Thursday, February 27, 2014
Location: Jennifer’s Place
During this month of commercially-induced LOO-OOOVE, we at Chicago Skeptics are taking a look back to [one of] the books that started what is probably the most heated debate within social and scientific circles to date: the origin of/explanations behind human sexuality.
This month’s selection is The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. (Here’s the Amazon description.)
Since this book is referred to by many as “a great introduction to evolutionary psychology”, we also have the opportunity to glance at and discuss the workings of a branch of science that has sparked a significant amount of controversy within the scientific and social circles, and what the history of this controversy means for future branches of science.
Hope to see you there!
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Location: Black Rock
David Freedman is a Professor of Neurobiology at The University of Chicago, and his research is focused on the brain mechanisms underlying visual perception, memory, and decision making. He will give an overview about how the brain makes sense of the patterns of light entering our eyes, and will also discuss recent work which gives insights into cognitive functions such as visual learning, memory and decision making.
If you want to find out about his research, you can visit his lab.
Dave’s a good guy and super smart and one of Ashley’s band mates in the awesome funk band FuzZz, so it’ll be a good time. You should come.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Location: Multiple locations around Chicago
This is an Event Of Interest, meaning we think you might like it but there’s nothing “organized”… yet. If you’d like to be the contact person for this event (and you’re going, of course!) let us know in the comments.
For our Beginning/Intermediate/Advanced Runners, Pi Day run is officially here! Please use this link to register: Pi Day run!
From the Illinois Science Council:
Runners geeking out. Math geeks on the run. Everyone running Pi for PIE!! The typical 5K run of 3.12 miles is so old-school. This Pi K is sooo must better because MATH means it’s a 3.14-mile run (or trot, saunter, walk or strut). Start the spring season off right with a Pi K Fun Run! March 14th, or 3.14, is celebrated internationally in honor of the math constant Pi. In case you’ve forgotten your high school geometry lesson, this unique, indefinite number is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. ISC honors the importance of math and running in our lives with a Pi Day Pi K 3.14 mile fun run.
ISC Pi Day Pi K Fun Run
Date: Friday, March 14, 2013
Start Time: 6:28pm (also known as 2π)
Start locations - 3 options:
Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town, 1620 N. Wells St., Chicago, 60614
Fleet Feet Sports – Lincoln Square, 4762 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, 60625
Fleet Feet Sports – South Loop, 150 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago 60605
Price: $25 (includes t-shirt and post-run party with prizes)
Advance Registration by locations is REQUIRED. Sign-up closes 3/12. SPECIAL DEAL: March 14 also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday! No kidding. In his honor, IF, and only IF your name is Albert, Alberta or Albertina, you may enter the discount code “CallMeAl” to receive $5 off your registration. (Nooo, Allen, Allan, Alex or Allesandra does not count. Although the actual name Einstein would.) You will have to prove it with ID. If you enter that code and are not appropriately named, you will forfeit your registration fee, be barred from running and people will call you “Einstein” and not in a positive way. Don’t wait to register. This run sold out quickly last year!
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Location: Black Rock
Very few of us were born into Skepticism. Many of us have come from an array of backgrounds that range from belief in crystal healing to religious conservativism. Do you have a funny, awesome story about your beliefs pre-Skepticism? Well, this is the time to share them with your fellow Skeptics. If you want to participate in SkeptiSlam, please leave a comment on our thread. We’ll keep a list of participants ready!
If you want to make your coming-to-Skepticism presentation pretty (i.e., using PowerPoint, KeyNote, etc.), or have any interesting props, please let us know in advance on the comment thread so we can be prepared for your presentation. Please know that you don’t have to make your coming-to-Skepticism presentation pretty.
In order to keep SkeptiSlam awesome, we just want everyone to keep a few things in mind:
• Please be awesome to the participants. We’re opening up to fellow Skeptics about our past which is not an easy thing to do.
• Please give us a head’s up if your presentation has any potential NSFW (Not Safe For Work; e.g. sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll) content.
• We’ll be using Skepticamp timing standards for SkeptiSlam: 10 minutes maximum to talk. We would like to give enough time to all participants and have time for socializing.
• Be light, be fun, be conversational!
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Location: Black Rock
Do you have a topic that you’d like to see discussed among us skeptic-y types? Is there a skeptical subject you feel we’ve been neglecting? Do you have most favorite type or style of critical thinking you’d like to make sure we all know about? Ohey, look, Skepticamp is coming and you (yes, YOU) are invited to give a ten-minute talk about something you think is cool.
What’s that, you say? You couldn’t possibly give a talk? You don’t know however you’d fill ten minutes? You’re much too nervous to get up in front of a group of people? Nobody would be interested in what you have to say? Prepare to be proven wrong, you skeptics, you!
Despite the fact that my greatest achievement in public speaking to date has been passing my school’s one-credit speech class requirement, I am prepared to come out from behind the (relative) safety of the internets to stand nervously in front of all of you to show you how you can stand nervously in front of other people to talk about a subject of interest.* To set an example of what YOU can do if you sign up to speak at Skepticamp on April 5, I am going to go full-on tautological and give a talk about how to give a talk.
Watch as I stammer my way through my talk, inevitably get heckled by Jen, Ken, and/or other folks with three-letter names, forget what I was going to say, blather out some horrifyingly embarrassing malaprops and still make it out alive. This is for real, guys, it’s not just some show to make you less nervous… I seriously have avoided giving a meetup talk for the exact same reasons you might give for not signing up to talk at Skepticamp.
This just got real.
Why am I inflicting this torture upon myself? Because keeping Chicago’s Skepticamp awesome is most definitely a topic of interest to me, and I want to share it with you. I want you to sign up, let me put your name in the program, and give a great talk. But I can’t be a hypocrite, so here we go. I’ll go first.
(What’s that you say? You’d like to sign up to speak right now? Well, have at it! Go here forthwith: Skepticamp speaker sign up)
*THIS MEETUP IS NOT SKEPTICAMP. My talk is to encourage you to sign up to give a talk by presenting one of my own as an example of how even nervous, inexperienced speakers like me can get up there and speechify.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Location: Jennifer’s Place
New years bring new resolutions and new aspects of Skepticism to explore! Our first Salon of 2014 will feature a book that questions some of the “conventional” wisdom and old wives’ tales about pregnancy from the point of view and methodology of…an economist? Well, why not an economist?
The synopsis from Amazon:
What to Expect When You’re Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they’re expecting
Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most profound, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.
A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any complicated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.
Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.
Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.
Saturday, December 21
Location: Union Park Lounge
228 S. Racine Ave
Aluminum poles? Airing of Grievances? Feats of Strength*?
Chicago Skeptics will be celebrating it all…in a new location no less!
OK, so it’s not exactly a new location (we did celebrate the Mayan Apocalypse there after all), but it is a change from previous years. It means that our Festivus celebration has grown to be so awesome that it’s outgrown Skeptic Tower, which is great and sad.
So come out for some treats, drinks and great grievances with great people!
Donations will be accepted for both Festivus and our upcoming Skepticamp! If you’d like to help RIGHT NOW, please click the link below:
(Unfortunately, donations are not tax-deductible at this time. But they help us keep being able to host great events!)
*All physical feats of strength are to be undertaken off-site and at participants’ own risk.
If you’re up for it, we’ve got TWO events coming up this Saturday. Feel free to attend one or both; or neither if we’re not cool enough for you yet.
First is one that’s not really “ours,” per se, but perhaps of interest to our members anyway. We did this last year, and folks really seemed to like it, so…
Event the First: Greater Chicago Food Depository Volunteer Day
The second annual atheist volunteer day has been planned at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, just in time for Thanksgiving. Atheists and allies are invited. The event will be from 9am-noon on Saturday, November 16 at the GCFD offices (map)… please try to arrive about 15 minutes early.
To RSVP, you must register at
Invite your friends! Bring your (14 and over) kids! And please! The food bank takes reservation counts seriously, because they plan each day’s work based on that number. Don’t RSVP and not show up.
Event the Second: Monthly Meetup – Now We’re Importing Fellow Nerds
This month’s Meetup speaker is one of our members visiting from Germany! Stephan has been kind enough to grant us some insight in his field and his research, so come join us at Black Rock* for a [sort of] informal talk about the fundamental of Biophysics and how this field is being utilized within the scientific community. The meetup will be at our usual 12:30pm time on Saturday, November 16.
Synopsis of This Month’s Talk:
Traditionally scientists have grouped themselves into experimentalists and theorists. However in recent years the increase in computer power and sophistication of software have given rise to a third category: computational scientists. Computational science tries to make sense of the ever increasing amount of data collected by modern experiments or predict the behavior of complex systems that can not be treated in standard theoretical frameworks. One prominent discipline relying on computers for its research is computational biophysics.
Computational biophysics applies physical theories to simulate complex biological systems. These simulations can shed light on some fundamental principles underlying life or help understand diseases on the molecular level. A formidable challenge in this research area is the wide range of time and length scales that are important. One example of this is the way our eyes work: Photons can change the structure of retinal (a form of vitamin A) in rod cells, which in turn affects the structure of the protein to which the retinal is bound. This structural change initiates a signal in the cell that is transported to the brain to process the visual input. To describe such phenomena the quantum mechanical interaction of the photon with retinal as well as the large scale motion of the protein have to be captured in the simulation. A very daunting task and the feat of developing methods that can address these questions was rewarded with this years Nobel price in chemistry.
The first part of the talk will focus on how this and others methods used by biophysicists work and how biological systems are modeled. The second part will present current research topics, such as protein folding, and their potential implications for biology and medicine.
About the speaker:
Stephan received his BSc from Umea University (Sweden) in 2010 and his MSc in theoretical physics from the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz (Germany) in 2011. He is currently a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the Johannes Gutenberg-University and the Graduate school “Materials Science in Mainz” as well as a visiting research student at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago. His research focus is the simulation and modeling of blood proteins in solution and at surfaces.
* Members will be notified in the event of a venue change.
Saturday, April 5, 2014 – SAVE THE DATE!
10:00 AM to
Oh, yeah, it’s on! We’re solidly in the planning for 2014′s Chicago Skepticamp! There will be many more announcements and updates on how you can participate/speak/volunteer/support this excellent venture. But, in the meantime, *Save The Date!*
What is a Skepticamp? Not a camping trip (though you know how we love those!) It’s a daylong mini conference where we learn about science, critical thinking and scientific skepticism from our community’s greatest resource: each other!
We encourage both new and veteran presenters to step up to the podium. More info coming soon!
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Location: Jennifer’s Place
We’re trying something old and something new with this Salon: watching the film AND reviewing the book off of which the film is based…hence the earlier start time. For time reasons, we will [attempt to] start the movie promptly at 7:00 p.m., then move onto discussion of the movie and book.
From an old CS favorite, we revisit Jon Ronson’s propensity for madness and humor in The Men Who Stare At Goats. In the course of our discussion, let us delve into psychics, telekinesis and other supernatural phenomenon purported to have been researched by the U.S. Army and the reasons for pursuing said research in the face of evident lunacy.
Just when you thought every possible conspiracy theory had been exhausted by The X-Files or The Da Vinci Code, along comes The Men Who Stare at Goats. The first line of the book is, “This is a true story.” True or not, it is quite astonishing. Author Jon Ronson writes a column about family life for London’s Guardian newspaper and has made several acclaimed documentaries. The Men Who Stare at Goats is his bizarre quest into “the most whacked-out corners of George W. Bush’s War on Terror,” as he puts it. Ronson is inspired when a man who claims to be a former U.S. military psychic spy tells the journalist he has been reactivated following the 9-11 attack. Ronson decides to investigate. His research leads him to the U.S. Army’s strange forays into extra-sensory perception and telepathy, which apparently included efforts to kill barnyard animals with nothing more than thought. Ronson meets one ex-Army employee who claims to have killed a goat and his pet hamster by staring at them for prolonged periods of time. Like Ronson’s original source, this man also says he has been reactivated for deployment to the Middle East.
The other reviews and synopses can be found here.