Nerd Nite SF #43: Accounting, Meyer Lemons, and Libraries and Librarians!

Nerd Nite SF #43: Accounting, Meyer Lemons, and Libraries and Librarians!From the sweetest of lemons to the sweetest of information scientists and the sweetest of… accounting?, we have a delightful cocktail of non-holiday-related talks that will make you glad you skipped that one Christmas party. So head over to the Rickshaw Stop and join us for fruity drinks and fruitful discussions with a plant-loving theorist, the Librarian in Black, and an accountant with a PhD. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 12/18/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages

Get tickets here!


“Debits and Credits and Fraud… Oh My!” by Nick Ross

Over the last two decades we’ve seen an explosion of accounting fraud. From WorldCom to Tyco, Enron to Kmart, it sometimes feels like more companies are engaging in fraudulent behavior than being honest. And despite the fact that these are often multi-billion-dollar crimes, involve mysterious suicide (Clifford Baxter at Enron), and help push our economy to collapse (Lehman Brothers), accounting somehow still isn’t sexy and is considered boring. During this talk, we’ll do a bit of demystification, a bit of history, and a bit of forensics to show how we’ve gotten here and why this keeps happening. Hopefully, you won’t fall asleep.

Nick Ross, PhD, actually, no lie, holds a PhD in accounting from UCLA and finds it fascinating. He currently ruins video games at TinyCo and teaches Accounting and Analytics at USF.


“When Life Gives You Lemons: Frank Meyer’s Hunt for Pomological Perfection” by Xan Chacko

In the early 20th century, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded agricultural explorations with the aim of retrieving fruit specimens for hybridization projects. One such agricultural explorer, noted for his eponymous lemon, was Frank Nicholas Meyer (1875-1919), an immigrant from the Netherlands whose expeditions in Asia brought us celebrated fruit, toxic weeds, and possibly even Chestnut blight. Writing to his patrons, Meyer is hopeful for a future for his fruit trees, laden with promise and productivity in their projected American environments.

Xan Chacko is a grad student in cultural studies at UC Davis who thinks about the intersection between plants and our ways of knowing them.


“Where’d the Card Catalog Go? Today’s Ass-Kicking Libraries and Librarians” by Sarah Houghton

Contrary to the pundits’ predictions of their demise, libraries are now more vital to the knowledge economy than ever. They have 3D printers, home brewing and butchering classes, battles of the bands, downloadable books and magazines, torrent tutorials, and some of the world’s strongest information privacy systems and policies. And what about the librarians? You’ll find a scary-smart group of tech-nerd radicals dedicated to fighting government surveillance, campaigning against digital rights management, and above all protecting your freedom to access the information you want. As the library of yesteryear fades away, what
is emerging in its place?

Sarah Houghton is the director for the San Rafael Public Library. She’s blogged and consulted about technology and the future of libraries for ten years as the Librarian in Black. You can find out more at


NNSF t-shirts are still here! $20. Designed by our Über-talented DJ, poster artist, and now t-shirt maker, Alpha Bravo. He’ll also be spinning tunes specially selected for the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

And Kevin & Gail’s Chili Palace will be serving delicious hot chili upstairs.

Nerd Nite SF #42: Genomes, Vibrators, and Your Brain!


Nerd Nite SF #42: Genomes, Vibrators, and Your Brain!Welcome back to dry land after the splendors of the ship-bound edutainment of Nerd Nite at Sea! It turns out there IS such a thing as the opposite of sea legs: mal de débarquement. But the dizziness will be swiftly allayed if you follow our Rx: alcoholic beverages by the Rickshaw Stop; music by Alpha Bravo; and a consultation with our three PhDs on the power of genomes, the saga of the vibrator, and the history of the original personal computer, your brain. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 11/20/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Get tickets here!


“Unleashing the Power of Genomes” by Moisés Bernal

Love, God, end, universe, genome–these words have something in common: Their definitions can be unclear, and discussions on these matters can quickly spin off into knotty philosophical debates. What is a genome, anyway? And why is its study so important in evolutionary biology? This talk will address these questions, describe the main techniques that scientists use to unleash the genome’s power, and reveal some exciting findings of the past couple of years. Unfortunately, this talk will not alleviate your existential and spiritual fuzziness, but, hey, that’s what beer is for!

Moisés is a PhD Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin currently conducting his research from the California Academy of Sciences. He is also a mediocre bassist; terrible guitarist; and bike-riding, beer-imbibing, and live-music enthusiast.


“Hysterical Paroxysms: The Amazing History of the Vibrator” by Carol Queen, PhD

Learn the history of our favorite “socially camouflaged” technology: the vibrator! From doctor’s office implement, where it was used starting in the 1880s to treat the “female trouble” called hysteria, to common household appliance promising “health, vigor, and beauty”–not to mention star turns in early-20th-century stag movies and the late-20th-century women’s sex toy revolution–the vibrator has had one of the most fascinating careers of any consumer product.

Carol is Good Vibrations‘ staff sexologist, curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum, and runs the Center for Sex & Culture.


“The History of Your Brain” by Erica Warp, PhD

Congratulations! You made it from one fertilized cell to trillions of cells that work together to make a body that breathes, digests, and goes to lectures in bars. If you’re not already amazed by this, I hope you will be by the end of this talk, especially when it comes to the development of your super-complicated brain. How the heck did you build a computer inside your head?! Learn the steps your brain made, the roles genes and non-genes played, and how you are still developing today.

Erica is a developmental neuroscientist and artist turned educator and entrepreneur. She is the founder of the brain education company Kizoom and mom to Ned the Neuron.


NNSF t-shirts are still here! $20. Designed by our über-talented DJ, poster artist, and now t-shirt maker, Alpha Bravo. He’ll also be spinning tunes specially selected for the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Nerd Nite SF #41: Alien Hunting, Augmented Reality, and Robots!

Nerd Nite SF #41: Alien Hunting, Augmented Reality, and Robots!If Nerdism were a religion, we would be kneeling down before this holy trinity of topics: alien hunting, augmented reality, and robots. We are not worthy! Come worship at the Rickshaw’s stage; grab a libation (or three); and meditate with an astronomer from the SETI Institute, an expert in wearable computing, and a robot evangelist. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 10/16/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets on sale now!


Brilliant!Science presents: “Confessions of an Alien Hunter” with Seth Shostak and Ryan Wyatt

Seth Shostak knew he would spend his life hunting for signs of life in the Universe from the time he was just 10 years old. He is now a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, whose mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the Universe. Shostak has published hundreds of scientific articles, written several popular books and even has his own radio show. Ryan Wyatt, director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences, will join him on stage to hear the latest confessions of one of this world’s leading alien hunters!

Brilliant!Science is running several other awesome events from now until 10/26; learn more at


“Wearable Computing and Big Data” by Anselm Hook

Wearable computers and big data will make our current Internet seem like a simple “series of tubes” after all. With technologies such as dense 3D scene reconstruction and a new, shared open voxel (volumetric pixel) map of the world, get ready for your Iron Man-style augmented reality (AR) dreams to come true! See fun examples of Anselm’s recent AR work and discuss some non-obvious implications while we break through the Google-Glass-ceiling to catch a glimpse of the future.

Anselm Hook is a software programmer at Dekko, an AR startup. He also worked on Terry Gilliam’s latest movie, The Zero Theorem. Prior to that he was at Xerox PARC, and in a former life he wrote video games.


“It’s 2013. WHERE IS MY PERSONAL ROBOT?” by Elad Inbar

We often hear about the robotics revolution that’s set to change every aspect of our lives. From self-driving cars, pizza delivery drones, humanoid robots, all the way to the simplest vacuum cleaners, robots are here, and the trend is accelerating. But look deeper, under the flashy PR, and it’s obvious that the way to a bright, Hollywood-style future–with a Jetsons Rosie in every home–is still a long way off. Join a live demo of robots (including the humanoid NAO) and an open and intriguing discussion.

Elad Inbar is the founder and CEO of RobotAppStore, the first marketplace for robot apps, and RobotsLAB, a boutique firm dedicated to teaching STEM topics using robots.


NNSF t-shirts return! $20. Designed by our über-talented DJ, poster artist, and now t-shirt maker, Alpha Bravo. He’ll also be spinning tunes specially selected for the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.


Nerd Nite SF #40: Science Rapping, Renaissance Handwriting, and Sharks!

Carcharodon carcharias courtesy David McGuire

Carcharodon carcharias courtesy David McGuire

Got Nerd Nite tees / get ya clothes on / a bigger deal than / the Higgs boson. OK, enough of that–we suck at rapping–but we’ll have someone on stage who doesn’t, dropping science in rhyme. Then we’ll pore over the surprising world of English Renaissance handwriting textbooks. And finally, we’ll learn about sharks and how their bad rep is more than a little unfair. Be there and be square! Oh, hey! That rhymed!

Wednesday, 9/18/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets on sale now!


“Science Rapping from Auckland to Oakland” by Tom McFadden

What is the Holy Grail of science rap? Science history battles–written and performed by middle-schoolers–that explore the nature and ethics of science over Kanye beats. Picture Rosalind Franklin vs. Watson & Crick over “Clique.” Tom’s traveled the world dropping science rhymes, but kids deliver the best combination of quality, authenticity, catchiness, and educational value. And while the students are the MC VIPs, this teacher may spit hot fire between stories of his roving and rhyming.

Raised on Bill Nye and Wu-Tang, Tom started science rapping in 7th grade, then at Stanford, then with kids around the world. He got a Masters in Science Rapping on a Fulbright Scholarship in New Zealand. He’s now teaching 8th-grade science at The Nueva School in Hillsborough.


“Calligraphotechnia: Learning to Write in the English Renaissance” by Simran Thadani

To meet the surge in demand for literacy skills, early English writing teachers turned to mass-production and illustration to expand the reach of their supposedly proprietary yet easy-to-learn techniques. What made for faire writinge in ye olde Engelond? Studying the tiny archive of surviving textbooks reveals over-the-top authorial self-promotion, solid tips for cutting quills, ubiquitous marginal doodles, and a secondhand market in stolen–uhh, anonymized–content. Whose hand is it, anyway?

Simran earned her Ph.D. in English at Penn, with a focus on the history of books as objects/artifacts/commodities. She’s only now realizing she’s unemployable. Oh well. At least her handwriting is good.


“Anatomy of a Shark Bite: What We Don’t Know About Sharks Might Be Really Dangerous” by David McGuire

Sink your teeth into this discussion of sharks, shark bites and shark attacks. We will investigate three separate species of local sharks–the Cookie Cutter, the Sevengill, and the Great White–and discuss how their unique anatomy and behavior impacts humans they encounter.

A marine biologist, shark conservationist, ocean voyager, award-winning filmmaker, and educator, David is the founder of Shark Stewards, dedicated to conserving the San Francisco Bay and world oceans by protecting sharks and other marine life.


NNSF t-shirts return! $20. Designed by our über-talented DJ, poster artist, and now t-shirt maker, Alpha Bravo. He’ll also be spinning tunes specially selected for the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo

Nerd Nite SF #39: Athlete Brains, Fisherman’s Wharf, and CERN!

Nerd Nite SF #39: Athlete Brains, Fisherman’s Wharf, and CERN!This month at Nerd Nite SF we’re exploring the secret lives of jock brains, a tourist trap, and CERN grad students! Drink some beers and join us as we walk and talk through twisting neural pathways, dark alleys, and cavernous tunnels and hopefully emerge a little bit smarter. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 8/21/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, all ages — SOLD OUT, sorry!


“It’s the Brain, Stupid – Separating Elite Performers from Good Athletes” by Ben Alamar

Michael Jordan was one of, if not the, best basketball players ever, but he couldn’t hit a baseball to save his life. His inability to play baseball at a high level had nothing to do with athletic skill, as he was clearly athletic enough to play. Jordan’s problem was that he had a basketball brain and basketball brains aren’t very good at playing baseball. Research around the elite brains in different sports helps us understand how these brains differ and why some great athletes will never be able to perform at an elite level.

Ben Alamar is a researcher and consultant in sports analytics. He has worked for teams in the NFL and NBA and is author of Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers (


“Where’s The Fish? An Insider’s Look At Fisherman’s Wharf” by Kirk Lombard

Fisherman’s Wharf is a neighborhood with a personality crisis. Most San Franciscans see it as a horrifying tee-shirt mall, an eyesore where tourists flock into generic mainstream establishments like Hooters and Applebee’s.
But what’s really going on behind the scenes at the Wharf? And how does it reflect the sodden, ham-fisted, inglorious history of the place? Are the most interesting things at the Wharf the wax museum and the Bush Man? Or is there a deeper significance? Join Kirk Lombard in a discussion of the past and present wharf. Are there any fish in the place? Or is it only a fisherman’s wharf in name only?

Kirk Lombard is a tour guide, former CA. Dept. of Fish and Game fishers observer, seafood blogger, fisherman and fish monger. You can find his tours and local fishing news at


“Discovering the Higgs Boson: The View from Inside CERN” by Katie Malone

On July 4, 2012, CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, celebrated America’s independence day by announcing the discovery the long-sought Higgs Boson. Here’s the inside story of the discovery from within the Higgs working groups, as experienced by the foot soldiers (grad students) in the trenches (seemingly endless meetings). We’ll explain why the Higgs was so hard to find, what the atmosphere at CERN was like as the discovery was in progress, and speculate wildly as to what might be next from CERN.

Katie Malone is a physics grad student at Stanford and worked at CERN from 2011-2013. Her research topic is finding the next Higgs boson–before it finds you…


Special Guest MC: Shayle Matsuda, host of “Science, Neat”, a science happy hour at the El Rio. The next event is about color and perception, takes place on 8/20, and features some really awesome people. Go!

Last but not least, DJ Alpha Bravo mans the decks, spinning vinyl and tweeting along to the presentations’ themes. Find out what you’re listening to by following @djalphabravo.

Nerd Nite SF #38: Yeast, Science Beer Tasting, and Games User Research!

Yeast, Science Beer Tasting, and Games User Research!SOLD OUT!
If you didn’t get tickets, console yourself by going to NN East Bay on 7/29.

Wednesday, 7/17/2013
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (some tix may become available at the door due to no-shows or people leaving partway through)
Attn underage nerds: This event
is 21+ because BEER. Sorry.

Facebook event

We guarantee you won’t be crying in your beer after
this month’s event! What could be better than getting a rich,
frothy head on the history of yeast, beering up in the name of
science, and then helping brew up better video games? Be there and
be square!


“The Drunken Alchemist: 5,000 Years Under the Influence of Yeast” by Jim Withee

The mysterious transformation of sugar into delicious food and
drink has been a cornerstone of human culture for over 5,000 years.
Fermentation produces alcohol (yahoo!), but it also has had
profound impacts on our culture, religion, science, and public
health. Yeast continues to fuel modern brewing, with over 300
strains creating unique flavors and aromas.

Jim founded GigaYeast, Inc., to be a part of the
craft beer and homebrew movement using his skills and love for
fermentation. He has a PhD in yeast genetics and worked on the
Saccharomyces Genome Database, where brewer’s yeast DNA was first


“Science Beer” Tasting with Bryan Hermannsson, Jim Withee, and a
panel of suds experts

Three beers enter, one leaves as the official
Bay Area Science Festival beer! We’ll have three science beers to
sample, with only one difference among them: the yeast strain. You
will taste ’em and vote for the winner, which will go into full
production this fall. GigaYeast provided the yeast, Pac Brew
brewed the beers, and we assembled a panel of expert
judges to provide their professional critiques.

Brewer: Bryan Hermannsson, owner/head brewer, Pacific Brewing Laboratory
Yeast Manufacturer: Jim Withee, founder, CEO, chief scientist, head janitor, GigaYeast, Inc.
The Yeasts:
– NorCal Ale, a famous California Pale Ale strain
– Kölsch Bier, developed by old breweries in Germany
– Golden Pear Belgian, which originated the Belgian Golden Strong ale style
Tasting Panel:
– Ken Weaver, certified beer judge, beer writer/editor
– Betsy Mason, senior science editor and beer reporter, WIRED
– and one more panelist TBA


“Red Barrels Explode: A Look into Videogame User Research” by Rich Ridlen

Ever shot a red barrel to kill a bunch of enemies, but then it didn’t explode? Ever killed
everybody in a level, but couldn’t figure out what to do next? Ever
feel stupid that a puzzle took you an hour? Well, there’s an entire
industry of people who say it’s not your fault. Games user research
seeks to make games as entertaining as possible by understanding
how players interact with them. Get the ultimate power-up with this
primer on the field!

Rich is founder and senior games user researcher at Game Lab, EA’s usability department. He’s been working in research for 12 years, trying his hand at a myriad of methods. He
enjoys spending time with his wife, cat, and dog, and will talk
your ear off about all things Whedon.


DJ Alpha Bravo mans the decks, spinning vinyl and tweeting along to the presentations’
themes. Find out what you’re listening to by following @djalphabravo.


Food by Retro Wagon – Old-School Food Done Now