Archive for October, 2010

Skeptics in the Pub: Petra Boynton

Sex in the Media

by Petra Boynton
When: Thu, Nov 18, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this event has been postponed. Instead, we will be presenting How to Create Your Own Cult, the Scientology Way by Martin Poulter.


After family, friends, and school sex education the media is the main source of sex advice for most of us.

And the more personal the topic, the more likely it is that we will use the media to try and find answers to our sexual problems – or to increase our sexual pleasures.

Unfortunately this is an area where there is little or no regulation. Anyone can set themselves up as a ‘sexpert’ and the credentials of those offering adviceare rarely checked.

As a result the quality of sex information providedby the media is variable, and often tied up with commercial ventures. Moreover, many journalists covering sex-related stories have (like many of us) inadequatesex education and lack basic understanding of health/science/cultural issues – resulting in much sex coverage reinforcing misunderstandingsaround hormones, performance, technique and health. The aim of this session is to highlight where there are problems (using real life examples of good and bad sex advice), outline why these problems arise, and provide some ideas about what we may do about this. Given that the topic of sex/relationships is often not considered within science or skepticism, or treated more as a joke topic, this session invites you to have fun but also reflect on wider issues that might impact on your sex life.

Beginning with a review of the evidence base on media advice giving, and using case studies of good and bad media sex coverage this talk invites skeptics to consider ways they may address problems in media sex coverage and related issues.
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Unofficial TAM Delegate Meet-Up

TAM London 2010So, I’m off to TAM this weekend. And by this weekend, I mean tomorrow. I’d give you the countdown in hours and minutes, but that would be hard to maintain given you all might be reading this at different times. I could try, but I’d soon lose the thread and you’d all lose respect for me. Let’s just leave it as ‘Friday’. Excellent.

So, while in London on Friday, after having early-registered like the smart cookies we probably are, Mike and I will be looking for something to do, and somewhere to do it. Ideally with people to do it with thrown in for good measure. Which is why it was pretty cool that @Jimbobthomas got in touch with me to tell of plans afoot. Details below, if any of you fancy it – you’re all more than welcome to come along. I think I’ll be there from around 7pm or so, depending on how other plans pan out. If you’re going to TAM, don’t forget to say so in the comments so we can all see. And if you’re not able to go, well, there are other cool conferences on the horizon

It was suggested (er…by me) on that it would be really cool to meet up with any skeptics travelling to TAM London before official registration on Saturday so that we can say ‘hi’ and welcome you all to London. I do not know how many of you are going to see Ghost Stories on Friday evening but even if you are not, the venue I would like to suggest is nicely central and walkable to the Hilton Metropole where the conference is being held and very near to Paddington Station where taxi’s will be in abundance. It also is a relatively new venue that would be happy to see us. So happy, in fact, that there will be a fair amount of free food for drinking guests and the menu, whilst a bit organic, does look to be rather nice.

So, if people could leave a comment or send me a quick note at jim at hampshireskeptics dot org it would be very helpful as I can warn the manager that there will be a hoard of hungry and thirsty skeptics beating a path to their door?

The suggested venue is and as you can see from the link it is a stones throw from the conference centre: .

We are really looking forward to seeing you all and are super excited about the conference.


See you all there!


Skeptics in the Pub: Sarah Horton

Being Sarah

by Sarah Horton
When: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool


Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 and lives in Liverpool. She underwent six surgeries including mastectomy, oophorectomy and breast reconstruction, plus gruelling treatments. She has 49 inches of scar and lives with the permanent fear of the cancer returning.

Sarah Horton claims that the UK has conned itself into thinking breast cancer is a treatable disease and there is little debate on prevention.

This October Sarah Horton is calling for breast cancer policy to focus more heavily on prevention and for breast cancer patients to be given further choice and control over their treatments.
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Caption Competition #11 and #12!

As we’re a week late with the Caption Competition we thought we’d treat you to a double decker this week. We’ve got two, count ’em, two, pictures for you to provide your eloquent and witty captions for.

But first, let’s see who won number 10 in our popular competition. There was a lot of good entries for this penguin-themed picture, so rather than limit ourselves to one winner we picked a few. The winners are, in no particular order: Sophie, Adam Lappin and TheTrueScotsman, with the following respective captions:

I’m sorry, but is this where we audition for the Linux Mascot Competition?

What do you mean I’m adopted?!?!

(small penguin in the middle) Right, now tell my brother what you just called me?!

Well done one and all!

Now, onto this week’s bumper pack of pictures. Feel free to provide a caption to either picture, or to both if you’re feeling greedy! Picture number 2 is of course the fabulous Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog, live on-stage at TAM.

What should be the caption for the picture(s) below?



Bad PR: The Adulterated Truth

Getting a PR-fluff-piece into the news is easy, as I’ve shown before – take a survey, manufacture a surprising result (through data-mining, biased sampling or leading questions), and push it out with a shocking headline and a sexy angle. Easy. Here’s the first three paragraphs from an example in the Daily Express, print edition, the other week:

“One in five women would forgive their man for a one-night stand as long as it meant nothing to them.

The figures emerged in a report which also revealed that eight out of 10 Britons couldn’t care less if their partner became involved with someone else, as long as they didn’t have sex.

Despite nine out of 10 women claiming they would dump a man who had regular sex with someone else, millions would forgive indiscretions over the phone or by text, although half of girls still say they would show their partner the door if he kissed another woman.” – Source: Daily Express, 29/09/2010

Prime example, then – sexy angle, backed up with a nice, traditional ‘men cheat, ladies – deal with it’ undertone more in keeping with an episode of the Sopranos than with what most of us would experience in our lives, I’d imagine. On top of that, we have a flurry of statistics, including the up-scaled extrapolation of what ‘millions’ believe, based on the sample data. You’ve five seconds to guess what company appears in the next paragraph, having commissioned the survey. It’s a classic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #032

The Ancient Order of Druids, the curse of the M25 and accidental quacks.  Plus Tony Robinson, yellow shucks, Formula One, Professor Chris French and a Phillips C60.


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