Nerd Nite SF #65: Life Beyond Earth, Wild West Science, and Robot Filmmakers!Are we alone? You certainly won’t be at Nerd Nite SF, where hundreds of the playfully curious gather every month for lectures, beer, DJ Alpha Bravo, Grilled Cheese Guy, and SFPL librarians! Dr. Som will discuss searching for life in the frontier of space, while Heather Yager tells of scientists of yore in the frontier of the “Wild West”, and Alexander Reben explores the frontier of human robot relations. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 10/21/2015
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!


“Searching for Life Elsewhere: A discovery of Earth and a glimpse into the value of humanity” by Dr. Sanjoy Som

Astronomers are finding thousands of planets orbiting far away stars. Why are we so keen in discovering them? We’ll discuss the interdisciplinary approach of searching for life beyond Earth, and what it may mean to be human. Geologists, atmospheric scientists and astronomers (among others) work hand in hand to answer one of the most exciting question in science: are we alone?

Dr. Som is a scientist, engineer, and social entrepreneur passionate about space exploration and astrobiology, and how these disciplines can increase STEM awareness and excitement among the public. He founded and the non-profit Blue Marble Space and works at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.


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

From 1849 to 1852 San Francisco’s population sextupled in size, giving rise to the boomtown that housed the people and places we weave into the stories we tell today: The Gold Rush, the Barbary Coast district, the Vigilance Committees, Emperor Norton. In the midst of myth of the “Wild West,” seven men met and started a science club, formally named the California Academy of Sciences. With manuscripts and objects from the Academy’s archives, we’ll take a look at what it was like to be a practicing scientist in the late 19th century – the “nerds of the frontier” if you will.

Heather Yager is the Head Librarian of the California Academy of Sciences. She has spent the past ten years working in a variety of natural history museums, making science into history and making history into bytes. When not at the museum, she plays the piano.


“The Robot Filmmaker and Our Relationship with Machines” by Alexander Reben

When you put a camera in a tiny cardboard box, and give it wheels, a cute face, and the ability to ask questions in an innocent child-like voice, something surprising happens: People will open up and share remarkably personal stories that would never otherwise be shared with strangers. A fleet of these were dispatched to record a unique documentary that reveals not just a lot about ourselves, but also how we interact with technology and people are becoming ever more integrated. Using this and other examples, we’ll learn about human-machine relationships, human-robot symbiosis and psychological projection onto technology.

Alexander Reben designs robots and novel interfaces to explore our evolving relationship with technology. Robots in Residence – the documentary shot and directed by robots – was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival. He is currently the director of technology and research at Stochastic Labs, an incubator for sustainable creative design companies, where he is working on machine ethics and next-generation social robotics. He also is Founder and CEO of BlabDroid, a social robotics company.


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

Food: Delicious hot goop between crispy slices of bread, brought to you by the scientist of the sammie, Grilled Cheese Guy.

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