Tuesday, 31 March 2009

London talks, lectures, debates: feed your mind

London nights out don’t just have to involve drinking & dancing. If occasionally you’d like to exercise brain instead of legs, there are some free, stimulating events you can go to for an intellectual night out – usually talks or lectures, sometimes in forum or panel form, often with questions from the audience and a discussion. I hesitate to use the word “educational” in case it makes it all sound too dry and academic – most of these talks are in fact very accessible, aimed at ordinary members of the public rather than experts, and did I say that the events I mention are free to attend?

If they have an enquiring mind and like learning new things, you could even take someone of your preferred gender to a talk as a date – it may make a refreshing change from the usual chatup lines (even intellectual scientific chat-up lines)! Furthermore there’s lots of research showing that keeping your mind active also keeps it young for longer – to quote my fave mag New Scientist: “It's well known that older people who stay mentally active are more resistant to cognitive decline and dementia, and many scientific studies have backed up this "use it or lose it" hypothesis (New Scientist, 17 December 2005, p 32). So if it works for older people, shouldn't it work for everybody?” (see also this).

If you’re interested, check out the event calendars of organisations such as the following. Some seminars are held during the day e.g. lunchtimes, but many are scheduled for the evenings. What’s more, podcasts or webcasts of some past presentations may be available free online too.

Where to find interesting talks in London

Here’s my own list of organisations that provide interesting free events in London open to the public, mostly reflecting my own interests e.g. in science, technology and music (if you know of any other groups or bodies which put on interesting free talks, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.):

Other interesting events etc

I’d also mention (declaring my bias as I’m a big fan of the dinners and was an Oxbridge grad, you can guess which in a para or two!):

A word of warning: avoid the Science Museum’s Dana Center like the plague. They used to be excellent a few years ago (e.g. a talk by Baroness Susan Greenfield), but recently their events have degenerated into dumbed down sessions where so-called “interactivity” is considered an adequate substitute for real lectures. Trust me: it’s not.

And for something else entirely

Finally, if you want a complete change in terms of your recreational / leisure activities (nothing to do with education, although music lessons / practice have also been shown to exercise the brain!), to exercise your voice and pump some oxygen into those lungs there’s always free online karaoke with friends at home!

1 comment:

Ben said...

I've set up a website/calendar of interesting talks in London here: http://interestingtalks.in/London