The societal and scientific consensus says only irrational people fear things like WiFi, artificial sweeteners, and fluoridated water, but there have been legitimately dangerous products sold as safe in the past. ​Flammable, toxic, radioactive and generally bad for you, we’ll look at products throughout history that killed, injured and poisoned, and the marketing campaigns that went along with them. ​Plus, we’ll explore some formerly dangerous things that turned out to be fine, and things we know are bad for us that we consume anyway. ​Come along. It’ll be good for your health. David Frank David Frank is a marketer, a writer and a former radioRead More →

Since Michael Howard’s pronouncement that ‘Prison Works’ the prison population in the UK has doubled with the current Government planning to build several more multi-occupancy ‘Titan’ prisons to incarcerate thousands more men and women. This reflects an ill-founded commitment to what became a cross-party mantra. In what sense does ‘prison work’? Does the claim stand scrutiny? Or, as Jonathan Simon suggests, does locking away an ever-increasing number of women, men and children amount to ‘social warehousing’? Derived in three decades of activist work and academic research Phil Scraton will address the harms of imprisonment for those locked away, their families and their communities. He willRead More →

In 2017 HUK hosted the book launch for Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom (right) by Chief Executive Andrew Copson. As well as being a historical survey of secularism’s development, his book identified today’s threats to secularism and the big debates raging around it. The book was republished a year later by Oxford University Press as Secularism: a Very Short Introduction. Over three years later, secularism is still a hot topic in public, political, and religious debate across the globe. It is embodied in the conflict between secular republics – from the US to India – and the challenges they face from resurgent religious identity politics. In theRead More →

Big data can be used for good—from tracking disease to exposing human rights violations—and for bad: implementing surveillance and control. Data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups. In Data Action, Sarah Williams provides a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways. Williams outlines a method that emphasizes collaboration among data scientists, policy experts, data designers, and the public. The approach generates policy debates, influences civic decisions, and informs design to help ensure that the voices of people represented in the data are neither marginalized nor left unheard.Read More →

In times of crisis, when institutions of power are laid bare, people turn to one another. Pandemic Solidarity collects first-hand experiences from around the world of people creating their own narratives of solidarity and mutual aid in the time of the global crisis of COVID-19. The world’s media was quick to weave a narrative of selfish individualism, full of empty supermarket shelves and con men. However, if you scratch the surface, you find a different story of community and self-sacrifice. Looking at eighteen countries and regions, including India, Rojava, Taiwan, South Africa, Iraq and North America, the personal accounts in the book weave together to create aRead More →

Cafe Scientifique

We’re back this month with a proper Zoom Café, this time some cutting edge work which has as yet only been published in preprint, and is still undergoing the peer review process.  Achillefs Kapanidis, Professor of Biological Physics, and his DPhil student Nicolas Shiaelis, will come to talk about their novel rapid virus identification system which they have been showing can determine the difference between COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses within a few minutes.  It’s not a home test — the samples need to be looked at under a fluorescence microscope — but it does offer ultra-rapid processing of samples, and the COVID-19 test builds on a system theyRead More →

For more than a century the National Secular Society has actively campaigned for separation of church and state – specifically, disestablishment of the Church of England. But today, the Church still retains considerable influence and power within the UK’s political arena. The UK is the only country besides Iran to have religious leaders in the legislature by right, and the head of state is also head of the Church. Is disestablishment a lost cause? In this online lecture, human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC explains why disestablishment is essential for democracy in the 21st century, and how it might be achieved. He will recall the struggle toRead More →