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Ronald Green

When?
Wednesday, March 6 2013 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Ronald Green

What's the talk about?

 Why should nothing matter? If anything matters, why should nothing matter? And yet it does, for there isn’t anything, it seems, that nothing does not touch, or anything that does not touch nothing. History, philosophy, religion, science, art, literature, music – all look towards nothing at some point, stimulating questions that would otherwise not be asked.

Who, for example, could have believed that nothing held back progress for 600 years in the Middle Ages, all because of mistaken translation, or that nothing is a way to tackle (and answer) the perennial question "what is art?"? Ronald Green uses nothing in a genuine attempt to look at the world in a different way, to give new angles to old problems and so to stimulate new thoughts.

What is this nothing, that we can’t actually see, touch or feel? Is it absolute? Is it relative to everything else? If we are able to think about it, write and read about it, is it something, and if so wouldn’t it then not be nothing?

This is precisely the mystery of nothing – that the more we think about it, the more there is to it.

Disarmingly invisible, the point of nothing – to paraphrase Bertrand Russell on philosophy – is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth examining, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

Ronald Green is the author of "Nothing Matters – a book about nothing" (iff-Books). Philosopher, linguist, university lecturer and ESL teacher, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on linguistics, ESL and the use of the Internet in education. His short stories have been published in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, the Sink and Unholy Biscuit. He has completed a philosophical novel and co-authored a psychological thriller with strong philosophical underpinnings. For the past five years he has been thinking seriously about nothing, culminating in his recently-published book.

In association with Oxford Think Week

Professor Chris French and Martin S Taylor

When?
Wednesday, February 13 2013 at 7:00PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Professor Chris French and Martin S Taylor

What's the talk about?

Note slightly earlier start time.

A special event as part of Oxford Think Week. Professor of psychology Chris French is joined by hypnotist Martin Taylor on an expedition into the psychology behind ‘paranormal experiences’. This is the first time that the two friends will be presenting a double-act, and it stands to be something spectacular! Don’t miss it!

Professor Chris French: The Psychology of Ghosts and Hauntings

Opinion polls repeatedly show relatively high levels of belief in ghosts even in modern Western societies. Furthermore, a sizeable minority of the population claim to have personally encountered a ghost. This talk will consider a number of factors that may lead people to claim that they have experienced a ghost even though they may not in fact have done so. Topics covered will include hoaxes, sincere misinterpretation of natural phenomena, hallucinatory experiences and pareidolia (seeing things that are not there), the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, the possible role of complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound, photographic evidence, EVP, and the role of the media.

Professor Chris French is the 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, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 100 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic, co-edited with Wendy Grossman (2010, London: The Philosophy Press) and Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, London: Palgrave). Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench

Martin S Taylor: More Lives Than One?

Martin S Taylor became interested in hypnosis when he was studying for a PhD at Imperial College, and soon became well known on the student circuit with his science based lecture-demonstration. At first he believed in the traditional view that hypnosis is a special induced state of mind, but discussions with friends and his experience with his own hypnotic subjects led him to subscribe to the 'social-compliance' view, namely that hypnosis is best explained by normal, well-understood psychological principles.

He now makes a living as a lecturer and consultant on hypnosis, talking and demonstrating at schools, universities, and anywhere else they'll pay him. It was at one of Martin's lectures that Derren Brown was inspired to take up his career, and Martin has worked with Derren on a number of recent television shows. Recently he has been working as a hypnosis consultant for Paramount Pictures, producing promotional videos for horror films.

In tonight's talk, Martin will be examining the notion that hypnosis can be used to get people to remember past lives, a phenomenon taken by many as evidence of reincarnation.

Professor Elaine Fox

When?
Wednesday, February 6 2013 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Professor Elaine Fox

What's the talk about?

Elaine will discuss the nature of “rainy brains” and “sunny brains” asking where these fundamental differences in how we see the world actually come from. She will take us on a journey through cognitive psychology, neuroscience and molecular genetics and will argue that who we are – optimist or pessimist – comes from an intricate dance of genes, fate, and – most crucially - subliminal biases in how we notice, interpret and remember what goes on around us. She will argue that optimism is much more than positive thinking and that the benefits actually come from some other core elements of optimism such as positive actions, a tendency for persistence, and a sense of having control over one’s destiny.

Elaine Fox is a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Essex and is also a Visiting Research Professor in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. She has researched the nature of pessimism and optimism for many years culminating in the publication of her popular science book Rainy Brain Sunny Brain in 2012 (http:// www.rainybrainsunnybrain.com). This highly accessible book takes a look at whether how we are is “in our genes” and asks whether we can or should change our fundamental outlook on life.

Dr. Andrew Steele

When?
Wednesday, January 9 2013 at 7:30PM

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Where?

131a High Street
Oxford
OX1 4DH

Who?
Dr. Andrew Steele

What's the talk about?

Cancer kills almost a third of us, and yet we spend just £10 per person per year looking for a cure—and it's by far the best-funded medical condition. Our investment in science is woefully small compared to the scale of the problems it’s trying to solve. Dr Andrew Steele (physicist, optimist and FameLab UK winner) explains why our miniscule spending on science doesn’t make sense, and why it’s vital that we make science funding a political issue.

Topic TBC

When?
Wednesday, December 5 2012 at 7:30PM

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(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)

Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Dr. Evan Harris

What's the talk about?

TBC

Stephen Curry

When?
Wednesday, November 7 2012 at 7:30PM

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Where?

131a High Street
Oxford
OX1 4DH

Who?
Stephen Curry

What's the talk about?

Viruses are pathogens — germs — that afflict all forms of life. All they 'want' is to reproduce but in doing so cause diseases that vary enormously in severity. How do they work and what can be done to stop them?

My research focuses on one family of viruses that includes foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), a germ well known in Britain because of the devastating outbreak in 2001. Though too small to see clearly, even with a powerful microscope, my research uses X-rays to reveal viruses in atomic detail. My talk will describe how zapping viruses with X-rays helps us to explore the strange molecular landscape where so much FMDV action takes place and to figure out how we might tackle the disease that it causes.

Stephen Curry, a native of Northern Ireland, is a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London. That means he is interested in what biological molecules, such as proteins, look like and how they work. An active blogger, he has been writing about science (and making videos) at occamstypewriter.org/scurry for several years. He also takes a keen interest in scientific activism, most notably in supporting the Campaign for Libel Reform and as vice-chair of Science is Vital.

Liz Lutgendorff

When?
Wednesday, October 3 2012 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Liz Lutgendorff

What's the talk about?

History is used often as an argument for authority or policy but how accurate are many of the examples mentioned in the news? Diving back into skepticism's past, Liz will tell us about the tools used by skeptics and secular activists from the 19th and 20th centuries, the campaigns they fought and also how we can continue that legacy today.

Science vs Religion in the Classroom

Alom Shaha

When?
Wednesday, September 5 2012 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Alom Shaha

What's the talk about?

How can children brought up in religious families reconcile the different 'truths' they are told about the world? And to what extent should we discuss these issues in schools: what exactly should science teachers say when asked about the 'truth' of science by religious students? In this talk, Alom Shaha will describe his personal experiences growing up in a Bangladeshi Muslim community in London, what role his science education played in his journey towards atheism and how, as a Physics teacher, he responds to the apparent conflict between science and religion in the classroom.

Why Science Matters

Mark Henderson

When?
Wednesday, July 25 2012 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Mark Henderson

What's the talk about?

There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. 158 have a background in business, 90 have been political advisers or organisers, and 86 are lawyers. Only one of them is a scientist. Is it any wonder that politics so often lets science down, and fails to exploit its skeptical methods to design policies that are fit for purpose?

In the Geek Manifesto, published by Bantam Press in May 2012, Mark Henderson explores this disconnect between science and politics, and charts the emergence of a new force that is promising to mend it. From the Simon Singh libel case to the sacking of David Nutt and the Science is Vital campaign, people who care about science are starting to stand up to be counted. The geeks are coming -- and our country needs us.

Why dogs are different

John Bradshaw

When?
Wednesday, September 7 2011 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
John Bradshaw

What's the talk about?

The domestic dog's ancestor is the grey wolf - their DNA is almost indistinguishable - and for a century or more dogs have been portrayed as barely civilised wolves, engaged in a lifelong struggle for "dominance" over their owners.  Yet over the past fifteen years or so, science has revealed just how hollow this myth really is.  First, wolves do not, in the wild, struggle to assert "dominance" over their own kind.  Natural wolf packs are harmonious family units in which every member participates voluntarily; the despotic structure that was once thought to be the norm is an artifact, caused by confining unrelated wolves together in zoos.  Secondly, the one subspecies of wolf whose social life has been studied in detail is only very distantly related to modern domestic dogs.  Thirdly, dogs left to their own devices do not structure their social lives as wolves do - they adopt the basic canid breeding pattern of loose-knit packs and non-cooperative breeding.  Fourthly, most pet dogs exhibit stronger attachments to humans than to other dogs.  Thus domestication has had such a profound effect on the dog's behaviour that analogies with wolves, while academically interesting, can be an impediment to our understanding of our "best friend's" wants and needs.


John Bradshaw is a biologist who founded and directs the world-renowned Anthrozoology Institute, based at the University of Bristol. He has been studying the behaviour of domestic dogs and cats (and their owners) for over 25 years, and is the author of many scientific articles, research papers and reviews, which have not only shed new light on our animal companions' abilities and needs, but have also changed the way that pets are understood and cared for all over the world.  His most recent book, In Defence of Dogs/Dog Sense (Allen Lane/Basic Books, 2011), has been a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic.

Trystan Swale

When?
Wednesday, August 10 2011 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Trystan Swale

What's the talk about?

Confirmation of new time and date to follow.

 

Almost twenty years after two English pranksters admitted to beginning the modern crop circle phenomenon, popular belief in a paranormal explanation remains puzzlingly high. Drawing from the time he continues to spend studying the subject, Trystan offers an insight into the bad science, poor reasoning and denialism of those who still choose to believe.

Co-host and founder of the popular Righteous Indignation podcast, Trystan Swale spent six years actively investigating Fortean phenomena with various groups in the south west of England. Emerging with little more than a headache and plenty of regrets he has since entertained, amused and enraged a wide range of audiences with his forthright views on the paranormal.
 

How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole

Stephen Law

When?
Wednesday, July 13 2011 at 7:30PM

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Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.

Who?
Stephen Law

What's the talk about?

Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He has written several well-known introductions to philosophy, including the prize-winning The Philosophy Gym, and edits the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK: Philosophy For Everyone. Stephen is Provost (or Head) of the new Centre For Inquiry in the U.K. [see www.cfiuk.org] - and puts on regular events, including an upcoming event on Conspiracy Theories in September (with Chris French and David Aaronovitch). He was also commissioned by Oxford University Press to write their Very Short Introduction to Humanism, published this year.

His latest book is Believing Bullshit: How Not To Get Sucked Into An Intellectual Black Hole.

 Wacky belief systems abound. Members of the Heavens Gate suicide cult believed they were taking a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Muslim suicide bombers expect to be greeted after death by 72 virgins. And many fundamentalist Christians insist the entire universe is just 6,000 years old. Of course its not only cults and religions that promote bizarre beliefs significant numbers of people believe that aliens built the pyramids. How do such preposterous views succeed in entrenching themselves in the minds of sane, intelligent, educated people and turn them into the willing slaves of claptrap? Believing Bullshit is a witty and insightful critique that will help immunize readers against the wiles of cultists, religious and political zealots, conspiracy theorists, and various other nutcases by clearly setting out the tricks of the trade by which such insidious belief systems are created and sustained.Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He has written several well-known introductions to philosophy, including the prize-winning The Philosophy Gym, and edits the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK: Philosophy For Everyone.