Doors at 7:30, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
Wait — we’ve been nerding it up in San Francisco for a year now? My, how time flies when you’re having fun! Come help us celebrate the first birthday of the best booze-addled, 3rd-Wednesday lecture series around, and get ready to have your mind blown, bent, and otherwise overhauled by a trio of presentationists holding forth on: the history and future of every nerd’s favorite museum companion, the audio guide; how sleight of brain makes for sleight of hand; and memory’s irksome tendency to obfuscate. Be there and be square!
“This Audio Guide Goes to 11: How Audio Guides are Getting Cool — No, Really” by Michael Epstein
The history of audio guides is rife with stories of Dutch hearing-impaired headset hijackers, teaching Tut to talk 3,300 years after his death, and brave experiments in isolation chambers. But the best in audio guide history is happening right now. Smartphones are unleashing increasingly vast, interactive, and narratively sophisticated projects. See, hear, touch, and taste the history and future of audio guides.
Michael is fascinated by the storytelling potential of mobile devices. At MIT he got his Master’s in Comparative Media Studies, specializing in prototypes of new literary forms on mobile devices. He now runs Untravel Media (www.untravelmedia.com), a software and production studio specializing in mobile narrative apps for museums, broadcast, and educational institutions.
“The Science of Magic” by Luigi Anzivino
From ancient conjurers to quick-handed con artists, to big-ticket Las Vegas illusionists, magicians throughout the ages have been expertly manipulating attention and perception to dazzle and delight us. Of course you know that the phenomena of cognitive and sensory illusions are responsible for the “magic” of a magic trick—so why does it still work? Luigi Anzivino will explain how magicians exploit our brains’ loopholes as their accomplices in effecting the impossible and what scientists can learn about the brain by studying the methods and techniques of magic.
In a previous life, Luigi earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience, researching the brain’s reward and attentional mechanisms. Currently, he designs hands-on, “playful and inventive explorations” at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of art, science and human perception. The infamous “magic bug” bit him when he started working at the Exploratorium and, in addition to compelling him to spend hours fiddling with cards in his spare time, it has provided him with an excuse to apply his hard-earned scientific knowledge to a subject he loves.
“Beyond Belief: How Memory Obscures the Truth” by Indre Viskontas
The Truth Is Out There. But how can we find it and what limits our ability to understand it? We are all still hunters-gatherers, though now of information instead of meat and berries (think of all those Tweets and RSS feeds). Yet the brain constrains how we process and use information to understand the world around us; it turns out that our personal experience trumps most other data. Dr. Indre Viskontas, cognitive neuroscientist and host of the TV show Miracle Detectives, draws upon her research and experiences investigating mysterious incidents across the country to highlight common traps in evaluating evidence for extraordinary claims.
Taking up space on her home office wall, Indre’s degree and award collection includes rare specimens from UCLA, the University of Toronto, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the OperaBuffs and others. She is a bachelor of science, a master of both music and arts, and a doctor of philosophy. She is best known for her role as “Scully” on Miracle Detectives, which airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Amongst neuroscientists, she is respected for her work on memory and creativity, having published more than 30 papers and chapters before turning into a TV personality. Classical musicians say they respect her creation of several roles in obscure contemporary operas and atonal experimental chamber music. Almost no one else does.
DJ Alpha Bravo will be at the decks of spinning vinyl, juggling LP sleeves and live-tweeting his set-list. Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
Doors at 7:30, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
Combine: equal parts booze, brainpower, brilliant slide presentations, and intellectual banter. Add: a splash of irreverence and a couple ironic twists. Shake for 20 minutes. Serve in the coolest club in town. Discuss. And there you have it: Nerd Nite SF in a nutshell, um, highball glass! This month’s cocktails feature the revival of a spirit, pisco; the (arguably) oldest profession, metallurgy; and the controversial field of political psychology. Be there and be square!
“Pisco: History in a Glass” by Gregory Dicum
Pisco, the white spirit distilled from grapes, has been made in Peru for 400 years, and found a ready audience in late-19th-century San Francisco among sophisticated tipplers at places like the Bank Exchange, a celebrated bar on the site of what is now the Transamerica Pyramid. There, bartender Duncan Nicol treated captains of industry and men of letters (like Twain and Kipling) to his famous Pisco Punch. In recent years, the versatile brandy has enjoyed a resurgence, fueled by the ascendance of Peruvian cuisine and the experimentation of innovative young mixologists. Some hail it as the next tequila, an exotic new artisanal spirit that will soon become a staple. Gregory Dicum, author of The Pisco Book, will give us a taste, literally and figuratively, of pisco’s journey through history.
TASTING: a complimentary pisco tasting will accompany Greg’s talk, and special pisco cocktails will be available for purchase at the bar, thanks to ClearGrape LLC!
Gregory Dicum is a writer and author based in San Francisco. He contributes regularly to the New York Times, The Economist, and other publications, and has written three other books: The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry, Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air, and Window Seat Europe. And because just that would be too easy, he’s also the co-founder of the internet startup, mondowindow.com
“Postmodern Alchemy: Metallurgy from Damascus Steel to Atom Probes” by Richard Karnesky
Despite what you might have heard, the oldest profession is metallurgy. (Other old professions needed coinage, of course.) And although everything can be bought with gold, it can be taken with steel. Indian wootz was the first high-quality steel, and the West could neither replicate it nor make something better for 1,000 years. Rick will share his experiences breathing in coke dust, trying to re-make wootz, and creating new materials. These are developed, as always, with magic pixie dust, heating, and beating. But then they are ripped apart, atom by atom, to model their properties.
Richard Karnesky is a senior staff member of the Hydrogen and Metallurgical Science department of Sandia National Labs, where he studies things he can’t tell you about. As a kid, he played at the forge and anvil with his dad. As an adult, he spends too much money to learn blacksmithing. Always mixing things together and heating them up, he dabbles in molecular gastronomy and cervisial studies.
“Political Psychology: Science Tackles the Age-old Question ‘What are they thinking?'” by David Cybulski
“Political science” sounds like an oxymoron, but the controversial field of political psychology gets inside your head and examines why you vote (because your neighbors do), why you like one candidate over another (look at that face…would he lie?), and why we give so much air-time to “experts” who tell us what to think (hint…it isn’t because they are right).
David Cybulski is a native Kentuckian who has been living in San Francisco since 2002. He has recently completed his Master’s thesis in Social Psychology at San Francisco State. David has focused on why people make the political choices they do, which is every bit as challenging as you might expect.
DJ Alpha Bravo will be spinning records, tweeting his set-list, and trying to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
Doors at 7:30, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
Ides of March got you down? Come, distract yourself from any lingering sense of foreboding (or other mid-month malaise) with beer and brainpower, as we assimilate this month’s presentations on the defense of videogames as art, the very long internet cable under the sea, and the wicked-cool technology behind the Morrison Planetarium. Be there and be square!
The Coolest A/V Club in the Universe: Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences
What happens when A/V geeks grow up? The Morrison Planetarium. Boasting the largest all-digital dome in the world, state-of-the-art projection and software, and the finest scientific minds—and best data—at its disposal, the California Academy of Sciences has some pretty awesome ways of educating the public. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the new Academy’s immersive theaters, digital exhibits, and production pipeline, as we take a whirlwind tour of the known universe.
Jon Britton is Senior Systems Engineer and Production Engineering Manager of Electronics Engineering and Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences, and still actively trying to figure out what, exactly, that means.
20,000 Leagues Under the TCP: The Undersea Internet
There’s a lot more to making the internet a global phenomenon than two tin cans and a very long string. For the past 150+ years, cable engineers have dealt with outsized egos, third-world politics, crooked fishermen, spies, sharks, earthquakes, and, oh yeah, the laws of physics in order to help you get your Dr. Who and anime torrents from one side of the ocean to the other. Learn why “dope” isn’t a drug, and why “slack” isn’t a religion. And find out why the law of leaky abstractions sometimes does, in fact, actually leak.
Chris Woodfield has been flinging bits around the globe since the late ’90s, from humble beginnings working the night shift at a long-forgotten ISP to his current gig as a senior network engineer with Yahoo!. A recent transplant from the East Coast, he’s still getting used to family calling at 6am Pacific time.
Sorry, But Videogames Are Art
If cinema is the seventh art, can videogames squeak in at number eight? Some members of the intelligentsia (we’re looking at you, Roger Ebert) think not, but by the end of this talk you’ll be convinced that they are Art with a capital “A.” Using examples of art games you’ve never heard of, and lots of pretty pictures and video, Alex Handy, director of the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, will be our docent as we walk through a Louvre-like exhibition of moving, funny, and remarkable videogames.
Alex Handy is an award-winning and internationally published technology journalist with a dozen years of experience covering videogames, software development, and Bay Area culture. His work has appeared in Wired, East Bay Express, Business Week, and Software Development Times, and his writings have been used in Harvard’s curriculum. When forced to choose, his favorite game is Super Metroid.
DJ Alpha Bravo will be spinning circular musical media solely of the vinyl variety, tailored, as always, to the themes of the presentations—which means: get your requests in early. Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
Doors at 7:30, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @Van Ness
This month we’re digging deep, going around and around in circles, and mortgaging our credibility up to the hilt. In other words, a typical Nerd Nite. No, there’ll be no hearts and flowers for this post-Valentine’s evening—just lots of platonic nerd-love—as a mortgage analyst untangles the real estate muddle, archaeologists dig up dirty deeds from the past, and roller derby bad-asses sprain and explain. Be there and be square!
“No Money Down: How Our Nation Made, Then Lost, a Fortune in Real Estate” by Michael Nierenberg
We all know the economy sucks, but how did we get into this mess? Learn about the $10 trillion world of “shadow banking,” why it went BOOM, and why it’s not going away. Find out how seemingly innocent statistical models became weapons of wealth destruction. Understand leverage: what it is, how it can make you rich, and how it can make you very poor. And for those of you hoping to get some Bay Area real estate for your very own: learn why the government, the banks and your grandma all think you should buy….and why you might be better off renting!
Michael Nierenberg is VP of Analytics for Mill Valley-based Redwood Trust, where he builds models to forecast mortgage performance, home prices and mortgage-backed security valuation. Basically, this means trying to convince otherwise skeptical people that he can predict the future using magical computers made of clouds. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he drank a lot of beer, and occasionally took some classes in economics.
“The Archaeology of Vice” by Kari Jones and Liz Clevenger
Forget snakes, whips and tomb raiders. Instead, think thieves, bootlegging, prostitutes, venereal disease and prophylactics! Archaeologists from the Presidio of San Francisco share the non-Hollywood, real-life dirty details of the past.
Kari Jones is an archaeologist at the Presidio of San Francisco. When she’s not unearthing long-lost treasure and fighting Nazis at work, she spends her leisure time sporadically pursuing a doctorate at UC Berkeley in hopes of one day becoming a bona fide Dr. Jones.
Liz Clevenger is a curator at the Presidio of San Francisco. While she still gets to play in the dirt once in a while, she’s usually in the lab doing scienterrific things to the old stuff that comes out of the dirt. She’s the one who knows exactly where the Arc of the Covenant was stashed in that warehouse full of government goods.
“Roller Derby: An Elliptical Treatise” by the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls’ San Francisco ShEvil Dead
More than just the subject of an angsty Drew Barrymore coming-of-age film, flat track roller derby is the fastest-growing sport in America. Join Tae Kwon Ho, Trixie Pixie and Slaybia Majora of the San Francisco ShEvil Dead as they break down the history, rules and basic strategy of roller derby. Their presentation will instill a strong base of knowledge that will impress your friends and help debunk the misconceptions perpetuated by pop culture for this oft misunderstood sport.
Established in 2004, the B.ay A.rea D.erby (B.A.D.) Girls are a full-contact, women’s flat track roller derby league. B.A.D. is a fully skater-owned and operated 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to provide amateur athletic entertainment to the Bay Area. A proud member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA)—the official governing body for modern roller derby—B.A.D. is currently ranked #3 in the West. The San Francisco ShEvil Dead was the first home team created by B.A.D. and is currently one of five teams in the league.
DJ Alpha Bravo will be spinning circular musical media solely of the vinyl variety, and also performing spot-repairs on the turntables. (Be sure to ask him about the huge “dirt booger” he extracted from under the platter last time.) Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
Doors at 7:30pm, show at 8pm
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @ Van Ness
Another year, another 12 Nerd Nites to eagerly anticipate, and another 12 chances to fulfill your new year’s resolution to get smarter! This month: an engineer leads an open-source race to the moon, a neuroscientist cracks open the zombie brain to see what oozes out, and a modern-day Mad Man illuminates the advertising biz. Be there and be square!
“Space for Everyone: Open-Sourcing Our Way to the Google Lunar X Prize” by Fred Bourgeois
Google’s Lunar X Prize has thrown down the space-suit gauntlet: win $30 million in prizes by privately funding, building, and landing a robot on the surface of the Moon, where it must travel 500 meters over the surface and send images and data back to Earth. Team FREDNET has taken up the challenge, combining the talents of 600 scientists, technologists, and engineers from 63 countries as the only 100% open-source competitor. With the goal of making space exploration open, accessible, and usable to everyone (not just the government), Team FREDNET’s leader will take us through their process of creating a timely, elegant, and (hopefully) victorious solution.
Fred J. Bourgeois, III, has been dreaming and making plans to pursue space exploration since he was two. Growing up in a “NASA family” probably had a lot to do with that. After teaching computer science, working on classified programs at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and starting his own software development and consulting business, Bourgeois founded Team FREDNET, which recently won a NASA Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data contract for over $10 million.
“Scanning the Zombie Brain” by Bradley Voytek
What makes a zombie a zombie rather than a human? What makes their brains tick and animate those rotting body parts (and lust for human flesh)? Taking a theoretical neuroscience approach, Dr. Bradley Voytek will present a hypothetical picture of the zombie brain, based on research he performed with co-conspirator Dr. Timothy Verstynen. 50% academic “what-if?” exercise and 50% tongue-in-cheek critique of the methods of modern neuroscience, this talk is 100% getting us ready for the coming undead plague.
Dr. Bradley Voytek (@bradleyvoytek & darb.ketyov.com) is one of the world’s foremost leaders in necro-neuroscience. He is an advisory board member of the Zombie Research Society, along with movie legend George Romero, and he also does some real science at UC Berkeley. He’s spoken at Google’s TechTalks and TEDxBerkeley, and was also co-named Time Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year.
“Modern Advertising: The Product Is You” by Q
From “Just Do It” to Foursquare Mayor, a modern-day Mad Man will outline the evolution of one of the most intriguing, maligned and insane industries of our time: advertising. Along with a brief overview of modern advertising’s history, Q—the mastermind behind campaigns for Apple, Cisco, Dell, Sun, Symantec, Heineken and Happy Cat, to name just a few—will talk about its future and why (and how) the product is YOU.
Q is a co-founder and partner of Godfrey Q and Partners. He started working in advertising when TV commercials were 60 seconds long, type was set by hand, and radio commercials were edited with razor blades and scotch tape. His first computer was a 64K Apple II. He survived the great DRAM drought of 1985. Today, 90% of his company’s output is pure digital. And he is always, always looking for developers.
DJ Alpha Bravo will be spinning nerdy tunage at 33 1/3 and 45 RPMs. Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
Zombie illustration courtesy Rob Sacchetto — www.zombieportraits.com
Ah, December—holiday time! With Pretend To Be a Time Traveler Day (8th), Festivus (23rd), and National Clean Up Your Computer Month (January) looming, take a little time out from your seasonal stress and enjoy our drunken, nerdy delights. Learn about your poor, multi-tasked brains (but put away the iPhones first!); discuss those scavenging scamps, seagulls; and find out how to hack the Kinect for uses that were almost certainly not imagined by Microsoft. Be there and be square!
Doors @ 7:30pm, show @ 8pm
Rickshaw Stop 155 Fell St @ Van Ness