Nerd Nite SF #31: Schizophrenia, Blood, and Sewers!

Wednesday, 12/19
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (Advanced tickets)
All ages

Facebook event

UPDATE: John “The Paper Airplane Guy” Collins had to cancel (with a very good reason), but we’re looking forward to hosting him in the near future. The amazing Patrick House will be gracing our stage this month in John’s stead with a fascinating talk on the history of schizophrenia!

Grab yourself a stiff drink and get ready for a history of schizophrenia, examine the bleeding edge of universal blood research, and frolic in the sewers of San Francisco. Be there and be square!

“The Slow Death of the Muse: A History of Schizophrenia & Hearing Voices” by Patrick House

Did humans 10,000 years ago stub their toes? Did they break their arms? Of course. But did they have schizophrenia? That’s trickier. Are some mental illnesses a necessary disease of humanness, or exclusively a modern disease? How can we ever know? If schizophrenia is so debilitating, why is it still around? Why did James Joyce & Albert Einstein both have schizophrenic children? Why is the voice in a schizophrenic’s head always the voice of god or the devil, and not the postman?

Patrick is getting a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Stanford University, looking at whether brain parasites in humans might be a factor in some cases of schizophrenia. But he has already peaked, having won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a few years ago. Since then he has had trouble living up to the expectation of being witty, which he is not.

“Breaking the Blood Bank: The Path Toward Universal Blood”
by Ahnika Kline

Sitting in the bloodmobile enjoying your post-donation cookie? About to have surgery and anxious that the docs have a little extra on hand? Hey–wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s in that blood stuff, anyway? We’ll see what happens to blood after donation, examine the different blood types, and consider the risks associated with receiving blood. And we’ll delve into the development of safer, universal, and synthetic blood (true Tru Blood for veggie vamps!).

In a world filled with Twilight movies the world has become blood-obsessed, and Ahnika is no different. She holds a PhD in cell biology and is expecting an MD in 2013. Her current research at UCSF focuses on blood vessels and the cells traveling within them.

“Combined Sewerage: Where the **** Hits the Fan”
by Karen Kubick

Every day in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of toilets are a-flushing, showers a-flowing, and washing machines a-spinning. That’s a whole lotta water and a whole lotta flow, but where, oh where, does that water go? Beneath the streets lie miles of pipes, and above ground are pump stations, odor control, and other facilities. After learning about the marvels of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s combined sewer system, you’ll really want to worship the porcelain god!

Karen is a registered Professional Mechanical Engineer in the state of California and heads up a multi-billion-dollar program to handle poop and rain.

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 #30: Lock Picking, Bioengineering, and Organ Transplants

Wednesday, 11/14
Doors at 7pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (advance tix here!)
All ages

FB event page

We’re coming atcha a week earlier than usual to make sure you have lots of factoids for Thanksgiving table conversation fodder. You’re welcome! So come get your degree from the College of Lockpicking, grow a new liver with bioengineering or, if that doesn’t work, get one transplanted! Be there and be square!


“Going Off-Key: An Introduction to Lock Picking” by Eric Michaud

You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But can you pick a lock? College of Lockpicking’s esteemed professor/founder leads us through Locksport 101: Discover the inner workings of locks from the 2nd century BCE to the present day; examine a modern pin-tumbler, and find out what makes picking them possible; and, finally, learn to pick a better lock! In the process, join CoL in publicly challenging the traditionally guild-protected secrecy of locksmithing, and open locks and minds in the service of ourselves and our communities.

This talk is the distillation of a touring workshop founded by Eric Michaud and Jamie Schwettmann inspired by a Nerd Nite Austin talk they gave. College of Lockpicking donates over 10% of the project’s gross revenues to hackerspaces, community workshops, and other educational charities.


“Bioengineering: Building Humans Better or Building Better Humans?” by Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson

If you’d like to perceive colors that other people can’t see while enjoying an effortlessly muscular physique covered by a robot exoskeleton that you control with your mind, we’ll talk about how to do that. After giving a brief overview of the history of human repair and enhancement, we’ll discuss where the current research is headed–and where it isn’t. And along the way, we’ll conduct a field test of our alcohol dehydrogenases, demonstrating our optimism for the future of liver tissue engineering.

Kyle holds a Ph.D. in bioengineering, having traded dreams of breakdancing and neurosurgery to move small amounts of liquid back and forth from adorable little tubes. He’s now the executive director for a Master’s program in bioengineering, consults, and is co-author, with Terry, of How to Defeat Your Own Clone (and other tips for surviving the biotech revolution).

Terry has a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from MIT and is currently teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley. He hopes that by doing so, he will be giving students the tools that they will need to repair him when he gets older.


“A Modern Day Frankenstein: A Look at the Magic and Strangeness of Organ Transplantation” by Leeza Pachepsky

The probability of me being alive right now is about 1 in 2.5 billion. Why? I almost died twice and survived two liver transplants. In this talk, I will lead you into the awe-inspiring, fascinating and disturbing world of organ transplantation. I will tell you how my life depended on a linear regression, describe how your liver runs your world, and show how Steve Jobs and I think alike. Am I still “me” with two other people’s DNA inside me? Would you still be you if most of your organs were replaced? I will describe advances in organ transplantation that will allow most organs be replaced and possibly enhanced in the not-so-far future. Would you want to replace your body organs, Neuromancer-style, if that was possible?

Leeza Pachepsky was a computational ecologist and created virtual ecosystems of plants and animals. Recently she became much more interested in human behavior. After a foray into the world of marketing analytics, she is on a sabbatical working on her own projects.


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 #29: Explosives, Coral Reproduction, and Sideshow “Freaks”

Where else but NNSF do you get the sexiest, freakiest, most explosively drunken lectures around? We’ll have a chemist talking about blowing things up, a biologist who lives to help sea creatures get it on, and a physician/scientist taking us beyond the sideshow and deep into the science of the mutants of old-timey circuses. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 10/17
Doors at 7pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8 (advance tix available here)
All ages

FB event


“Explosives: Why Things Go Boom!” by Zach Demko

Explosives are the most powerful chemical reactions possible. They are used for destruction and creation, propulsion, intimidation, and art. But what makes a good explosive? In this talk you will learn how terrorists blow up hummers, NASA gets astronauts into space, and the Nazis tried to make invincible flamethrowers–and what happens when the boom goes bust. Wear your nattiest Kevlar suits, everyone!

Zach managed to escape his childhood with all fingers intact and without burning down anything major, at least unintentionally. He got his Ph.D. in chemistry with a Nobel laureate. Over time, his focus has shifted to making drugs–but that’s another talk altogether. Now he works at a start-up that helps people make designer babies. Well, not quite. At least, not yet.


“Coral Sex Therapy: Helping Coral Make Sweet, Sweet Love” by Richard Ross

Don’t get out much? Feeling like you may never meet that special someone to make babies with? Oh, and are you a tad endangered, too? Welcome to the sex life of a sessile animal. In August, biologists met in the Florida Keys to better understand how spawning is triggered, collect and fertilize gametes in the lab, and then use those juvenile corals to colonize public aquariums, as well as repopulate the area around the Keys with healthy, genetically diverse coral. In this talk we’ll discuss why the corals are endangered, advances in the practicality of their sexual reproduction, and how people are helping protect and repopulate the corals that have been disappearing.

Rich is a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, where he cares for a variety of animals, including corals, octopuses, cuttles, vine snakes, archer fish, and even an albino alligator. At home he does the same thing, but for his fantastic wife, 9-year-old daughter, naked cats, and chickens.


“Peerless Prodigies of Physical Phenomena: Circus Sideshow Acts and the Science Behind Them” by Anne Deucher

Come one, come all! Step right up and take a journey back in time to the circus sideshow of 1910! REVEL in the incredible, persevering, resourceful, and marvelous human beings behind this curtain! The Elephant Man! Lion-Faced Boy! Lobster Boy! The Human Unicorn! The Bearded Lady! Cyclops! General Tom Thumb! All the “freaks” are here! SEE their inspirational stories of triumph over nature, fate, and the judgment of man! LEARN how modern science explains their unique existences! NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!

Anne is a physician/scientist at UCSF with specialty training in hematopathology and molecular genetic pathology. After countless years of failed explanations of her career to her mother, she has learned that the best way to describe what she does is to say, “like on CSI.”


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.

11/1 – Nerd Nite at Sea!

Nerd Nite SF and the Aquarium of the Bay have teamed up to bring you an evening of science, drinks, and music on the Bay! It’s all part of the Bay Area Science Festival. Begin with a private event at the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 where you can learn about the Bay ecology and see sharks, jellies, and all the other animals in their 700,000+ gallon aquarium. Then climb aboard the Hornblower hybrid-powered ferry at Pier 33 and cruise the Bay while having drinks, grooving to DJ Alpha Bravo, meeting scientists, and exploring hands-on activities. Be there and be square!

11/1: Aquarium of the Bay 6-7:30pm, Bay Cruise 7:45-10pm. $20. Ages 21+.

300 person capacity, so hurry and get your tickets at




Are there ID requirements or an age limit to enter the event?

Attendees must be 21+ and have ID.


What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

MUNI: The ‘F’ line stops directly in front of Pier 39. The 47 and 8X lines stop very nearby as well.

Parking: Public parking facilities are available at Pier 35 or across from the main entrance at the PIER 39 garage. The garage is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please note that neither Aquarium of the Bay nor Hornblower Yachts validate parking, but many PIER 39 restaurants do.


Is food & drink included?

Drinks will be on sale at cash bars. Small bites of sustainable seafood from local restaurants will be featured at the Aquarium of the Bay. Other food options are readily available nearby.


Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Questions may be directed to

Nerd Nite SF #28: Mites Mystery, Weird WWII SF, and Pierrot Lunaire

Itching to get out of the house? Feeling a little moonstruck? Ever wished our lecture-in-a-bar catchphrase were “the History Channel with beer” instead? Well, you’re in luck, ’cause we have a NNSF grab-bag to fit almost any predilection, with a biologist’s personal account of ectoparasite hell, a history buff’s tales of SF’s WWII weirdness, and an ensemble performance-presentation on Schoenberg’s moon-crazed mime. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 9/19
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
$8, advance tix here
All ages

FB event


“The Year of the Mite: A Scientific Detective Story” by Jane Ishka

Jane Ishka’s family decided to keep a couple of cute, fuzzy baby chicks in the family room for a few weeks, until they were big enough to live in the backyard coop with the laying hens. Baby chicks are so adorable when they scratch their ectoparasites! But it turns out a chicken can host up to 10,000 D. gallinae, translucent mites, each the size of the point of a pin. They bite people, crawl in and out of human pores, carry some really nasty diseases, and reproduce so quickly they have out-evolved most pesticides. Jane the biologist was their favorite host. They were not so popular with her. How did she get rid of them…or did she? Join us for a talk that will make your skin crawl.

Jane Ishka has been a technical writer for various Bay Area biotech companies for the past 20 years (except for a couple years in the early aughts when she taught middle school science, worked twice as hard, and made half the money). She holds an MBA from a somewhat prominent Eastern school, and an MS in molecular biology from a nondescript Western school. She no longer has any pets.


“Prowling Subs and Panic Attacks: Ten Bizarre Stories From World War II San Francisco” by Carl Nicolari

Ever wonder if your granddad’s zany war stories might actually be true? One thing is for sure: World War II-era San Francisco was ground zero for many a bizarre episode that you were never taught in history class. Tonight, we declassify the files of wartime weirdness and reveal ten true stories of riots and racism, POWs and panic attacks, and the real reason the United Nations was founded here. You don’t have to be a military history geek to enjoy this presentation!

Carl Nicolari is a San Francisco native who began exploring and mapping old military fortifications in the Presidio and Marin while still in elementary school. This led to an equally nerdy career in IT project management and a couple of related teaching and book projects.


“Pierrot Lunaire, Cabaret for a Crazed Clown: A Performance-Presentation on Arnold Schoenberg’s Expressionist Chamber Music Masterpiece” by Nonsemble 6

Nonsemble 6 gives a performance-presentation of Arnold Schoenberg’s epic masterpiece Pierrot Lunaire. Scored for voice, piano, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet, this melodrama is about Pierrot, the original melancholy, moon-drunk clown and mime from Italy’s commedia dell’arte. The music ranges in fits of hyperactive expressionism–Schoenberg’s “atonal” music was and still is reviled by many. But in the hands of the competent, this music sings with delicious romanticism, dances the waltzes of Vienna, and claws at the psyche with frightful hallucinations. This presentation will outline the history of the commedia dell’arte, the wildness of Pierrot Lunaire’s poetry, Schoenberg’s use of instruments and voice in his musical storytelling, and the cabaret style of pantomime and costume–and is a special preview for an October 4th performance at the SF Conservatory of Music. (For more information and for tickets, click here.)

Nonsemble 6 is a San Francisco-based sextet committed to pushing the boundaries of the traditional concert experience and engaging audiences with multi-genre collaborations. Their current season focuses on Pierrot Lunaire and on expanding monodrama repertoire, with upcoming commissions by composers including Luciano Chessa, Danny Clay, and Adrian Knight. Nonsemble 6 is a fiscally sponsored affiliate of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, a nonprofit dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.


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 #27: Fish Speciation, Molyjam, and Stellar Evolution

This month we traverse the depths of the ocean; journey to supernovae far, far away; and land back down in the gadgets and games that fascinate us in the here and now–all in a nite’s work at NNSF headquarters! So grab a friend and a drink and settle in for talks on diversity under the sea, the wild success of a global video game jam, and how heavy metals from long-dead stars help power the computers in your pockets. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 8/15
Doors at 7pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
All ages
NEW-ish! Buy your tickets in advance here!


“Smells Like Fish Species: Evolution in the Marine Realm” by Moises Bernal

Sure, there’s plenty of fish in the sea–but did you ever wonder how they got there? Join us for some coral reef-er madness as we examine how these cute, cuddly, coldblooded vertebrates–from the slippery dick to the not-so-hilarious clownfish–diversify. What processes make for such a staggeringly sundry array of fishies (with an emphasis on reef-dwellers) and how do scientists tackle these piscine questions? Dive in with us!

Moises Bernal is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and conducting research at the California Academy of Sciences. He is a great cook, decent salsa dancer, mediocre bass player–and hates long walks on the beach.


“Molyjam: How a Twitter Joke Can Save Video Games” by Anna Kipnis

Famed game designer Peter Molyneux is as well known for his games as for his fantastically ambitious ideas that rarely see the light of code. A fake Twitter account, @PeterMolydeux, has been lovingly parodying him by tweeting ludicrous game ideas. But some Bay Area fans decided these ridiculous concepts were too excellent NOT to turn into actual games, and planned a fun get-together for local game developers to do just that. This local game jam quickly exploded into an international event, with at least 1,000 people participating in over 30 cities worldwide. We’ll see how Molyjam came to be–and go viral–and how the bizarre new games it birthed may help reinvigorate an industry.

Anna Kipnis is a senior gameplay programmer at Double Fine Productions; has been lucky enough to have worked on Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Costume Quest, Once Upon a Monster, and The Cave; and is currently working on the successful Kickstarter project, Double Fine Adventure. It is her ardent belief that video games have a lot more potential than what we’ve seen up until now, if only more people would get involved in game development.


“Stellar Evolution and Your iPhone” by Daniel Kocevski

Dude, did you know that without heavy metal, we wouldn’t have, like, iPhones and stuff? Dude!! Rock on!! Wait, ohhhh, not THAT heavy metal? Bummer. [Ahem.] Ever wonder how what we now use to build hardware–like silicon, gold, and lead–were created and deposited here on Earth? In this head-banging talk, we’ll explore the physics of stellar nucleosynthesis, and how stellar evolution creates heavier elements through the fusion of lighter elements in the fiery cores of stars. We’ll also look at how the death of these stars, in the form of supernovae explosions, create the heavy metals that we have become increasingly dependent on in our tech-driven world.

Daniel Kocevski is an astrophysicist at Stanford studying supernovae and other cosmic explosions with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Like most nerds at Nerd Nite, he has become utterly dependent on the tech gadgetry that relies on the elements created in the cosmic explosions he studies.


Alpha Bravo will be on hand, as per usual, spinning real-live records and live-tweeting his trademark sets of musique chosen to complement the themes of this evening’s particular nerdery.