Nerd Nite 046

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Semiotics: How to Be a Real-World Symbol Hunter

Summary: In this talk John will do three things:

  • Define semiotics (the science of signs and symbols) and talk about its real-world applications.
  • Talk about one such application, the applying of visual semiotic theory to the training of deep-learning neural networks, that is, training such networks to think better as a function of teaching them to see better, as in “Ah! I see what you mean!”
  • Talk about “5 Principles of Semiotics” that any would-be symbol hunter, “grail” quester, Robert Langdon, or Sherlock Holmes should know, principles such as “The Theory of Facial Height,” “The ‘Price Is Wrong’ Principle,” the “Meme, Seme, Deme Distinction,” and the “Sherlock Homing Principle”!
John Coletta

Presenter Bio: W. John Coletta, Ph.D., Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), is a former President (2010) and Vice President (2009) of the Semiotic Society of America, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of The American Journal of Semiotics. Professor Coletta’s principal research interests include Peircean semiotics; physiosemiosis; ecocriticism; biosemiotic criticism; the history and representation of ecological and evolutionary thought; and the major British poet and minor naturalist John Clare. He is also CEO of INT3RP INC, a consulting company with offices in Madison and Stevens Point offering “semiotic services” in several domains.

Cute Aggression: The Struggle to Resist Squeezing Cute Things

Summary: Puppies, kittens, and babies – why do all these adorable things make us go crazy with cute aggression? Often we find ourselves overwhelmed with a desire to squeeze or even act violently toward cute things, but somehow we very quickly suppress those feelings. This strange human reaction could be a coping mechanism by the brain when overloaded with too. much. cuteness.

Asuka Eguchi

Presenter bio: Asuka Eguchi, PhD, does stem cell research in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While the focus of her research has been on designing molecular switches to control cell fate, she enjoys all things science and has a particular fascination with information processing by the brain. She was a wolf in her previous life and still spends all her free time running.

How we make stuff — mass manufacturing plastic things

Summary: Every piece of plastic that you’ve bought is made using a set of tools that are carefully designed. Whether it’s injection molded, blow molded, cast, or thermoformed, that plastic was converted into a shape, and the tools left telltale signs. You’ll never see everyday objects the same, because after this talk you’ll be thinking about the underbelly of the plastics industry with everything you touch.

Bob Baddeley

Presenter bio: Bob is a computer engineer and works in consumer electronics for some of the hardware startups around Madison. He designs and builds Internet-connected sensors. He’s also a member at Sector67, the local makerspace where you can get experience with many of the plastics tools he will discuss and participate in crazy projects like a Bluetooth-enabled outhouse.

Nerd Nite 045

Date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)
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Transcription Factors: the Pianists Playing the Music of our Cells

Summary: Every cell in our body has the same genetic information; a blueprint necessary for the fabrication of all types of cells in our body. Your eye cells have the same genes as your heart cells, but the function and the appearance of these cells are completely different. Have you ever wondered why? Of course you haven’t, who in their right mind would? Well biological scientists, like José, do. José hopes to convince you why it’s important to spend money and time in this type of basic research, but first you will learn what makes heart cells and eye cells distinct despite their identical genomic information.

José Rodríguez-Molina

Presenter bio: José is a PhD student at UW-Madison studying the nervous system. He grew up and lived for 23 years in Puerto Rico and ironically learned to sail in Lake Mendota. In the summer he loves to garden fruits, vegetables and flowers, and in the winters he waits for summer to come back.

A Brief History of Disco: from Dionysus to the Disco Duck

Summary: What was the first disco song (around 1972) and why did it come to flames in Chicago’s Disco Demolition Night (in 1979)? We’ll examine how established elements of Jazz, Funk, Latin & Soul cultures came together to worship “four-on-the-floor” & “the hustle.” Ritualistic dance fads will be surveyed as we travel sonically through known episodes of ecstatic dance music in history culminating in NYC nightclubs of the early 70s and the mainstream disco explosion years later.

John Feith

Presenter Bio: John has been the guitarist for VO5 (the Madison disco band) for 11 years and recently recorded and produced VO5’s debut album “Dance Originality,” winner of the MAMA’s 2015 “Unique Album of the Year” award. He is also the author and nature recordist of the “Bird Song Ear Training Guide” CD used by thousands of birdwatchers in the Midwest. Mr Feith has an Electrical Engineering degree from UW-Madison, where he once made an Ultrasound Theremin MIDI Controller. Other nerdy accomplishments include developing Noise Reduction and Acoustic Modeling algorithms for Sonic Foundry and building a near-anechoic chamber in his basement.

Facets of Steven Universe

Summary: How a show about gay space rocks shows us how to be humans.

Liz Davison

Presenter bio: Liz is a School Counselor at Madison Country Day School, a former library assistant/English teacher, and is out to get your children (to be better people). She’s probably wearing a costume right now.

Nerd Nite 044

Date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

No Need for Butterflies in Your Stomach, Get Your Grub on!

Summary: Are you into whole, sustainable and healthy food? If so, you should be into insect cuisine. There are over 1,000 insect species eaten around the world. Learn about how to save the planet one bite at a time. See what microlivestock can bring to the table. And of course, try some delicious snacks!

Presenter bio: Joliene Lindholm is a PhD entomologist who enjoys sharing her love of science and insects through educational outreach opportunities and anyone who holds still long enough. She reacts to insects the way most people do to babies, puppies and kittens. Seriously, go look up cute bee flies right now!

Doing Women Justice: The Rise of Women in Comics

Summary: An introspective of females as characters in the American comic book culture in the last 60 years. Exploring the the humble beginnings of Lois Lane and her super hijinks, the amazing feminine paragons of the past who were outshined by the modern post-feminism super heroines, and the not so super women that now rule the comic racks.

Presenter Bio: Blake Alvarenga is Madison-born and has a crush on Lady Wisconsin who stands triumphant on the capitol building with the whole world in her palm. Blake is a state government bureaucrat by day, but you can catch him competing at Pundamonium the first Monday of every month at the High Noon Saloon.

How to be Happier

Summary: Using 3 elements from Martin Seligman’s PERMA model – Pleasure, Relationships and Engagement – I give examples of actionable steps I took to increase my own life satisfaction and which can be incorporated by audience members … with many laughs along the way.

Presenter bio: A member of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ that being 80’s babies, John Donnelly has lived, worked and played on the near east side of Madison for the past 8 years. In January John decided he wanted to be happier and went on an anal retentive search to learn how to do so. He is here to share what he found along the way.

Nerd Nite 043

Date: Wednesday September 28, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

I ღ Georgian

Summary: Georgian is a Kartvelian language and the official language of Georgia (the country). It dates back to the 5th century CE and is much better in every single respect than the vowel ridden, pathetic thing you call English. Strap yourself in for a whirlwind tour of Georgian linguistics and its idiosyncrasies along with some historical tidbits.

Presenter bio: Lado Bakh is an area medical student. He was born in Tbilisi, Georgia and subsequently moved to the United States to pursue his lifelong dream of berating Americans about the culture of his people despite having an embarrassingly inadequate and constantly diminishing grasp of said culture. His likes include writing about himself in the third person and sour beer.

Political Polarization: How’d we get this way?!

Summary: With every election cycle it feels like the political climate in the United States gets worse—more congressional gridlock, more incivility, more fear that there are people out there trying to wreck the place. How’d it get this way? Can anything be done about it? This talk will answer these questions…and more!

Presenter Bio: Paula McAvoy is a professional philosopher (earning her Platinum Nerd status) and the director of the Center for Ethics and Education at UW-Madison. She is also the co-author of the The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, a New York Times Best Seller (not really, but one can still hope). She’s not a political scientist, but she often acts like one.

You Are the World to Somebody (and that somebody is a worm): the disgusting dramas inside us

Summary: They can get into your stomach via your foot. In your intestines, they might mate for life and have hundreds of thousands of babies a day. They manipulate your immune system and hide in plain sight. Remember that scene in Alien? It’s like that but cooler because there are pheromones and antibodies involved. And it’s real.
Presenter bio: Gail Emilia Rosen is a PhD student in infectious disease and viral ecology at UW Madison. When she DMs Call of Cthulhu, there is inevitably an NPC with tiny monsters popping out of his or her flesh. She is an excellent dinner table conversationalist.

Nerd Nite 042

Date: Wednesday August 31, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Flyin’ with the bumblebee: abducting, sedating, and radio-tagging bees…for science!

Summary: If you like eating food, then the humble bumble bee should bee (pun intended) one of your best friends. Over a third of the foods that sustain our massive population are entirely dependent on insects, like bees, for pollination. Bees, however, aren’t doing so hot in a lot of areas, and I’m on of the many scientists trying to figure out how to help them out. So, next time you bite into your favorite fruit, take a moment to thank the bumblebee: a fuzzy, flying teddy bear facilitating flowering plant sex since 40 million years BC.

Presenter bio: Jeremy Hemberger is a PhD student in the Department of Entomology (that’s bugs, not words) at the UW. He generally finds himself pretty psyched on things that start with “B”: bees, bugs, bikes, bouldering, beer, and all assortments of baked goods. Oh, and taking pictures.

The Pin-up Unpinned

Summary: Join Ashleigh Herrera in an exploration of sexuality, femininity, and body image through the lens of 1950’s undergarments. Using primary and secondary source materials, and a demonstration of the types of undergarments commonly used by women post WWII to the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, she will personally exhibit some of the differences and similarities in manner and etiquette surrounding the female form from then and now.

Presenter Bio: After collecting dead people’s clothing throughout high school and college, Ashleigh Herrera realized she could help other people look fabulous and keep her closet at a reasonable size by working at Good Style Shop in Madison, WI. She is also a Collections Conservation Associate in the Library, Archives, and Museum Collections department of the Wisconsin Historical Society where she doesn’t have to hoard things to see pretty clothes everyday.

The Evolution of Cooking Shows

Summary: Cooking shows actually started out on the radio, helping families make the most of wartime rations, and have been changing ever since. We’ll look at what those changes have been and how they reflect other changes in the culture. (Also, expect some ranting about the worst cooking show hosts — looking at you, Rachael and Guy — and wonder Jamie still watches them.)

Presenter bio: Jamie’s favorite cooking show is anything that involves Jacques Pépin chopping vegetables or saying “butter.” He hates Rachael Ray. Jamie works on campus for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, he’s also Madison Nerd Nite’s boss.

Nerd Nite 041

Date: Wednesday May 18, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

How Cactus in Colonial Australia May Have Resulted in You Drinking a Cup Full of Bugs and Why That’s Kind Of Okay

Summary: In 1788, England made a decision about Australia that was ultimately not a very good one. That decision will, however, help craft a story about globalization, biological control, bugs, and the tumultuous, will they/won’t they relationship between Humans and Mother Nature. Also: puddling.

Presenter bio: Ben Taylor has been the Boss of Nerd Nite since 2013. This will be his fourth presentation, and last appearance as Boss of Nerd Nite Madison.

Female Sexual Desire: A Pleasure Perspective

Summary: The generally accepted message about sex is that women naturally want it less than men. It’s evolutionarily adaptive because limited reproductive blah blah blah. BUT—recent behavioral and sociocultural evidence is suggesting a very different story, and it all comes down to pleasure.

Presenter Bio: Formerly a mechanical engineering student, Shari transferred to Psychology to study romantic and sexual relationships, and is currently a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies. Her favorite animals are leopard seals and cuttlefish, and her favorite thing to do is nerd out about science.

Madtown Funk: Madison as seen through Karaoke

Summary: What you sing at Karaoke says a lot about who you are. Each person has their go-to song selection which often reflects their personality, background, or current mood. We’ll explore how different songs have helped this Indiana native see Madison through a new pair of eyes (and ears).

Presenter bio: Nick’s lived in Madison for the past five years. He has a deep love for music and singing, and he always looks for karaoke bars. Nick doesn’t miss team trivia or watching his beloved Cubbies play.

Nerd Nite 040

Date: Wednesday April 27, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Classic Garbage Television

Summary: What’s a specific television show “about”? Jon will talk about three semi-bad shows from the late 70’s to the early 80’s and the big questions and issues that they might actually be “about.”

Presenter bio: Jon Hendrix has an English degree, a law degree, a job for the government and is a member of Atlas Improv Company.

The Dream Team

Summary: In 1988, professional athletes were given permission to compete in the Olympic Games. In 1992, USA selected an Olympic basketball team that was considered, “the greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet”. This is the remarkable story of how that team was selected and why it matters today.

Presenter Bio: During the workday, Rob Lumley builds websites for the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association. Outside of work, he spends time with his family and takes all his interests very seriously. You can find Rob during the lunch hour at the UW Natatorium on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays wearing Rec Specs and playing basketball.

Addiction: is it what’s for dinner?

Summary: When you pop, why can’t you stop? Well, (spoiler alert!) chips have been identified as one of the most addictive foods. And in a time when more than a third of Americans are obese, people are wondering whether “food addiction” is the cause…

Presenter bio: Annie Racine is a graduate student in the Neuroscience & Public Policy Program at UW-Madison. She is currently planning a wedding and a move to Boston where her wonderful fiancé just matched for residency in pediatrics. Annie enjoys making homemade kombucha, going on long bike rides, and drinking fancy boxed wine. She does not enjoy the feeling of cotton balls being pulled apart, being inappropriately dressed for the weather, or looking for parking.

Nerd Nite 039

Date: Wednesday March 23, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Mason Jar Madness!

Summary: Ever wondered why these cute little jars exploded in recent years? Ever wonder how they came into existence, or what the logos/colors mean? We’re going to dive into the very nature, and transformation, of the mason jar from fundamental item survival item to its Pinterestification!

Presenter bio: A chronic crafter, cat lover, and Heather spends her life on campus as a MBA student and fundraiser at the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association. She owns too many pairs of shoes and has cabinets full of mason jars in all sizes, ages and colors. You may say she’s obsessed, but she just takes after her great-grandmother and collects the finer things in life. This is her first time presenting at Nerd Nite and Heather couldn’t be more excited!


Make Mastodons Great Again

Summary: Mastodons aren’t depicted on kids’ lunchboxes shooting lasers out of their eyes or tearing small mammals to shreds…but they should be. Once upon a time there was nothing cooler than an ice age beast (lazy pun intended) and Thomas Jefferson was fueling a North American fossil revolution. Believe it or not, the remains of these hairy beasts are right under your feet (probably).

Bio: After directing her 11,314th visitor to the bathroom, Carrie gave up her Park Ranger life to seek solace in academia. She did graduate work on glaciers in Norway, Iceland, and Svalbard, and now loves cheap produce and brown cheese. She’s been hanging her hat at the UW Geology Museum as Curator of Collections where you can find the bathrooms on the left, just past the globe.


Marksmanship: Physics, Kinesiology, and Fun

Summary: How is it that a bullet, something that weighs only 1% of one pound, can travel so accurately to a target? Why do shots miss? And how is it that those who are trained utilize science to ensure that they achieve perfection time and time again?

Presenter bio: Aaron Campbell has been practicing many forms of marksmanship since he was a child. When he is not at work in banking he studies ballistics and strives to meet his goal to accomplish a repeatable 1 kilometer rifle shot.

Nerd Nite 038

Date: Wednesday February 24, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

If Emily Dickinson had Facebook…

Summary: Though widely considered a recluse (for good reason, she hardly ever left the house), poetess Emily Dickinson maintained a fascinating social network of friends, relatives, writers, and lovers. Join us as we take a tour of her most fascinating connections. Torrid love affairs! Bizarre family feuds! Publication power plays! And possibly the worst secret a pair of parents ever kept from their child. You’ve read the poems, now get the dirt.

Presenter bio: While maintaining an ostensibly respectable life as an academic coordinator, Julie cultivates her inner crazy cat lady every chance she gets. These efforts have been so successful that she now reliably receives every new internet cat video in triplicate from her well-trained group of friends. (Good work, team!) In truth, her life is merely one long preamble to The Age of Purple Hats. Until then, she bides her time letting her cat Meta in and out (and in and out) of her room, watching really bad shows on Netflix, doodling hedgehogs, and recovering from grad school one whiskey-ginger at a time.


The Good The Bad and the Rule 30 Depositions by Oral Examination.

Summary: What happens when you sue somebody? As it turns out, a lot of things. Come to uncover some of the more noteworthy quirks of the legal process.

Bio: Scott Thompson is a Madison attorney with the law firm, Gingras Cates & Luebke. His favorite song with a legal-ish title is Wolf Parade’s “Grounds for Divorce.”


Science and Beer: a 6000-year love story

Summary: Beer has been incredibly important to the progress of science. While of course beer has been useful to scientists wanting to take the edge off, for as long as there have been scientists anyway, the thirst for beer has been important driver for a variety of innovations including epidemiology, statistics, thermodynamics, refrigeration, and even choosing agriculture over the traditional hunting & gathering. Beer has been a incredible shaping influence of humans for the last 6000 years; science just got invented along the way.

Presenter bio: Robert Coolman is a Freelance Science Writer finishing up his PhD at UW Madison in Chemical Engineering. He’s written for The Daily Beast, Nautilus, Discover, and LiveScience. He finds it hard not to talk about the history of math.

Nerd Nite 037

Date: Wednesday January 20, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Look at this f*cking hipster

Summary: Hipster: the much-loathed social label that just won’t go away. What is a hipster? How did it come to be? What will it become next? We’ll discuss these questions, plus how to spot one in the wild, and hear personal testimonials on the journey through hipsterdom.

Presenter bio: At one point in his life Jamie owned and wore (on multiple occasions) corduroy short shorts. This is his third time presenting at Nerd Nite, and when he’s not curating his record collection or sipping hand-roasted coffee he works at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.


Antibiotic Resistance: Life finds a way

Summary: Your cousin doesn’t need that Z-pack, but try telling him that. The inconvenient truth is that antibiotic resistance is a real and dangerous trend. We’ll talk about how we can disrupt the curve.

Bio: Laurel Legenza is a pharmacist completing the Comparative Health Systems Global Pharmacy Fellowship at UW-Madison. Her research focuses on strengthening health systems, including antibiotic stewardship culture and improving the use of regional antibiotic resistance data. She lives by the motto laughter is the best medicine…when taken with Vancomycin.


Alcohol: The Facts About The Myths

Summary: Vikings and monks may not have gotten along very well in the Middle Ages, but their basic ideas about how to deal with alcohol are pretty similar. If you look at the Bible or the Poetic Edda, you’ll find moderation and good behavior are ideal. However, we all know how people like breaking rules.

Presenter bio: Christopher Bishop is a “Cradle to PhD” academic nerd. He graduated from the UW-Madison in 2013 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore. He likes all things Viking-related, having written a master’s thesis about runic magic, and he also loves Swedish nerds, having written a dissertation about student culture in Uppsala. Both of his projects involved alcohol to an extent.