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!

NNSF #100: Double-Slit, AI, and Sword Canes!

NNSF #100: Double-Slit, AI, and Sword Canes!Have at you! Next Weds features dueling theories, dueling minds, and dueling sword canes. Or dual, as the case may be, as we discuss the weird boundaries of things that are both particles and waves, intersections of machine and human intelligence, and items both weapon and fashion accessory. Plus drinks, tamales, DJ, and tons of awesome people who are all singularly wonderful. Be there and be square!

In honor of our 100th show and over 8 years of nerdery (whaaaaaat!), this line-up features a mix of both new and returning speakers. A sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have attended or starred in our events over the years, and a big welcome to the many new folks who join our ever-growing community. Cheers!

Wednesday, 9/19/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

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“Through Two Doors at Once” by Anil Ananthaswamy

The famed double-slit experiment has continually challenged our ideas about the nature of reality itself. How can a single particle behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle, or indeed reality, exist before we look at it, or does looking create reality? This headscratcher of an experiment has a fascinating 200 year-old history, filled with the mysteries and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, and it continues to confound and challenge our intuitions about the nature of reality.

Anil Ananthaswamy is an award-winning journalist and author. He contributes regularly to the New Scientist, and has also written for Nature, National Geographic News, Discover, Nautilus, Matter, The Wall Street Journal and the UK’s Literary Review. “Through Two Doors at Once” is his third book, after “The Edge of Physics” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There”.

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“Black Box: How AI Will Amplify the Best and Worst of Humanity” by Jacob Ward

For most of us, our own mind is a black box: an all-powerful and utterly mysterious device that runs our lives for us. And not only do we humans just barely understand how it works, science is now revealing that it makes most of our decisions for us using rules and shortcuts of which you and I aren’t even aware. Meanwhile, every area of human activity, from criminal justice to corporate hiring to military strategy, is turning to “black box” artificial intelligence systems for cost savings, efficiency, and moral clarity. Jacob Ward reveals the relationship between the unconscious habits of our minds, and the way that AI is poised to amplify them, alter them, maybe even reprogram them. What will society look like if we allow our unconscious habits to be shaped by AI and machine learning? Or is it possible to institute guidelines for the development of AI and ML that will help protect us from our own worst instincts?

Jacob Ward has appeared at Nerd Nite SF twice before in our 8 years, but he’s probably a little more famous as a journalist, TV correspondent, and the former editor-in-chief of Popular Science. He’s now a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, along with its partner the Berggruen Institute.

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“The History and Outlaw Status of Sword Canes” by Erin Simon

Delve into the early history of the dapper gent’s most lethal accessory! Marvel that so many people still try to sneak them on planes! Laugh at the California law that calls them out by name (the wrong one)! By looking at ngrams, silly pictures, and even sillier laws, we’ll learn about sword canes, how a ballistic knife is different from a lipstick case knife, and what California law has to say about boobytraps. The pen may be mightier, but the sword cane is way more fun.

Erin Simon is the product counsel for Google Books and various other pieces of Search. When not researching obscure weaponry, she makes pictures and accumulates books. (Erin gave this talk way back in 2015, and we asked for an encore.)

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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: Alicia’s Tamales los Mayas returns!

Nerd Nite SF #99: Mars Colonization, Rational Economics, and Octopuses from Space!

Mars Colonization, Rational Economics, and Octopuses from Space!Wednesday, 8/15/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

This month, we put our foot down! Or eight feet, as the case may be. A physicist puts Elon Musk in his place. An economist weighs in one of the field’s most fundamental arguments. And a science writer stops this whole “octopuses are aliens from outer space” nonsense. Three talks, plus tunes by DJ Alpha Bravo, delicious sammies from Grilled Cheez Guy, and plentiful beverages from the Rickshaw Stop bar. Be there and be square!

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“Not So Fast, Elon: Challenges of Resurrecting the Martian Atmosphere” by Dr. Robert Lillis

Mars’s atmosphere is dry, cold, and too thin to stop you from bursting like a balloon or getting cancer from cosmic rays. Eeeek, right? But billions of years ago it was thick, warm and (sometimes) wet. If humans want to live on Mars long-term, we need to find a way to resurrect the Martian atmosphere to its former glory. I’ll tell you where the ancient atmosphere went and what it will take to rebuild it. Spoiler: it’s gonna be tough. Real tough. Oh yes.

Robert is a research physicist at the NASA-funded UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory. He’s been a member of three Mars mission teams and has been studying Mars for 16 years.

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“Is Your Uber Driver Rational?” by Michael Sheldon

Twenty years ago, a seminal paper rocked one of the most fundamental understandings in economics. The finding? That taxi drivers drove *less* when earnings were high and days were busy.

While this finding may seem unimportant, the crux of the question is whether taxi drivers (and the rest of us) are rational economic actors. Behavioral economists argue that these findings show classic economic models fail to capture the realities of imperfect decision making; neoclassical economists argue the results are due to poor data analysis. To address the divide, we analyze the behavior of thousands of Uber drivers and see how rational we really are.

Michael is a data scientist at Uber who specializes in supply behavior and pricing. He is also a well-known dog whisperer and IPA enthusiast.

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“Octopuses: Not Aliens, Still Awesome” by Danna Staaf

Have you ever heard someone claim that octopuses are really aliens? Or have you ever wondered why so many of our fictional aliens look undeniably octopus-like? Well, octopuses and their fellow cephalopods are truly awesome and even alien–just not in the from-outer-space sense. A Nerd Nite fan-favorite, “cephspert” Danna Staaf returns to our stage to debunk the space alien myth and celebrate one of the weirdest creatures on Earth.

Danna is the author of “Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods” – which chronicles the 500-million-year evolutionary journey of cephalopods from masters of the primordial sea to calamari on your dinner plate – and a contributor to the upcoming anthology “Putting the Science in Fiction.” She earned her PhD in “Squid Sex and Babies” from Stanford University and works as a freelance science writer.

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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 Cheez Guy!

Nerd Nite SF #98: Cancer Immunotherapy, End-of-Life Tattoos, & Magical Space Telescopes!

NNSF098-Jul-2018-w1100Wednesday, 7/18/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

Get your therapy at a cellular level from a duo of Stanford postdocs, resuscitate your zest for life with an ER doc and end-of-life protocols expert, and reflect on some space magic with an astrophysicist who also critiques Star Trek science. Drinking will be involved, as will ingestion of bao and bopping to some beats. You know, just a typical mid-July nite at the Rickshaw. Be there and be square!

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“Fighting Cancer from Within: Are We Ready for Cancer Immunotherapy?” by Saumyaa and Rachel Lynn

We all know the drill. A devastating cancer diagnosis, followed by months or years of chemo and radiation. These treatments can and do save lives, yet in the process unleash powerful toxic agents on an already frail and embattled human body. But what if there was another way? Cancer immunotherapy is an exciting new approach that harnesses the power of your own immune system to attack cancer cells. And like all things that seem too good to be true, there may be more than meets the eye. Would you know which to choose? And is there one right answer?

Saumyaa and Rachel are postdoctoral researchers at Stanford University. Saumyaa also co-hosts Taste of Science San Francisco Bay.

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“Written in Ink: Tattoos and Best Practices in Medical Directives” by Derek Kuhl Richardson

You see a man collapse at a concert; before you start CPR, you see he has a tattoo reading “DNR” across his chest. Do you assume this means “do not resuscitate” and respect his wishes for a peaceful death? Or might he simply be a zealous fan of groundbreaking German synth band Das Nacht Reinhold and want full medical care?

Derek is an ER doctor, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at UCSF, and a researcher in communications of end-of-life goals of care. He has an unambiguous Neutral Milk Hotel chest tattoo.

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“Magnifying the Distant Universe” by Rachael Livermore

With the Hubble Space Telescope, we can find galaxies so far away that the light left them when the universe was in its infancy. This gives us a glimpse of some of the first sources to light up the universe, but it’s incredibly difficult as these most distant galaxies are so small and faint. To overcome this difficulty, we use an amazing quirk of general relativity that causes dark matter to act as a natural telescope in space, magnifying these very distant galaxies to make them bright enough to see. If this sounds like magic, that’s because it is.

Rachael received her PhD in astrophysics from Durham University in England and now works at University of Melbourne in Australia. Her research focuses on the most distant galaxies in the universe.

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

Food: Delicious pork-belly bao and other bun goodness from Cross Hatch Eatery.

Nerd Nite SF #97: SF Budgeting, Medical Glues, & Choanoflagellates

Nerd Nite SF #97: SF Budgeting, Medical Glues, & Choanoflagellates

Choanoflagellate colony courtesy Kayley Hake

Wednesday, 6/20/2018
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages
Tickets here

The third Weds of the month fast approaches, and that means it’s time for another Nerd Nite! Get your budget crunched and your blood stanched at this month’s gathering of wanna-know-it-alls. The Money Lady of City Hall shows us the money, Dr. Anti-exsanguinator keeps us glued to the spot, and two big minds talk about a tiny world. Don’t miss three talks, two turntables, a microphone, and countless drinks–be there and be square!

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“The Money Lady and the $10 Billion Conversation” by Assessor Carmen Chu

The city of San Francisco’s budget is $10 billion and growing. Have you ever wondered where all of that money comes from and how spending decisions are made? Join Assessor Carmen Chu as she demystifies the city budget. Also know as the Money Lady of City Hall, Assessor Chu and her team help generate $2.7 billion in revenue, which funds critical city services such as education, health, public safety, neighborhood improvements, and more. Prior to taking office in 2013, Carmen served as District 4 supervisor for the Sunset/Parkside neighborhoods, chairing the Board of Supervisor’s budget and finance committee.

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“My Doctor Glued Me Back Together…and Other Cautionary Tales from the ER” by Brian Wai Lin

Ever had a bad encounter with a box cutter and a late-night trip to the ER? Expecting stitches and surprised when your doctor whipped out a tube of Super Glue? You probably wondered why you made a $300 hospital trip rather than a $6 hardware store purchase. Believe it or not, you made the right decision–and it’s based in biochemistry, not just in keeping your friendly neighborhood ER doc employed. Dr. Lin will deep-dive in to the history and science behind medical cyanoacrylate glues and describe his novel technique, now used worldwide, to stop you from exsanguinating through your fingertip when kitchen knives attack.

Brian is a practicing physician at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, a UCSF assistant clinical professor, and certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. Check out his educational website Closing the Gap.

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“Love and Death in the Planktonic World” by David Booth & Thibaut Brunet

David and Thibaut are post-docs at the King Lab at UC Berkeley trying to understand the origin and evolution of animals by studying their closest living relatives, the choanoflagellates.

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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 returns but with a twist — a mac and cheese pop-up!