Skeptics in the Pub, Oxford

Thinking and drinking. That is the unlikely goal of our meeting. Each month we invite a speaker to talk about an area of belief and to invite critical debate. We encourage sceptical thought and we enjoy challenging discussions. We also welcome humour and we intend to have a good time.

The meetings are open to all, no matter what your prior beliefs. We ask that you come along with a willingness to be challenged in your beliefs and we provide an opportuity for you to challenge others - and to enjoy a drink or two.

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Our next topic is...

Alice Bell

When?
Wednesday, November 5 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

108 St Aldate's
City Centre
Oxford
OX1 1BU

Who?
Alice Bell

What's the talk about?

This is tale of a scientific revolution that failed. Most scientific revolutions are about politics in some way, not just the nature scientists look at, but this was especially political in scope. Science, these revolutionaries argued, had lost its way. Science had become too focused to the whims of senior staff and their cronies, allowing its energies to be applied to war and environmental destruction. If the public didn’t like science, so the argument went, maybe they had a point. In the shadow of the still-blazing light of the atomic bomb, with increasing concern over chemical and biological weapons as well as an emerging environmental crisis, science needed to take a good, hard look at itself. Elitist and stuffy, science had let itself fester a bit. The time had come to imagine a new way of doing science. They were the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, BSSRS, or Bizrus to their friends. Active and reasonably well-known throughout the 1970s, they fell apart in the 1980s and are largely forgotten today. This is their story.

Alice Bell is a freelance journalist, specialising in the politics of science and technology. She writes about innovation for How We Get to Next and climate change for the Road to Paris. She's a science policy blogger for the Guardian and columnist for Popular Science UK. She used to be an academic, teaching science communication at Imperial College. Before that she set fire to bubbles for the Science Museum for a living.

Twitter: @alicebell

Dr Tim Miles

When?
Wednesday, April 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

108 St Aldate's
City Centre
Oxford
OX1 1BU

Who?
Dr Tim Miles

What's the talk about?

The children's Author EB White once quipped: 'Analysing humour is like dissecting a live frog. No one is interested and the frog dies.' Studying comedy, at university level, has encouraged a number of criticisms, but two have dominated: that it is too frivolous when more 'serious' matters need to be investigated; and it is somehow beyond investigation because some people are just funny - they have 'funny bones' - and cannot, therefore, be studied or taught. Instead, comedy is seen as something that should be extra-curricular, like the footlights at Cambridge, and not part of serious academic work. To suggest otherwise leads to accusations of 'dumbing down', wasting public money, and 'soft' subjects on the curriculum.

In this talk I want to suggest that studying comedy offers us fascinating insights and important possibilities. The talk will seamlessly (hopefully) explore a path through evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, health care, pedagogy, cultural anthology, the performing arts, and other academic fields, looking at the work of comedy and humour scholars. Specifically, the areas discussed will include: the benefits of tickling rats to neuroscience; whether computers can tell jokes (or understand them); why stand-up comedy saved Dave Pitt's life (and who Dave Pitt is); and why you can get away with making very close-to-the-knuckle jokes in Japan but only under very specific circumstances. The talk will also briefly look at stand-up comedy, and my own doctoral research in which I argued that laughter rarely has much to do with anything being objectively funny, but is more connected to human relationships. Finally, I shall examine Bright Club, the comedy club where academics present research as comedy, and argue that all academics - however reluctant they may be - should be encouraged to perform stand-up comedy.

Biography: Tim Miles wrote jokes for BBC radio as an undergraduate, subsequently running his own comedy club booking the then unknown Al Murray and Graham Norton. Having taught in Higher Education for ten years he was awarded a PhD by the University of Surrey in 2014, his doctoral research examining ways of analysing live stand-up comedy. He has been a member of the editorial board of Comedy Studies since 2010, and is currently their Reviews Editor. He has published on a number of areas relating to comedy, including: comic responses to the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland; humour and the erotic; and emotion in stand-up comedy. In 2015 his book Reading between the Punch-Lines; a Guide to Analysing Stand-up Comedy will be published. In 2015 he will also be editing an edition of Comedy Studies devoted to Japanese comedy. He occasionally performs stand-up at various Bright Clubs, winning the 'worst pun' award in 2013 for a joke about Nietzsche, which he promises not to tell during this talk.