A fascinating evening from Ignite Liverpool and the Merseyside Skeptics

Ignite LiverpoolLast night saw a fantastic double header of speaking events in Liverpool, kicking off with Ignite 7 and ending with Stuart Ritchie giving a critical analysis of pornography at the Merseyside Skeptics Society.

The Ignite format was new to me, each speaker gets 5 minutes to give a 20-slide slide show on any subject that they think will interest the crowd. I volunteered to give a talk, and I thought I’d step outside of my comfort zone of science and talk about flags, another one of my interests. I was trying to show what the flags of the UK tell us about our own country, and I believe that if you apply a bit of skepticism to the topic you can unearth some very interesting stories. To my surprise I was put on first! It’s an odd experience as the slides advance automatically after 15 seconds, so it’s easy to lose your place. Not only was the event streamed live, but the talks were recorded and should be up on youtube soon. So, if you want to see me frantically talking about the flags of the UK, watch this space!

The Ignite talks were very diverse and I enjoyed them all, but my highlights were Lydia Bates talking about etymology, Alistair Haughton with a whistle-stop tour of the world’s cathedrals and Phil Moneypenny sharing his experiences of studying in Antarctica. My favourite talk was Barry Kushner, who in 5 minutes managed to very clearly and elegantly explain the state of our economy, and why we are going in the wrong direction with it. I even gave a little whoop of approval at the end! The next Ignite Liverpool is scheduled for December 1st, and I can highly recommend it for anyone who is passionate about public speaking. I’m already planning my next talk, I’m thinking about doing it on the flags of revolutions, or I could go back to my comfort zone and talk about ATP, arguably one of the most important molecules in nature.

Stuart Ritchie

Stuart Ritchie

Once Ignite had finished, I hurried on down to the Head of Steam to catch the monthly talk from the Merseyside Skeptics Society. I turned up about half way through the talk from Stuart Ritchie, who was taking us through the evidence for whether pornography was harmful or not. Obviously it’s a pretty taboo subject for a lot of people, but I thought Stuart spoke with great aplomb and it was a very credible academic presentation. What made the talk extra interesting however, was the presence of a handful of people who I gathered were anti-pornography campaigners. They seemed angry that Stuart hadn’t properly considered some anecdotal evidence against pornography at the start of his talk, and it made for some nice, stimulating discussion afterwards. I always enjoy a good debate, and it was a welcome and somewhat unexpected change of pace compared to most other skeptic nights. Good stuff!


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