Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

WHAT:  Who’s Making All Those Scam Calls?
Everyone has experienced the call. “This is Alex from the credit card company. We have a refund we want to give you that has to be deposited directly into your bank account. What is your bank account number?” or words to that effect. Or maybe “Alex” (or “Vicki”, or “Josh”) has bad news: your credit rating will plummet if you don’t send his/her company $200 immediately. What’s your credit card number? Calls like this bilk tens of thousands of people – many of them elderly – out of billions of dollars every year. What happens when a reporter traces one of these calls back to its source – in this case, to an Indian boiler room – with the assistance of a Brit hacker. Who is making all those scam calls, anyway, and what’s their story?

WHO:  Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a prize-winning reporter who worked for Science magazine until 2014. A contributing writer to the New York Times, the New Yorker, National Geographic, The Guardian, and other publications. A one-time crime reporter, he has long been interested in scams and frauds. His best-selling spy thriller, The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell, was described as “telling a story that would make a kickass movie”. It has, in fact, been optioned by Hollywood.

WHEN:  Thursday 10 February 7:30PM

Where:  Online. Click HERE

Margalit Fox

WHAT:  The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History
Imprisoned in a remote Turkish POW camp during World War I, having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, join forces to bamboozle their iron-fisted captors. To stave off despair and boredom, Jones takes a handmade Ouija board and fakes elaborate séances for his fellow prisoners. Word gets around, and one day an Ottoman official approaches Jones with a query: Could Jones contact the spirit world to find a vast treasure rumored to be buried nearby? Jones, a trained lawyer, and Hill, a brilliant magician, use the Ouija board—and their keen understanding of the psychology of deception—to build a trap for their captors that will ultimately lead them to freedom. A con game played for a good cause, the incident provides Fox an opportunity for reflections on the psychology of deception and how in the beginning of the 20th century, speaking to dead spirits seemed less implausible: the world was full of almost unbelievable miracles of magnetism, electricity, radio, and other wonders.

WHO:  Margalit Fox originally trained as a cellist and a linguist before pursuing journalism. As a senior writer in The New York Times’s celebrated Obituary News Department, she wrote the front-page public sendoffs of some of the leading cultural figures of our age – including The Amazing Randi. Winner of the William Saroyan Prize for Literature and author of The Confidence Men and three previous books, Conan Doyle for the Defense, The Riddle of the Labyrinth, and Talking Hands, Fox lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer and critic George Robinson.

WHEN:  Thursday 14 April 7:30PM

Where:  Online. Details to come.

Previous SkepTalks:

13 Jan 2022  Weirdness!: What Fake Science & the Paranormal Tell Us about the Nature of Science – Taner Edis
  9 Dec 2021  Dangers of the “Lost Civilization” Trope – A.J. White
11 Nov 2021  Machineries of Doubt: Climate, Cigarettes & Confusion – John Mashey
  9 Sep 2021  The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project – Richard Saunders
12 Aug 2021  What To Do About Misinformation (in Four Dimensions) – John Cook
  8 July 2021  Tilting at Strawmen & Other Tricks of Climate Denial Enablers – Mark Boslough
10 Jun 2021  The Truth Behind False Memories – Jill Yamashita
13 May 2021  Vaccine hesitancy in the era of COVID – Tara C. Smith
  8 Apr 2021  Why storytelling is vital to science communication – Sara ElShafie
11 Mar 2021  Haunted Humanity: The Fringe Is Not Fringe, and That’s a Big Deal – Daniel Loxton
11 Feb 2021  From Junk to Genes: The birth of new miRNA genes in the human genome – Nathan Lents
14 Jan 2021  The Continuing Relevance of America’s Eugenic Legacy – Paul Lombardo
10 Dec 2020  Deepfakes, GANs and Visual Misinformation – Nick Dufour
12 Nov 2020  The Debate about Dark Matter:  Is the Matter Settled? – Don Lincoln
  8 Oct 2020  Facilitated Communication: Holding on to (False) Hope – Janyce Boynton
10 Sep 2020  Mad Myths: The Case for Using Persuasion to Promote Critical Thinking – Jay Diamond
13 Feb 2020  Big Data: What it is, how it’s used, where it’s headed – Mike Olson
12 Dec 2019  Are you sure that sippy-cup is safe? – Layla Katiraee
  7 Nov 2019  Why Do People Reject Good Science? – Eugenie Scott
10 Oct 2019  Shit Students Say: Chem trails, hollow earths, and other strange ideas – Steven Newton
12 Sep 2019  Successful Skepticism: Creating Lasting Community – Tucker Phelps
  9 May 2019  The Bitter M&Ms of Climate Change: Misconceptions and Misinformation – Brad Hoge
11 Apr 2019  The Year in Anti-Science-Education Legislation – Glenn Branch
14 Mar 2019  Australia’s Psychic Detectives and Psychic “Predictions” – Richard Saunders
14 Feb 2019  What Would Darwin Say to Today’s Creationists? – Eugenie Scott
10 Jan 2019  Common Misconceptions About CRISPR Genome Editing – Kevin Doxzen
13 Dec 2018  BAS BAH Fest
  8 Nov 2018  A Skeptic’s Guide to Planet Hunting – Josh Lofy
11 Oct 2018  Beyond a Candle in the Dark – Mick West
13 Sep 2018  When a Biology Meets a Biology – David Almandsmith
10 May 2018  Common Misconceptions in Anthropology – Julie Hui
12 Apr 2018  Skepardy! — Bill Patterson
  8 Mar 2018  A Quirky Colloquium Quashing Quantum Quackery — Miriam Diamond
  8 Feb 2018  The Human Drive to Explain — Tania Lombrozo
14 Jan 2018  Neuroscience and the Great Questions — Ransom Stephens
14 Dec 2017  Top Ten Myths of Homelessness — Carrie Sager
  9 Nov 2017  Myths of Mass Extinctions — Kevin Padian
12 Oct 2017  Hurricanes and Heat Waves: Is This Climate Change? — Brad Hoge
11 May 2017  Beyond the Choir – Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia — Susan Gerbic
13 Apr 2017  An Invisible Plague: the Growing Threat of Tuberculosis — Lauren Popov
  9 Feb 2017  Are Saturated Fats Bad for You? Separating Fat from Fiction — Kent McDonald
12 Jan 2017  Harry Houdini vs. Psychics & Mediums — Mark Tarses
29 Dec 2016  Too Good to be True? – Richard Saunders
10 Nov 2016  Myths of Astronomy — Thomas Targett
10 Sep 2015  Angle Trisection: A problem many tried to solve — Paul Stepahin
  9 Apr 2015  Herding Cats and Teaching Science — Dan Pemberton
12 Feb 2015  Quantum Pseudoscience and the Nature of Mind — Russel Willcox
  8 Jan 2015  The Manson Family, Cults, and the Psychology of Commitment – Dr. Patrick O’Reilly
10 Oct 2012  Writing About Vaccines When Evidence Doesn’t Matter — Liza Gross
12 Sep 2012  Gay Conversion Therapy: You Make Me Sick — Sheldon Helms
  8 Aug 2012  Documentary & Skype — “In God We Teach”
11 Apr 2012  A Skeptical View of Climate Change Skeptics — Mark McCaffrey
14 Nov 2011  Climate Change: From the Biotic to the Exotic — Minda Berbeco
12 Oct 2011  A Unicorn in Your Tank: Magic Tablets That Won’t Improve Gas Mileage — Yau-Man Chan
14 Sep 2011  Catastrophes! — Don Prothero