Follow-Up to Colin Johnston’s talk

Thank you to everyone who came to our last talk, Colin Johnston from the Armagh Planetarium talking about UFOlogy. The talk was our most successful to date, with 35 people attending and several people standing. We’re sorry that people were left standing, we genuinely didn’t expect that many people to be at our third speaker! Next month we’ll make sure to move the tables and chairs further in to the room, have some more chairs and also leaving more room for standing space at the back of the room. Colin mentioned a number of books and websites during his talk, which are included below. If you were there, we’d love to get some feedback from you. Don’t forget to sign up to the newsletter, just on the right on this page. Do it now!

  • Cohen, Jack and Stewart, Ian, Evolving the Alien (NB: the paperback edition is called What does a Martian look like?), Ebury Press, 2002
  • Conway Morris, Simon, Life’s Solution, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Webb, Stephen, Where is everybody? Springer, 2002
  • Peebles, Curtis, Watch the skies! Berkley, 1995
  • Clarke, David and Roberts, Andy, Flying Saucerers, Alternative Albion, 2007
  • Clarke, David and Roberts, Andy, Out of the Shadows: UFOs, the Establishment and Official Cover Up, Piatkus Books, 2002

Nice to Newbies Policy

Inspired by the Skeptics in the Pub workshop at the QED Convention in Manchester (there will inevitably be a blog post about that, as it was brilliant), we’ve decided to adopt a policy to help first-time attendees of Belfast Skeptics in the Pub. This means we will hopefully help people feel more welcome to the first (and subsequent) events. If it’s your first time at a Belfast Skeptics’ event and you’re nervous about turning up on your own, then you should feel free to contact us, either by leaving a comment below, leaving a post on Facebook, Tweeting us, or emailing us. We’ll get back to you with the name of a person who will be there on the evening to chat to you and introduce you to other people. It’s not that we bite, it’s just that some people feel nervous about new groups. We want to get as many new faces along to our skeptics in the pub events as possible, so if you have friends that you want to invite along, feel free.

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – Colin Johnston: Armagh Planetarium

Happy January! We hope you enjoyed your Winter/ Festivus/ Christmas/ other break. We took a pretty big break too; all has been quiet here since our last event, Dr. Lesley Storey talking about myths relating to cancer and some myths in popular psychology. We aren’t going to hold an event in January, mostly because of exams for the students among us. However, we have been planning some great speakers for the coming months. February is going to be a great month; not only do we have the excellent QED convention in Manchester (Some of us will be there, so read more about it here!) but we are also happy to announce that our next speaker will be from the Armagh Planetarium. Colin Johnston, Science communicator with the planetarium, will be speaking to us about the history of people seeing odd things in the sky, while also drawing on some of the UFO reports or queries he has handled. Colin first studying physics at QUB then worked in the aerospace industry for many years. However, in 2006 he changed career and became a full-time science educator. Colin also edits the Plantarium’s Astronotes blog, advises on the science content for the Planetarium’s Digital Theatre shows, responds to astronomical queries from the public, presents public talks and teach courses at QUB. You can see more of Colin’s work on the Planetarium’s website as well as a few videos on the YouTube channel.

It’s also International Darwin Day on February the 12th, so I imagine we’ll do something Darwin-related during the event too.

The Eventbrite page is here, so register there please! The Facebook event page can be found here.

Date: Thursday 10th February

Time: 7:30pm

Location: The Club Room (up the stairs and around to the left) in The Parlour, 2-4 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AY [map – although the front looks considerably different now!].

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – Event 3

I don’t think any of us could have predicted how well the last event could have gone. David Meade, the mindreader, spoke to us for hours about psychic “powers”, magic tricks and the art of deception. He demonstrated how to bend spoons, how to read minds and how to predict the lottery numbers. Ok, so I made the last part up, but he was pretty amazing overall. The bar has been set very high.

However, we must proceed and introduce our next speaker! We have the pleasure of hosting a talk by Dr. Lesley Storey of Queen’s University, Belfast. Lesley is a lecturer in psychology and she will be talking to us about myths in popular psychology. This talk will be especially interesting as hopefully it will shed some light on why we believe things that are not true.

Check here for the Eventbrite page to register for the event. It’s free and will give us an idea of the numbers of people intending to attend.

Date: Thursday 2nd December 2010

Time: 6pm

Location: The Club Room (up the stairs and around to the left) in The Parlour, 2-4 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AY [map – although the front looks considerably different now!].

Political Innovation Camp

Political Innovatin logoSlugger O’Toole Political Innovation unconference takes place this Saturday in Belfast.

Firstly, an unconference is participant-driven conference centred around a theme or purpose. In short, anyone can talk about any topic. In this case, the focus is Northern Ireland politics.

Our talk will be based on “Rational thought in politics and media in Northern Ireland”, and we hope to encourage discussion through this.
The event is free to attend and anyone interested should definitely come along and engage in what will likely be a great event. Also; free lunch.

The current proposed talks are listed here.
Register to attend here.

All info is on the website: PoliticalInnovation.org.

Follow Political Innovation on Twitter: PIcamp.

Use the hashtag #picamp.

Join the Facebook Group

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – Event Two: 6th November

So, our first event was last week and, in our eyes at least, it was a big success. We met some great people, Phil took a few cool photos and Alana whipped our her cryptozoology quiz – much to the delight of all attendees! We’ve learned from that experience, and as well as some of the suggestions that were made (add them in the comments if you have more feedback) we know that you want more structure and more definition. We’ll be taking specific topics and inviting people to speak on them, as a springboard for further discussion and debate. Organising those events will take a little time (Got something you’d like to speak about? Email us!) so until then, we’ve an excellent guest speaker lined up to talk to us.

David Meade, local mindreader extraordinaire, will be treating us to a very special talk and demonstration. In the talk, David will explain his path to becoming a professional mindreader. He will chart the path that led him to believe in psychic ability and the subsequent experiences that made him realise that it was an addictive and intoxicating scam.  He will read minds and recreate psychic phenomenon, while also revealing some of the techniques employed by fraudulent mediums (or is that media?). You can read a newspaper article about him here and watch him in action in the pilot to his forthcoming series on the BBC here.

Let us know if you’ll be there on the Facebook Event Page.

Date: Saturday 6th November

Time: 5.30pm Changed from the original 6pm

Location: Upstairs in McElhatton’s pub (otherwise known as The Front Page) on Union Street [map]. Don’t worry we’ll have signs, or just ask at the bar.

We’re excited about this — Hope to see you there.

Event Number One: Great Success

Thank you to everyone who was in the Duke of York on Tuesday evening for our first of many monthly events. Hopefully you’ll all agree that it was particularly successful, a mix of engaging conversations relating to what we’re all sceptical of and individual areas of interest.

It certainly felt like the beginnings of something great, a great mix of people of varying ages, backgrounds and Skepticisms. Thanks also to the Queens Humanist Society for changing their venue for their weekly meeting.

On passing around a pen and paper we gathered a few ideas for future discussions:

  • Climate change
  • How people make decisions when faced with uncertainty (eg: Medical statistics, politicians, the Daily Mail.
  • quiz.worldofuncertainty.org
  • Climate change (Linked with Atlantis)
  • Creationism and aliens
  • Alt medicine, misunderstanding the scientific method
  • Campbell-Steiner (schools)
  • Autism issues and general disabilities
  • Jan de Vries and prominent pushers of bullshit
  • The alleged quality of audio recordings (Vinyl-CD-MP3)
  • The fallacy of 1080p video on a small device
  • The fallacy of equality in education
  • Liberté, fraternité, egalité
  • Lack of understanding of logical fallacies
  • Refusal to accept evidence over anecdotes (Why anecdotes have such power)
  • Legal requirement for worship in state-sponsored schools
  • Accepted myths in psychology

Hopefully we’ll manage to cover these and a number of other topics at future events.

We’re in the process of deciding on a day for the next event as it sees that for many, a Tuesday doesn’t suit. Would a Saturday afternoon suit in the same venue?

Please leave comments with any suggestions you have. We will keep the format generally loose, with a quiz/game or two (Logical Fallacy Charades anyone?) as well as one or two topics to base the main discussion around.

Again, thanks for coming, we thoroughly enjoyed chatting and look forward to more!

belfast skeptics in the pub first meeting

First Event: What to Expect?

skeptical cat

At our inaugural event this evening we hope to introduce ourselves and to simply cover the basics:

What is Skepticism, what it means to be sceptical and the importance of being so?
What you want to get out of the group, and what we hope to achieve through the group?
What you are sceptical of and what areas would you like discussed in the future?
What do you accept without evidence? What superstitions do you uphold?
Are you sceptical of Skepticism?

The structure will be very loose,  so feel free to say what’s on your mind and we will listen to what everyone has to say in regards future meet-ups and events.

See you in the pub!

Duke of York, Belfast from 7pm. [map]

First Meet-up: 12th Oct 2010

Date: Tues 12th October 2010
Venue: Duke of York, Belfast [map]
Time: 7pm

This is our first event! We’re welcoming anyone who would like to spend an evening amongst other skeptical thinkers, discussing whatever comes up and playing awkward social games. Come prepared to discuss topics in the realm of science, culture and life in general. Also, we’d love to hear from people who want to get involved in running BSitP and who have ideas for future events. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Register your attendance (so that we have an idea of numbers) on Facebook.

The blog will be updated with plenty of info beforehand so keep a close eye here.