The Science of Happiness
Jul 31 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Join us for a fascinating evening with Dr Tal Ben-Shahar as he explores the science of happiness and shares practical tools for a happy and fulfilling life.

About Tal Ben-Shahar

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar is a renowned author, lecturer and expert in the science of wellbeing. His Positive Psychology class became one of the most popular courses taught at Harvard. He is co-founder and Chief Learning Officer of Wholebeing Instituteand teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, where he co-founded The Institute for Positive Psychology in Education.

Tal is author of five books, including the bestseller Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. He holds a doctorate in organisational behaviour and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology from Harvard.

The Folklore of Discworld
Jul 31 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

paul_kidby_discworldTake a trip to Discworld with award-winning author Dr Jacqueline Simpson. Jacqueline has written many books on folklore, including The Folklore of Sussex, British Dragons, Scandinavian Folktales, and The Lore of the Land (in collaboration with Jennifer Westwood).

She is also a great admirer of Terry Pratchett’s fantasies, which often involve folklore, so when she met him at a book signing in 1997 they inevitably talked about folklore – magpies, to be precise.

From this came a friendship and, in due course, their joint book on The Folklore of
Discworld (2008, with an updated edition in 2014).

We begin each evening with our monthly round-up of fortean news stories from the month.

Autism: An Introduction to Treatments – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Aug 6 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Tannice PendegrassAfter going through definitions of Autism and what it means for the person on the ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), Tannice will reveal the results of her own survey into what people know and think about autism, its effects, causes and treatments.

As a former Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) tutor with the UK Young Autism Project for children on the autistic spectrum, Tannice keeps a close eye on new developments in treatments. However, she’s not impressed with some of the purported miracle cures that include the usual suspects of homeopathy and acupuncture. But we already know about the scant evidence for those treatments. It’s the terrible stress and toxic treatments that many children must endure that come under Tannice’s scutiny as she takes you through the pros and cons of ‘quack’ treatments and the evidence for learning-based treatments like ABA.

Wikimania 2014
Aug 8 @ 9:30 am – Aug 10 @ 6:00 pm

Wikimania 2014Wikimania is a conference, unconference, festival, meetup, workshop, hackathon, and party, spread over five days in August 2014. It’s the official annual event of the Wikimedia movement, where you’ll discover all kinds of projects that people are making with wikis and open content, as well as meet the community that produced the most famous wiki of all, Wikipedia!

A particle physics evening w/ @jonmbutterworth
Aug 20 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

A particle physics eveningJon Butterworth, head of UCL Physics and Astronomy. He is a particle physicist who has participated in the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN, and author of the recent popular science book ‘Smashing Physics’
David Miller, particle physicist affiliated with Chicago University and CERN, where he works on the ATLAS experiment.
Lily Asquith, postdoctoral researcher in particle physics at Argonne National Laboratory, where she works on analysing data from the ATLAS experiment at CERN.

 Hosted by Professor Jon Butterworth (author of Smashing Physics), UCL is offering an evening of particle physics, suitable for all ages from 12 up.

Introducing the Large Hadron Collider, a virtual visit to CERN hosted by David Miller of Chicago University, a talk by TEDx speaker Lily Asquith (of Sussex University and the Argonne National Lab) about sonificiation of LHC data, and a Q&A session in which you can ask all your burning particle physics questions.

After 2015: Development and its Alternatives w/ @CliveSG
Sep 10 @ 9:30 am – Sep 11 @ 5:00 pm

13588The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire in 2015, with mixed results. This conference takes a social and political perspective on why development fails, and how local knowledge might inform a post-MDG environment more sensitive to those structurally disadvantaged by the global economy. Within mainstream debates there has been little room for the developmental alternatives lived by people in conditions of poverty and thus no space for exploring more critical and alternative paradigms of development to the orthodox neoliberal-MDG paradigm. This conference brings together leading critical scholars on development, and activists from the global anti-poverty, buen vivir and degrowth movements.

Central Banks: Powerful, Political and Unaccountable?
Sep 18 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

13591The economic and political importance of central banks has been much enhanced recently. With governments unwilling or unable to use countercyclical fiscal policy, monetary policy, conventional and unconventional often is the only stabilisation tool in town.

Much of the enhanced significance of central banks is due, however, to their lender of last resort and market maker of last resort roles for financial institutions and sovereigns.

The (quasi-) fiscal roles played by central banks have also grown materially.

These quintessentially political growing roles have not been matched by greater accountability, both formal and substantive, of central banks. Possible remedies are discussed.

About the Speaker:
Willem Buiter is Chief Economist at Citi since 2010. He taught at the LSE, and the universities of Princeton, Yale, Cambridge and Bristol. He was an external MPC member from 1997 till 2000 and Chief Economist at the EBRD from 2000 till 2005.

‘Mind-reading’ as a gatekeeper in development with @HappeLab
Sep 23 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

13732Typically-developing children show a precocious ability to track what others are thinking, referred to as ‘theory of mind’ or ‘mentalising’. Children with autism, by contrast, struggle with this intuitive mind-reading. Mind-blindness may explain social and communication difficulties in autism; why lying doesn’t come naturally, and jokes and irony are taken literally. This talk will explore the downstream or developmental effects of mentalizing, which I will argue is a gatekeeper function that opens doors in typical development. Obligatory mentalising in typical development and mindblindness in autism lead to very different learning environments, arguably each having both positive and negative aspects.

About the speaker:
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC SGDP Centre, Francesca Happé’s research focuses on autism spectrum conditions. She has explored the nature of social understanding in a/typical development and non-social assets in autism. She has received the BPS Spearman Medal, the EPS Prize and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award. She is President of the International Society for Autism Research.

Longitude: back and forth across the years
Sep 25 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Harrison's H4 ClockThe search for an accurate measurement of longitude is a fascinating story that transformed seafaring navigation forever. Many designs were submitted after the passing of the Longitude Act in 1714. Two complimentary methods were developed that, ultimately, allowed the widespread adoption of the marine chronometer.

Was parliament’s decision to offer a reward essential to these innovations? Are there lessons to be drawn about how we support science and technology?” As the Royal Museum Greenwich open their exhibition Ships, Clocks & Stars about the quest for longitude, exhibition curator Rebekah Higgitt and Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees explore these and other questions whilst discussing the impacts of the Act over the last 300 years and what the future may bring from the discoveries of NESTA’s newly launched 2014 Longitude Prize.

This event will be followed by a late opening of Ships, Clocks & Stars.

The discussion will be chaired by UK Space Agency research Fellow, Dr. Lewis Dartnell.

Public event with Lord Martin Rees FRS and Rebekah Higgitt

Writing wrongs
Oct 2 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

TreeThis year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson, the American conservationist responsible for putting the environment on the political agenda. When her masterpiece Silent Spring was published in 1962, she was attacked as savagely as Darwin on the publication of The Origin of the Species, but the book spurred a reversal in US pesticide policy and led to a ban on DDT and other pesticides. But does Silent Spring persuade because of the strength of its arguments, or the beauty of its language? And have Carson’s warnings been sufficiently heeded? John Burnside FRSL is a prize-winning poet, short-story writer and novelist. A passionate environmentalist, he contributes a regular nature column to the New Scientist. Professor John Pickett FRS is Scientific Leader of Chemical Ecology at Rothampstead Research, and a world authority on pest control. In a conversation-style lecture, they will discuss the complementary roles of literature and science in saving the planet.

Attending this event

This event is free to attend and open to all. No tickets are required. Doors open at 6pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you require British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation please contact the events team no later than 2 weeks prior to the event and we would be happy to arrange an interpreter.

A live video will be available on this page when the event starts and a recorded video will be available a few days afterwards.

What are Prime Ministers for?
Oct 13 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

An examination of the accruing functions of the UK Prime Minister since 1945. Thoughts on the expectations placed upon premiers by parliamentary and public opinion and ever burgeoning media pressure. Possible future developments.

About the Speaker:
Peter Hennessy is Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London and an independent crossbench peer in the House of Lords.
FREE. Registration not required.
Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Thomas Hobbes: Liberal illiberal
Oct 15 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

13601Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) has long been seen as a deeply illiberal work. Hobbes defended absolute sovereignty (and, indeed, absolute monarchy); he was scornful of any attempt to show that sovereign authority must be subject to legal controls. But at the same time he set out some principles, such as individualism and the dependence of all political authority on consent, which we associate with the origins of the modern liberal tradition. There may even be some of the building-blocks of constitutionalism in his anti-constitutionalist theory. This lecture explores the liberal elements in the classic work of an illiberal thinker.

About the speaker:
Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was previously a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and Foreign Editor of The Spectator. A specialist in Hobbes, he is a General Editor of the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Hobbes.

FREE. Registration not required.
Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis.

‘A most extraordinary pair’: Wollstonecraft & Godwin
Oct 16 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Fundraiser imageProfessor Todd (University of Cambridge) will be introducing Wollstonecraft as the most famous female political author of the revolutionary period. She was one of a group of literary women involved in enlightenment political debates about society—debates as
all-embracing as any ever held in England.

To purchase tickets online, please make a minimum donation of £10 per ticket (or £7.50 for students, with student card) and include your name and number of tickets required. Tickets will be held under your name at the door.

Bar opens at 6:30pm and the lecture begins at 7pm. Please do stay afterwards, for the chance to ask questions of our speaker and join us for a drink.

Vampire, Werewolves & Witches: the myth & reality w/ @stephenlaw60
Oct 18 @ 10:30 am – 3:30 pm

talkDeborah Hyde, Jessica Monteith, and Owen Davies introduce us to the myth and the reality regarding some of the most horrific creatures imaginable. A skeptical inquiry into some of the most terrifying creatures imaginable. Come and be terrified and informed.

Organised and chaired by Stephen Law


11.00 Jessica Monteith on Vampires. The Modern Vampire: Suave and Debonair as we’ve never seen him before. Vampire in film and television have evolved from the undead, pestilence ridden revenants of the medieval and rennaissance eras, into handsome playboy figures. Why has there been such a drastic re-interpretation of the vampire, and what does it say about the twenty-first century audience that this new ‘modern’ vampire has permeated popular culture?

12.00 Deborah Hyde on Werewolves. The werewolf is a common horror motif, but what did people during the witch-hunt of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe really mean when they accused someone of ‘lycanthropy’? A discussion including films, history and analysis, during which we will found out who is worse – man or beast. Deborah writes, lectures internationally and appears on broadcast media to discuss superstition, religion and belief in the supernatural. She is currently writing a book ‘Unnatural Predators’.

1-1.45 lunch

1.45 Owen Davies on Witches. The persecution of witches in Europe and America – after the witch trials. Professor Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire, has written widely on the social history of witchcraft, magic, ghosts, and popular medicine. In this talk he will explore why and how thousands of people, mostly women, were abused and murdered as witches in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

2.45-3.30 Roundtable.

3.30 END.

Our Kind of Town? Citizen Social Science, Participatory Mapping & the Struggle for a Just City
Oct 23 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

ffa62ade806d8a0371d414824a35f91aPublic lecture by Prof Phil Cohen

Respondent: Dr Paul Watt, GEDS

The emergence of Citizen Social Science (CSS) has challenged many of the claims staked by academic sociology to possess a methodology giving unique access to social reality. But under what conditions does the active participation of citizens in social research actually improve the quality of data and its interpretation, and how far does it exercise what C. Wright Mills called the ‘sociological imagination’?

The question has been posed with special clarity by projects which make use of participatory mapping techniques to elicit, record and analyse real and imagined communities of engagement with contemporary issues of urban policy. In this lecture I will explore the tension between the desire to validate locally situated structures of feeling and knowledge, and the need to construct a space of critical reflection or ‘deconstruction’, looking at a number of historical precedents of CSS, including Mass Observation, Bill Bunge’s ‘expeditionary geography’, and various attempts to construct public ethnographies in which informants have a material stake.

The lecture concludes by drawing on some recent work by Living Maps in East London, focussed on the legacy impact of the 2012 Olympics on local communities, to consider the limits and conditions of Citizen Social Science in supporting struggles against gentrification and the privatisation of public space and amenity.

This event is free and open to all, but booking is essential – book your place here

* * * * *

Phil Cohen is Visiting Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies at Birkbeck and Emeritus Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of East London, where he was the first director of the London East Research Institute. He recently co-founded Living Maps, a network of academics, artists and activists interested in the theory and practice of critical cartography.

Since the 1980s Phil has carried out ethnographic research on issues of class, race and regeneration, much of this work having a focus on East London. Prior to this, his work on youth cultures established his international reputation. More recently he carried out a five year study into the local impact of the Olympics; On the Wrong Side of the Track? East London and the Post Olympics was published in May 2013 by Lawrence & Wishart. He is currently collaborating with Paul Watt on A Hollow Legacy? London 2012 and the Post Olympics, an edited book about the longer-term Olympic legacy. He is the author of Knuckle Sandwich: Growing Up in the Working Class City (with Dave Robins); Rethinking the Youth Question; Finding the Way Home: Young People’s Narratives of Race, Place and Identity in London Docklands and Hamburg (with Nora Rathzel), and London’s Turning: The Making of Thames Gateway (with Mike Rustin). A collection of his academic work, Material Dreams: Maps and Territories in the Un/making of Modernity, is forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan.

Evo’s Bolivia: continuity and change
Oct 23 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

imageWhen Evo Morales came to power in 2006, expectations were high that Bolivia’s first indigenous president would transform the country. Based on a forthcoming book written with Ben Kohl, Farthing’s talk will examine how well Morales and his movement towards Socialism has done in achieving goals of greater equality and inclusion in South America’s poorest country.

Linda Farthin, Writer and educator with 25 years experience in Latin America as a solidarity activist, study abroad director, film field producer, and journalist/independent scholar. She is the coauthor of three books with Ben Kohl: From the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist’s Life (University of Texas Press, 2011); Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Social Resistance (Zed Books, 2006) and Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change (University of Texas Press, 2014).

‘Curse, bless, me now’: Dylan Thomas & Saunders Lewis – a reappraisal
Oct 24 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

13603Chaired by: Professor Wynn Thomas OBE FBA, Swansea University

More often than not, Dylan Thomas, the Swansea-born writer of English, and Saunders Lewis, the Wallasey-born writer of Welsh, are set in differing discursive camps – entrenchments of their own design, some might say, or perhaps their fathers’. Memorable quotations – ‘I cannot read Welsh.’ ‘He belongs to the English.’ – continually drive them apart. Yet these two writers shared not only similar experiences, locations and a host of literary influences – e.g. Yeats, Eliot, Freud, hymns, Hamlet – but also an understanding that poetry must ‘work from words … not towards words’, energised by form. Were they right? If so, what now? A fleeting handshake in no-man’s land?

About the speaker:
Tudur Hallam is Professor of Welsh at Swansea University. His specialisms include comparative poetics and canon formation. Recent work relevant to the lecture include his chapter in Slanderous Tongues: essays on Welsh poetry in English: 1975-2005 and his monograph on Saunders Lewis’ plays, Saunders y Dramodydd.

FREE. Registration is not required.
Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Tackling the great challenges of the 21st Century
Oct 28 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

puzzle-imageJoin Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and Lord Stern, President of the British Academy, as they discuss the new opportunities – and need – for collaboration between the traditional academic disciplines to respond to the big issues of our time, highlighting why the UK’s research base is such an important national asset.

Sir Paul Nurse has been President of the Royal Society since 2010. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001 and is also Chief Executive of The Francis Crick Institute.

Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford became the 29th President of the British Academy in July 2013. He is IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, and also Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Attending this event

This event is free to attend and open to all. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Speech-to-text interpretation will be provided at this event.

If you require British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation please contact the events team at least two weeks in advance of the event, and we would be happy to arrange an interpreter.

‘Rivers of Blood’: Illustrating Violence & Virtue in Russia’s Early Modern Empire
Nov 6 @ 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm

13609Chaired by: Professor Hamish Scott FBA, FRSE

In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, between the reign of Ivan the Terrible and that of Peter the Great, Muscovite Russian forces swept eastward, conquering, colonizing, and controlling territories reaching from the Volga to the Pacific. While early modern European thinkers such as Las Casas, Sepulveda, Hobbes and Locke pondered the pragmatics and ethics of imperial conquest, Muscovites wasted little time on theory. In the absence of textual treatises, visual depictions of bloody battles, ruthless punishment, and colonial rule reveal surprising patterns, with significant, and unexpected, implications for understanding Russian policies of imperial incorporation.

About the speaker:
Valerie Kivelson (PhD Stanford University) teaches at the University of Michigan. Her publications include Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2013); Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2006), and Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture, co-edited with Joan Neuberger (2008).
FREE. Registration is not required.
Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The First World War: Literature, Culture, Modernity
Nov 12 @ 9:30 am – Nov 13 @ 5:00 pm

13606Convenors: Dr Santanu Das, King’s College London, and Dr Kate McLoughlin, University of Oxford

A hundred years after the war’s outbreak, this conference brings together some of the world’s leading experts and emerging scholars to reassess its literary and cultural impact and explore its vexed relationship to modernity. Was the war a ‘crack in the table of history’ or did it reinforce deep continuities? What is the relationship between artistic form and historical violence, and between combatant and civilian creative responses? What are the colonial and transnational dimensions of First World War literature? Spanning across literature, the visual arts and music, the conference will adopt an international perspective as it investigates the war’s continuing legacies.

Speakers include:
Professor Fran Brearton, Queen’s University, Belfast
Profesor Geert Guelens, University of Utrecht
Professor Sarah Cole, Columbia University
Professor Laura Doan, University of Manchester
Professor Ann-Marie Einhaus, University of Northumbria
Professor Sandra Gilbert, University of California, Davis
Professor Tim Kendall, University of Exeter
Professor Margaret Higonnet, University of Connecticut (Storrs)
Dr Britta Lange, University of Bonn
Professor Dame Hermione Lee FBA, University of Oxford
Professor Angela Leighton FBA, University of Cambridge
Professor Edna Longley FBA, Queen’s University, Belfast
Professor Laura Marcus FBA, University of Oxford
Dr Jane Potter, Oxford Brookes University
Professor Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia
Dr Eugene Rogan, University of Oxford
Professor Max Saunders, King’s College London
Professor Vincent Sherry, University of Washington, St Louis
Dr Hope Wolf, University of Cambridge

Total war: Mexico and Europe 1914
Nov 19 @ 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

imageThis paper, originally given as the Luis González lecture at the Colegio de México in early 2014, compares the (neglected) military dimension of the Mexican Revolution to the First World War in Europe, using the concept of ‘total war’ as the bridge; it defines ‘total war’ (in two distinct senses) and argues that, notwithstanding the dismissive comments of some historians of Mexico – for whom the armed revolution was a chaotic fiesta de balas, a ‘carnival of bullets’ – the revolution involved very costly mass conventional warfare. The argument, involving both demographic and military analysis, concludes that, in Mexico as in Europe, total war profoundly affected society, leaving a legacy of violence, veteran activism, and an incipient ‘social pact’ that underpinned the social reform and state-building of the 1920s and ’30s.

The Problem of Evil & ‘Intellectual Black Holes’ w/ @stephenlaw60
Nov 21 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Stephen LawWe take a close look at how Theists respond to the evidential problem of evil – the problem, for them, of explaining why an all-powerful, all-good God would inflict so much suffering on sentient beings. Many explanations have been offered, many highly ingenious. We’ll explore a novel way of looking at these explanations, and at the way in which they contribute to the overall rational architecture of traditional Theism. To what extent are there parallels with the thinking of, e.g., conspiracy theories, Young Earth Creationism, and other ‘Intellectual Black Holes’?

Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Heythrop College, University of London, editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK, and author of popular philosophy books including The Philosophy Gym and Believing Bullshit.