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SitP: Heina Dadabhoy from Islam to Atheism. [caption id="attachment_2139" align="alignright" width="239"] A ninja warrior welcomes guests to Convergence/Skepchickcon[/caption]Boston Skeptics welcomes our January guest speaker, atheist feminist secular...

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Book Club: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha... [caption id="attachment_2131" align="alignright" width="197"] The Emperor of All Maladies[/caption]This month's book is The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist...

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SitP: David Ropeik and the Risk Perception Gap Update! Thanks to Andrea and Francois, we now have a video of David Ropeik's talk available on our

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SitP: Larry Gilbertson on GMOs and Biotech [caption id="attachment_2117" align="alignright" width="300"] Feeding the world[/caption]The population of the earth will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Arable land is decreasing, dietary preferences...

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SitP: Pub Hangout

Posted on : 06-07-2013 | By : John | In : Blog Post, local, Skeptics in the Pub

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This month we don’t have a formal program or speaker, so we can get down to the serious business of being skeptical about drinking. Is beer a drink or a food? If (for fans of Mary Roach), you run your shepherd’s pie through a blender, fletcherizing it, does it become a drink? Should you chew Guinness?

Answers to all these questions, or anything else you care to discuss, can be had at the July Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Monday, July 15 at 7:00 PM in Tommy Doyle’s Pub, 65 Winthrop St (Harvard Square) in Cambridge. You can RSVP or comment on Facebook if you wish.

SitP: Shelley Segal

Posted on : 29-04-2013 | By : John | In : Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Australian atheist singer/songwriter Shelley Segal will be appearing at Tommy Doyles’s On Monday, May 6th at 7PM. Come listen to her music, the samples I’ve heard and and the reviews I’ve read sound fantastic!

There are lyrics and short snippets of several of her songs on her web site and a few videos of complete songs. They are clever and imaginative, with some great metaphors (House With No Walls, for example.) Musically, she has a diversity of styles ranging from straight-up folk to jazzy New Wave (Saved reminds me of Joe Jackson’s first album.) I Don’t Believe in Fairies would make a great Halloween song, especially if played on a carnival-style calliope!

As Apocalyptic Love Song says,

“And yes I understand that my whole life is just a blink of an eye
in the history of the earth”

so don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Shelley perform!

And her logo has a lizard…Logo with lizard What’s not to love?

Shelley will be performing at our next Skeptics in the Pub at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square on Monday May 6 (note the date, not our usual last Monday), at 7 PM. You can RSVP on our Facebook event page if you wish.

P.S. I must confess I haven’t actually heard her perform in person, but did get to meet her last time she was in town, when she attended a previous SitP, and she was a great person to hang out and drink skeptically with.

SitP: Julia Wilson

Posted on : 09-02-2013 | By : John | In : Blog Post, Skeptics in the Pub

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In April of 1775, William Dawes rode through Harvard Square on his way to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams and the Concord Militia that the Redcoats were coming. They’re BACK!!

On Saturday afternoon, Feb 16, 2013, we will be holding a special Skeptics in the Pub with Julia Wilson of the UK science education organization Sense About Science. She is here in Cambridge to help organize a new campaign, Ask For Evidence USA. The goals of the campaign, along the lines of a similar campaign in the UK, are to encourage people* to ask for the evidence behind scientific claims made by scientists, politicians, public officials, the press and random people on the Internet, to teach the basics, such as critical thinking and how the peer review process works, so that they (i.e. we) can ask intelligent questions, and to teach scientists how to communicate with non-specialists and the general public. One of her first events is a Boot Camp** for PhD students, post-docs, and other young scientists, to be held this week at MIT, to teach communications skills. She may well inspire the next Carl Sagan or Eugenie Scott.

This promises to be an important and fascinating talk.

We will be meeting at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square, our usual spot, at 2PM on Saturday, Feb 16, 2013. You can RSVP on our Facebook event page if you want, so we can get an idea of how many people will be attending.

[*] Including the general public as well as scientists, politicians, public officials, the press and random people on the Internet.

[**] Sorry, it’s too late to register for the Boot Camp. :-(

SitP: Seth Mnookin

Posted on : 01-12-2012 | By : John | In : Blog Post, Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Our speaker at the December Skeptics in the Pub is science writer Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus:A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear as well as books about the Red Sox and journalistic ethics. He teaches science writing right down the river at MIT. Seth has been embedded in the front lines of the Vaxx Wars, and will share his experiences with us on Monday, Dec 10 at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square, upstairs at 7 PM as usual.

If, like me, you believe one of the most important things skeptics can do is combat pseudoscience in medicine, don’t miss this event. In The Panic Virus (see a review by our own Todd W.), Mnookin has thoroughly researched the modern vaccine/autism controversy and its history from Wakefield’s 1998 paper through his eventual disgrace and loss of his medical license. He has looked at the issue from all sides and reaches the conclusion that, like many manufactured scientific controversies, there aren’t two equally valid sides to every issue, as conventional journalist wisdom would hold, but one side with evidence, logic and science and another side with a mix of economic interests (the cynical purveyors of alternative, untested or disproven medical theories and practices) and wishful or magical thinking (the desperate people who turn to them for help and the enablers who truly believe they are fighting for the little guys against powerful vested interests.)

In the end, the problems tackled by the book, like so much skeptical literature, also leads to a deeper understanding of why people believe false and ultimate harmful ideas:

In The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The fascinating answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama “prove” he was born in America.

This promises to be a fascinating and important discussion.

See our Facebook event page for more information.

Skeptics in the Pub: Eric Schwartz

Posted on : 09-11-2012 | By : John | In : Blog Post, Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Eric Schwartz is a biologist from Tufts with an obsession for Monica and Bill. Since we are a very sciency group, he will be singing funny, not exactly G-rated songs about practical aspects of biology, including (maybe) Cialis, Prozac, the aforesaid Bill and Monica, the influence of 2000 year old dead guys on the male reproductive organ, and other songs his mother hates.

Eric will be our special guest at our next Skeptics in the Pub on Monday, November 19, 7 PM upstairs at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square.

RSVP on our Facebook event page (or here if you aren’t a Boston Skeptics member.)

Skeptics in the Pub: Trivia

Posted on : 18-09-2012 | By : John | In : Skeptics in the Pub

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This month’s SitP topic is serious. Deadly serious. It is devoted to the fifth, sixth and seventh most important subjects of proper medieval education: Trivia!

We’ll be meeting in the lounge at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. (Question 1: where is “the lounge?” Hint: it is the nice name for the basement.) We’ll be meeting at our usual time of 7PM on the last Monday of September, the 24th. (Question 2: What movie won the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Cinematography for 2007? Hint: At the SitP, There Will Be Beer.)

Sign up on our Facebook event page if you do the FB thing. (Question 3: Where can you find a link to a map showing the location of a major skeptical event in the Boston area? Hint: Check the Facebook page.)

Skeptics in the Pub with Dezrah the Strange

Posted on : 27-06-2012 | By : John | In : Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Traditionally, midsummer (which was almost a week ago now) is a time of magic. Of course, fall, winter and spring were also times of magic. But since none of it is real, we as skeptics can celebrate magic whenever we want. So July’s theme is Magic.

First up is our old friend and fellow Boston Skeptic (he joined the Facebook group last week, which is as official as it gets) Dezrah the Strange. Dezrah last astounded us in April 2011, when he walked on glass, slept on a bed of nails (while a block of concrete was broken on his chest by a large sledge hammer), told the mandatory “No, it’s not” joke, and took almost an hour to find the Queen of Hearts I had cleverly enlarged several times and hidden in an envelope high above the stage. (You can see how he did it here.

Dezrah demonstrating psychic surgery, perhaps

Dezrah demonstrating psychic surgery, perhaps

We will be meeting at our usual place, Tommy Doyle’s Pub in Harvard Square at 7:00 PM on Monday July 2, 2012. RSVP to receive any last minute updates.

Stay tuned for our next Magical Event…

Skeptics in The Pub with Katherine Stewart

Posted on : 13-04-2012 | By : John | In : Book Club, Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Meet this month’s Book Club (and inaugural Skepchick Book Club) author Katherine Stewart. She will be discussing her new book (and signing Kindles?), “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” at our usual time and place (7 PM Monday evening at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square.) We’ll be a week late this time, on May 7, 2012, but it’s worth the wait!

At last month’s SitP, we had an author as our guest and we asked a lot of fantastic questions. Let’s do it even better this time! Check out her web site and read this sample (from a NY Times op-ed), or better yet read the whole book. It is interesting and important even if it is scary enough to be a Halloween selection.

See the previous post for more about the book.

RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Skeptics in the Pub with Maggie Koerth-Baker

Posted on : 01-03-2012 | By : John | In : Skeptics in the Pub

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Maggie Koerth-Baker recently wrote “The trouble with making these kind of decisions, though, is that there’s lots of room for reasonable people to disagree.” She sounds like a reasonable person, so let’s all gang up on her!

Her talk will tell the story of our electric infrastructure–where it came from, how it works today, and how it will have to change to meet the needs of a new generation.

Cover of Maggie Koerth-Baker's new book Ms Koerth-Baker has written a new book called “Before the Lights Go Out” about

“some of the big-picture nuance that gets left out of the day-to-day chatter about energy. What are the big trends that will shape what we can and can’t do over the next 40 years? How does our electricity infrastructure work, and why is that infrastructure a lot more interesting (and a lot more complicated) than most laypeople realize? There’s a lot of storytelling, and some fun and funny history of how our current infrastructure came to be. There’s critical analysis explaining both why we have to solve our energy problem, and why solving it is going to be harder than many climate hawks want to believe. In general, the book is meant to make a confusing subject accessible and offer a more nuanced perspective on a topic that tends to be very ideology driven.”

The book will be published April 10. (Update: Some advanced copies will be available.)

Several of the back-cover reviews are by people who should be very familiar to members of the Boston Skeptics Book Club. Mary Roach (Stiff, Spook and Packing for Mars) called it, “a fine, cracking read.” Carl Zimmer (Parasite Rex) says, “Maggie Koerth-Baker is one of the most innovative science writers at work today. Rather than settling for cheap flash, she burrows deep into many of the biggest mysteries in science and technology and comes out with wonderfully clear explanations”.

Many of the subjects that skeptics deal with, like ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and ESP, are amusing examples of fallacious reasoning and illuminate interesting flaws in perception and the human brain, but, except in the cases of rare individuals, have no important effect on most people’s lives. But a few subjects, such as energy generation, storage and distribution, are areas where science and technology meet society in profound and important ways. I would class it with alternative medicine and religious fundamentalism and their interference with science (particularly in their denial of biology and evolution) and AGW denialism as important topics for applying critical thinking.

When discussing these topics, it is essential to start with a firm factual basis, which is what Ms Koerth-Baker’s book promises to provide.

Please come hear this important talk.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is both a freelancer and the science editor at BoingBoing.net, one of the most widely read blogs in the U.S. Her work has appeared in print publications like Discover, Popular Science, and New Scientist, and online at websites like Scientific American and National Geographic News.

We will be meeting a week later than usual, on April 2, at 7 PM at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Tiny chameleons from Madagascar
Meanwhile, if this subject is too depressing (it shouldn’t be, since we can and will eventually solve it, the only questions being at what cost and who pays), look at the lizards!

Skeptics in the Pub: Trivia

Posted on : 21-02-2012 | By : John | In : Blog Post, Skeptics in the Pub

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Everyone knows Skeptics are a bunch of overeducated know-it-alls. Here’s your chance to prove it with objective data. Join us for a fun evening of discussion, dinner, drinking and knowing more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing. All answers are final, and remember, this will count on your final grade.

The Seventh Doctor

Who is this person?


This month, we’ll be meeting in the luxurious main level at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square at 7:00 PM on Monday, Feb 27th. RSVP on our Facebook event page.