Category Archives: Popular Science

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.

Important: April PubSci Event Change

Please note that Michael Byford’s talk on Bacteriophages has been postponed until Weds 1st May due to unforeseen circumstances.

The PubSci team apologises for the late notice – however, we won’t leave you at a loose end this evening. Please come to the Old King’s Head as usual, 6:30pm on Weds 3rd April.

In Part 1 the team behind PubSci will present a series of short talks on our favourite scientific topics. After the break we discuss the question: “Does the media have a duty to accurately report on Science or Is Climate Change Denial protected by Freedom of Expression?”

See this recent case for the current context:

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-sceptic-mislead-pulbic-inaccurate-statements-free-speech-plea-mps-a7657951.html