Nerd Nite SF #78: Impractical Materials, Black Holes, and Suggestibility!Wednesday, 11/16/16
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @ Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

You know what sounds really good right now? A good stiff drink, and a reminder that despite all the ups and downs, the world is still an amazing and wonderful place. We’ll experience the glorious highs of seeing supermassive black holes in a new light, so to speak, and the crushing lows of a new satellite spinning into oblivion. We’ll admire the marvels of amazing materials, and then ponder what the hell we can actually do with them. And we’ll learn not just how our minds are remarkably gullible, but why that is actually a good thing.

All that, plus our local friendly librarians, tunes by DJ Alpha Bravo, libations by the Rickshaw Stop bartenders, and a crowd of awesome nerds. Be there and be square!


“Good for Nothin’: The Beautiful and Impractical Side of Materials Science” by Becky Belisle

New semiconductors for solar power, biocompatible transistors to map your brain – scientists are hard at work coming up with new materials to make your world better, faster, stronger. But what about discoveries that are more dope than disruptive? Tonight, let’s hear it for the underdogs of solid-state chemistry, and celebrate the science behind some amazing materials whose applications are more than a little far afield. We’re talking light-sensitive lights, semiconductors that move like plants, how to grow your own nano-garden, and more! So come rejoice in some materials that just might not be good for anything (yet!).

We are living in a materials world, and Becky is a materials girl (a.k.a. PhD student at Stanford University).


“Hitomi: A Tale of Black Holes and Broken Satellites” by Norbert Werner

On Feb 17th, 2016, the Hitomi satellite was launched into space. It was meant to be the most sensitive X-ray eye in space, and designed to answer some deeply puzzling questions in astrophysics. It immediately made a truly groundbreaking observation, but then a system failure sent the satellite into a death spiral, literally spinning itself apart. This talk is about the science that was gathered in the first observation and a personal story of the ups and downs in studies of supermassive black holes.

Norbert is an astrophysicist and one of the scientists who analyzed the Hitomi data.


“Suggestible You” by Erik Vance

Explore the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology with science writer Erik Vance to reveal the science of our suggestible minds. We are all suggestible, gullible, malleable by nature – and this is actually a good thing. Our expectations change our reality: If you give an athlete colored water, but call it “Gatorade”, they perform better. Students test better with “MIT” pens. And fancy labels will genuinely make wine taste better. Can we use this to make ourselves fitter, smarter, and even happier?

Erik is science writer whose work has been featured in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, National Geographic, and many others, and contributing editor at Discover magazine. He is the author of “Suggestible You“.


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

Food: Delicious bites from a pop-up food purveyor.

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