Nerd Nite SF #106: Daring Debutantes, Giant Insects, & Gaming Mice!

Nerd Nite SF #106: Daring Debutantes, Giant Insects, and Gaming Mice!“Heiress adventurers, battling giant insects, and video games” might sound like the pitch for a new Tomb Raider game, but it’s actually what awaits you beyond the Rickshaw Stop’s doors. A local history sleuth weaves the tale of the Bay Area’s own Lara Croft, an evolutionary ecologist will send us back in time to when giant insects ruled the world, and a neuroscientist shares game design tips–for birds and mice! Plus: drinks galore, delicious arepitas, and DJ’d intermissions. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 3/20/2019
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$10, all ages
Tickets here

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“Champagne and Polar Bears and Spies, Oh My!”  by Reigh Robitaille

How did a debutante from Marin County end up hunting polar bears and gathering military intelligence? When she wasn’t hosting lavish parties at her grand estate in San Rafael, Louise Boyd found a home in the Arctic. She was the first woman to fly over the North Pole, and she even discovered a new part of Greenland–now named Louise Boyd Land. Oh, and there was that time she was a spy for the U.S. government…

Reigh started I Spy Tours to explore the lesser-known tales of the San Francisco’s past. Her “Wonder Women of SF” walking tour series shares the stories of women who have shaped Bay Area history.

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“You’re Going to Need a Bigger Net: The Evolution of Giant Insects” by Christopher Beatty

A mainstay of bad science fiction cinema is the giant bug movie, in which oversized insects and spiders face off with scientists and soldiers in a battle for domination of the planet. Cult classics such as “Earth versus the Spider” and “Them” showed us the terror (or sometimes, hilarity) of interacting with giant, many-legged foes. But in eras past, giant insects did exist, the likes of which rival the creations of Hollywood prop designers. In this talk, we will explore some of those amazing prehistoric insects and consider some of the current theories on how they came to be, how they lived, and why they now inhabit only our dreams.

Chris is an evolutionary ecologist who studies behavior, speciation, and biogeography, mostly with dragonflies. His work has taken him to Spain, Peru, Kenya, and the Fiji Islands. For more info, visit his website, christopherbeattyphd.com.

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“Building Video Games for Mice and Birds” by Justin Kiggins

Humans aren’t the only esports stars out there–neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists have been designing games for mice and birds for years. Using basic principles of animal behavior to design computer interfaces, scientists have opened up our understanding of the origins of speech and language. It’s only a matter of time before you’re slain by a mouse in Fortnite!

Justin Kiggins is a product manager at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, working on open-source software for single-cell biology and microscopy. Before joining CZI, he was a neuroscientist, writing software to perform machine learning on brain activity, create video games for mice, and build web applications for storing scientific data. You can find him on Twitter at @neuromusic

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

Food: Those of you who go to Nerd Nite East Bay know the delicious dishes of Miss Arepita, now venturing across the pond to NNSF!

Nerd Nite SF #105: Hidden Programmers, Breaking Materials, and the Science of Sex!

Nerd Nite SF #105: Hidden Programmers, Breaking Materials, and the Science of Sex!This month everything gets turned around as we learn about bringing women programmers to the front, the science of things falling down, and how various organisms get it up! All this thanks to two population geneticists (and several undergrads), a materials scientist, and a biologist, respectively. Plus, we’ll have streetfood inside, glasses lifted, and beats dropped. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 2/20/2019
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$10, all ages
Tickets here

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“Illuminating Women’s Hidden Contributions to Science” by Emilia Huerta-Sánchez and Rori Rohlfs

“Hidden Figures” told the story of three black female mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s. Inspired by the movie, a group of scientists and undergraduates pored through their own field’s journals to see if there were more overlooked female scientists. On paper, the 1970s was a period of dramatic innovation in population genetics driven by independent male scientists with sole authorships. But by going back and looking at paper acknowledgments, a new study uncovered the unsung women programmers whose work should have earned them a co-author credit. We’ll learn about some of those women’s stories, how they were found, and how author credits subtly distort the scientific record.

Emilia and Rori, along with Samantha Kristin Dung, Andrea Lopez, Ezequiel López Barragan, Rochelle-Jan Reyes, Ricky Thu, Edgar Castellanos, and Francisca Catalan (credit is due where credit is due!), just published “Illuminating Women’s Hidden Contribution to Historical Theoretical Population Genetics” in this month’s issue of GENETICS.

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“How Materials Science Finds Answers in Failures” by Mingxi Zheng

Much of modern society is based on the unique properties of complex new materials. But to understand new materials and to ensure their resiliency and safety, scientists must try to break them! In this talk, we’ll learn about breaking things like highways, airplanes, and spacecrafts, and how materials scientists put these things to the test. And we’ll find out about the critical race to discover what went wrong when something does fail, so future disasters can be avoided.

Mingxi is a materials engineer at Carbon specializing in fracture mechanics and new materials development and received her MS degree in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley. She was recognized with a UCB Grad Slam Award, built rockets at SpaceX and Virgin Orbit as a metallurgist, and spent years convincing people that majoring in breaking things is useful. Now she spends time thinking of new applications for Carbon’s custom polymers and 3D printer.

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“The Lengths We Go to for Sex” by Veronica Johnson

Ever wonder how far a sperm travels before it exits the body? Or the lengths organisms will go to in order to reproduce? Go down the path *well* traveled and take an intimate dive into the anatomy of a familiar member that’s found across the animal kingdom. Not all creatures are made alike, but many share a commonality in just how far they will go to share that Y chromosome. Through different modes and methods, all animals do what they have to do to get the job done, and at the end of the day, sometimes size really DOES matter.

Veronica is a biologist at The Exploratorium whose days are filled with myriad organisms. Her all-encompassing fascination with biology started at a very early age, and is continuously fostered by working with a variety of lab organisms, volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center, and researching strange and fascinating topics for public programs.

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

Food: Binge on bao and other Asian fusion streetfood goodness from Cross Hatch Eatery.

NNSF #104: Sunfish, Ants, and SF Transit History!

NNSF #104: Sunfish, Ants, and SF Transit History!Wednesday, 1/16/2019
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$10, all ages
Tickets here

Is your brain feeling as slow as molasses in January? Then come to the Rickshaw and get your juices flowing! This month we’ll be following the wake of the tenacious mola mola, the trails of sophisticated ants, and the ghostly tracks of streetcars past with a marine biologist, an entomologist, and a transit-obsessed designer, respectively. Brave the rain, grab a drink or three, be there and be square!

“Holy Mola: Tales of a Divine Giant” by Tierney Thys

Some say our ocean is transforming into a soup of slime, garnished with dead zones and a generous dollop of stingy jellies. Mmmm—want some sake with that? While it seems as if much ocean life is under siege from pollution and overfishing, some unlikely marine creatures may be poised to rise to the challenge. Come meet the giant ocean sunfishes, bizarre behemoths with no tail but a tale to tell and weird talents that may secure their survival.

Dr. Tierney is a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, a National Geographic Explorer, and a filmmaker. Her inordinate fondness for odd ocean creatures has led her around the globe and deep into the crazy world of conservation where she’s discovering we humans are the oddest creatures of all.

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“The Sinister and Spectacular Societies of Ants” by Neil Tsutsui

Legions of ants dominate nearly all terrestrial habitats, including many kitchen counters. The secret to their success is their sophisticated social structure, which has allowed them to evolve behaviors that include sophisticated agriculture, farming, bizarre rituals, and manipulative parasitism. Dr. Tsutsui will talk about his recent research on Californian kidnapper ants, who steal babies and brainwash them into lives of complete servitude.

Dr. Neil is Professor and Michelbacher Chair of Systematic Entomology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social behavior and evolution, using approaches from genetics, genomics, chemistry, laboratory experimentation, and old-fashioned field-work.

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“How We Got Here: Mapping the History of Public Transit in San Francisco” by Chris Arvin

One hundred and ten years ago, San Francisco became the first city in the US to have a publicly run transit system. Today, our transit network holds artifacts from decades of history: Most of the bus routes we ride were once served by electric streetcars, and rail lines built in the 1910s and 1920s are the foundation for the MUNI Metro system. Through digital maps, historical photos, and old newspaper clippings, we’ll step back in time and discover the stories of the transit system we love—and sometimes love to hate.

Chris is the author of “Where the Streetcars Used to Go,” an interactive website that has been featured in the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner. A product designer who has worked with companies such as Airbnb and Snapchat, he now works at Remix, designing software that city agencies use to plan public transit.

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

Food: Food: Glorious grilled cheese from the master of the sammie, Grilled Cheese Guy.

NNSF #103: Novelty Catalog, Software Disasters, and Animal Astronauts!

Novelty Catalog, Software Disasters, and Animal Astronauts!Wednesday, 12/19/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

‘Twas the nite of the nerds, and all through the Rickshaw, many creatures were stirring, ‘specially the bartenders. The slides were projected on screen at fast pace, in hopes that some learning soon would take place. Three Nerd Nite alumni this month take the stage: the first on the best mail-order catalog to grace the page. The second presents software engineering blunders, the third talks ’bout critters as astronaut wonders. And Alpha Bravo at the decks, and Stephanie with the food, will welcome you in and help set the mood. If you find that your brain has some room you can spare, join us! Be there and be square!

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“The Great American Catalog of Vice, Fear, and Hustle” by David Grosof

This holiday season we hearken back to the first decades of catalog sales, a century ago. There were catalogs, like Sears Roebuck’s, that sold to kind people purchasing thoughtful gifts and practical additions to hearth and home. And then there was the Johnson Smith catalog, a veritable Rosetta Stone of the Dark Side that appealed to every human vice and fear. Written and illustrated in a style so potent that it influences such artists as Chris Ware today, the Johnson Smith catalog sold to the hinterlands such tools of everyday humiliation as the whoopee cushion, the joy buzzer, and exploding cigars. Let’s pore over it and make our wish lists in time for Christmas!

David is a NYC-reared champion of Midwestern humorists, a Berkeley-trained neuroscientist, and a SF-based biomedical entrepreneur.

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“Fly by Wire? More like Die by Wire: When Software Kills, Crashes, and Combusts” by Dr. Kinga Laura Dobolyi

Scared that the MRI you’re about to get will fry your brain? You should be: this sort of thing has actually happened–as well as spacecraft smashing to pieces, airplanes flying without air traffic control, and World War III almost wiping out humanity. And these all occurred because of simple software faults and design mistakes. Come hear about ten of the most awful disasters in software engineering–you’ll never want to trust anything connected to a wire again!

Kinga was an associate professor of computer science at George Mason University, and recently transplanted to SF as a data scientist at ThirdLove.

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“A Brief History of Animal Astronauts” by Jonathan Braidman

Ever wonder what animals have been to space and what happened to them? We’ll go species by species and country by country. Find out about the inspiring, grisly, cute, and perhaps entirely unethical stories of the littles who left our planet before we did.

Jonathan is a teacher and curriculum developer who has worked at Chabot Space and Science Center and the Lawrence Hall of Science.

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

Food: New! Sister Stephanie is bringing her southern food and barbecue to our hungry bellies!

NNSF #102: Animal Encounters, the Albany Bulb, and Cosmic Elements!

NNSF #102: Animal Encounters, the Albany Bulb, and Cosmic Elements!Wednesday, 11/28/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

Get wild, get creative, and get cosmic, as we throw out the rule book and host our monthly gathering of the gray matter on the fourth Wednesday instead of on the third! We’ll look big in the urban-wildland interface with a journalist who knows when to run and when to play dead; an urbanist-curator will help us not be dim bulbs about Albany’s dumpy-arty treasure-park; and an astrophysics superstar will mine a vein of cosmic gold. With the usual side helpings of booze, food, and music, this post-Thanksgiving Nerd Nite feast promises to be well-rounded–so be there and be square!

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“Look Big! A Big Look at Animal Encounters” by Rachel Levin

As humans encroach upon wild places, encounters with animals have become increasingly commonplace. But what are the rules for facing a moose up close? Do you run from a coyote or stand your ground? How deadly, really, are black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, and sharks? We’ll get a load of expert tips, fascinating animal facts, and harrowing true tales from a journalist whose new book, LOOK BIG, has been hailed as “the definitive guide for what to do in an animal encounter.” And Rachel will be signing and selling her lighthearted but legitimately helpful book, too! (Hint hint: it’s a perfect gift for outdoor, urban, and suburban adventurers alike.)

Rachel is a freelance journalist who has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Eater, as its first San Francisco restaurant critic.

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“Why a Dump Is the Best Park Ever” by Susan Moffat

In an age of boringly safe playgrounds and parks, the Albany Bulb is an adventure zone for adults. At this old construction debris landfill on the San Francisco Bay, rebar protrudes from the rubble and sculptures made of rusty scrap metal invite you to add your own finishing touches. The wild, user-designed park, with its lumpy terrain and surprising nooks and crannies, has attracted artists and seekers of the unusual for decades. Leading the charge to protect this unique urban oasis from ongoing attempts to manicure its roughness, Susan will take us on a tour of the peninsular playland’s past, present, and future.

Susan is an urbanist and curator and teaches and runs an interdisciplinary program at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. She has written about the bulb for BOOM: California.

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“Cosmic Gold: Neutron Star Mergers, Gravitational Waves, and the Origin of the Elements” by Eliot Quataert

Scientists have recently developed a new way to “see” the universe, using the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein nearly a century ago. These waves can teach us about some of the most exotic objects in the cosmos, including star corpses known as black holes and neutron stars. Remarkably, they have also helped solve a longstanding puzzle about where in the universe some of the elements we know and love here on Earth are produced, including gold, platinum, uranium, and even Californium!

Eliot is a professor of astronomy and physics at UC Berkeley working on a wide range of problems, from stars and black holes to how galaxies form. He has received a number of national awards for his research and is also a highly regarded teacher and public lecturer.

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

Food: Cross Hatch Eatery – delicious bao buns!

NNSF #101: Spines, Sex Addiction, & Pain!

NNSF #101: Spines, Sex Addiction, & Pain!Wednesday, 10/17/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

A musculoskeletal expert zeroes in on spinal health in zero gravity, a clinical psychologist pours us a nice big bowl of sex addiction (with milk), and an evolutionary biologist/behavioral neuroscientist slices through cephalopod pain. No tricks here–just a typical October Nerd Nite of treats, including tunes, drinks, and grilled cheese. Boo there and boo square!

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“Space: The Spinal Frontier” by Dr. Jeffrey Lotz

NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars and back by 2030. While many engineering challenges are being successfully addressed, the mission’s weak link remains: crew spinal health. Back pain and disc herniation are priority medical concerns during long-duration space flight. With research on NASA crew members backing him up, Dr. Lotz is investigating injuries and developing countermeasures to keep celestial spines healthy–and he’ll tell us how these insights can apply to us non-extraterrestrials and our earthly back pain.

Jeff is the founding director of the UCSF Core Center for Musculoskeletal Biology in Medicine and the NSF Center for Disruptive Musculoskeletal Innovations, and corresponding PI for the newly established Center for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Tissue and Organ Regeneration (C-DOCTOR).

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“Sex, Culture, and Cornflakes” by Dr. Kaela Joseph

Nearly every time a celebrity sex scandal makes its way to popular media, our televisions and smartphones light up with headlines about “sex addiction”. Despite its popularity, no such diagnosis currently exists in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by psychologists worldwide. Join psychologist/sexpert Dr. Joseph as she talks us through the origins of “sex addiction” diagnosis and treatment, with a special emphasis on the work of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg–a man who created some of our favorite breakfast foods as a way to promote celibacy and “clean living”.

Kaela is a clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in human sexuality. She taught us all about fandom and shipping wars at NNSF #85.

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“The Cutting Edge of Invertebrate Pain Research (Or Do Squid Really Feel No Pain?)” by Dr. Robyn Crook

Do octopuses suffer? How do lobsters really feel about being boiled? These questions are surprisingly hard for scientists to answer. Pain research focuses on vertebrates–but what about other animals? Where should we draw the line between animals whose suffering we care about and those whose distress we discount? Cephalopods are the most complex invertebrates, but identifying whether they experience pain in the same way as vertebrates do is a challenge. Dr. Crook will talk about how a strange question in her inbox one morning helped focus her career on the difficult topic of cephalopod pain, and why straight answers to questions about pain are so rare.

Robyn is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University. Her work on cephalopod pain has been featured in New Scientist, the LA Times, and the Washington Post.

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

Food: Grilled Cheese Guy!

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