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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

Is online culture toxic?

Helen Lewis & Martin Robbins

When?
Thursday, January 15 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Helen Lewis & Martin Robbins

What's the talk about?

Helen Lewis is deputy editor at the New Statesman. As well as commissioning and editing, she writes for the NS magazine and blogs for its website, with favoured topics including comedy, feminism, politics and computer games. She has also written for Edge magazine, British Elle, the New York Times, the Stylist, the Financial TimesStella, the Sunday TimesSaga, the Observer, the Times and the Guardianand has appeared on the Today programme, Pienaar’s PoliticsWoman’s Hour, Boulton & Co, Channel 4 News, Westminster Hour, BBC Breakfast and The Daily Politics. She is a regular panellist on BBC One’s Sunday Politics and has presented Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster. 

In her spare time, Helen is deputy chair of Women in Journalism, and chair of trustees at the Hackney-based rape and domestic violence charity, Nia

Helen will be in conversation with Martin Robbins.  

Martin Robbins is a writer, podcaster and journalist covering science, pseudoscience and evidence-based politics. He is a columnist at VICE, a blogger for The Guardian and New Statesman and has written for the Times, the Telegraph, the Independent and New Scientist. 

Martin is convenor of Soho Skeptics and a trustee of Conway Hall Ethical Society.

 

Iszi Lawrence

When?
Wednesday, December 10 2014 at 8:00PM

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Where?

21 South Street, Reading, RG1 4QU

Who?
Iszi Lawrence

What's the talk about?

Following last year's terrifically popular In The Geek Midwinter, we've teamed up with Iszi again to bring her brilliantly funny Z List Dead List show to Reading South Street.

Not everyone can go down in history... until now! Comedian Iszi Lawrence (***** Louder Than War) hosts a comedy show where four guest "historians" compete to have their favourite obscure figure from history put on The Z List Dead List. Who wins? You decide. Expect mind expanding historical silliness from:

Helen Zaltzman (Answer Me This)

Quentin Cooper (BBC Radio 4's Material World)

Nathan Penlington (Fringe First Award Winner)

Stevyn Colgan (BBC Qi Elf)

www.zlistdeadlist.com

Tickets £11 from Reading Arts

(For a taste of what to expect, check out the Z List Dead List podcast, featuring our friends Natalie Haynes, Simon Watt, Stevyn Colgan, Neil Denny, Helen Arney, Kate Smurthwaite, Richard Herring, Griff Rhys Jones and many more).

Prof Jim Dunwell

When?
Thursday, November 20 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Prof Jim Dunwell

What's the talk about?

Jim Dunwell is Professor of Plant Biotechnology at the University of Reading where his research projects include plant genetics and physiology. Previously he spent 10 years in industry developing methods for the production of transgenic (GM) plants. He has a longstanding interest in the regulation of GM crops and is a member of the Defra Advisory Committee for Releases to the Environment (ACRE), the group that advises the UK government on the growing of GM crops in the field.

In this talk Professor Dunwell will discuss the 30 year history of transgenic (GM) plants and their present position in global agriculture. This will include details of the various types of crops being grown now, and what types of crops are in the development phase. He will also consider how such crops are tested for their possible impact on human and environmental safety, how they are regulated prior to commercial cultivation, and the contrasting attitudes to GM crops in various parts of the world.

Prof Dorothy Bishop

When?
Thursday, October 23 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Prof Dorothy Bishop

What's the talk about?

If you Google ‘dyslexia’ you will find a confusing array of information about diagnosis and treatment. Many websites claim that their intervention is neuroscientifically-based, and many propose ways of treating dyslexia that do not involve training children to read. I will consider some general rules of thumb that can help sort out the good, the bad and the frankly weird from among this wide range of possibilities.

Dorothy Bishop is Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, where she heads a programme of research into children’s communication impairments funded by the Wellcome Trust. As well as publishing in conventional academic outlets, she writes a popular blog with personal reactions to scientific and academic matters, and she tweets as @deevybee.

How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life

Alex Bellos

When?
Thursday, September 18 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Alex Bellos

What's the talk about?

From triangles, rotations and power laws, to fractals, cones and curves, bestselling author Alex Bellos will take you on a journey of mathematical discovery of how numbers have come to be our friends, how fascinating and accessible they are, and how they have changed our world.

From a survey of over 40,000 people Alex will reveal the world’s favourite number - and the least loved one.

Alex Bellos is the bestselling author of Alex’s Adventures in Numberland, which was shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. He is the Guardian’s maths-blogger, and has worked for the paper in London and also in Rio de Janeiro, as its unusually numerate foreign correspondent. He is currently a curator-in-residence at the Science Museum. His new book, Alex Through The Looking Glass, is out now and will be on sale on the night.

How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch

Lewis Dartnell

When?
Wednesday, September 3 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Lewis Dartnell

What's the talk about?

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 He is the author of 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.

Please note the change of date!

Prof Chris Rhodes

When?
Tuesday, July 15 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Prof Chris Rhodes

What's the talk about?

Please note the change of date!

Across the world, 30 billion barrels of crude oil are produced each year, not only for fuel but to make products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals. Nearly all our food also depends on oil.

However, world oil production is set to decline within 5 years. If we continue as we are, Western civilisation will collapse. Our salvation requires a re-adaptation of how we live, from the global to the local; to a world of small communities far less dependent on transportation. Technology will not save us, unless we cut our energy use and particularly our demand for oil. Fracking is being hailed as the solution. Is this the case?

Professor Chris Rhodes is Director of Fresh-lands Environmental Actions and is based in Reading. He has written numerous scientific articles and recently published his first novel, University Shambles, a black comedy on the disintegration of the British university system.

... and other things about online romance

Dr Martin Graff

When?
Thursday, June 19 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Dr Martin Graff

What's the talk about?

Are there gender differences in attraction? Can you really find true love on the Internet? How do people actually portray themselves online? Can you have a virtual affair?

In this talk Martin Graff will examine all of these issues, drawing on current empirical evidence from studies of online relationships, and will cover some of the major research work on the online disinhibition effect, which suggest that we disclose more personal information, and do this more quickly, in online environments. Dr Graff will also give some factual advice on how to construct dating site profiles, and the way to approach an online liaison with a potential dating partner. With the explosion in the provision of online dating sites, including those dedicated to finding partners for affairs, this will also draw on some of the speaker’s own research on online infidelity, asking whether it is possible to have a virtual affair.

Dr Martin Graff is Reader and Head of Research in Psychology at University of Glamorgan, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist.

Lynne Murphy

When?
Thursday, May 15 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Lynne Murphy

What's the talk about?

Lynne Murphy (Reader in Linguistics at Sussex University) takes you on a grammatical tour of transatlantic prejudices, and challenges what you think you know about Americanisms and their effect on the Mother Tongue.

Lynne moved to the south coast of England in January 2000, having lived in the US most of her life and in South Africa for 4 years in the 1990s. While in the UK she has been teaching and researching in the fields of semantics, pragmatics and psycholinguistics.

As her alter-ego Lynneguist, she also writes the Separated by a Common Language blog. You can follow lynneguist on Twitter.

The Modern Face of Physiognomy

Kathryn Ford

When?
Thursday, April 3 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Kathryn Ford

What's the talk about?

The notion that one can judge a person’s character on the basis of their facial appearance is an idea that dates back to the ancient Greeks and for a short period, the practice of physiognomy was considered scientific. Despite the fact that this ancient practice has long been discredited, the idea that one can “read” a person’s character simply by looking at their face still persists within folk psychology. In fact, this belief and our natural tendency to judge people on the basis of facial appearance has a surprisingly pervasive effect on all of our lives.

In this talk Kathryn Ford will look at the modern face of physiognomy trying to answer questions such as; why do we judge people as soon as we see them? How accurate are these judgements? And does facial appearance effect how people are treated within the criminal justice system?

Warning: This talk will involve some discussion of rape.

Kathryn Ford received a BSc in Neuroscience and Psychology from Keele University in 2011 and an MSc in Evolutionary Psychology from Brunel University in 2012.

Moving from ideology to evidence

Mark Lynas

When?
Thursday, March 20 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

76-78 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3BJ

Who?
Mark Lynas

What's the talk about?

Mark Lynas has challenged the political right over its denial of the reality of climate change, and the political left over its denial of the science on the safety and efficacy of GM crops and nuclear power. Why is it that political ideology continually trumps scientific evidence on some of the key issues facing us today, and how might this affect the future of the planet and its people?

Mark Lynas is a journalist, environmental activist and the author of High Tide, Six Degrees, The God Species, and Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power. He is a frequent speaker around the world on climate change, biotechnology and nuclear power, and was climate change advisor to the President of the Maldives between 2009 and 2011. In October 2013 he was appointed a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University’s Office of International Programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is also a member of the advisory board of the science advocacy group Sense About Science, and is vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies..