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!

“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.


“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.


“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.


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.

Nerd Nite SF #54: Cancer’s Metabolism, Whale Disentaglement, and the Midwinter Fair!

Nerd Nite SF #54: Cancer’s Metabolism, Whale Disentaglement, and the Midwinter Fair!Wednesday, 11/19/2014
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here

The UNKNOWN. We haz it. No, not the fear of the UNKNOWN – we are not afraid of it. We embrace it. We make the UNKNOWN, or at least the unfamiliar, known. (Wait, doesn’t that word look really weird now?) For now, our third talk is, yes, UNKNOWN. But we know that that UNKNOWN will soon be known. As to what we do know: We know that we’re going to drink some known intoxicants; nod our heads to some known, but mostly UNKNOWN, vinyl recordings; eat some comfortingly well known grilled cheese; and get to know about the metabolism of cancer and how to get all WET with a marine mammal disentanglement expert. Be there and be square!

UPDATE: Our third talk is now KNOWN! Woody LaBounty will regale us with strange and wonderful tales of the 1894 Midwinter Fair!


“Metabolism and Cancer: You Aren’t What You Eat” by Roman Camarda

We’ve all heard it before: “You are what you eat!” But it turns out that, in cancer, this isn’t really true. Research over the past century has shown that cancer has a different metabolism than the rest of our body. This altered metabolic state is a hallmark of the disease, and allows it to take advantage of nutrients meant for good (like those in pizza and ice cream). Luckily for us, this altered state may be the Achilles heel of cancer! The question is: How do we selectively disrupt the metabolism of this devious disease while leaving the rest of our bodies free to enjoy the pizza and ice cream?

Roman is a PhD student at UCSF. His dissertation research is on altered metabolism in breast cancer.


“Whale Disentanglement: You Don’t Need a Bigger Boat” by Kathi Koontz

Rescuing a 40-ton sea monster entangled in fishing gear is dangerous, difficult work. An errant fin can stun or even kill a person and a collision can capsize a boat. The rough waters and sheer vastness of the ocean are daunting. But there is a rescue team up to the challenge: WET, the Whale Entanglement Team. Why do whales get caught? What can be done to prevent it? And how exactly does WET save whales, one at a time?

Kathi Koontz is a primary responder with WET (under the auspices of NOAA Fisheries), a supervisor for the Marine Mammal Center’s special rescue operation team, a co-investigator with Marine Life Studies, and a project manager at the California Academy of Sciences. She has participated in numerous marine mammal rescue operations.


“Man-Eating Lions and Stucco Igloos: The Weird Midwinter Fair of 1894” by Woody LaBounty

The California Midwinter International Exposition, better known as the Midwinter Fair, drew over two million visitors to Golden Gate Park from January to June 1894. Originally billed as the “Commercial World’s Fair,” the five-month production featured fairytale architecture, deadly animal acts, dark rides, and exhibits of foreign culture that included a Cairo Street, a Chinese Theatre, and an Eskimo village (with stucco igloos). Strange, comically ethnocentric, and boosterish to modern sensibilities, the fair helped pull San Francisco out of an economic depression and acted as the progenitor of today’s Music Concourse, de Young Museum, and Japanese Tea Garden.

Woody LaBounty is the founder of the Western Neighborhoods Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the history of western San Francisco ( He is the author of “Ingleside Terraces: San Francisco Racetrack to Residence Park” and “Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb,” and is recognized as the leading authority on the city’s western neighborhoods.


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!

Nerd Nite SF #53: Undead Philosophy, Math, and Space Man!

Nerd Nite SF #53: Undead Philosophy, Math, and Space Man!Wednesday, 10/15/2014
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here

For all the meteorological, celestial, and sporting delights this San Francisco October has offered, there is nothing more delightful than an autumnal Nerd Nite at the Rickshaw Stop! It’s getting dark out there, so come early, gulp an intoxicating beverage, let Alpha Bravo’s vinyl vibrate your eardrums, and hear tell of: What happens when philosophers and biologists think about zombies, the forefront of mathematical knowledge, and Walt Disney and the rocket scientist. Be there and be square!


“Life, Death, and Undeath: Philosophical Notes” by Diego Nieto and Manuel Vargas

Everyone is familiar with the undead (cue zombie moaning and shambling). But what makes something undead as opposed to alive or simply dead? Philosophers have puzzled over this question and what (if anything) undeath suggests about our categories of life and death. If the philosophers are right–that lots of things are indeed quasi-living–contemporary biology suggests that the undead are extraordinarily common. It turns out that life and death aren’t binary conditions but complicated “cluster” states that can be had in greater and lesser degrees. Not so scary after all, huh, George Romero?

Diego is a research entomologist at UC Santa Cruz. Manuel is a professor of philosophy and law at the University of San Francisco.


“Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?” by Otis Chodosh

With a BANG, a math scholar will take you to the forefront of mathematical knowledge, focusing on the hard-hitting questions: Just what is the forefront of mathematical knowledge? Does anyone care? Can you hear the shape of a drum? How will any of this help fight cancer?

Otis is a PhD candidate at Stanford. In his research life, he likes to think about where to put up a fence if you live near a black hole. In his private life, he tries to avoid both fences and black holes. He can’t play the drums.


“Climbing Space Mountain: Walt Disney and the Space Race” by Lauren Marie Taylor and Eric Toldi

After WWII, all the engineers left alive in Germany (if you catch our drift) were divided between the US and the USSR, and obviously we got most of them because, well, post-WWII Soviet Union wasn’t exactly Malibu. Wernher von Braun–the engineer behind the V-2 rocket–was the most important of them all. But don’t take our word for it: NASA calls him “without doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history.” Walt Disney thought he was pretty special too, and these two visionaries teamed up to create a TV show about man in space, aptly titled “Man in Space.” Its imagery and utopic philosophy remain embedded in the American imagination.

Lauren is a conceptual artist and Director of Educator Associates at the AIAA, San Francisco. She was the first artist in residence at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory. Eric is a space historian and vice-chair of AIAA San Francisco. He is working on several space history books.


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

And: The Grilled Cheez Guy, who’ll be slinging those oozy sandwiches we love so much!


Nerd Nite Block Party!

Nerd Nite is hosting the kick-off celebration for the Bay Area Science Festival this year! Woohoo!

As always seems to happen with us, it has grown into something ridiculous. Not happy with just a single venue, it morphed into several events in a three block radius for an epic evening of science-themed shenanigans. There will be rock music, physics demos, speed dating, field trips, video games, science, and plenty of beer!


The Phenomenauts
w/crashfaster and Physics Circus featuring Zeke Kossover from the Exploratorium

The Phenomenauts are Bay Area’s own Space and Science Rockers that merge the Past, Present and Future into their own vision of a World Driven by Science And Honor. Armed with their new record, The Phenomenauts have arrived to challenge the power of gravity: the mysterious, but not unknowable force that keeps the planets in their orbits, the galaxy spinning slowly through space and starry eyed dancers whirling around the floor with their brains bursting with notions of science and honor.

crashfaster is a 4-headed electronic-rock outfit from San Francsico that combines the bleeps of NES, Gameboy and C64 with electronic beats, live drums and rock guitar.

Physics Circus with Zeke Kossover from The Exploratorium– physics demonstrations are like perfect magic shows: They have all the spectacle, but there are no tricks. The amazing world we live in actually works that way! These are the experiments that your physics teacher didn’t do because they were too dangerous, crazy, or weird. Come for the liquid nitrogen-spewing, glass-breaking spectacle, but leave understanding the science!

And wear your nerdiest t-shirt for the Dry T-Shirt Contest!

Slim’s. $15. All ages + Bar w/ID. 8pm.
Get tickets now!

Nerd Speed Dating

Learn something new, chat with interesting people, and perhaps finds your nerdmate amidst the fantastic food trucks and beers at SOMA StrEat Food Park.

SOMA StrEat Food Park. $10. Ages 21+. 7 and 8pm
Note: No ADA access, unfortunately.

SF Game Night

Nerd Nite has combined forces with Showdown eSports for an evening of gaming-related talks, plus dozens and dozens of projectors and monitors for you to play Super Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and more!

Folsom Street Foundry. FREE. Ages 21+. 6-10pm.

“How It’s Made”-style Field Trips

This neighborhood is filled with craftsmen, artisans, and fabricators. We’ll visit a few of them and get a behind-the-scenes tour of their shops!

Meet at the Folsom Street Foundry. FREE. All ages. 6:30 & 7pm.

Science… sort of

Science… sort of is a podcast about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science. Join hosts Kelly Weinersmith, Charlie Barnhart, Ryan Haupt, and special surprise guests as they record an episode live before your very eyes, aided by the glorious conversational lubricant that is beer. The show is free, the cost is that you will learn something. Trust us, we’re scientists.

Piston & Chain. FREE. All ages. 6:30pm.

Nerd Nite SF #52: Infantapulting, Dragonflies, and the Body

Nerd Nite SF #52: Infantapulting, Dragonflies, and the BodyWednesday, 9/17/2014
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St. @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets available here!

My, oh my, the things we will see! Infantapulting, dragonflies, and the body! Come learn the “science” behind launching a baby, the real science of dragonflies and their ecology, and the things you don’t want to know (but should!) about human biology. So come and drink beer, and laugh till you pee, at San Francisco’s best bar university.


“Weinersmith’s Infantapaulting Hypothesis: Infant Aerodynamics as Evolutionary Adaptation” by Zach Weinersmith

In 2012, soon-to-be-father Zach pondered why babies are shaped like footballs and have more bendable bones than adults, theorizing that our human ancestors catapulted their infants into neighboring villages for gene dispersal. In 2013, Zach published his landmark hypothesis, which has incredible explanatory power for infant morphology, to tremendous acclaim.

Zach is the creator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic. His hypothesis spawned BAHFest – the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses – coming to the Castro Theatre on October 25th as part of the Bay Area Science Festival. BAHFest is a celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory.


“Through the Dragon’s Eye: Sex, Evolution and Extinction in one of the Oldest Insect Orders” by Christopher Beatty

Dragonflies are amongst the oldest extant insect groups, first appearing in the fossil record over 300 million years ago, and persisting relatively unchanged to the modern day. The unique ecology and behavior of these organisms have made them a model system for research in evolutionary biology. This talk will explore the ecology, reproduction and life history of this group, and also review recent research on the ‘petaltail’ dragonflies, a group of species that have persisted since the Mesozoic.

Chris is an evolutionary ecologist working on behavior, speciation and biogeography. His work on dragonflies has taken him to Spain, Peru, Kenya and the Fiji Islands. For the past five years he has taught ecology at Santa Clara University.


“A Guide to Underappreciated Parts of the Human Body (or, Why Scrotums are Cool)” by Dani Behonick, Ph.D

Students often enter anatomy and physiology courses eager to learn the structure and function of brain, the skeletal muscles or the immune system. Rare is the individual who would wax poetic on the undercarriage. Join A&P professor Dani Behonick as she makes an argument for why, like fezzes and bowties, scrotums are totally cool.

After earning her Ph.D from UCSF, Dani Behonick ran like hell from basic research and began her teaching career. She currently spends half of her time teaching pre-health students how the human body works and how to talk to their future health care patients, and the other half teaching non-science majors how the human body works and how to talk to their health care providers. When she’s not teaching she’s reading educational code or lifting heavy things (on purpose).


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

And delicious tamales provided by Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas.

Extra credit: Hearing Loss, Surveys, and a Spacecraft Rescue!

We had a great time at the last Nerd Nite and want to thank our speakers, Brian Seitel, Sarah Cho, and Cameron Woodman for the excellent talks. For your continued edification, they provided some links related to their talks, and our friends at the San Francisco Public Library also gave us some recommended reading!

From “Hearing Loss (or: The Science of ‘What?’)” by Brian Seitel: a website that provides sound examples and other materials related to how we make sense of sound, and why coclear implants makes everyone sound like a Dalek.

A NYTimes article on the new iPhone-enabled hearing aides like the LiNX and Halo.

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

One of our audience members asked about deaf culture during Q&A. This is a big topic, worthy of a Nerd Nite talk of its own, but the Wikipedia article is actually a good start.

“I can hear you whisper: an intimate journey through the science of sound and language” by Lydia Denworth

“Sound sense: living and learning with hearing loss” by Sara Laufer Batinovich

“Listening closely : a journey to bilateral hearing” by Arlene Romoff

“What did you say?: an unexpected journey into the world of hearing loss” by Monique Hammond (Available as an eBook!)

From “Surveys: Yeah, They’re Kind of a Big Deal” by Sarah Cho:

Kaiser (no, not that Kaiser) Family Foundation for information on health policy and the ACA:

AAPOR (American Association of Public Opinion Research) for resources on survey best practices:

Pew Research Center for high-quality surveys on many topics from religion to internet use:

SurveyMonkey to get your hands dirty and conduct your own survey:

NCPP (National Council on Public Polls) for info on polling:

Or contact:
T: @sarahycho

“A more beautiful question : the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas” by Warren Berger (Available as an eBook!)

“Analyzing the analyzers: an introspective survey of data scientists and their work” by Harlan Harris (Available as an eBook!)

Take the San Francisco Public Library Customer Satisfaction Survey:

From “How to Rescue a Spacecraft in 90 Days (or Less)” by Cameron Woodman

The website is an outstanding multimedia website that provides tons more of the story of ISEE-3 and the team, the science experiments, current location, and what’s next. Highly recommended!

Also, scholarly & peer-reviewed, full-text online articles about the ISEE-3 spacecraft are available via SFPL’s databases!