Excited to announce…..

keefe….that Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe is the latest addition to the exciting line-up of speakers at the ‘Hauntings: The Science of Ghosts’ event on 4th April.

Ciaran was my PhD student and is now the resident parapsychologist on the popular Living TV show, Most Haunted. He has lots of interesting stories to tell including, for example, his involvement in The Daily Mirror’s famous expose of the medium Derek Acorah.

I am really excited about the line-up of speakers, in part, because it represents such an interesting mix of psychologists, historians, writers, performers and magicians. We will also be announcing the results of the ‘ghostly’ photograph study, which has now received just over 250,000 votes!

Update: For Jacqueline…

The Headless Lady

gallery2I will be presenting the last in the Inexplicable Acts series at the Wellcome Trust this afternoon (2pm-4pm).

This time I will be joined by social historian Vanessa Toulmin (University of Sheffield), sideshow impresario Jon Marshall, and sword-swallower Dan Meyer. We have also invited a Headless Lady along, and there is some footage of her and other sideshow acts in action after the break.

Down in one

danbehindforwebThe next event in the Inexplicable Acts series at the Wellcome Collection will be happening on Thursday 26th, and involve my good self teaming up with amazing American sword swallower Dan Meyer and medics Brian Witcombe and Hugh Barr.
We are going to be attempting some new and ambitious medical procedures for the event. Tickets are scarce, but hope you can make it.
Meanwhile, here are some x-rays of various objects apparently found in animals (thanks Sarah). Video of Dan in action after the break.

Oprah and Zimbardo

zimOprah.com have just run a long article about my work into the psychology of luck.

Also, on Saturday 28th February I will be speaking at this TED-esque event at the University of Warwick. Philip Zimbardo is on the same bill.

As you may be aware, Zimbardo made his name with an amazing social psychology experiment in which randomly selected students were assigned the role of prison guards, and subsequently acted in a way that fitted the ‘prison guard’ stereotype (exhibiting bullying and sadistic tendencies, etc.). This suggests that significant aspects of our behaviour is the result of the social roles that we find ourselves in, rather than something inherent in our psychological make-up.

I have often thought that it might be fun to replicate the study with other occupations. For example, if you randomly assign people to be hairdressers, can they stop themselves asking inane questions and telling you about their last holiday?

What do you think? Do Zimbardo’s findings show that we are all capable of evil?
Also, 10 points if you know which famous psychologist was a classmate of Zimbardo when he was at high school.


ghostDelighted to announce that I am co-organising a unique event on the science and history of ghosts as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

We have a great line-up of speakers, including the guy who wrote the amazing BBC hoax documentary ‘Ghostwatch’, the man who puts the magic into Harry Potter films, and a rare performance of a Victorian phantasmagoria.

It all takes place in Edinburgh University’s hauntingly historical Anatomy Theatre. This is going to be very special and I hope that you can join us. Full details at www.scienceofghosts.com.

Contortionist show

deliaI shall be presenting a live show in London next week exploring the science of contortion with the wonderful Delia Du Sol. Delia frequently appeared in Theatre of Science, and I am really looking forward to working with her again. Tickets have only just gone online, but I know this is going to be popular, so if you are interested you might want to act fast. If you have never seen Delia perform, there is a video after the break.

Update: I have just heard that both shows have now sold out.

Twitter, stories, Uni talk and random Japanese videos

algorithmwithninjasFirst, thanks to everyone who has sent me welcome messages on Twitter.
Second, all is going very well with the ‘one sentence at a time’ stories (female thread here, male thread here). We are about halfway through, so please join in and encourage others to take part. In fact, let’s get them finished, so feel free to add a line even if you have contributed already.
Third, I will be giving my ‘Investigating The Paranormal’ talk at Edinburgh University this Thursday – it is open to the public, so if you are in the area come along and say hello (details here).
Fourth, in the hope of making your day go somewhat quicker, I have put my two favourite YouTube videos from Japan after the break.

Ruby Wax on psychology

fmsdownloadcfmJust been confirmed that I will be speaking alongside comedian Ruby Wax at the ‘Psychology For All‘ event in London on 14 March. There is an interesting article here about how Ruby became interested in psychotherapy after suffering from depression. She is not the first comedian to suffer from it (for example, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Spike Milligan, and Roseanne Barr all admitted publicly that they struggled with the illness). Research into the link between performing comedy and mental illness yields a mixed picture. Making strangers laugh night after night must be a stressful way of making a living, but perhaps any apparent link is simply due to us taking more notice when funny people get depressed.

Thought experiment…..

Imagine that you have an 18 year old teenage daughter (if you do actually have one, this won’t be especially hard) and she stole a bottle of water from a shop during the riots.  You know that if you take her to the police she will be charged and convicted.  There is no way that the police will find out about her behaviour unless you take her in.

Would you take her to the police?  Vote now!


Weird Science Talk

I am going to be speaking with Ben Goldacre, Chris French and Stephen Law on the 17th January at the London CFI Weird Science event. I am first on at 11am, and here is the blurb to give you an idea about topics….

Investigating the impossible: A skeptical approach

For over 20 years, psychologist Richard Wiseman has delved deep into the mysterious world of the paranormal, carrying out high profile, and often controversial, investigations into the impossible. In this talk, Wiseman describes some of his more colourful adventures, presenting a scientific look at a range of seemingly paranormal phenomenon, including fire-walking, ghostly encounters, and ESP. Discover whether such phenomena really exist, what the future holds for parapsychology, and why we are all attracted by the lure of strange stuff. Free packet of peanuts for the best question.