Wednesday, February 13, 2019

March 16 - Suggestible You: You can't believe everything you think

Presented by Erik Vance, author of the book Suggestible You

The human brain is a miracle of nature - one of the fastest computing machines on Earth, adept at finding patterns, recognizing faces, and making predictions of the future. It's also a dirty liar, a deceitful trickster and occasionally an unlicensed pharmacist. It all comes down to one of the most important concepts in psychology today - expectation.

Join Erik Vance, author of the book Suggestible You as he explores the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology to reveal the groundbreaking science of our suggestible minds.

Once you understand the role expectation plays in the brain, you can see why thousands of generations of humans have used superstition to heal their bodies. Faith healing, homeopathy, snake oil, shamans, late night commercials for overpriced miracle cures - all of them make sense when viewed through the lens of expectation and the brain.

Drawing on centuries of research and interviews with leading experts in the field, Vance will take you on a fascinating adventure from Harvard's research labs to a witch doctor's office in Catemaco, Mexico, to an alternative medicine school near Beijing to your own local pharmacy. Along with his talk he will show slides from his 2016 National Geographic cover story and discuss why your Aunt Ethel swears by ginseng tea for her arthritis.

Erik Vance is an award-winning science journalist based in Baltimore. Before becoming a writer he was, at turns, a biologist, a rock climbing guide, an environmental consultant, and an environmental educator. He graduated in 2006 from the UC Santa Cruz science writing program and became a magazine freelancer soon after.

His work focuses on the human element of science – the people who do it, those who benefit from it, and those who do not. He has written for The New York Times, Nature, Scientific American, Harper’s, National Geographic, and a number of other local and national outlets. He lived in Mexico City for seven years and has worked extensively in Latin America and Asia, covering the environment and its effect on humans.

Saturday, March 16, 2019
1:30 pm
Argosy University
1550 Wilson Blvd.
Suite 712
Arlington, VA

Near Rosslyn Metro.  Parking garage accessible from N. Pierce Street.

There is controlled building access so please arrive on time.

Monday, January 28, 2019

February 9 - Mind Control and other things DARPA has never done

Presented by Jared B. Adams
Chief of Communications and Public Affairs,
U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

Saturday, February 9, 2019
1:30 pm 

Since its founding during the Eisenhower presidency, DARPA has been the rightful recipient of scorn and praise for investing in and developing military technologies as varied as Agent Orange and the ARPAnet, a precursor to today’s internet. And while much of the agency’s key contributions to science and national security have been well documented in books such as "The Pentagon’s Brain," "The Imagineers of War," and "The Department of Mad Scientists," myths about DARPA’s work still abound on social media and in the mainstream press. 

In this talk, you will hear from Jared Adams, DARPA’s chief of communications, about some of the popular and humorous myths regarding the agency’s research, including how it controls the world’s weather, is building AI-equipped super soldiers, and is actively managing Facebook to read people’s thoughts. Also, Adams will discuss the importance of transparency in government public affairs and how, when dealing with contentious areas of scientific research, the best tack is often to be open, honest, and direct.

Jared Adams joined the DARPA Public Affairs Office in 2014, first serving as the agency’s press secretary for three years before becoming the chief of communications in July 2017. Prior to DARPA, Adams served in senior public affairs positions in the Washington, D.C. area with Harris, SAIC, and Raytheon. In addition to his in-house communications experience, Adams has provided public relations counsel to several high-profile organizations, including Dell, Microsoft, Verizon, U. S. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

B-CC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane
2nd Floor (West Room)
Bethesda, MD

Monday, January 14, 2019

January 20 - Special NCAS "Led Zeppelin" MeetUp

Real or Imaginary? Led Zeppelin in Wheaton, January 1969:
Rock band Led Zeppelin released their first album and were on their first North American tour...Denver, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Spokane, L.A., San Francisco, Iowa City, Detroit, Wheaton, Boston, New York.  Wait a minute--Wheaton?!?!  As in, Wheaton, Maryland?

Yes.  At least, some people say so, that they were at the show.

Filmmaker Jeff Krulik will present his take on this enduring local legend, on the 50th anniversary of the very night the concert was alleged to have taken place, January 20, 1969.

"Led Zeppelin Played Here"
AFI Silver Theatre
8633 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD

Sunday, January 20, 2019
8 PM

The showing of this movie is not an official NCAS event, but we thought it might be of interest to our members, so we're promoting this as a Meetup.  Advance tickets for this movie may be purchased at
Film trailer:

Before the show, join fellow skeptics for Drinking Skeptically at 5:30 PM at McGinty's Public House (911 Ellsworth Dr, Silver Spring), a very short walk from the AFI Silver Theatre.

After the show, enjoy a total eclipse of the Moon starting at 10:34 PM!  (No ticket required, only clear skies.  Totality will occur from 11:41 PM to 12:43 AM.)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

January 12 - Science Education and Storytelling: Combatting Denialism With Better (and True!) Stories

Presented by Sean B. Carroll, Ph.D
Dept. of Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

From Dr. Seuss to Disney, Harry Potter to Game of Thrones, we grow up and live in a world teeming with stories. In all forms of media - books, films, television, radio, and the internet, stories are the currency of everyday life. Yet they are strangely absent from the science classroom.

Despite a universal appreciation and thirst for stories, and considerable evidence for their pedagogical power, stories are underutilized in formal education, and in learning science in particular. One of my main goals as a scientist, educator, and storyteller is to encourage the use of stories in science education.  I will discuss why stories have an important place in the science classroom, and how they can help further the inroads being made in the teaching and acceptance of contentious subjects such as evolution.

Sean B. Carroll is an award-winning evolutionary biologist, author, educator, and film producer. He leads the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the largest private supporter of science education activities in the US, is the Executive Director of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, and is the Andrew and Mary Balo and Nicholas and Susan Simon Endowed Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland. He is also Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin.

A prominent science communicator in print and on film, Carroll is the author of eight books, and has served as an executive producer of nearly thirty feature or short documentary films including The Farthest: Voyager in Space which recently won the Emmy for Outstanding Science Documentary. Carroll is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Saturday, January 12, 2019
1:30 pm

Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library
7584 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 

(Note: New Location.)

Shadow of a Doubt - January 2019

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics

January 2019
  • January 12 lecture - Science Education and Storytelling:Combatting Denialism With Better (and True!) Stories by Sean B. Carroll, PhD
  • Weather cancellations
  • NCAS Meetup - Led Zeppelin
  • February 9 lecture - Jared Adams, Director of Public Affairs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will debunk DARPA myths.
  • 50th Anniversary of the Condon Report
  • HISTORY's "Project Blue Book" Premieres
  • Science Channel's New Houdini Docuseries
  • Drinking Skeptically - January 20
  • AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Member renewals

Click to see Shadow.