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

Nerd Nite SF #37: Cyber-Peace, Data Science, and Designing for Emotions!

Nerd Nite SF #37: Cyber-Peace, Data Science, and Designing for Emotions!SOLD OUT!
Instead, check out “Science, Neat” on 6/18 or our sister event in Oakland, “Nerd Nite East Bay”, on 6/24.

Wednesday, 6/19
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (advance tix here – SOLD OUT)
All ages

Facebook event

“Nerd Nite SF: Making the Intangible Tangible Since 2010!” Or something like that. And this month in particular. But don’t be put off by the abstractnesses outlined in these talks’ abstracts. (Or by our beginning sentences with conjunctions.) Come, grasp a cold alcoholic beverage while grasping the seemingly ungraspable: Make code, not war! Mine, define, recombine data! Let your sweat, tears, and pounding pulse be your guides! Be there and be square!


“Cyber-Peace? WTF Is That?” by Rick Wesson

After spending a few years fabricating digital warheads Rick Wesson is exploring the flip side of the torpedo: the concept of “peace” in cyberspace. What can cyber-peace be amid the escalating tensions in the virtual world? With the current threats to our privacy and the open commons being facilitated by the NSA, their for-profit contractors, and your favorite Silicon Valley “cyber-crime fighters,” it behooves us all to join a different kind of anti-war movement. Make code, not war!

Rick is CEO of network security company Support Intelligence and protagonist of Worm: The First Digital World War, among other impressive acronymic involvements (ICANN, DNSSEC). When not growing organic veggies, building shotspotters, herding sheep, and being a patriot, he enjoys coding out of a 40’ shipping container.


“Demystifying Data Science” by Jessica Kirkpatrick

Data. There’s a heck of a lot of it floating around out there. But how do we discover it, rein it in, interpret it, and make it findable, understandable, and useful? Well, it helps to be a statistician, computer scientist, firefighter, treasure hunter and therapist rolled into one–or you could become what has been called the sexiest job of the 21st century: data scientist! So, what exactly is data science? How is all this data changing business? And how does one enter this hot new field?

Jessica is an astrophysicist-turned-data scientist. After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley in 2012, she joined the data science team at the social network Yammer.


“Sweat and Arousal: Measuring and Designing for Emotions” by Elliott Hedman

A kid jumping into a ball pit. A shopper navigating the supermarket. An audience experiencing the Blue Man Group. You grabbing a beer and watching this presentation. In all these activities, emotions physically change the body and mind. Why does this matter? How can we better design our world to respond to these fluctuating, subconscious physical responses? By the end of this talk, you will know how to have a better colonoscopy, why bridges are a great place to find a date, and how to build a better emotional experience.

Elliott arrives from the MIT Media Lab/IDEO where his PhD focuses on making emotions tangible by measuring subconscious, physical responses. He dreams of a day when milk will be placed at the front of the store.


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.

Upstairs food by the legendary Grilled Cheez Guy!

Nerd Nite SF #36: Reversing Heart Disease, Human Limitation, and Video Game Design!

Reversing Heart Disease, Human Limitation, and Video Game Design!Wednesday, 5/15
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (advance tix available here)
All ages


No tickets at the door. Hope to see you at next month’s Nerd Nite SF or at Nerd Nite East Bay on 5/27!

Facebook event

We’re a fragile species, what with our heart disease and video game addictions and, well, fragile-ness. But fear not: Nerds are here to help you make sense of it all, with alcoholic drinks and righteous tunes lubricating the way. So, come, turn on the right genes, understand your bodies’ limits, and get the straight dope on what it’s like to design video games. Be there and be square!


“Backmasking 3 Billion Beats: How to Reverse a Heart Attack in Your Skinny Genes” by Kim Cordes Metzler

The heart beats more than 3 billion times during a lifetime, but for an estimated 25% of us, heart disease can cut those beats short. Scientists and doctors are trying to reverse the mechanisms of disease so we can get some of those beats back. This talk will provide a glimpse of how cutting-edge research is allowing us to turn on 3 genes, our “skinny genes,” to backmask, as it were, the music of our hearts.

Kim earned her Ph.D. in genetics and development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas in 2009. After completing her postdoc at UCSF and the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, she continues as a staff scientist at Gladstone creating stem cells to study heart disease.


“Future Perfect: The Limits of the Human Body” by Jacob Ward

Our frail vessels have an alarming tendency to burst, burn and break, and yet we constantly travel to dangerous places, dive under the ocean, fly, drive, drink alcohol, and otherwise do things that our bodies are wholly unqualified to handle. We’ll discuss the science of human limitation, and what fundamental technologies make it possible for us not to suffocate, freeze, catch on fire, or otherwise die the thousand deaths that our unbelievably dangerous lives whisk us past each day.

Jake is editor-in-chief of Popular Science, the world’s largest science and technology magazine. He’s written for The New Yorker and Wired, and has hosted television shows for Discovery, PBS and National Geographic. He splits his time between New York and California.


“Lessons Learned as a Game Design Mercenary” by Brian Bartram

Necromorphs and Nazis! Stormtroopers and Scooby Doo! Transforming robots and simulated cities! DARPA and the Department of Homeland Security! What do these have in common? And why would any sane person make a career out of designing video games? The journey is long and fraught with peril, so heed my tales if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work in the trenches of video game development.

Brian is a video game designer who has seen tours of duty on games such as SimCity, Dead Space 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and The Saboteur. He has worked on simulation games, third-person action games, open-world games, MMORPGs, and first-person shooters for PC, consoles, and portable game systems.


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.