I Need Diverse Games

Saturday, July 23, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

If you like video games and love seeing awesome new titles with great stories and characters that everyone can really get behind, this is the talk for you.

Tired of not seeing herself in the games she’s spent many years playing, Tanya DePass started #INeedDiverseGames in 2014 after being disappointed one too many times in the choices available to her in current games or games yet to come.

Diversity is a way to enrich the video game experience, not a quota to be filled, or a tool to avoid criticism. Diversity is essential not just to reflect the variety of our community, but also to push the limits of immersion, to present audiences with a perspective that they have never experienced before, and ultimately, to foster empathy for others.

Today, I Need Diverse Games seeks to bring projects, works and research by marginalized folks to light. We also seek to discuss, analyze and critique identity and culture in video games through a multi-faceted lens rooted in intersectionality.


about our speaker:
Tanya DePass is a lifelong Chicagoan who loves everything about gaming, is the #INeedDiverseGames spawn point, and wants to make it better and more inclusive for everyone. She’s the Founder and EIC of @OutofTokensCast, the Diversity Liaison for GaymerX and often speaks on issues of diversity, feminism, race, intersectionality & other topics at conventions.

about I Need Diverse Games:
The Purpose of our Work:

  • Provide a safe space for gamers of color and of any other marginalized identities (including race, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, disability etc)
  • Provide a safe space to promote the work of creators in the gaming industry, including journalists, developers, artists that are marginalized and would otherwise go unheard.
  • To encourage and defend diversity in all forms of gaming, and most importantly, make sure it is done right by creating conversations that invite both critique and praise for the art of gaming.

Skeptical Salon: The Signal & the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail

July 28, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer and Jeff’s Place

We’re back on for the Skeptical Salon; please note the new location!

This month, we’ll be reading The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t by Nate Silver.

From amazon.com:
“Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation’s foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.com.

Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.

In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.

Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.”

Skeptics in the Pub!

Saturday, June 18, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

It’s summertime, and the Meetups are breezy! Come on over to Black Rock for a super-casual hangout with fellow like-minded folks. There’s no formal speaker or or topic, just good conversation.

Farewell to Skeptic Tower

May 19, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

There’s no Skeptical Salon book for this month, because OUR HOSTS ARE MOVING!

Instead, we’re having one last hurrah at Skeptic Tower. Same bat time, same bat channel, bring your favorite snack or beverage to share. Come hang out with your favorite fans of science and critical thinking, and get one last photo off the balcony.

There may be boxes! Possibly a rogue dishwasher! There will be dogs! There will be merriment! There is definitely short notice, but we’re still gonna do the thing!

OF INTEREST: Chicago Science Festival

Saturday, May 14, 2016
10:00am – 5:00pm

Location: 1871 Chicago

Illinois Science Council invites you to the second annual Chicago Science Festival — a celebration of the wow-inspiring, mind-expanding, human-benefitting awesomeness that is S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering & math) research in the Chicago area. All events require tickets/registration, generally $10 in advance/$15 day of. All-Day passes give you access to all talks on Saturday, May 14 and are $30 in advance/$40 day of. (If all-day passes sell out, no individual tickets will be sold.) Advance ticket sales end at 6:00pm May 13, then get them at the door. Chicago Skeptics can get $10 off the all-day pass with the promo code SKEPTIC!

Here’s what the festival has in store for you:

Friday, May 13, 3:30-6pm 
This opening event of the 2016 Chicago Science Festival will feature a series of talks in which speakers will discuss how cutting-edge research can help address some of the biggest intellectual and societal challenges, and what the University of Chicago is doing to support bold scientific risk-taking. UChicago faculty from psychology, neuroscience, and physics will present their breakthrough ideas, and Monika Bickert, Head of Facebook’s Global Policy, will discuss how collaborations with research universities is crucial for solving pressing social issues. Friday’s event is free but space is limited. Registration is required.

Saturday, May 14, 10:00am – 5:00pm 
Saturday includes a full day of fascinating topics with engaging speakers and a free demo area. (Read the full listing with descriptions here.) You can purchase all-day passes giving you access to ALL talks and demos on May 14 or purchase tickets for individual speakers. (If all-day passes sell out, no individual tickets will be sold.) Advance ticket sales end at 6:00pm May 13, then get them at the door. Topics include:

Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Your Health - What? How? And When? 
Martha Hotz Vitaterna (Northwestern U) 10 – 11:00am

Chicago’s Urban Wildlife – What you might encounter in your neighborhood 
Liza Lehrer (Lincoln Park Zoo) 10-11:00am

Saving Monarchs and More – Trials, tribulations, and citizen science of tracking and saving species 
Doug Turon (Nature Museum) 11am – 12noon

The How & Why of Tracking the Invisible, Elusive Neutrino - from the sun, distant galaxies and particle accelerators 
Anne Schukraft (Fermilab) 11am – 12noon

Your Brain on Psychotropic Drugs 
Richard J. Miller (Northwestern U) 12noon – 1:00pm

The End of Water As We Know It 
Seth Darling (Argonne Lab) 1 – 2:00pm

Black Holes & Gravitational Waves – Why a massive galactic occurrence requires mind-blowingly precise detection 
Shane Larson (Adler & Northwestern U) 1 – 2:00pm

Microscopy and the Mystery of Pablo Picasso’s Paints 
Volker Rose (Argonne Lab) 2 – 3:00pm

Deep Ocean Research Adventure – Discovering life waaaay down under 
Janet Voight (Field Museum) 2 – 3:00pm

Holding Science in Your Hands – 3D printing at the interface of art and research 
Allan Drummond (UChicago) 3 – 4:00pm

The Science and Art of Risk Taking – Courage, Caution, and Free Will 
Kayt Sukel (Author) & Moran Cerf (Northwestern U) 3 – 4:00pm

The Physics of “Game of Thrones” 
Becky Thompson (American Physical Society) 4 – 5:00pm 

Hands-on Demo stations (which are free) to include:

  • Experience Virtual Reality from the world of Physics
  • Engineering of a vertical record player
  • Neuroscience experiments to mess with your brain
  • Manipulating internal human organs, digitally
  • 3-D printing up close
  • Edible Insects – The rest of the world loves nutritious protein, why don’t we? Try some!
  • Explore the Zooniverse! Scores of fun virtual ways to contribute to science research
  • Prosthetics limbs from RIC Center for Bionic Medicine
  • Miniature Fuel Cell Electric Cars

Get your tickets at http://chicagosciencefest.org/, and use the promo code SKEPTIC to get $10 off a Saturday all-day pass!

Cognitive Evolution and Paleolithic Art

Saturday, May 21 , 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

There are decades, millennia even, of speculation about human nature from both philosophy and religion, especially with regards to our unique cognitive abilities. We are at a point in time of our species development and science advancement that we can make some more enlightened hypotheses about how our unique cognition evolved. The info and the ideas and eventually the answers will come from archaeology, paleo-anthropology neuroscience, developmental and cognitive psychology.

Is it a coincidence that intensive observational hunting of large mammals and Cave Art occur at the same time 40,000 years ago? Why are depictions of humans not portrayed with the same skill as those of animals?  From simple inscribed lines (70,000 ya) to detail of animal form, posture and behavior, Dr. William Zingrone will present a hypothesis about the development of human cognition through evolutionary means from the point of view of developmental psychology.

Dr. Zingrone is a Developmental Psychologist with passionate research interests in Consciousness and Cognitive Evolution. “My driving motivation is to dispel outdated religious based ideas about human nature that are ingrained in the folk beliefs of our modern culture. Father, devoted husband in his 61st year, hockey fan, information sponge, music lover, out to give religion the drubbing it deserves.

How to Solve Climate Change Without Breaking the Bank

Saturday, April 16, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

As many skeptics know, rampant disinformation distorts the science on anthropogenic global warming, but did you know the disinformation campaign extends to the economics of climate change as well? What can economics really teach us about designing climate policy? Will mitigating cost us, or save us? A careful look at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other recent reports, along with a look at the consensus among economists, can help us separate science from fiction on the economics of climate change mitigation.

About our speaker:
Emily Church is a long-time skeptic and PhD candidate in neuroscience who has suffered for years from an obsession with climate change economics and climate policy.

Here it is on Meetup!

Skeptical Salon – Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

April 21, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

This month’s book will be Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan A. Clancy.

From amazon.com:

They are tiny. They are tall. They are gray. They are green. They survey our world with enormous glowing eyes. To conduct their shocking experiments, they creep in at night to carry humans off to their spaceships. Yet there is no evidence that they exist at all. So how could anyone believe he or she was abducted by aliens? Or want to believe it?

To answer these questions, psychologist Susan Clancy interviewed and evaluated “abductees”–old and young, male and female, religious and agnostic. She listened closely to their stories–how they struggled to explain something strange in their remembered experience, how abduction seemed plausible, and how, having suspected abduction, they began to recollect it, aided by suggestion and hypnosis.

Clancy argues that abductees are sane and intelligent people who have unwittingly created vivid false memories from a toxic mix of nightmares, culturally available texts (abduction reports began only after stories of extraterrestrials appeared in films and on TV), and a powerful drive for meaning that science is unable to satisfy. For them, otherworldly terror can become a transforming, even inspiring experience. “Being abducted,” writes Clancy, “may be a baptism in the new religion of this millennium.” This book is not only a subtle exploration of the workings of memory, but a sensitive inquiry into the nature of belief.

Want to vote for next month’s book? Want to change your votes from before? Do it here!

Want to make a suggestion to add to the list? Send it to us here.

Why? A lot of the top-ranked choices on our list right now are great, but loooong, so we’re looking for shorter selections that we can reasonably hope folks will have time to read over a few weeks. We’re all busy!

Skeptical Salon: Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

March 24, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

A short book for short notice! For March, we’ll be reading Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler. It looks like a fun read and there are many illustrations, with tons of notes at the back for those who love that sort of detail. Bring a snack or drinks to share!

from amazon.com:
“Pronged ants, horned humans, a landscape carved on a fruit pit–some of the displays in David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology are hoaxes. But which ones? As he guides readers through an intellectual hall of mirrors, Lawrence Weschler revisits the 16th-century “wonder cabinets” that were the first museums and compels readers to examine the imaginative origins of both art and science. Illustrations.”

Voting is now open for April’s book! Vote here.

Please note that Jennifer and Jeff now have two lovely pups, Adler and Tully! I think they’re quite charming, but they can be put away if folks are allergic or phobic. I also understand that the narwhal has been replaced. :)

Effective Affect

Saturday, March 19, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

Emotions are messy, disorganized and don’t help us make rational decisions. Right? Then why do we have them? Scientists have gone through great lengths to study emotions including electrical shocks to the face, torturing dogs, botox injections, conversations with cannibals, use of the postal service, and inappropriate use of a No.2 pencil. What are the findings of all this research? Presentation may even include an adorable picture of a baby gorilla taking a bath, but that is just to get an emotional reaction from the audience.

About our speaker: Michael Maloney is an emotional guy who has combined his work in mental health and clinical/behavioral health research to become a Research Study Counselor.

Here it is on Meetup!