Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Nerd Nite SF #63: Absinthe, Wild West Science, and Male Fertility!

Nerd Nite SF #63: Absinthe, Wild West Science, and Male Fertility!Hangovers and regrets are the things we, your humble Nerd Nite hosts, associate most with absinthe and the conquest of the Western frontier. You won’t have any regrets about these talks, however! No promises about the hangover, though. Join us for these two talks, plus one more TBA, and plenty of beer, music, librarians, and the company of hundreds of other nerds. Be there and be square!

UPDATE: The third talk is no longer TBA!

Wednesday, 8/19/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

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“Absinthe-Minded: Exploring the Science Behind History’s Most Notorious Beverage” by Kat Powell

“Frontier Myths and Rogue Science in the American West” by Heather Yager

“Don’t Cook Your Balls and Other Stuff You Should Have Learned in Sex Ed” by Sara Naab

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Plus: The San Francisco Public Library will be on hand to dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Nerd Nite SF #62: Seafood Slavery, Borderline Personality, and Sword Canes!

Nerd Nite SF #62: Seafood Slavery, Borderline Personality, and Sword Canes!With transnational bondage, borderline personalities, and banned hybrid weapons, this month’s Nerd Nite deals with some blurred lines. We’ll help bring them into focus with three lectures and plenty of beer, plus music, librarians, food, and nerdery. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 7/15/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

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“Converting Labor Abuse to Sushi” by Brendan Rogers

Nobody signs up to commercial fish for free. It’s dangerous, grueling work, with long stints far from home. Yet many job-seeking migrants are basically tricked or forced into becoming slave fishermen. “Sorry, Charlie”, indeed. We’ll look at how this system works, how this fish ends up on your plate, and what can be done about it.

Brendan Rogers grew up in the Mission District and enlisted in the US Coast Guard at the age of 19. In addition to his continued service in the Reserve, he is the Training Officer for the SF Public Library and serves as a San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner.

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“Borderline Personality Disorder: On the borderline of what?” by Sara Landes

Borderline personality disorder – a mental health problem with such a vague and undescriptive name that even some mental health professionals have difficulty defining it and explaining how it develops. What the heck is it? What are people on the borderline of? How do you even get a personality disorder? And why should you care? Come find out!

Sara is a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating suicidal behavior and severe emotion dysregulation and researches how to implement treatments for these problems.

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“The History and Outlaw Status of Sword Canes” by Erin Simon

Delve into the early history of the dapper gent’s most lethal accessory! Marvel that so many people still try to sneak them on planes! Laugh at the California law that calls them out by name (the wrong one)! By looking at ngrams, silly pictures, and even sillier laws, we’ll learn about sword canes, how a ballistic knife is different from a lipstick case knife, and what California law has to say about boobytraps. The pen may be mightier, but the sword cane is way more fun.

Erin Simon is the product counsel for Google Books, Scholar, and more. When not researching obscure weaponry, she makes pictures and pointless robots.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Plus: The San Francisco Public Library will be on hand to dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Nerd Nite SF #61: Internet Archive, Plasma, & Addresses

Nerd Nite SF #61: Internet Archive, Plasma, & AddressesBehold a digital wonder of the world, a modern Library of Alexandria! Marvel at the 4th state of matter (chronologically-speaking, it’s actually the 1st)! And get lost in the intricacies of processing address data! All this plus beers, DJ Alpha Bravo, librarians, tamales, and learned conversation. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 6/17/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

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Starring:

Alexis Rossi and Tracey Jaquith from the Internet Archive

Laura Berzak Hopkins and Luc Peterson, plasma physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Brian Seitel, software engineer who thinks an awful lot about addresses

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Plus: San Francisco Public Library‘s finest will dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

And: Deliciousness available from Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas.

Nerd Nite SF #60: Swallowing, Puzzles, & Biohacking

Nerd Nite SF #60: Swallowing, Puzzles, & BiohackingWe’ll take a swig of beer and puzzle over the act of swallowing it, then swallow 2200 years of puzzle design. Finally, properly fortified, we’ll bleach pig hearts for DIY science. It’s a night of lectures, drinks, librarians, music, and nerdery. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 5/20/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

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“Hard to Swallow: Diagnosis and Treatment of Swallowing Disorders” by Rachel Gold

What happened to that pill that got stuck in your throat yesterday? What happens when your drink goes down the wrong pipe? How many pipes are even in there? What does a giraffe have to do with this? Come try to enjoy a beer and some food while we explore what is happening inside of our throats when we eat and drink, when we lose the ability to effectively swallow, and what we can do about it.

Rachel has been a Speech-Language Pathologist for over 8 years and a nerd her entire life. She currently works at an acute rehabilitation facility helping adults with brain injuries and strokes recover their ability to speak, understand, remember, and swallow.

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“(What the hell is) Metagrobology and You: An Interactive Journey through the Past and Future of Puzzles” by Nate Martin

Over the last 2200 years, puzzles have changed both tremendously and almost not at all. Let’s take a stroll through the history and evolution of puzzles. The conversation will be peppered with interactive puzzles and challenges so that you can prove to your friends/loved ones how smart you are. We’ll also discuss what the next 2200 years might have in store for the world of puzzledom.

After careers in software, poker, and video games, Nate co-founded and became the CEO of Puzzle Break, the first American-based Escape the Room company.

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“Of Mad Scientists, Ghost Hearts, and Bio-Hackerspaces” by Patrik D’haeseleer

Last year for Halloween, we decellularized a pig heart. We got a nice bleeding heart, hooked it up to some plumbing, stripped out all its cells with enzymes and detergents, and then bottled the thing in Everclear. Because every mad scientist’s den deserves to have a Ghost Heart in a jar! This is what we do for fun; you should see what we’re up to when we get serious. Come join the DIY biology revolution at one of your friendly local community labs!

Patrik is a mild-mannered scientist by day, biohacker by night. He is a member of BioCurious and co-founder of Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, where he tinkers with bioprinting, ghost hearts, bioluminescence, real vegan cheese, microbial batteries, urban ecosystem exploration, bio art, and more.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Plus: The San Francisco Public Library will be on hand to dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Nerd Nite SF #59: Dino Art, Social Fishes, and Bees!

Nerd Nite SF #59: Dino Art, Social Fishes, and Bees!Wednesday, 4/15/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

First we took away Brontosaurus (and no, dear readers, it is not back. Yet.), and now we’re going to tell you that dinosaurs probably don’t even look the way you think they do. That will go over well, we’re sure. Then we’ll school you on schooling (fishes) and finally give you the buzz on bees! So come enjoy lectures with drinks, music, grilled cheese, librarians, and the company of your fellow nerds. Be(e) there and be(e) square!

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“Extreme Dinosaur Makeover” by Brian Engh

Most of the dinosaurs you see in media are highly speculative and their accuracy and realism is often fiercely debated. Using a newly discovered species of dinosaur called Aquilops americanus as an example, I’ll take you through the painstaking process of reconstructing dinosaurs as accurately as possible, starting from scrappy bone to a complete life restoration of the animal behaving in its environment.

Brian is an artist, animator, filmmaker and monsterologist. His depictions of prehistoric creatures have been published in scientific papers and blogs, and soon to be in several museum exhibits, an interpretive trail in Moab Utah, and in a book on Australia’s ancient inland sea published by the Melbourne Museum.

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“Socializing Through a Fisheye Lens” by Ray Engeszer

Social systems and interactions are central to our lives as human beings, and yet they just won’t let us perform controlled experiments on people! Not even children! Ridiculous, I know. So I tried to use a small fish as a model system to answer questions about how social groups form.

Ray Engeszer knows quite a bit about schooling beyond fish, having a bachelors in Integrative Biology from U.C. Berkeley and a doctorate in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from U.T. Austin, and is now a high school teacher.

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“Sex, Wax, and Pollen: The Honeybee Super-Organism” by Ryan Smith

-or-

Why bees are a (hu)man’s best friend

Bees are highly industrious dance fanatics who have a knack for mathematics and are obsessed with pleasing their queen. These goddesses of the garden have helped humans for thousands of years to make candles, get drunk, sweeten our lives, and most importantly: put food on our plates. But as global populations of honeybees are declining, we are scrambling to find out the roots of the imbalance. We will fly into the hive to understand the big story of this tiny bug and how we can keep the sweetness flowing. Come find out what honeybees mean when they dance and what the world looks like in bee-vision!

Dr. Ryan Smith is a laser physicist, musician, seasoned beekeeper, and physics professor at Cal State East Bay. While his bee-keeping interests began in the Southeastern U.S., he is now an advocate on the sweet west coast.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Sammies available for purchase from Grilled Cheese Guy.

Plus: The librarians will be here! The librarians will be here! SFPL’s finest will dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Nerd Nite SF #58: Diabetes, Global Maritime Trade, and Face Mites!

Nerd Nite SF #58: Diabetes, Global Maritime Trade, and Face Mites!Wednesday, 3/18/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

Things you should learn about: The word “pancreas” means “sweetbread.” (Ick.) Dockworkers should not be fucked with. (Fact.) You have tiny arachnids crawling all over your face right. this. very. second. (Noooooooooooo!) More intrigued than alarmed? (And even if you’re not.) Come to the place where the drinks and the music and the learned people–not to mention the grilled cheese and the librarians!–make diabetes, global maritime trade, and face mites intriguing AND alarming in equal measure. Be there and be square!

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“Sweet Nothings from Deep in Your Tummy: A Tale of the Pancreas and Diabetes” by Tommy Hennings

“Diabetes mellitus” literally means sweet, excess urine. Besides requiring a very, ahem, intimate patient-doctor relationship, diabetes has one underlying trait in all of its types: the dysfunction of a certain type of cells within the pancreas. But wait a minute–what is the pancreas, anyway? Come learn about how this organ that looks like a corn cob micromanages blood sugar, why it ends up dropping the ball, and the big changes brewing in diabetes research and treatment.

Tommy is a PhD student at UCSF researching pancreatic beta-cell development and dysfunction, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 8.5 years.

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“Two Billion iPhones Crossing the Ocean” by Daniel Chin

Nearly all our gadgets and toys come to us from massive factories overseas–everything from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive and the phones we use to navigate the world. But how many of us know the incredible journey that our clothes and cars and phones take before they get to our homes? A professional seafarer and marine engineer will share the fascinating story of modern global maritime trade and the people who bring us “90 percent of everything” created around the world. We will also see what happens when this normally smooth-running machine of global commerce is stymied by technological failures, labor disputes, and pirates!

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“Meet Your Face Mites: A Story of Discovery, Evolution, and Intrigue” by Michelle Trautwein

Right now, deep in your pores, eight-legged creatures are happily making your face their home. Our face mites are perhaps our closest companions, yet we know very little about them. But as we learn more, our mites may offer us a glimpse into our own evolutionary past. What do they look like? Where did they come from? Are you sure that I have them? Come get the answers to all your face mite questions!

Michelle is an entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences and focuses on the Earth’s most lovable creatures: flies and face mites.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Plus: The librarians will be here! The librarians will be here! SFPL’s finest will dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Nerd Nite SF #57: Viking Gender, Induced Quakes, and Bioinspired Tech!

Nerd Nite SF #57: Viking Gender, Induced Quakes, and Bioinspired Tech!Change! – changing gender norms, changing landscapes, and changing lineups (as soon as we finalize the details of our third talk) – is the accidental theme at this month’s Nerd Nite SF. So change up your Weds routine to come down to the Rickshaw Stop, order a different beer than you usually do, and learn something new!

Wednesday, 2/18/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here (recommended!)

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“Odin in Drag: Gender Performance in the Viking Age” by Molly A. Jacobs

Everyone knows the story about Loki giving birth to a horse, right? But did you know that gender-bending behavior really wasn’t that unusual among the Norse gods? The mythology and literature of medieval Scandinavia are full of stories of gods and people cross-dressing, shape-shifting, and playing creatively with concepts of gender, from shield maidens to Odin himself. Come learn what Vikings thought about gender, whether half of all Viking warriors really were women, and what happened when Christianity arrived.

Molly has a PhD in Scandinavian and Medieval Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where she currently teaches courses on Vikings, writing, and medieval literature.

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“Can People Really Cause Earthquakes?” by Justin Rubinstein

In 2014, Oklahoma experienced more magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes than California. Many people believe that hydraulic fracturing is to blame. But can we really cause big enough changes in the earth to trigger earthquakes? The short answer is yes. In fact, humans have been inducing earthquakes for well over a century!

We’ll explore how human activities can cause earthquakes and try to answer some important questions. Do we need to worry about these earthquakes? How big can they get? Now that hydraulic fracturing is coming to California, do we need to be worried?

Justin is a seismologist with the US Geological Survey. Studying earthquakes has taken Justin all across the world, but these days he finds himself in glamorous locations like Kansas and Oklahoma.

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“Science Fiction’s Body Shop: designing robots, prosthetics, and tissues” by Terry D. Johnson

Nature has a lot to tell us about how bodies – and the parts they’re made of – ought to work. If you want to design a robot, prosthetic, or implant, you’ll find solutions to many of your problems courtesy of evolution. We’ll see how new technologies in repair and replacement are inspiring science fictions – or making them less fictional.

Terry is currently teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley. He is also (with Kyle Kurpinski) co-author of the popular science book How to Defeat Your Own Clone (and other tips for surviving the biotech revolution).

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DJ Alpha Bravo spins tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Tasty tamales from Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas will be available.

And the San Francisco Public Library will be doling out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Be there and be square!

Nerd Nite SF #56: Reinventing Satellites, Underwater Archaeology, and the Illusion of Bodily Perfection!

Nerd Nite SF #56: Reinventing Satellites, Underwater Archaeology, and the Illusion of Bodily Perfection!Wednesday, 1/21/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here

What’s way up in the sky, way down deep in the ocean, and standing right here? We’re everywhere and we’re square! Wait, is that right? Anyway, come to the Rickshaw and follow through on your resolution to get taught (no, not taut!) while getting tipsy. A space architect, an underwater archaeologist, a technical writer with a fake butt fixation, a DJ, some bartenders, SFPL’s finest, and a grilled cheese scientist will lead the way. Happy new year, indeed!

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“Reinventing the Satellite” by Ben Haldeman

Picture the largest ever fleet of imaging satellites, designed from the ground up as an agile response to space access. Now picture the pictures these satellites provide: fresh daily images of the Earth to help transform the science and markets that rely on observational data. How did a company go from a garage in Cupertino (natch) to sending a flock of Doves up to the skies in only 2 years? By taking advantage of improvements in miniaturization, off-the-shelf components, and agile practices in manufacturing, design and deployment. The way we design for space is changing.

Ben is a lead design architect at Planet Labs. He’s also worked on Mars rover instrumentation and for the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network.

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“I Can Ex-Plane! Underwater Archaeology of WWII Aircraft” by Sam Bell

We tend to think of archaeologists as digging in the dirt, but vast amounts of cultural material lies beneath the waves. Dive deep into the study of underwater WWII aircraft in Saipan (located in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands) and find out what archaeology can teach us about these sites.

Sam has a Masters of Maritime Archaeology from Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, and now works at Chabot Space and Science Center. She is passionate about teaching history and science to youth.

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“The Illusion of Perfection: Fake Boobs, Fake Butts and Our Unending Struggle with Human Inadequacy” by Laura Rubin

(NOTE: This is a placeholder description written by your humble organizers. The actual talk may deviate somewhat from this.)

For centuries, fashion has been used to alter the appearance our proportions. Through a bewildering array of pads, scaffolds, bindings, or props we’ve wanted to make our butts and boobs look bigger or smaller, as dictated by the times. In this talk we’ll explore some fashion history, and our inability to be content with our “natural” selves.

Laura Rubin is a technical writer by trade, but is fascinated by the history of textiles and fashion, and is an Odd Salon fellow.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

And: Our scientist of the cheese, the bread, and the brick, Grilled Cheese Guy!

Plus: The librarians will be here! SFPL’s finest will dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.

Extra credit: B-Movie Shark Science, Neutrinos, and Monarch the Bear!

Thanks to all for the great time last night! Kelly, Anna, and Drew were really fantastic, no? I bet you were super-inspired to learn more about their topics.

Good news, everyone! Here’s a bunch of materials cited by our speakers, and some resources available through our friends at the San Francisco Public Library.

“Big Brains in the Deep Blue Sea” by Drew Halley

Let’s just get this out of the way: LL Cool J’s “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)”, a terrible song for a terrible movie. How terrible is it? The chorus is “Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin”. Repeat x8.

The Principles of Brain Evolution. Striedter, 2007

Variation in brain organization and cerebellar foliation in Chondrichthyans: sharks and holocephalans. Yopak et al. 2007. Brain Behavior & Evolution

Understanding vertebrate brain evolution. Northcutt 2002. Integrative & Comparative Biology

From the SFPL:

Apetalk & Whalespeak: The Quest for Interspecies Communication by Ted Crail

Sharks : ancient predators in a modern sea by Salvador Jorgensen, Ph.D

“Ernie and Bert at the South Pole” by Dr. Anna Franckowiak

IceCube’s (the neutrino detector) headquarters at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ice Cube’s (the rapper/”actor”) headquarters

The history of neutrino discovery

Evidence for High-Energy Extraterrestrial Neutrinos at the IceCube Detector IceCube Collaboration. Science 22 November 2013: 342 (6161), 1242856 [DOI:10.1126/science.1242856]

From the SFPL:

Neutrino Cosmology by Julien Lesgourgues … [et al.] (Available as an eBook!)

Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana (Available as an Audiobook!)

The Perfect Wave: With Neutrinos at the Boundary of Space and Time by Heinrich Päs

“Monarch the Bear: A Tale of Tycoons, Taxidermy, and the California Flag” by Kelly Jensen

Bears I Have Met – And Others by Allen Kelly  (eBook)

Bear In Mind by Susan Snyder. All the pictures of California Grizzlies you can handle, plus original source documents.

Monarch’s taxidermied hide is kept in the California Academ of Sciences’s Ornithology and Mammalogy collection, a research collection containing over 135,000(!) specimens.

Talk to Kelly on Twitter – she’s funny and does cool stuff!

From the SFPL:

After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California by Peter S. Alagona

The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy by Dave Madden

Nerd Nite SF #55: B-Movie Shark Science, Neutrinos, and Monarch the Bear!

Nerd Nite SF #55: B-Movie Shark Science, Neutrinos, and Monarch the Bear!

Nerd Nite SF #55: B-Movie Shark Science, Neutrinos, and Monarch the Bear!Wednesday, 12/17/2014
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here

Sham science inspiring real inquiry, really weird science so hard to measure it seems fake, and an only-in-California tale of one of the most famous taxidermy victims to grace a flagpole. Just a typical month of nerdery around here! Come get your think on AND your drink on. Vinyl grooves will be explored. Grilled cheese will be inhaled. Librarians will be consulted. Be there and be square!
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“Big Brains in the Deep Blue Sea” by Drew Halley

Between the devil and the Deep Blue Sea you’ll find: hyperintelligent super-sharks, Renny Harlin, bioethical disaster, a cure for Alzheimer’s, Stellan Skarsgård slumming it, and a heckuva lot of pseudoscientific blather. An anthropologist takes a late-‘90s B-movie as the perfect diving-off point for a discussion of shark neuroanatomy, allometric scaling in brain evolution, interspecies cognition, and, of course, what any aspiring genetic engineer might need to before setting up their own offshore experimental lab. Thank you, Hollywood!

Drew is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, researching evolutionary alterations to embryonic brain development across a variety of primate species. He is also a collaborator in a multi-year investigation of shark films.

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“Ernie and Bert at the South Pole” by Dr. Anna Franckowiak

Neutrinos are weird subatomic particles. Sixty billion of them pass unnoticed through your thumbnail every second! They can travel without being absorbed or deflected, escaping from dense environments around black holes or the heart of a star and thus carrying unique information about the most violent processes in the universe. But they’re really hard to detect. So a cubic kilometer of ice at the South Pole was instrumented to measure traces of their rare interactions. And lo, Ernie and Bert—-two very high-energy neutrinos—-were detected. Grab your rubber duckie and come learn about the beginning of high-energy neutrino astronomy!

Anna spent some time at the IceCube while getting her PhD in neutrino astronomy. Now she’s a postdoc at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

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“Monarch the Bear: A Tale of Tycoons, Taxidermy, and the California Flag” by Kelly Jensen

You know the bear on the California flag, right? That’s Monarch. Captured at the behest of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, Monarch was the last California grizzly in captivity before they went extinct. That’s just the beginning. The rest of the story involves bear-hunting journalists, kangaroos and druids in Golden Gate Park, a Victorian amusement park in the heart of The Mission, and LOTS of bad taxidermy.

Kelly Jensen is a nerd-about-town. She is the photographer/co-author of Photojojo!: Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas, a fellow of Odd Salon, and a librarian/archivist at the California Academy of Sciences. Never lend her the keys to your walk-in taxidermy freezer.

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With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

And: Our scientist of the cheese, the bread, and the brick, Grilled Cheese Guy!

Plus: The librarians will be here! SFPL’s finest will dole out library cards, reading lists, and the hottest branch gossip.