Six member’s talks

Sunday June 21st

By the magic of ZOOM
– 6 short presentations were made by members

John,       Does more expensive wine taste better?
Keith,      The story of Annie Darwin
Christine, Bradlaugh song, all to join in chorus, which she’ll teach us.

—-5 minute comfort break, chat and recharging of glasses; chat —-

Dave,       Repair tips from Farnham Repair Café
Linda,      We’ve been here before – in literature
Alan,       How I came to really believe Einstein’s Special Relativity

Adam Mynott reports :

“No-one could justifiably accuse Farnham Humanists of not having eclectic interests.  Six short talks, delivered via Zoom, covered a wide variety of engrossing subjects, and held their online audience in front of their laptops and computers until late into the evening.

John Cregan got the party started by posing the question ‘Does expensive wine taste better?’  The answer was ‘No’, and John took us there via analysis of three studies which used blind tastings to test the palates of ordinary bibulists and so-called wine experts.  Using slightly different methods, results from the Edinburgh Wine Society; ‘The Wine Trials of Robin Goldstein; and the Duke Wine Appreciation Society showed fairly conclusively when it comes to wine, the maxim ‘you get what you pay for’ does not really apply.  John concluded to the delight of some (if not all) that there is no correlation between price and wine appreciation. 

The next presenter was Keith Hayward who brought us ‘The Story of Annie Darwin’. He spent his 15 minutes looking at the short life and tragic death of Annie Darwin, daughter of the famous naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin.  Annie who died aged 10 in 1851 was clearly a remarkable girl and the unquestioned favorite child of her father. Keith brought us evidence of his tireless research, which included a visit to the house where Annie died in Great Malvern.  Annie succumbed to what it’s thought was a form of tuberculosis and Keith speculated that an intended cure, a form of water treatment, administered by Dr James Gully may even have hastened her demise.  This had a devastating impact on the great Charles Darwin, who stopped going to church after his daughter’s death.

Christine Hayward followed on with her presentation: ‘Dare to be a Bradlaugh’ – an insight into the extraordinary Charles Bradlaugh, who founded the National Secular Society, represented Northampton as an MP and generally fitted more into his life that one could think possible.  Christine said that Bradlaugh was an atheist and republican and his refusal to swear the Parliamentary Oath of Allegiance meant he was barred from sitting on the Commons benches and was required to address Parliament from behind the ‘bar of the House’.  Christine marshalled us – her online choir – into singing a song celebrating the single-mindedness of Charles Bradlaugh: ‘Dare to be a Bradlaugh, Dare to Stand Alone…’.

Next up was Dave Smith with ‘Repair Tips from Farnham Repair Cafe’.  Dave has been working with dozens of other enthusiastic volunteers at the Farnham Repair Cafe for years.  The concept has grown worldwide and there are 2087 repair cafes dotted around the globe preventing ‘mountains of stuff from ending up in landfill’.  Dave said the Farnham team includes a professor, a flight engineer and a host of people from all walks of life who lend their expertise to mend things: bikes, clothing, computers, furniture and so on.  Two thirds of things that are broken or not working return home fixed and Dave took us in detail through the protocols attached to a number of repair categories.  Dave is the local expert on computers, ‘repairing them’, he said, ‘requires ‘every screwdriver ever made’.

Linda Montgomery’s talk ‘We’ve been here before’ looked at literature’s take on living in lockdown under a pandemic.  Linda used ‘La Peste’ by Albert Camus and ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’ by Daniel Defoe to show that mankind has addressed the perils of worldwide pestilence before.  Camus’s La Peste was seen as a metaphor for the Nazi invasion of France, but was the fictional account of disease sweeping throughout the Algerian town, Oran.  Daniel Defoe’s book was written nearly 3 hundred years ago, and recorded one man’s experiences of the year 1665, when the bubonic plague devastated London, killing a fifth of the population.  Linda said that while the quality of medicine is clearly vastly better now, the human response to plague in the 17th century shows some similarities to the world under Covid -19 in 2020.

All speakers made expert use of the ‘share screen’ function of Zoom and none more so than the final speaker of the evening, Alan Montgomery, in his talk ‘How I came to really believe Einstein’s Special Relativity’.  Alan warmed his audience up by hitting them with a few ‘simple’ equations to support his personal journey to belief in Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity.  It would be presumptuous of me to attempt to sum up Alan’s learned talk, as well as vastly over-optimistic, but his audience was left in no doubt about his passion for particle physics, and his joy that his PhD experiment showed Einstein was right; for a stationary observer fast movers really do experience time more slowly. Alan breached the 15 minute time limit, but given the breadth of his subject that was hardly surprising.  It was testament to the erudition of Farnham Humanists that the audience were able to come up with a number of searching questions.”

See below for Instructions for Joining Zoom.

NB, there may be variations depending on whether you are using Windows PC, Apple, or an iPhone. But the general principles apply, and people find it easy unless they are running very old software. For Windows you need version 7 or above.
When you click the link, your PC or phone may have to download the Zoom App, just give it permission to do so when asked. Next start Zoom App if necessary, and click on Open Zoom Meetings. Click on Join with Computer Audio if you are confident that your microphone and camera work.   

(If you are not confident then before joining click Test Speaker and Microphone –  it’s underneath the Join with Computer Audio option. This test plays you a little tune, and asks you to confirm you heard it; and asks you to speak and in a few seconds repeats your voice. If that works fine, you are  given the option to join with computer audio (now in smaller letters) If it doesn’t work you’ll have to figure out how to turn on your computer’s microphone and/or camera.)

You will see several little frames with our faces, and we will see yours – and all be able to hear each other. Whoever is speaking tends to be the larger frame.

You can toggle backwards and forwards between alternative views of the group on your screen (either many little frames, or the large frame plus several little frames) by clicking on the dots in the top right hand corner. Gallery means all attendees’ frames are featured, in no particular order, whereas choosing Speaker means that the current speaker is framed, plus several other little ones.

Once a formal meeting starts at 7:15 we would mute everyone except the chair and speaker, so you cannot be heard. When your turn comes to speak you’ll be unmuted.

A tray of controls comes up when you hover the cursor just above the bottom of the screen. You will see a box called Chat, with options to type questions, to everyone, or to named individuals.  

Clicking on the Reactions button means you can signify applause or a ‘thumbs up’ indication for the presenters and other attendees.

You will also see an icon called Participants, and if you click on that and find your own name in Attendees you will see a symbol for Putting Up Your Hand. We can see that, and if we’re allowing questions, we can unmute you to speak and be heard.