Skeptics in the Pub, Reading

Thinking and drinking, humour and debate. Monthly talks and challenging discussions for people interested in science, skepticism, rationalism and critical thinking.

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 opportunity for you to challenge others - and to enjoy a drink or two.

We meet each month at The Outlook (formerly Copa), 76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ. [map]

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From the first galaxies to the origins of life

Sarah Kendrew

When?
Thursday, February 5 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Sarah Kendrew

What's the talk about?

The James Webb Space Telescope, a collaboration between space agencies in the US, Europe and Canada, will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as the foremost space telescope in 2018. Its unprecedented size, sensitivity and suite of instruments will revolutionise our view on the Universe, from showing us how the very first galaxies formed to revealing the atmospheres of planets outside our own solar system, where life may be forming. Sarah Kendrew will give an overview of the mission and the exciting science it will do after launch. She'll talk about where the mission is right now, from her personal involvement in one of JWST's 4 instruments, MIRI.

Sarah Kendrew is an astronomer at the University of Oxford. She works on optical and infrared instrumentation for the observatories of the future, and researches how stars form in the Milky Way Galaxy.

http://skendrew.github.io/

@sarahkendrew

From Quantum Field Theory to the Fourth Dimension: Why it's really easy to sound sciencey

Matt Parker

When?
Thursday, February 19 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Matt Parker

What's the talk about?

In this talk, particles and forces are considered as fully interacting relativistic quantum matter and force fields, respectively. Matt Parker will be visualized graphically as spacetime Feynman diagrams. Further, these interacting field systems can have ground states with the occasional joke; the so-called Higgs field being responsible for this symmetry breaking. In this all-new show, the ability for pseudo-scientists and charlatans to sound like real scientists will be imagined as fully interacting quantum-like fields.

Matt Parker is mathematician, stand-up comedian and skeptic. Well known for his cutting-edge research into the alignment of Woolworths stores, he is now on the road with a brand-new Skeptics talk. Matt will also be signing copies of his completely unrelated book: Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension.

@standupmaths

TBC

When?
Thursday, March 19 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
TBC

What's the talk about?

Located near Didcot in Oxfordshire, Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, used by over 3000 scientists to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

Half a kilometre in circumference, the machine speeds up electrons to near light speeds so that they give off a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. These bright beams are then directed off into multiple laboratories where scientists use the light to study a vast range of subject matter, from new medicines and treatments for disease to innovative engineering and cutting-edge technology.

Whether it’s fragments of ancient paintings or unknown virus structures, at the synchrotron scientists can study their samples using a machine that is 10,000 times more powerful than a traditional microscope.

Diamond is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, and its pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.

Inside the world's biggest experiment

Prof. Jon Butterworth

When?
Tuesday, March 24 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Prof. Jon Butterworth

What's the talk about?

The discovery of the Higgs boson made headlines around the world. Two scientists, Peter Higgs and François Englert, whose theories predicted its existence, shared a Nobel Prize. The discovery was the culmination of the largest experiment ever run, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. But what really is a Higgs boson and what does it do? How was it found? And what will the LHC do next? Professor Jon Butterworth, a leading member of the ATLAS experiment and author of the book Smashing Physics - Inside the World's Biggest Experiment, will talk about all this and more.

Jon Butterworth is also Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCL, and writes for the Guardian.

Alice Bell

When?
Thursday, April 2 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Alice Bell

What's the talk about?

This is the 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.

@alicebell

Nessa Carey

When?
Thursday, May 21 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Nessa Carey

What's the talk about?

Modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance.

There are lots of situations where two things that are the same at the DNA level are different in appearance and behaviour. These tell us that there is more to life than just the genetic code, and they are known as epigenetic phenomena.

Think of a caterpillar and a butterfly, or a slipper limpet that can change its sex as an adult shellfish. Identical twins become more dissimilar as they age, despite sharing an identical DNA script. The differences can even be as extreme as one twin developing a serious disease while the other remains completely healthy.

Scientists are starting to understand how these epigenetic differences are created and maintained. The process depends on a complex set of chemicals that our cells add to our genes. These chemical changes controls how genes are expressed, so that the same genetic code can create different outcomes. They can also have unexpected effects.

For example, epigenetics is very significant to human health and disease and may have a role in a wide range of conditions from chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and schizophrenia, to drug addiction and to the long term effects of abusive or neglectful childhoods. It is also known to be important in cancer.

Sometimes, epigenetic effects may even be passed on from parent to child. Children born to mothers who have lived through starvation may have increased susceptibilities to various diseases later in life. Animal studies have suggested that fear itself may be passed down to offspring.

Nessa Carey has a virology PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is a former Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology at Imperial College, London. She has worked in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for ten years.