Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond


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Wildlife Myths with Rob O’Sullivan

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SEPARATING THE BULL FROM THE BS

Wildlife Myths And Why They Matter

Thursday 27 June at Blackrock Castle Observatory


If you’re worried about the hordes of killer spiders invading our shores, or the swarms of seagulls reigning death from above, this talk is for you. Science Communicator, Rob O’ Sullivan, separates the fact from the fiction and shows you how to do the same.

About the Speaker: Rob O’Sullivan is an Irish Zoologist turned Space Nerd.

He knows far too much about animal sex, and nowhere near enough about Space. Rob has received glowing recognition for his Science Communication work including an award of a SMASH Fellowship and getting called a pervert by Phill Jupitus.

You can find Rob by day pottering around CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, and after dark on Twitter @Rob0Sullivan.

Please note: Due to the nature of this talk, some sections may not be suitable for a younger audience.


The talk will begin at 8.00pm on Thursday 27th June. It is free to attend, and we welcome anyone with an interest in the topic to come along on the night. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

We look forward to seeing you there!


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All In The Genes? — A Talk On Genetics and the Puzzles of Heritability by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

All In The Genes? w/ Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

Our next meeting takes place on Saturday 23rd February at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm.

This talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski, Lecturer in Applied Psychology at UCC, will explore genetics and the puzzles of heritability. What does it mean to say that a trait is heritable? Is there a gene for schizophrenia or a “gay gene”? What can we learn from looking at cases of identical twins raised apart, or indeed from adopted children raised together? And does genetic actually mean immutable?

These and similar questions will be addressed during what promises to be a truly insightful talk.

Dr. Marcin SzczerbinskiAbout the speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a Psychology graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and of the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. From 2001 until 2011 he was a lecturer at the Department of Human Communication Sciences, University of Sheffield, where he contributed to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, particularly in Speech and Language Therapy. He joined UCC in January 2011.

This will be Dr. Szczerbinski’s second talk for us, following his talk on Special Educational Needs in June of 2011.

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This talk is open to the public, and is free to attend. Directions to Blackrock Castle Observatory can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!


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A Good Place to Start

Tomes on science and critical thinking are not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak. But anyone who is interested in separating fact from fiction, or simply interested in knowing more about the universe around us is going to notice that there are certain subjects that keep cropping up: the Big Bang, evolution, cosmology, geology, relativity, Quantum Theory, gravity. For many of us though, these weighty subjects can be daunting and even overwhelming. However, help can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Most people have heard of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, even if they do not enjoy comical fantasy themselves. Stories set in a highly fantastical world of magic, wizards and simian Librarians would not appear to be the place to go if you would like to learn the basics about planets, placental mammals and the Pleistocene. But Pratchett has teamed up with mathematician Ian Stewart and biologist Jack Cohen and produced a trilogy called The Science of Discworld that does exactly that.

The Science of Discworld

This story is Discworld with a bit of a difference. The wizards at the Unseen University are mucking about with world-building, aided by Hex the ant-based computer. Only this world turns out to be nothing at all like they’ve seen, based on physics rather than narrativium. Chapters featuring well-loved characters from the Discworld are interlaced with chapters explaining the science behind the story, and thus the enticing journey into cosmology, particle physics and evolution is begun.

One of the great strengths of the trilogy is however light-hearted the fiction part of the book may be, the authors take their readers seriously and treat them as an intelligent audience. The science is explained clearly and carefully without dumbing it down and common misunderstandings of science are highlighted and explored. This is an invaluable primer that spans the range of natural science and explains some of the universe’s greatest mysteries and humanity’s greatest quest to make sense of it all with insight, learning and humour.

These are probably the most accessible science books I’ve ever read, and will leave you scientifically literate and confident to take on other more specialised books.