Author Archives: MarshalledThoughts

Climate science in the Age of Unreason

On Wednesday 2nd October we’re very pleased to welcome Climate Scientist Dr Ben McNeil, from the University of New South Wales, to talk about climate science misinformation and how to tackle it.

Global heating trend 2014-2018 (NASA)

Global temperature anomalies (vs long term trend) 2014-2018. Source: NASA

Science communication frequently fails in the click-bait driven media environment and social media has weaponised mistrust. With a group of medical researchers and journalists, Ben set out to tackle the spread of online misinformation by founding Metafact.io in 2018. In this month’s talk, Ben discusses these important issues and explains the evolution of Metafact as a scientific approach to evidence-based information to help individuals and societies in the post-truth era.

Ben McNeil UNSW (crop)

Ben McNeil is an Oceanographer and Climate Scientist in the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney, with a Masters in Economics.

As a senior Research Fellow, he seeks to advance scientific understanding of the processes and effects of climate change. He has been a passionate science communicator for over 20 years and is the author of “The Clean Industrial Revolution” which makes the economic and scientific case for a low carbon economy.

In 2013 he founded thinkable.org to support the transformative potential of bold, scientific blue-sky thinking in solving global challenges.

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Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.

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Simon Kaufman: Hyperloop UK – The Next Transport Revolution?

On Wednesday 4th September we’re delighted to welcome architect and urban designer Simon Kaufman, to talk about the groundbreaking Hyperloop UK transport project.

Public railways have been with us since 1825 and mass-produced motor cars since 1909. Is it time for a new transport revolution?

Hyperloop is a futuristic and green transportation system, championed by Space-X founder Elon Musk, that moves people and freight through frictionless tubes at airliner speeds on demand. In 2016 a UK consortium bid to host the world’s first Hyperloop route, supported by Friends of the Earth and the Department for Transport. Simon, who led the engineering team behind the Hyperloop UK proposal, will present the case for a Hyperloop network in Britain and discuss the challenges and opportunities of pioneering such a cutting edge transport technology here.

Hyperloop UK image

How a Hyperloop tube might look alongside a motorway. (Image ©Hyperloop UK)

Simon Kaufman is a chartered Architect and urban designer, who has worked in public realm design, civic planning and transport orientated development alongside residential and commercial buildings for most of his professional career. Notable projects in London include the renewal of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, Archway Gyratory, Lots Road power station in Chelsea, Paddington Basin, Regent’s Place near Euston amongst many others. His planning work includes involvement in the regeneration of town centres such as Manchester, Hull, Newcastle, Coventry, Leeds and Preston; and he has also worked internationally in Russia, the UAE, South Africa and elsewhere.

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In 2016, Simon led a multi-disciplinary engineering team to create a proposal for a Hyperloop route in Great Britain, “Hyperloop UK” which received the support of Virgin Trains, Friends of the Earth, the DFT, Catapult TS and other UK authorities and entities.

The proposal was entered into a competition run by Hyperloop One in 2017 to select the first global Hyperloop routes. Out of some 4,000 international entries, Hyperloop UK was chosen as one of twelve finalists.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.

PubSci has a calendar of future events

Amazing news! PubSci.info now has a calendar of future events.

It’s got it’s own page on our website, so you can plan up to 6 months ahead: https://pubsci.info/pubsci-events-calendar/

You can subscribe to it so it appears in your own compatible calendar. You need never miss PubSci again. Just click on the following link.: https://calendar.google.com/calendar/ical/londonpubsci%40gmail.com/public/basic.ics

NB: The advance calendar only names the speaker and talk title, as specific details sometimes change in the intervening months. We omit academic titles from the advance calendar to save space but include them in the full event description.

To avoid confusion, we normally create our events with full descriptions on Facebook, Twitter and our website no more than a month in advance. By subscribing to the calendar, you will be notified of new events as soon as they have been booked.

PS Don’t forget next week’s fascinating talk by Prof Chris French in which he introduces us to Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring the science behind paranormal belief and experience.

Chris French – Weird Science: An Introduction to Anomalistic Psychology

On Wednesday 7th August we’re privileged to welcome Professor Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. Chris will talk about the remarkable field of anomalistic psychology – the psychology of strange experiences and behaviours.

According to polls, over half the UK population believes in paranormal phenomena, and statistics suggest interest is increasing. Indeed, every ancient society we know of had some kind of supernatural belief system. But can belief in, and reported experience of, paranormal phenomena be explained in terms of psychological factors?

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Is the truth “out there” or is closer to home? Image courtesy of BBC

Professor Chris French heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths. In this talk Chris will introduce the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to explain the weird and the paranormal in terms of known psychological and physical factors.

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Professor Chris French © Bill Robinson

Chris is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a Patron of the British Humanist Association. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims.

 

Chris is deeply involved with Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub, which normally meets the same day as PubSci, so it’s a rare delight to welcome him to PubSci this month.

His most recent book , Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience,  will be on sale after the talk.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.

Not all in your head – What if a simple skin test could diagnose depression?

On Wednesday 3rd July we’re very excited to welcome Dr Parry Hashemi, Senior Lecturer in Bioengineering at Imperial College, London. Dr Hashemi will be speaking about her work towards developing a physiological test for clinical depression.

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Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, sometimes called “happiness molecules” (Image: Shutterstock)

Serotonin is the primary target of antidepressants, yet they only work for 30% of patients. And, since we don’t fully understand the roles serotonin plays in depression, antidepressants have barely improved in 5 decades. The prevailing theory is that low levels of serotonin in the brain indicate clinical depression but we’ve not been able to measure it – until now.

Dr Parry Hashemi has worked with the serotonin molecule for 15 years, developing exquisitely sensitive techniques to measure serotonin levels in vivo and in real time while also studying conditions that suppress serotonin levels such as neuro-inflammation.

Now Dr Hashemi’s work has led to a groundbreaking proposition: that our physiological response to depressive triggers is written into our DNA, and by knowing where to look, a skin sample can be developed to objectively diagnose depression, finally removing the social stigma of this all-too common condition. Maybe it isn’t just in your head after all.

 

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Dr Parry Hashemi. Image courtesy of Hashemilab.com

Parry Hashemi is an award-winning scientist working at the nexus of analytical chemistry, bioengineering and neuroscience. After 12 years establishing a highly regarded research lab in the USA (www.hashemilab.com) she recently accepted the role of Senior Lecturer in Bioengineering at Imperial college, London, where she completed her PhD in 2007.

Dr Hashemi remains an Associate Professor with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina, and continues the work of HashemiLab in the UK.

Parry has not only been recognised for her scientific achievements, she is a powerful advocate of women in STEM subjects and received the UNC Women’s Advancement Award in 2010.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.

Science on the High Seas – What Lurks Beneath?

On Wednesday 5th June we’re very pleased to welcome back to PubSci James Maclaine, senior keeper of fish at the Natural History Museum, London, who recently returned from a research expedition around two of the remotest inhabited islands on Earth.

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Black Seadevil (Melanocetus johnsonii) – a juvenile female. Photo: James Maclaine (via Twitter)

Earlier this year, Discovery Expedition 100 carried out marine surveys of the ocean around Tristan de Cunha and St Helena in the South Atlantic. NHM curator James Maclaine was on board RRS Discovery to sort and identify the fish specimens collected as part of the UK government’s Blue Belt conservation program. James spent more than 40 days at sea, journeying over 5000 miles between Port Stanley in the Falklands and Walvis Bay in Namibia.  At June’s PubSci James will be talking about his experiences on the expedition and showing some of the amazing things he saw along the way.

RSS Discovery

RSS Discovery – James’ home for 40 days during the expedition. Photo: James Maclaine (via Twitter)

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.

James Maclaine with Great White Shark jaws, via Wildlife Photographer of the Year on Twitter

James Maclaine with Great White Shark jaws, via Wildlife Photographer of the Year on Twitter

1st May: Dr Michael Byford – Bacteriophages: Even bacteria get viral infections

On Wednesday 1st May we’re delighted to welcome microbiologist Dr Michael Byford back to PubSci. Michael is one of our most popular regular speakers and this month he will talk about bacteriophages and their potential in combating antibacterial resistance.

[This talk was postponed last month due to unforeseen circumstances – apologies to anybody who was disappointed. We appreciate Michael filling the May PubSci slot.]

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One of the earliest micrograph images of a bacteriophage alongside a diagram of its structure.

Bacteriophages (phages for short) are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. They are ubiquitous and the most abundant biological entities on Earth. They have major applications in basic research and offer hope in fighting bacterial infections in the face of the alarming rise in antibiotic resistance.

Dr Michael Byford

Dr Byford was until recently Senior Lecturer in biochemistry and microbiology at London South Bank University.

He previously worked at the University of Oxford for Professor, Sir Jack Baldwin FRS on antibiotic biosynthesis and for DEFRA on a number of research topics including mad cow disease.

He was Senior Research Fellow at the University of Washington, before returning to Southampton, where he gained his degrees, to incept their ongoing work into neuroblastoma, an aggressive paediatric cancer.

Michael currently teaches microbiology at the University of Portsmouth

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover speaker’s expenses.