Archive for March, 2014

New website

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Foundation, News

We’re pleased to announce the launch of the new Chris Worfolk Foundation website.

The updated site features an overhaul of all the content to bring it up-to-date, a new CMS to allow us to make it easier to keep it updated, and a a brand new design which is mobile friendly.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Books

After several series of short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle returned Sherlock Holmes to the setting of a full-length novel in 1901 with “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”. It was originally serialised in The Strand.

For me, the novel represents one of the most interesting stories I have read so far in the Sherlock Holmes series. Doyle’s writing had continued to improve and parts of the book created a genuinely chilling setting without going into extensive details about the locations explored throughout the book.


Divert course!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Video

This is not even a little bit true. But is very funny.

The Signal and the Noise

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 | Books

Nate Silver is the man who correctly predicted 51 of the 52 states in the 2008 US Presidential Election, and then all 52 in the 2012 election.

With an increasing number of people recommending I read his book “The Signal and the Nose”, I decided to give it a read. It looks at why we, as a society, are pretty bad at making predictions. Why did nobody see the 2008 financial crisis coming? Why is our best guess at when the next earthquake will hit no better than random chance? Why can’t we even predict if it will rain or not?

Actually, the last one, we can. Weather forecasts have become far more accurate over the last few decades. However, they are one of the few fields in which the large scale application of data and computing power to process that data has truly been effective.

Silver claims that one of the biggest problems is that as we now live in the “information age”, there is simply too much data to work out what is actually a useful predictor (the signal) and what is merely correlated (the noise). A great example of this is that the Super Bowl winner (AFC or NFC) was an accurate predictor of how the economy would do. But obviously that is just random chance and has proved erroneous in the past few years.

Ultimately the book has a simple message – you need to use a Bayesian model and apply regression. None of this is a new concept to me, nor indeed you would hope anyone working in the field of statistics. But judging by some of the meetings I have had recently, it is shocking the amount of people that do not follow this advice.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Monday, March 24th, 2014 | Books

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s next set of short shorties, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, sees Sherlock Holmes turn out to be alive. Not much of a surprise given Watson merely assumed Holmes must have fallen off the waterfall and went on with his life without really doing that much checking.

I found the stories to be increasingly more engaging. While the mysteries were not any better than the previous set of short stories, the writing had continue to improve from the earliest works and maintained my interest throughout.


Asch experiment

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 | Video

What would you do if you walked into an elevator, and everyone else was facing the other way?

Widening the View – Looking at the limits of Human Perception

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 | Foundation, Humanism

Paul Hopwood had previously spoken at Leeds Skeptics on the topic of “You Know Less Than You Think”. If you missed it, you can watch it online. He has since developed a follow-on talk, “Widening the View – Looking at the limits of Human Perception”, which he delivered for us earlier this week.

As ever, Paul delivered an interesting talk, though it is hard to listen to it all the way through without having an existential crisis. Not to mention the many additions to my reading list!

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Is there life out there?

Friday, March 21st, 2014 | Humanism

Dr John Baruch spoke at Leeds Skeptics a few years ago and I found the talk both enjoyable and fascinating. Therefore I asked him to give a similar talk at West Yorkshire Humanists and earlier this month he obliged. The evening saw double the turnout we had in February.

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Making use of uncertainty

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 | Humanism

Dr Jacob Dunningham recently spoke at Atheist Society on the topic of “Making use of uncertainty: how quantum physics is revolutionising our lives”. It was an interesting talk and it was great to see A-Soc doing such good numbers.

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Leeds City 2014 Speech & Evaluation Contest

Monday, March 17th, 2014 | Public Speaking

Earlier this month Leeds City Toastmasters held its 2014 International Speech & Evaluation Contest. We had four competitors for each contest and the standard was excellent. Congratulations to everyone who took part! The winners, myself and Anthony, now move onto the Area Contest in Sheffield.