Meet Our Speakers
Colin Angus is a Senior Research Fellow and lead modeller in the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, one of the world’s leading centres for alcohol policy research, at the University of Sheffield. Colin’s work has played an important role in policy and legal debates about alcohol pricing policies in the UK and internationally and in setting low risk drinking guidelines in the UK and Australia. Much of this work has focused on inequalities associated with alcohol and how policies can improve or worsen these. He spends most of his time wrestling with complicated mathematical models, but is also a fan of a good graph.
Lucy Cooke is a National Geographic explorer, New York Times best-selling author and award-winning broadcaster with a Masters in zoology from New College Oxford, where she studied under Richard Dawkins. Lucy has written and presented natural history documentaries for the BBC, National Geographic, ITV and Discovery. Her first book ‘The Unexpected Truth About Animals’ was short-listed for the prestigious Royal Society prize and has been translated into 18 languages. Lucy’s latest best-seller, ‘Bitch: What does it mean to be female’, explores how female animals have been marginalised and misunderstood by the scientific patriarchy. Described by the Observer as “A dazzling, funny and elegantly angry demolition of our preconceptions about female behaviour” Bitch was cited as one of the best books of 2022 by the Guardian and the Telegraph, and has been incorporated onto the syllabus of major international universities.
Dan Friesen is the co-host of Knowledge Fight, a podcast that dissects right-wing propagandist Alex Jones, and through that lens attempts to shine light on the larger community of extremists he exists within. In the course of his time doing the show, Dan has been invited to lecture at universities, been featured in outlets like the New York Times and CNN, and provided his services as an expert consultant in the Sandy Hook defamation cases against Jones. He also has a cat with one eye named Celine who is pretty great. As well as appearing on the QED main stage, Dan will be recording a live episode of Knowledge Fight for the Podcast Track.
Dr Debbie Ging is Associate Professor of Digital Media and Gender in the School of Communications. She teaches and researches on gender, sexuality and digital media, with a focus on digital hate, online anti-feminist men's rights politics, incel subculture and the radicalisation of boys and men into male supremacist ideologies. Her research also addresses youth experiences of gender-based and sexual abuse online and educational interventions to tackle this issue.
Joyce Harper is an author, podcaster, academic, and scientist. She is Professor of Reproductive Science at University College London in the Institute for Women’s Health where she is Head of the Reproductive Science and Society Group. She is a Director of the Embryology and PGD Academy which delivers an online certificate in clinical embryology, and founder of Global Women Connected and Reproductive Health at Work. She has worked in the fields of fertility, genetics and reproductive science since 1987, has written over 240 scientific papers, and has published three books.
She researches fertility and reproductive health education, FemTech, IVF add-ons, gamete donation, the menopause and cold water swimming and reproductive health. She is leading the development of a National Menopause Education and Support Programme with support from University College London, the British Menopause Society, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wellbeing of Women and Sophia Foundation. Her latest book, Your Fertile Years, What you need to know to make informed choices is out now, and she also hosts the podcast Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me This?.
Dr Alice Howarth is cancer cell biologist, science communicator, podcaster and writer. She has been part of the skeptical community for more than a decade, and is host of Skeptics with a K, vice president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, deputy editor of The Skeptic magazine, co-organiser of QED and co-founder of Skeptics in the Pub Online. Alice has delivered lectures on the topics of science and skepticism all over the world, written for publications such as The Guardian, and worked on numerous investigations into pseudoscientific claims. In her day job, Alice is an open research advocate for the University of Liverpool and the UK Reproducibility Network, working to make research available beyond academia. She believes that accessibility and inclusivity is crucial to how we engage with science and critical thinking. Alongside her keynote talk on the QED main stage, Alice will be appearing in a live episode of Skeptics with a K on the QED podcast track.
Dr Daniel Jolley is an Assistant Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Nottingham. His research delves into the intriguing realm of the psychology of conspiracy theories, seeking to uncover the reasons behind their widespread appeal. He also strives to understand the social consequences of endorsing conspiracy theories and actively works on developing interventions to mitigate their adverse impact. Passionate about science communication, he has appeared on TV (e.g., BBC One Show, BBC News, Sky News), radio (e.g., BBC Radio Scotland, TalkRADIO, BBC Five Live), and in print (e.g., New York Times, The Guardian, Financial Times). He has also given many invited public talks on his research (e.g., New Scientist Live, Cheltenham Science Festival, Standon Calling).
Claire Klingenberg is President of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations - ECSO. In the Czech Republic, she leads the critical thinking project, Don't Let Yourself Be Fooled! which provides seminars on critical thinking to high schools. She has been involved in the skeptical movement since 2013 - originally as co-organizer of the Paranormal Challenge. She has been a consultant for various projects where science meets the supernatural. Claire is the protagonist of the documentary series 'Investigátori,' co-produced by Czech and Slovak state TVs, bringing a skeptic and science-popularizing perspective on the paranormal to the wider public. She contributes to the Czech religious studies journal Dingir and its new site, the Religious Infoservice.
Cara Santa Maria
Dr Cara Santa Maria is a clinical psychologist specialising in end-of-life, existential issues, and psycho-oncology. She is also a Los Angeles Area Emmy and Knight Foundation Award-winning journalist, science communicator, television personality, author, and podcaster.
Cara is the science correspondent on National Geographic's popular television series Brain Games, as well as the creator and host of the weekly science podcast Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria. She is the spokesperson for National Geographic’s Almanac 2019 and Almanac 2020, a founding member of the Nerd Brigade, and co-founded the annual science communication retreat #SciCommCamp.
In addition to co-hosting the long-standing Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, she also co-authored the Skeptics Guide to the Universe book and co-edited the recent release, Pseudoscience in Therapy: A Skeptical Field Guide.
Dr Kirsty Sedgman is an audience expert based at the University of Bristol, specialising in culture, communication, and human behaviour. She has spent her career studying how we construct and maintain our competing value systems, working out how people can live side by side in the same world yet come to understand it in such totally different ways. Kirsty speaks about her expertise in the media and around the world, and her latest book On Being Unreasonable is out now with Faber & Faber.
Andrew Smyth is an aerospace engineer, baker, presenter and producer from Northern Ireland. He gained a nationwide following for his outrageously engineered creations when he reached the final of The Great British Bake Off in 2016. Since then, he's created the art of ‘bakineering’, toured live shows around the UK and Ireland and produced and starred in an original Netflix series, Baking Impossible, released in October 2021. He divides his time between researching future aircraft at Rolls-Royce, live presenting and engineering broadcasting, including as an expert contributor on Discovery Science, the BBC and History Channel.
Professor Anna Williams is Professor of Forensic Science at the University of Central Lancashire. She is a forensic anthropologist with a specialism in decomposition and taphonomy.She regularly undertakes consultancy work for UK and international police forces, and Kenyon International Emergency Services. She has advised Locate International, the National Crime Agency and the Home Office on decomposition cases and search and location of human remains. She is spearheading the campaign to establish the first human taphonomy facility in the UK. She has advised for TV crime dramas including Silent Witness, Bones, Rosewood, and has appeared in science documentaries including Mystic Britain, Secrets of Everything, Treasures Decoded, Ultimate Tutankhamun and Time Team. She was awarded a British Science Association Media Fellowship to write for New Scientist, and her work has featured on QI, and in Nature. She was named a ‘21st Century Woman’ on Cambridge 105 radio, and writes an award-winning blog Forensic Anna:thropology.
Bec Hill is an Australian-born stand-up comedian who has gained an international cult following thanks to her award-winning solo shows, TV appearances, and popular YouTube videos. She has a talent for incorporating arts-and-crafts into her stand-up routines, resulting in an unforgettable performance style that she calls “paper-puppetry”.
In 2021, Bec starred in her own CITV show, Makeaway Takeaway, and released a series of childrens’ books called Horror Heights. Previously, Bec co-hosted Sky’s DC Fancast - a companion show covering The Flash, Green Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, alongside Rick Edwards. She has appeared on every season of CBBC's The Dog Ate My Homework, and starred in the Sundance UK Grand Jury Prize winning short film ‘Russian Roulette’.
Bec will be the emcee for QED 2023.
Embrace the Void
Embrace the Void is a philosophy and politics podcast for surviving life in the worst of all possible timelines. Hosted by Aaron Rabinowitz, a moral educator with over a decade of experience making philosophy accessible and useful to everyone, the show features discussions with expert guests on a variety of topics, ranging from the current wave of White Christian Nationalism to the Philosophy of Heavy Metal.
InKredulous takes to the stage in a live version of this satirical, skeptically themed podcast. Join QED co-organiser Andy Wilson and his guests in a comedy panel show designed for the curious. The panellists will find the funny in recent news stories, castigate the perpetrators of pseudoscience and marvel at how they get away with it.
For years, one could listen to The Alex Jones Show and chuckle about how absurd he is, and thank your preferred deity that he's so far from being relevant that he's basically screaming into the void. As the world grew more troubling, the lies that Jones peddled on his show and website began to influence people with legitimate power. Dan and Jordan started Knowledge Fight in the belief that fighting against the deeply flawed philosophies of Alex Jones through debate is a fool's errand. They believe that mocking and documenting are far more powerful tools, and as such, that's what the podcast aims to do.
Skeptics with a K
Produced by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, Skeptics with a K is the longest-running skeptical podcast in the UK, featuring Mike Hall, Dr Alice Howarth, and Michael Marshall. Each episode features skeptical breakdowns of credulous newspaper stories, the latest health fads, myths and misconceptions, and reports on skeptical activism and investigations.
On each episode of Talk Nerdy, award-winning journalist, science communicator, and now clinical psychologist Dr Cara Santa Maria speaks with fascinating people from the worlds of science, politics, atheism and beyond, for a in-depth and candid conversation. Always an engaging and enlightening experience, guaranteed to leave you inspired and informed, Talk Nerdy is returning to the QED podcast room for the first time since 2016, when it formed part of our first ever dedicated podcast track.
Writer, science presenter, geek songstress and ‘Voice of an Angle’ Helen Arney has appeared on TV, radio and in theatres across the world with her unique mix of stand-up, songs and science. She has explained physics while riding a rollercoaster for BBC2 Coast, electrified Sandi Toksvig on QI, sang the Elements on Channel 4, smashed a wine glass with the power of her voice live on Blue Peter, hosted Outrageous Acts Of Science on Discovery Channel, and toured with science comedy phenomenon Festival of the Spoken Nerd. She is also the voice of the Periodic Table on Amazon Alexa in the US. Helen is currently working on several full-length musical theatre projects about astounding women in STEM
Dr Clio Bellenis is a retired NHS child and adolescent psychiatrist. She is an organiser at the Hampshire Skeptics Society and with Skeptics in the Pub Online. She also writes occasionally for The Skeptic magazine. Since her retirement she has run two small businesses, one being a micro gin and spirits distillery. She has also taken up new hobbies: never having been considered very sporty, she has become a European record holding weightlifter and most recently qualified as an advanced freediver. She also met her husband at the first ever QED.
Andrew Brennand spent ten years corrupting the minds of the nation's youth working in the video games business and then resolved to repair the damage done by retraining to be a secondary school teacher. He's now been teaching in Cumbria for fifteen years and is hoping for time off for good behaviour. Sadly there's very little of that in his classroom. He teaches Politics, Psychology and Philosophy at A-level and Lifeskills to KS3 and KS4.Andrew will be appearing on the School Daze panel.
Dr David Clarke is one of the UK's leading authorities on contemporary legend and folklore. He is a co-founder of the Contemporary Legend research group at SHU and combines his interests in folklore with his teaching and research in journalism and media law. He is an experienced broadcaster and has acted as a consultant for The National Archives and the BBC.
Catherine de Jong
Catherine de Jong is an anaesthesiologist who has also worked in intensive care and in addiction medicine. She is a member of Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (the Dutch Society against Quackery) since 2006, has been president for four years and is now the secretary of the Society. VtdK has been fighting quackery since 1881, publishes a magazine (except during WWII), and has a website with information to warn the public. They provide a point of contact for the public and journalists, and make regular appearances on radio and television.
Forged deep in the suburbs of Belgium, Siân Docksey arrived in the UK in a glitter canon of surrealist stand-up with political zing. As seen on BBC 3, Siân is a BBC New Comedy Award nominee, and a past winner of The Telegraph’s Funniest One-Liners of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was described as ‘joy and bewilderment in equal measure’ by The Skinny, ‘really quirky, funny and charming’ by Audience Club, and ‘flat-out hilarious’ by The Wee Review.
Lana Donaghy is a software developer, Twitch streamer, mother to a teenage boy, and long-time friend of both the Merseyside Skeptics Society and QED. She has guested on the podcast Skeptics with a K and can usually be found on Twitch talking about video games, parenting, and skepticism. Lana will be hosting the School Daze panel.
Brian Eggo has been running Glasgow Skeptics since 2015, and is also a member of the Skeptics in the Pub Online team. When his wife Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer he took the opportunity to investigate the dangers of alternative health groups on social media. The findings were damning and disturbing in equal measures, and resulted in a wave of awareness-raising publicity on the BBC and in national newspapers. Brian will be appearing on the panel ‘False promises: the dangers of alternative medicine in cancer care’.
Laura Eggo is a Biomedical Scientist working for the NHS. In 2021 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a keen skeptic, there was never any thought of opting for alternative treatments, but she and her husband Brian used the situation to raise awareness of how social media companies fail to protect their users from bogus cancer cures. This included appearances on ‘Dr Xand’s Con or Cure’, BBC Scotland’s ‘The Nine’, and a number of newspaper articles. Laura’s conventional treatment, although difficult, went well, and she is now cancer free. Laura will be appearing on the panel ‘False promises: the dangers of alternative medicine in cancer care’.
Kevin Felstead, the Director of Communications for the British False Memory Society. In 2001 he was awarded a doctorate from Keele University where he taught an undergraduate course on the history of crime and punishment in England and Wales. He has been interviewed for multiple press releases about false or distorted memory and the myth of Satanic Ritual Abuse. In 2018, Kevin gave a TEDx talk at Newcastle University, and he has featured on BBC London News, and contributed to a broadcast by the BBC World Service. He is the author of Justice for Carol: The Creation of a Satanic Myth in the United Kingdom.
Chris French is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Patron of the British Humanist Association.
He frequently appears on radio and television casting a skeptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited.
His books include Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic, co-edited with Wendy Grossman (2010), Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014). His next book, The Science of Weird Shit, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.
Professor Ciara Greene, Associate Professor at University College Dublin, where she leads the Attention and Memory lab. She earned her BA in Psychology and PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Trinity College Dublin, and competed postdoctoral fellowships at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge and imperial College London. Ciara’s work focuses on the reconstructive nature of memory, examining the development of false and distorted memories across a range of contexts. Her research interests include the effects of misinformation and “fake news” on cognition and behaviour.
Mike Hall is producer and host of the long-running podcast Skeptics with a K, part of the organising committee for QED, and former president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. In the last few years he has garnered a reputation as the ‘placebo effect guy’, much to his annoyance. Mike will be recording a live episode of Skeptics with a K for the QED podcast track.
Anja Harrison finished a PhD in 2014, and has worked as a health psychology researcher with a strong interest in neurosciences. She currently works for King’s College London, where she focuses on teaching these disciplines in Higher Education. In addition to her work as a Lecturer, she runs The Collaborative Library – a group that believes everyone deserves access to the latest research findings, and that sharing this knowledge can lead to better lives for all. By creating a community-driven platform for lay summaries of research articles, they trying to break down barriers to understanding and collaboration. The mission is to make science more engaging, where everyone can Learn, Connect and Contribute.
Jordan Holmes is a stand-up comedian working out of Chicago. He has no prior experience with Alex Jones' brand of conspiracy theories, but is uniquely qualified to fight it. Jordan's birth was prophesied by the leader of the cult his parents were in (editor's note: this is factually accurate), little did they know his destiny was to fight against cults, not for them. Jordan will be recording a live episode of Knowledge Fight for the QED podcast track.
Mark Horne is a regular contributor to The Skeptic magazine in the UK, and a former board member of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He has previously written for magazines including the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Bolton Evening News, iDJ, Real Travel, Loaded, Ice, Red Guides: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a House in…, PC Gamer and The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine. He works as a professional fundraiser and runs the Liverpool Laid Back Writers Group in his spare time.
Deborah Hyde is a former editor of the Skeptic Magazine, a fellow of The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a QED regular. She writes about religion, superstition and folklore, and has presented skeptical insights in two of BBC iPlayer’s most successful recent podcasts 'Uncanny' and 'The Battersea Poltergeist'. She makes frequent TV appearances, being a regular contributor to 'Strange Evidence' and 'Mysteries at the Museum'. Deborah’s fashion sense has been described at 'witchy': this is primarily to avoid the stress of combining colours.
Crispian Jago is a semi-retired IT consultant from Cornwall currently taking things relatively easy in a thatched cottage somewhere on Salisbury Plain. He is the co-founder of The Hampshire Skeptics Society and Winchester Skeptics in the Pub and the author of the satirical sceptical blog, The Reason Stick. Following his stage 4 kidney cancer diagnosis in 2015 he is also the author of the Incurable Rationalist blog describing his nonsense free, evidence based approach to dealing with this most inconvenient affliction. Crispian will be appearing on the panel ‘False promises: the dangers of alternative medicine in cancer care’.
Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and editor of The Skeptic. Since 2013 he has interviewed proponents of pseudoscience for the podcast Be Reasonable, including leaders of the Flat Earth movement. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests, and lecturing on journalism and PR at a number of universities. Michael will be recording a live episode of Skeptics with a K for the QED podcast track.
Rick Owen is a founding member of the Greater Manchester Skeptics In The Pub and also serves as a founding committee member of the QED board. With an education in physics and a career in financial software, Rick's diverse areas of interest within the skeptical realm encompass the misuse of polygraphs, misconceptions surrounding rising damp, and the intricacies of hypnosis.
Anita Powell is a Community Engagement Advocate and activist covering social inequality, heritage, and menopause. She hosts the podcast Black Menopause and Beyond, featuring interviews and reflections on her lived experience, and those of her peers,of menopause. In 2019, she founded Menopause Alliance, a face-to-to face peer support group in her hometown. In 2020 she became the Co-founder of Black Women in Menopause with Nina Kuyper, offering face-to-face online meetings via Zoom. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, The Guardian, Magic FM radio, Marie Claire Magazine, and Stylist and more.
Aaron Rabinowitz is a secular moral philosophy educator with over ten years experience promoting human flourishing. He’s currently working on a PhD in education at Rutgers University, with a focus on Luckpilling, a new educational approach to luck that helps people accept the taboo truth that everything is luck. The Luckpilling approach aims to promote social justice by undercutting belief in free will, moral responsibility, just deserts, and the belief we live in a just world. The hope is that luckpilling replaces meritocratic burnout with greater compassion and humility towards ourselves and others. Aaron’s other interests include AI ethics, conspiracism, and values-centred community organising. Aaron hosts two philosophy podcasts, Embrace the Void, and Philosophers in Space with Callie Wright. His shows aim to make philosophy accessible and useful to everyone. Aaron will be recording a live episode of Embrace the Void for the QED podcast track.
Double Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Show nominee Ahir Shah is one of the fastest-rising comedians of his generation. Shah’s sharp, intellectual brand of stand-up features a blend of philosophical inquiry, political vigour, and sweet gags. He is a regular on television and radio and has performed stand-up on Live At The Apollo, The Now Show and Stand Up Central. Outside of stand up, Ahir has been seen on shows including Have I Got News For You, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, Mock the Week, The Mash Report/Late Night Mash, as well as current affairs programmes such as Newsnight and Daily Politics.
Hayley Stevens is the author of the ‘Hayley is a Ghost’ blog - a science blog about spooky things. Working as a paranormal researcher for almost two decades, Hayley uses skeptical inquiry to solve ghost and monster mysteries, has spoken internationally about her work, and is often cited in the media offering the rational perspective on all manner of supernatural claims.
Nicola Throp is a member of the QED organising committee as well as working for the civil service, where she holds the role of Chair of the Gender Equality Network and is a trained Menopause Champion. She is passionate about spreading awareness of menopause, especially the symptoms and experiences of early menopause.
James Williams is a home grown QED Skeptic. An annual regular at QED Skepticamp, he specialises in skeptically investigating taboo topics. He investigates topics with a multidisciplinary approach, trying to tease out truth and facts from topics that are often highly provocative. Building on his undergraduate work on the cannibalistic habits of the Aztec people, he has since tackled such subjects as necrophilia, bestiality and incest. Since cutting his teeth at Skepticamp, he has spoken at Skeptics in the Pub events across the country, and has recently written for The Skeptic. James will be appearing on the panel Taboo or Not Taboo?
Andy Wilson is co-organiser of the QED conference and host of perennial QED-favourite InKredulous. As a former board member of the Merseyside Skeptics Society he was one of the driving forces behind the 2010 10:23 overdose campaign, and he took the role of emcee at QED 2012. Andy will be recording a live episode of InKredulous on the QED podcast track.