Skeptics in the Pub, Reading

Thinking and drinking, humour and debate. Monthly talks and challenging discussions for people interested in science, critical thinking, evidence-based policy, or just life-long learning. Myths are debunked, accepted wisdom is challenged, new discoveries are celebrated.

Our meetings are open to all and free to attend, though we do collect voluntary donations towards our expenses.

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The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

Sydney Padua

When?
Monday, July 20 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

11 Castle St
Reading
RG1 7SB

Who?
Sydney Padua

What's the talk about?

One hundred years before the first computers were built out of wires and transistors, the Victorian polymath Charles Babbage designed a gigantic steam-powered, punchcard-programmed, cogwheel computer, the Analytical Engine.  His friend Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, completed some of the first programs for the machine, and theorised that one day it could be used for the manipulation of any kind of information. Unfortunately Ada died young and Babbage never built his Engine, leaving their story as one of the greatest what-ifs in the history of science.

Sydney Padua’s cult webcomic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, now a bestselling graphic novel, combines extensive research with alternate-universe comic-book escapes, where the mechanical computer is finally completed and used to build runaway economic models, defeat spelling errors, and of course, fight crime. In this talk she will tell the story of these two fascinating and brilliant eccentrics, and discuss her process of primary-source research and creative transformation. She will also display her 3-d animations of how the Analytical Engine would have looked and operated, some of the first visualisations ever created of that extraordinary machine.

Sydney Padua is a cartoonist and visual effects artist whose animation appears in The Iron Giant, Clash of the Titans, and John Carter. Her work has been featured in Wired and The Economist and she has spoken at Microsoft, Google, the BBC, and the Computer History Museum.

Why children are great pretenders, poor problem solvers, and sometimes less clever than crows

Sarah Beck

When?
Monday, August 17 2015 at 7:30PM

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

Where?

11 Castle St
Reading
RG1 7SB

Who?
Sarah Beck

What's the talk about?

Young children are excellent imaginers, coming up with all kinds of creative and weird worlds. But what is the imagination really for? Adults use their imaginations to solve problems, but children sometimes struggle with this. In this talk, Sarah Beck will explore how children start to use their imaginations for creative problem solving, using examples of children’s thinking about ‘how things might have been different’ and comparing children’s tool-making to that of clever non-human animals.

Sarah Beck is Reader in Cognitive Development at the University of Birmingham. She researches children's thinking about possibility and time, and questions whether adults' thinking in these areas is as sophisticated as we might like to think. She teaches an undergraduate course that compares the cognitive abilities of human children with non-human animals.