I’m sure many of you have heard the buzz around  the forthcoming conference on QED: Question Explore Discover….but just in case you haven’t heard of it or need more incentive to book a ticket, let me outline this marvellous event and for you and give you some very good reasons to consider coming.

QED is a two-day science and skepticism festival taking place in the Piccadilly Hotel, Manchester on the 5th-6th February 2011. It is being jointly run by Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. Over these two days anyone who comes to the conference will have the great pleasure of meeting and socialising with other skeptics, an opportunity to share ideas and the chance to see some fantastic and dynamic speakers.

So, I hear you ask, ‘why should I come to this conference?’ As if the above sentences aren’t enough incentive already. You want to know more you say? Okay here’s ten good reasons for coming:

Reason one:

Great speakers.

The organisers have pulled out all the stops to bring you a great line-up of speakers. Over the two days you will get to see:

  • Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the US National Center for Science Education and defender of evolution in American schools
  • Jon Ronson, international author and journalist who has brought us delicious insights into the minds of some of the most unique pseudoscientific practitioners and conspiracy theorists
  • Jim Al-Khalili, scientist and educator, perhaps best known for his TV documentaries on the Atom and Islamic science history and also for his work with young children
  • Bruce Hood, Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre and author of the examination of superstition,Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable
  • Kat Akingbade, co-host of the C4 web series The Science of Scams and a science communicator driven to bring science to the masses
  • Chris Atkins, Director of both the BAFTA nominated Taking Liberties and the 2009 tour-de-force Starsuckers and co-creator of the recent UK Urban Fox hoax
  • Wendy Grossman, co-founder of The Skeptic magazine and blogger and journalist
  • Colin Wright, celebrator of the pleasure and fun to be had from understanding science and maths
  • Simon Singh, particle physicist  and international author of books on physics and the alternative medicine industry……oh and you might have heard about that little court case he had with that British Chiropractic Association
  • George Hrab, musician and host of the popular Geologic Podcast. George is the QED Master of Ceremonies

Reason two:

Er, hang on. Those 10 speakers already represent 10 good reasons to come…

Just in case you do need more reasons, if you come you get to:

Come to a conference in a city which is easily accessible from every part of the country by road, rail or air

Raise money for two very worthy causes: Sense About Science and the National Autistic Society

Visit the lovely Manchester

Tickets cost £99, and a student ticket is available for £75.

You can find out more and/or order your tickets from the QED website. You can also follow QED on Twitter


Crosses for some of the victims in Juárez

I thought you might all be interested to know that MAC and Rodarte have issued a press release stating that they will rebrand the now infamous collaborative collection with Rodarte. Many people will rightly be focusing on the fact that MAC are having to address the ‘mistake’ they made when they named the collection’s items. I would also like to take a moment to remember that this story became a story due to a wave of blogging. The media onslaught triggered by, and maintained by, many beauty and female blogs outlines the power of blogging in the current communications environment and back ups what we have already come to learn from skeptical blogging – that everyday people can be empowered and can help make a change.

MAC have acted quickly to make their story go away, but this shouldn’t mean that the story of these murdered women should also be forgotten. The bloggers and the press (myself included) all took time out to comment on MAC. Let’s now use the time to comment on the current standstill in justice for the women of  Juárez.

You can find out more about voluntary and community organisations involved in monitoring and investigating the femicides of  Juárez by visiting the following websites:

I am sure there are many other sites you could also recommend if people want to find out more. Please post them in the comments section.


Families of the victims remember their lost loved ones

MAC, Rodarte and the forgotten victims.

Yesterday my twitter feed was awash with comments about blog postings and news stories documenting the controversial names  of items from MAC and Rodarte’s collaborative make-up collection ‘inspired’ by Mexico, and in particular the border town of Juárez . The appropriation of ‘ethnic’ and ‘exotic’ themes for make-up and fashion is nothing new, I hear you say – and you’re right. So why is this big news?

Because Juárez  is not just any other exotic cultural space to mimic – Juárez  is a border town filled with factories overwhelmingly staffed by young Mexican women who, like many poor workers across the world, leave behind their rural homes to work in industrialised towns to earn money to send back to loved ones. But Juárez  isn’t even just another border town building goods for other people’s consumption – Juárez  is a town where over 1000 women have gone missing or have been found murdered since 1993. These murders are still unsolved.

And yet, in the face of this history, MAC and Rodarte named items in the collection ‘Juárez ’, ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Factory’ against a backdrop of models who are made-up to look barely alive. The blogosphere was set alight by people everywhere demanding that MAC and Rodarte be called to account for naming the products so insensitively. Since this MAC have agreed to pay part of the profits from any sales from this collection to a fund for the Juárez  women and their families.

Yes, that’s right, an international make-up and beauty house and an international womenswear designer have named products after a place synonymous with the murder of young women. Young women who leave home alone to raise money for their families. Young women who make the goods for us all to consume and are forgotten as soon as they disappear to everyone but their family and friends. Can anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?

I myself am in shock that MAC and Rodarte could be so stupid or callous as to name products in this way. I can’t comment on what was going through the minds of the brand managers and designers who chose the names, or the executives that may have signed it off. I could accuse them of not caring about these women and choosing to make money out of their suffering as if it is cool, fashionable or kitsch; but instead, I find myself thinking about the other reasons that could explain how this was able to happen. This may not just have been a case of MAC and Rodarte simply not caring, but perhaps evidence that MAC and Rodarte saw a world in which people had forgotten and stopped caring about these lost women and figured no one would even notice that those were the names chosen.

But people did notice, and I am glad they noticed, not just because MAC and Rodarte should be brought to account for making this ‘error’, whatever the motive, but because it means these women are not forgotten to everyone. These women deserve justice. Someone, some group or even many perpetrators are killing them and no one is being called to account for that.

So I plan to make sure that for every news story or fashion blog I read about this MAC story, I will read a news story, article or blog just about the lost women of Juárez . We’ve shown our power by making MAC and Rodarte acknowledge their failing, let’s also take this opportunity to show the world everyone else who is failing these women – the authorities governing Juárez itself.

And yes,  I know this isn’t overtly a post about Skepticism – but it is about how someone somewhere expected people to just consume their product without a thought. And thankfully, they were proven wrong.

Thank you to the many blogs who brought this to attention. There are too many of you to name you all, but I would like to reference http://www.beautymouth.com/ as this was the first blog I found out about it from.

Visit http://bit.ly/bloggerzunite to find out more about other blogger’s perspectives on this issue.

Find out more on Cuidad Juárez with the following documentaries and books.

http://lasperlasdelmarfilms.com/Juárez .html


http://www.amazon.com/Daughters-Juárez -Serial-Murder-Border/dp/0743292030

With the exciting upcoming events put on by Edinburgh Skeptics in August, including Skeptics on the Fringe and Skepticamp, it would be the perfect time to delve into skepticism in this beautiful city.  If you’ve never been to a skeptical event before, you’ll be really surprised how easy it is to get talking to complete strangers.  The commonality of being a critical thinker at least rules out the likelihood of someone asking you your star sign as an ice-breaker*.

As ‘luck’ would have it (okay; by design really) if you are a female skeptic, you have an opportunity to meet up with other skeptics in Edinburgh before the fantastic plethora of events you have prepared for you there!  There will be a ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism (& Coffee)’ meet-up on Saturday the 29th July, at ‘A Taste of Italy Caffe‘ at 2pm.  Whether you are a total newbie, or a well-seasoned skeptic, please do come along for very casual skeptical and non-skeptical chat.  The ‘Caffe’ can be found between the Playhouse and RBS branch at the top of Leith Walk, and we’ll meet at the tables in the back.  Please RSVP  here on Facebook or by emailing skepticladies@gmail.com so we can have a rough idea of numbers.  Also, feel free to ask any questions or make suggestions to the same email address!  For more information about why LWDS was started, see the ‘about’ section or listen to some of the interviews on the podcasts from the ‘Press and Podcast’ pages.

You may even meet people who you can go along with to the speaker event the very next day, which looks set to be a great talk.  JF Derry will be talking about Edinburgh, Evolution and Enlightenment under the title ‘Darwin in Scotland’.

* Please do not hold Ladies Who Do Skepticism to this claim

New faces very welcome! Come and introduce yourself. Make new friends, and chat with fellow critical thinkers. Proudly renounce woo amongst women who don’t think it’s you’re ‘spoiling their fun’, and question whether ‘it’s harmless!’. Discuss your feelings on pseudoscience targeted at women without being afraid to ‘spoil the fun’ for those who don’t enjoy such a strong link to rationality, and tell us what you think is lacking in the world of skepticism.

We’d like to create a real-life network of ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ through our events, and hope to bring more of a community feel at existing skeptical events too.  Gender balance is healthy for discussion and under-rated.  More importantly; why shouldn’t skeptics have skeptical friends?

June’s LWDS’s Luncheon in Manchester went down really well, so we’ll be doing similar in Liverpool this time. Therefore, it will be a ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism (& Lunch) this time instead of the usual coffee-shop jaunt.  We’ll meet at Kimo’s  in Mt Pleasant (a short walk from Liverpool Lime Street, click here for the map) at 1:30pm on Saturday 10th July.  Please email skepticladies@gmail.com or RSVP on here on Facebook to reserve your place.

If you’d like to know more about Ladies Who Do Skepticism before deciding, see our ‘Press and Podcasts’ Link above, or visit any of the great links on our blogroll for general skeptical discussion.

Questions or suggestions? Contact us at skepticladies@gmail.com

Join other skeptic women at TAM8 for lunch in the Ballroom at the South Point Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada on 9th July at 12:30pm.

There’s already an amazing ensemble of women signed up on the facebook event page- click here to RSVP yourself!

In the words of Heidi Anderson, who is heading up the group on behalf of the She Thought critical thinking blog:

In a Madonna/Gwynethesque effort to cash in on the coolness of all things British, SheThought.com is bringing the UK sensation stateside!!

At The Amazing Meeting 8 we will be reserving a group of tables specifically for a women’s mixer at the Friday lunch. White gloves and pearls are optional, but critical thinking is not! We hope to see you there.

Learn more on Facebook, at fatoneinthemiddle.com; Heidi’s blog, or at shethought.com.

Since my childhood I have suffered with spot breakouts, aches and pains and crappy nails. I have plied myself with numerous “woman’s” multivitamins and potions – but I have never noticed any benefit and was starting to wonder if it was all a big farce and that I should just stick to getting them through my diet. So I was very, very pleased to listen to this week’s episode of  Skeptically Speaking, which features a fascinating and informative discussion of the role of vitamins and vitamins supplements. Pharmacist and blogger Scott Gavura provides a clear and honest appraisal of the purpose and real benefits of vitamins, including explanations of the difference between natural and synthesized vitamins.

You can download the podcast from the Skeptically Speaking website or from Itunes.

I hope you find it as interesting and useful as I did


Is there someone you love listening to, someone who has interesting things to say on any topic in skepticism, even someone with whom you strongly disagree but love discussing with? Why don’t you get this heard?! Ladies Who Do Skepticism are going to start a submission-based podcast.  This will be based on an interview format, and will be open to all entries.

If you’d like to interview a known personality, an academic, or even your nan (who may also be all of the above, you never know!), we’d like to hear from you.  We can help you set up, try to put you in contact if necessary, and even give you a hand with your interview questions if you like.  The person does not have to be a woman.

If you are familiar with podcasting or recording, feel free to do the editing yourself.  If not, send us your mp3 audio files and we’ll do it for you.  The show will start with a brief introduction from a regular host about the interviewer and interviewee, 15 minutes of interview, and then a round-up of local LWDS and other skeptical events of the week.

Basically, we want to hear more of what YOU want to say, and about the topics YOU would like to discuss.


Contact: skepticladies@gmail.com

This month’s Manchester LWDS will be at 1pm, Saturday 12th June. It will be a ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism (& Lunch) this time instead of the usual coffee-shop jaunt.

New faces very welcome! Come and introduce yourself. Make new friends, and chat with fellow critical thinkers. Proudly renounce woo amongst women who don’t think you’re ‘spoiling their fun’, and question whether ‘it’s harmless!’. Discuss your feelings on pseudoscience targeted at women, and what’s lacking in the world of skepticism.

This will take place at Kro Piccadilly (i.e. somewhere central we can get a nice table and meal but not too expensive).

Sign up here on facebook, or email skepticladies@gmail.com to save your seat!

***Don’t forget! If you’d like to have a LWDS meet in your area, contact us at skepticladies@gmail.com!***

******This meeting has been postponed, please check back (or on one of the links below) at a later date for information on rescheduling!*******

The next Ladies Who Do Skepticism event will be in Bath, brought to you by the newly relaunched and re-thought Bath Skeptical Society .

Ladies Who Do Skepticism (& Coffee) will be held on Saturday 5th June, at the Hands of Bath Tea Room.  What a perfect location for Bristol, Bath and other local skeptical women to get together! As they say:

*look for the ladies with a cuddly toy pug with a pink jumper. That’s us!*

‘Ladies who do skepticism’ events are monthly meet-ups designed to Broaden our skeptical community, bring balance to skeptical events and discussing the pseudoscience specifically targeted at women.

Did we mention there will be tea, coffee and cake?

Don’t be shy, come along and say hello and become part of the Bath skeptical community. We don’t bite much.

To RSVP to this event, go to the event page on facebook (and please RSVP- it helps give the organisers an idea for numbers!).

Running this meeting will be the lovely Hayley Stevens, of the Righteous Indignation Podcast and the Rather Friendly Skeptic Blog amongst other things… find out more when you meet her!


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