Archive for category Skeptics in the Pub

Do Computer Scientists Dream of Electric Sleep? – Katie Atkinson

When:  Thursday, May 21st, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Dr Katie Atkinson

In this talk Katie will provide an insight into the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to show how current research on the topic breaks many of the moulds found in numerous depictions of AI in sci-fi literature and films. She will provide an overview of the main techniques used to represent aspects of intelligent thought and behaviour, and discuss some of the landmark success stories and current state-of-the-art. Katie will further pinpoint some of the challenges that AI researchers face, covering technological, legal and ethical aspects.

Dr Katie Atkinson is a Reader in the Agent Applications, Research, and Technology (Agent ART) Group of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool. The Agent ART Group carries out both pure and applied research in the area of autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Computer Science department was ranked 1st in the UK for 4* and 3* research, with 97% of their research being rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Her research concerns computational models of argument, with a particular focus on persuasive argumentation in practical reasoning and how this can be applied in domains such as e-Democracy, law and agent systems. She has published over one hundred articles on these, and closely related, subjects. She received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2005.

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AIDS Denialism – by Myles Power

When:  Thursday, January 15th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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In the early days of the AIDS epidemic many bizarre and dangerous ideas were advanced regarding the origin of the disease and its cause. Since the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) these conspiracy theories, which once filled the void left by the lack of information, have all but vanished. Over the past three decades HIV has been the subject of intense scientific research which has resulted in effective treatments, rapid HIV tests, and promising cures. Yet unbelievably there are a small number of people who are sceptical of the “official story”. Although these people are small in numbers they are extremely well funded and can pose a very real threat to public health. Many have chosen to spend their money on spreading their harmful theories, defend people who have irresponsibly infected their partners, and funded the documentary House of Numbers.

The documentary encourages people to come off their medication, tells them that HIV tests don’t work, and that anti-viral drugs such as AZT are the real cause of AIDS. To do this the makers of the documentary make liberal use of out-of-context quotations from scientists interviewed for the film, deceitful editing techniques, and flat out lies.

YouTube vlogger Myles Power has dedicated a large amount of time to exposing some of the more insidious claims in the documentary. In response there have been multiple Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation claims filed against Myles in an attempt to silence his criticism.

In his talk Myles will discuss some examples of the dangerous assertions in the documentary and explain how they have led to the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. He will also talk about the failure of the DMCA and how it can be exploited by the proponents of pseudoscience.

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The Knowledge – Lewis Dartnell

When: Thursday, February 19th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Maybe it was an asteroid impact, a nuclear war, or a viral pandemic. Whatever the cause, the world as we know it is over and humanity must start again. What would you need to know to not only survive in the immediate aftermath, but avert another Dark Ages and accelerate the rebooting of civilisation from scratch? The Knowledge is a grand thought experiment on the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our world works, and what drove the progression of civilisation over the centuries.

Dr Lewis Dartnell is a research fellow at the University of Leicester, working in the field of astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth. He has written three the-knowledgebooks: Life in the Universe: A Beginner’s Guide, My Tourist Guide to the Solar System and The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch.

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Truth and Lies in Advertising – by Richard Burdett

When:  Thursday, December 18th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

This talk looks at advertising from both the consumer’s and the advertiser’s perspective. Can consumers trust what they’re seeing, reading, hearing and clicking on? And, in an increasingly fragmented and fractured media environment, can advertisers trust the data on which they’re making multi-million pound investment decisions?

Richard Burdett began his career at Saatchi & Saatchi, spending eleven years working with clients such as BA, BP, Cadbury Schweppes and Sainsbury’s.

He then moved from advertising to the fledgling world of multi-channel television, initially as Head of Ad Sales for The Discovery Channel and subsequently as Head of Marketing for UKTV. Next stop was Vice Chairman of CIA (now MEC) one of the world’s largest media buying agencies. In 2003 he became Head of 4Creative, Channel 4’s in-house ad agency, working on shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives, Shameless and Jamie’s School Dinners as well as the launches of More4 and Film4.

Richard is currently MD of Horse & Country TV, a thematic channel which does exactly what it says on the tin. The channel has brought over fifty new advertisers on to TV and was one of five nominees for Best Factual Channel in this year’s Broadcast awards, up against BBC3, BBC4, Discovery and History.

Follow Richard on Twitter @rgburdett

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Lifting The Lid: Ongoing adventures in the world of pseudoscience – by Michael Marshall

When: Thursday, November 20th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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It’s easy to think of pseudoscience existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. In a talk that has been hugely popular at more than 25 events this year, using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes-shocking and often-comic adventures that lie beneath.

Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

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The Psychology of Possession and Exorcism – by Chris French

When: Thursday, July 17th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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It can be argued that human beings tend to be intuitive dualists, finding it easy to believe that “mind-stuff” simply cannot be reduced to matter. Such intuitions underlie the belief that mind (or, as some would call it, “soul”) can become separated from the physical body. Indeed, most people go further and believe that consciousness can in some way survive physical death. Comforting though such beliefs may be, they also open the door to the possibility that other spiritual beings, both human and non-human, may at times take control of another person’s physical body. Belief in possession and exorcism is widespread in many societies, both ancient and modern. Neuropathological and sociocognitive factors that underlie such beliefs will be presented in this talk.

Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 120 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. 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. His most recent book, co-authored with Anna Stone, is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

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