SkeptiCamp 2022 Schedule

Friday 28th October

11:00 am


Opening remarks from the organisers

11:05 am

Session 1

Rational ratios: Taking flag design to new heights (and widths)
Tom Williamson

You may think that a flag’s proportions, the ratio of its width to its height, is an insignificant detail, of interest only to the nerdiest of vexillologists. However, in this talk Tom will argue that proportions are very useful, plus he’ll tell us about some of the more exotic ones.

Dabbling in various skeptical activities since 2009, Tom has had a go at speaking, blogging and podcasting. He unwittingly contributed to an IgNobel prize with and has been on stage with Nobel prize winner Andre Geim

6÷2(1+2): The Beast of Bodmas
Andrew Taylor

Every so often the internet is split into two warring camps, one claiming 6÷2(1+2) = 1 because just look at it, and one claiming 6÷2(1+2) = 9 because the ancient god Bodmas decrees it to be so. But who’s right, and why is it me? Why do we teach Bodmas in schools but not use it in maths papers? And what does it have to do with a trigger-happy panda?

Andrew studied physics, then for some reason got a PhD analysing pictures of teeth, before finally escaping academia to become a software developer. These days he is on the organising teams of the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society and Skeptics in the Pub Online. He aspires to be like the scientist character in a long-running TV show who seems somehow to have at least a working knowledge of every random field of inquiry that comes up because the writers don’t want to add a second scientist character.

From the Parallel State to Interest Lobbies: Conspiracism in Turkey
Serdar Basegmez

Here is a recipe to nurture the most peculiar conspiracy theories: A polarised political climate in the middle of two diverse continents, schools ignoring science and critical thinking, a propaganda machine with state-sponsored mainstream media, populist leaders and unquestioningly loyal voters. And just for fun, a widely admired public figure, a globally known evolution-denier, who happens to be an alleged sex cult leader at the same time. Now, we can talk about Conspiracy Theories in Turkey.

Serdar Basegmez is an ex-Istanbulite and a new-Londoner skeptic. Since 2010, Serdar has been a blogger, podcaster, meet-up host and speaker at Yalansavar, a Turkish grassroots skeptical movement promoting scientific reasoning and critical thinking. He recently joined the organisation committee of the Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub. In his free time, Serdar works for his own company and develops business applications.

“The Swedish Experiment” – a covid strategy unlike any other
Pontus Böckman

Sweden’s approach to the covid pandemic has received scathing criticism from domestic and foreign sources alike. Was it a success or a giant failure? Did the authorities play Russian roulette with the lives of its citizens? Close to three years later we look into what the science has to say and what actually happened.

Pontus Böckman is your typical boomer know-it-all but tries to make up for it with his great looks and charm. He’s also very humble. He is a co-host of the European Skeptics Podcast (the ESP) and the president of the Swedish Skeptics.

12:10 pm

Session 2

Adventures in Science Journalism
Robert Lea

In the talk I describe the perils and pitfalls that face the working science journalist in the modern age of journalism.

How do headlines come about and why do these sometimes not reflect the content of the article? What is the difference between working for a mainstream publication and a specialist platform? What are some of the pressures science journalists face? Do journalists and editors get along?

Plus some anecdotes and horror stories from my years working as a jorno.

Robert is a working science journalist who has recently finished a stint of Newsweek’s science desk. His work has been published in BBC Science Focus, How it Works, All About Space, Physics World, New Scientist, Live Science and Space.

Ancient Aliens, nazi influences, and new age plastic shamanism
Fredrik Trusohamn

A short introduction to the dark origin of ancient aliens popularised by the television network “History!” starting in 2010. Most might today see Ancient Aliens as a silly show. But the idea about aliens influencing history somewhat begins with a group of nazis in the 50s. It grows into von Dänikens’ race theories in Chariots of the Gods, evolution denialism, and the cultural appropriation of indigenous Americans. Today History still airs these ideas continuing a long damaging tradition.

Fredrik Trusohamn uses his background in archeology to break down the TV show Ancient Aliens. He also runs a podcast called “Digging Up Ancient Aliens,” where you can hear his findings about the pseudoscience in the show. Since first hearing about the Bosnian pyramids as a student, pseudo-archeology has been a fascination.

Fredrik also deals with alternative history and archeology in modern computer games. He is Swedish and did his studies on the island of Gotland.

Why This Expert and Not That Expert?
Megan Crawford

Long before COVID-19, battles were being waged against experts. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers, Influencers, the spread of Creationism, and closer to home, that one friend or uncle convinced they know what’s “really going on”. COVID-19 advanced this into all-out war. But why do we choose the experts that we do? Why do we discredit or plainly ignore others? This talk aims to challenge our unquestioned assumptions about our value of experts and show how much these lines shift.

Megan Crawford is a Lecturer in Data Science and Strategy at Edinburgh Napier University. She earned her PhD in Scenario Planning at the University of Strathclyde and MSc in Behavioural & Economic Sciences at Warwick University. Dr Crawford has worked on AI development for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was the Peru lead for the COVID-19 SCRUB project “Survey of COVID-19 Responses to Understand Behaviour”, and is presently PI of the Futures & Analytics Research (FAR) Lab.

How Star Trek can show us the way to survive the future
András G Pintér

Given the grave challenges humanity is currently facing from global climate change to pandemics and the shortage of resources to run our civilisation, we need good ideas to work with and great examples to follow. The world of Star Trek – minus the capability of interstellar travel and a few other, unimportant things of course – could be something we should aim for if we are to survive in the long-run. There are great things in the making, but we’d better give them our support while we can.

Andras, a regular attendee of the Annual Conference of Hungarian Skeptics since 1997, has been a skeptic all his adult life. He is an original member and sitting president of the Hungarian Skeptics Society and board member of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations. He is the initiator, co-producer and co-host of The European Skeptics Podcast and he just finished a book chapter (in Hungarian) on how science is leading us into the future and the world of Star Trek is the way to go.

1:10 pm


Time to grab a quick bite.

1:55 pm

Session 3

Decoding a Moral Panic Conspiracism Meme
Aaron D Rabinowitz

I’ll take a piece of memetic content tied to one of the many ongoing moral panics and go through how I would research and analyze the conspiratorial symbolism, especially the antisemitic content, as well as other forms of dog whistles. The goal of the talk is to help digital non-natives learn to navigate and address the proliferation of potentially harmful conspiracism content.

Aaron Rabinowitz is a secular moral philosophy educator with 10+ years classroom experience. He’s currently working on a PhD in education at Rutgers University, with a focus on developing a new pedagogy of luck that promotes compassion and humility over punitive moralizing. He applies this approach to public philosophy on his podcasts, Embrace the Void and Philosophers in Space, as well as his monthly column at The Skeptic mag, where he writes about topics like epistemic luck and conspiracism.

An everyday case of scientific malpractice that nearly ruined my thesis.
Sam Johnson

My thesis project on attention was nearly derailed when a month before submission a paper was published with findings contradictory to mine. On deeper investigation of their findings I found several worrying signs and ended up conducting a full reanalyses of their raw data showing one of the worst cases of p-hacking and conceptual misdirection I have ever seen. I think this is a good way to show the scientific process in action, how to spot bad science and p-hacking, and how open science helps.

Sam is a fresh graduate of Aberdeen university in psychology with plans to pursue research, and has been involved in the skeptic community for several years. They attended and volunteered at the last QED and have eagerly been awaiting its return. They would love to contribute to and help a movement and community that has helped them and informed their thinking on many issues.

AI Generated Images
Mark Wainwright

AI image generation is an exciting technology that has only recently become accessible to the public.

How does it work, how do you use it, and what can it do?

I will explain the basics of how Stable Diffusion (a popular text-to-image model) works. I will give an example of using it to generate and refine an image. I will talk about the potential uses of this technology. I will also discuss the potential dangers and abuses including deepfakes.

Mark Wainwright is a software engineer from London. He has a degree in mathematics and computer science, has worked for several startups and is currently in the digital forensics industry. As a hobby, he has also created several games and content generation tools. Outside of software he occasionally performs in musical theatre or as an aerialist.

Educating the curiosity out of children
Chad Gething

Working in education, I am perennially disappointed in how inquisitive children have their curiosity driven from them by a content-driven curriculum; particularly in my field of science.

I wish to talk about the how the pointless drive to learn facts and formulae (that even professionals will often look up) is alienating the scientists of the future. I also want to expose the failed and fallacious fiction that “if you learn the boring stuff now, we can get on to the good bit later…”

Chad has been working in education for the last 20 years, predominantly in Special Education. He has worked as a Behaviour Consultant, specialising in children with an autism spectrum condition who exhibition challenging behaviour.

He trained as a secondary science teacher at the University of Exeter where he also ate too many kebabs.

He also spoke at the last QED Skepticamp, encouraging science teachers and communicators to use the unique “WOW!” factor that science has to offer.

3:00 pm

Session 4

Three Logical Fallacies You’ve Never Heard Of
Jim Cliff and Mark Levermore

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that occur often enough to be given a name – you’ve probably heard of ones like Strawman and Slippery Slope. But there’s no central authority or master list of fallacies, so if you identify a new one, you get to name it yourself, just like a disease or a new species of beetle. After many hours of listening to Trump trying to form coherent arguments, Jim and Mark have identified several previously unnamed fallacies and would like to tell you about a few.

Jim and Mark host the Fallacious Trump podcast, where they explain logical fallacies using examples from Trump (as well as pop culture and UK politics)

A Skeptical Investigation of Incest
James Williams

The taboo topics series continues at Skepticamp 2022! After previously talking about cannibalism, necrophilia and bestiality, James Williams is back with the next taboo… incest. This short talk will skepically investigate the zoology, psychology, history and prevalence of incest in human populations and across the animal kingdom.

James Williams is a storyteller, artist and scientific skeptic based in Bristol. He has a Bachelors degree in Ancient History, and wrote his dissertation on the cannibalistic habits of the Aztecs. He has delivered talks on a variety of taboo topics at Skeptics in the pub events across the country.

How your cat is trying to kill you

A look at the ways in which your cat may (or may not…) contribute to your death. Do they increase your risk of heart disease? What about lung cancer? Will they give you parasites? What disgusting bacteria do they carry in their mouths and what might happen if they bite you?

Heidi has a chemistry degree and medical degree and spends most of her working life trying to help healthcare professionals get out of trouble or avoid it in the first place. She also fosters cats and despite hosting probably approaching 100 cats and kittens in her house so far (not all at once; that would be silly), has completely failed to be killed by them.

The Legend of the Wartime Placebo
Jonathan Jarry

The foundational story in placebo research is that Dr. Henry Beecher ran out of morphine while treating soldiers during World War II and resorted to injecting them with saline. He was surprised to find out that it worked just as well. Jonathan, in partnership with the Merseyside Skeptics Society’s Mike Hall, tried to track down the origin of this myth, which involves bad scholarship, the basement of a library, and talking to a writer of the hit TV show M*A*S*H.

Jonathan Jarry is a science communicator for McGill University’s Office for Science and Society and the co-host of the award-winning Body of Evidence podcast. He is frequently quoted in local, national and international media on issues of science and pseudoscience and is a regular on CTV Montreal News. He holds a Master’s degree in molecular biology.

4:00 pm


Closing Remarks