photos of wet dogs shaking their heads.

Despite our best efforts, Birmingham Skeptics has yet to secure funding from Big Pharma so maybe there’s a chance from Big Alt Med. Perhaps we could get royal patronage, maybe Edzard can put a word in for us.

If you enjoy random linkage you really need to get liking our Facebook page. Roy Beddowes populates it with all manner of links that might be of interest to those of a skeptical and science bent. To give you a taste of what goes on there, and not in any way a shameless space filling exercise, here is a selection of the goodness recently posted therein:

The unexpected ways that animals use their genitals.
Imagining the post-antibiotic future.
Four new ways to smuggle information across the internet.
Toy robots picking fun at our smartphone addiction.
Girls and girls’ toys.
Don’t be too Northern for Ofsted!
50,000 generations of bacteria prove that evolution never stops.
Chickenpox nostalgia.
Behold the smelloscope!
The paranormal pursuit of life after death.

We’ve got an extra talk this month, no less than Simon Singh himself taking us through the Maths Secrets of the Simpsons. We expect this to be a popular event and any money collected on the night will be given over to Medicins San Frontieres. You can also sign up for our Christmas themed talk with the wonderful Mike Hall and our December Book Group who will be reading and discussing Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape.

We’ve got events posted up for months to come and you can get details for them here. True some of the details are sketchy but that just means that these are new talks, being written and thought through just for us and you will be the first to hear them. We’ll fill in the gaps when we get the info.so keep checking back.

Although Simon’s talk is on the subject of Maths he’s happy to take questions on anything for the Q and A. perhaps you can ask him about his career as a pop song lyricist

This week’s round-up was assembled by Patrick Redmond (@paddyrex) with the usual help of the linkmaster, Roy Beddowes.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

The Round-up Week Ending 03/11/2013

As promised it’s another miscellany of the good, the bad and the geeky from Birmingham Skeptics. We hope that you escaped the spooky season unscathed and not too terrorised by the mobs of marauding younglings in their quest for sugary satisfaction. Whether you are a fan of Halloween or not the fact that you do or don’t celebrate it could have something to do with those good old British colonials, don’t you know. If you’re fascinated by some of the  myths and facts around that holiday here’s a bunch of articles from our fiends (yes, bad pun intentional) at Live Science.

Always with an alternative view to events we have comedian, skeptic and neuroscientist, Dean Burnett, with some science inspired Halloween costumes. We’ll move away from Halloween but stick with costumes and some fantastic photos of cosplay proponents at home in this collection by Klaus Pichler. Of course there are times even in this field that nature just provides a natural advantage.

Dean mentions transhumanism in his article, here’s a do-it-yourself example that’s only slightly disturbing.

You must have heard of What the Doctor’s Don’t Tell You, the online peddlar or dangerous nonsense. When it moved into the medium of print Simon Singh and others called for major high street vendors to boycott it. That battle is still on with Andy Lewis suggesting a bit of direct action that you can do to influence its outcome. And joining the battle this week we have the not at all confusingly named but still brilliant What “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” Don’t Tell You. In the interests of balance (ironic though that seems) here is the view from the other side.

It’s been ages since we’ve had Chris French to Birmingham, and I’m wondering whether we should ask him again. He’s an extremely entertaining speaker and a lovely bloke too. If you can’t get to hear him speak though, you could do worse than buy this book he’s co-published with Dr Anna Stone on Anomalistic Psychology.

Since we’re on the topic of skeptical reads I’m going to cunningly and subliminally slip in the first of several events that you need to put into your diary. Birmingham Skeptics has an excellent book group that runs every month. November is a good month to try book club… We are reading Does God Hate Women by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Strangroom. This book has been described as ‘at once a joy to read and a call to arms’.It looks at the role of culture and religion in the subjection of women drawing on examples from many countries. At 177 pages it is small enough to read on the bus. Ophelia Benson is a columnist for Free Inquiry and was accused of being a feminazi after her appearance at QED conference where she discussed ‘A question of God?’ Even if you don’t think that you have time to read the book (and you probably do) you can still turn up for the great company and join in the conversation.

I saw Ophelia on that panel at QED and many of you will be interested and happy to know that once more that great skeptical event is due to happen, albeit at a different venue. The Gala dinner has already sold out but you can still get tickets to the event and I would totally recommend doing so. And here's a way to help some that perhaps should go but cant go, to go.

Change of course now as we head out to sea for the next few stories. This article presents new evidence for the kraken, though to my mind it’s sketchier than the picture used to illustrate it. Ever the fan of people that overthink non-problems we have five reasons that mermaids can’t physically exist. Far more frightening is the potential effects of over gorging on the apparently delicious but dangerous escolar. Only tenuously linked to the sea but still great fun is this yarn bombed tree squid.

God Vine reckons that the “miraculous” saving of this woman from her oversized sinking car is proof enough of God’s existence and goodness. What’s that, you’re not convinced? What would it take to make you believe? Being struck twice by lightning in the same day was enough for this literal clown.

Jann Bellamy takes us through her experiences of energy medicine. We may as well continue through the looking glass of healing with this bizarre tale of pastor prescribed hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

If reading stuff like that makes you want to scream you could probably do with assembling one of these nifty doodahs in order not to disturb your neighbours. You could practice your alphabet of alien sounds in there.

Talking of making things, if you are the kind of person that likes to put things together and work on projects, you could do worse than get involved with the people over at Fizzpop with their Makerspace/Hackspace. True they tend to hold some of their events on nights that clash with us, but we like them so much that we’ll forgive them that. They’ve got a Make the Space event not yet up on the website that will be happening this Saturday the 9th, a good time to go and meet them; otherwise every Wednesday is an open day.

As somebody that tends to cough and splutter through the high pollen season I can at least take solace in the thought that there might be an evolutionary role to allergies.

Here’s a few experiments from the days when scientists were unencumbered by ethics committees and sanity.

Peru have reopened the The Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. Well if you have an office with a cool name like that why wouldn’t you?

An interesting article here examining the evidence base, or lack of it, for psychological first aid.

For all you fans of palaeontology, the remarkable Hadrosaur tail that’s been unearthed in Mexico.

You can always tell when I’m getting to the end of my links as they get more disjointed and singular. Many of these were provided by Roy Beddowes who does an excellent job of populating our Facebook page with all manner of goodness. Like it now and join in the fun.

Before we get to the obligatory but ever so essential plugs of our upcoming events I’m going to cram in a What if, just because I’m a big fan and I’m the one writing this

Now get those diaries out and don’t you dare skip past this bit. Our next speaker is Dr Tim Grant on the fascinating subject of forensic linguistics. Make sure you’re along for that one, it’s a SitP premiere and should be really good. If you’re on Facebook let us know you’re coming on the event page. Only two weeks later we’ve got Simon Singh and to take us into Christmas the irrepressible Mike Hall.

Now shh and don’t tell anybody about the next bits but I’m going to give you a sneak preview into next year and it’s not even up on the website. All I’ll say so far is Charlie Veitch, Benn Gunn, vegans and veggies, and vampires.

I’ll leave you with a taster of Simon’s upcoming talk.

This week’s round-up was put together by Patrick Redmond with helpful links from Roy Beddowes.