Archive for the ‘events’ Category

Look in the sky: it’s a plane, it’s a tree, it’s a spider!

Date: Wednesday, Feb 16
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

Pop(ulus)-Culture of Dane County and surrounding areas

There are many seasons and reasons to appreciate the plant genus Populus. Poplars, cottonwoods, and aspens were the first trees to have their genome sequenced, are some of the largest single organisms in the world, and have been used by humans for millennia. However, you don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia of modern Pop-culture to appreciate what are ultimately just a group of honkin’ good trees! The Popurazzi have been at it this past year, snapping photos of ramets, genets, and all-around great trees of the genus you can find in southern Wisconsin. While we’re sure there are plenty of ortets keeping a low-profile, you won’t want to miss this salicaceous tour highlighting the best that Populus has to offer in our area.

Tyler Wintermute

Presenter bio: Tyler is a PhD student in the Department of Botany at UW-Madison, studying the chemical ecology of the genus Populus, a surprise to no one. While using complicated instruments to analyze small metabolites that have broad impacts on ecosystem processes really gets him going, he recognizes a need for digestible, translational ecology and general science communication to larger audiences who might not care how many 1-hydroxy-6-oxocyclohex-2-en-1-carboxylic acid units are attached to a glucose molecule. Plus, his favorite Populus species was extirpated from Wisconsin by the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889, so he’s had to make do with more resilient trees. When not botanizing, Tyler enjoys sports, and has recently started cross-country skiing, a mythical activity in his native Northern Virginia.

What’s So Great About Flying Small Planes?

If you have a friend or acquaintance who is a pilot, you may have heard (many times) about how great flying is, or even been offered a ride in a small plane. If not, you have probably seen or heard planes flying around the local airports – Dane County Regional Airport in Madison or Morey Field in Middleton. In this talk, I’m going to give an overview of what flying general aviation (GA) planes is all about: Why do people love to fly (and love to talk about it)? How does one go about learning to fly? How safe is it to say yes to a ride in a small plane? What are the advantages and disadvantages of flying yourself somewhere vs. buying an airline ticket?

Sam Hurley

Presenter bio: Sam a Scientist in Radiology at the University of Wisconsin, and an MRI Physicist for UW Health. He received a PhD in Medical Physics, also from Wisconsin. In his professional life, he works on methods to make medical imaging using MRI and PET/MR more quantitatively accurate and less sensitive to patient motion. In his free time, he enjoys attending concerts, playing bass guitar, travel, scuba diving, and working on electronics and software projects. Sam has been flying for about three years, holds an FAA private pilot’s license (aka an “airmen’s certificate”), and owns a partnership in a single-engine four-seat Cessna 172.

Spiders and Friends: When it Comes to Legs- Eight is Great!

Explore the world wide web of arachnids! Learn about some fascinating eight-legged animals from all over the world-and your back yard. Be able to answer questions such as: is the Daddy-Long-Legs a spider? Do spiders breathe? Are arachnids hell-bent on forever terrorizing humans, or are they just misunderstood, or both? Hardcore arachnophobes should sit this one out, but if you’re just creeped, experience the benefits of “knowing thy enemy.”

Danielle Ellen

Presenter Bio: A self-proclaimed “Renaissance Person,” Danielle doesn’t just pursue her interests – she chases them and tackles them to the ground! Some of those interests include: music (she fronts two bands), painting and fiber arts, psychology, religion, philosophy, entomology, and memes. She has been a teacher, a clothes-folder, a nursing home activities assistant, a project manager, and for three years ran a wacky-wild-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-man costume company with two-time Nerd Nite favorite, Bob Baddeley. She currently works as an actuarial analyst and is learning embroidery in her spare time.

A Triumphant Return

Date: Wednesday, Nov 3
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

Smells & the Microbiome: Are Microbes Controlling Your Sex Life?

Microbes are responsible for many of the very best–and very worst–smells we encounter daily. Microbes are also all around, in the environment, living in and on animals, including us, and capable of influencing our behavior! Smells fishy but let’s investigate! Come learn about the role microbes and their scents play in attraction!

Jenny Braturd

Presenter Bio: Jenny Bratburd is a science policy enthusiast with a PhD in Microbiology from UW Madison, and currently works as an outreach coordinator for NASA’s Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team. In her spare time she leads a virtual baking competition and is training for increasingly longer runs and bike rides.

A Roadmap to Discovering a Real National Treasure: Nicolas Cage

Summary: Nicolas Cage may be Hollywood’s most difficult actor to pin down. Throughout his sprawling career, he has refused to be boxed into a single genre or performance style, consistently defying expectations (and often advice) of critics and fans alike. But what really motivates Cage to choose his most baffling roles? The answers may reveal a cautionary tale of dramatic excess or, just perhaps, a roadmap to fearlessly pursuing one’s creative dreams.

Eric Niemeyer

Presenter Bio: Eric is a building energy engineer and part-time Nic Cage enthusiast. His family roots stretch from the cornfields of Nebraska all the way to the cornfields of central Ohio, making his eventual move to this Midwest cultural epicenter inevitable. In the past year, he has rediscovered such exciting hobbies as “leaving the apartment” and “talking to people not on Zoom”.

Dumb Watches in a Smart World

Summary: Why mechanical watches are thriving in a digital world.

AJ Frost

Presenter Bio: AJ is an information technology person who writes and likes mechanical watches

Nerd Nite 023: Everything You Know Is Wrong

Date: Wednesday September 24, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The Truth Is Out There: The Science of The X-Files

Summary: The X-Files was more than just alien colonists, our beloved Smoking Man, and Scully’s amazing pantsuits. Killer cockroaches. Giant psychedelic mushrooms. The Flukeman. How much is science fiction, and how much could be reality? Using a few of everyone’s favorite episodes, I’ll tell you what they got right and what they got awesomely wrong. 

Presenter bio: Alison D. Scott is a pinball wizard, founding editor of The Strobilus, and grad student in the Department of Botany. She left California and moved to Madison to study the evolutionary history of certain big trees using DNA and fossils. When she’s not doing research, you can find her at science outreach events, or at home reading about plane crashes. She thinks your hair looks really great like that.


Squatting for Squares: Your Guide to Proper Pooping

Summary: Everybody poops, and a lot of people poop inefficiently. Through the use of anatomy, images, and anecdotes, I argue that the squat position is much more efficient than the sitting position when pooping. Going “number 2” is such a normal, taken-for-granted part of life that most people who have grown up with westernized sitting toilets don’t think twice about their posture. Most people don’t consider the fact that humans evolved to squat, yet we contort our intestines into unnatural positions and make said intestines work harder by forcing poop out of our bodies while sitting on the toilet. I will present a solution to this dilemma by introducing a way to squat from the comfort of your porcelain toilet seat! I call this method “perching,” and hopefully it will improve people’s pooping lives for the greater good. 

Presenter Bio: Makenzie Graham is an avid advocate of natural healthcare and well-being. She provides therapy for children with Autism, and has just started going back to school to get the pre-reqs needed for a graduate Occupational Therapy program. She spends her free time paddle boarding and learning how to drum and dance to different West African rhythms. She has a holistic view of health, and believes that everything, from the different food we eat to the way we evacuate waste from our bodies, should be considered when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She’ll be moving out to Portland, OR at the end of this year, so she’s happy to start spreading the message about perching here in Madison!


To Split or Lump: What Constitutes A Species In Today’s Changing World?

Summary: Can you think back to freshman year biology class? Chances are, you were taught some obscure definition of how to classify a species. As it turns out, there is not universal consensus among scientists even within different fields on how to group individuals. In this talk we will discuss and debate two contrasting views by a conservationist and an anthropologist of how to deal with variation among populations. The ultimate question: are you a lumper or a splitter?

Presenter bio: Sarah Traynor and Mary Dinsmore are both third year graduate students at the UW-Madison. Sarah Traynor is in the Department of Anthropology where she spends her days measuring Inuit skulls to identify the underlying mechanisms of modern human variation. Mary Dinsmore is a student in the Environment and Resources department. She’s conducting her research in Madagascar where she spends her nights following endangered nocturnal lemurs to study their behavioral plasticity and relationship with the local people. During their first semester these two became fast friends where they discovered their mutual love of science, curvaceous cats, and the occasional desire to slink around town.

Nerd Nite 022

Date: Wednesday August 27, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Parasitic and Allelopathic Plants

Summary: Plants seem helpless to their environment, lacking the means to manipulate their surroundings or leave. However, some clever plants have figured out how to disadvantage a neighbor for personal gain. Sound familiar? While not quite as effective as M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, plants can seriously mess with other plants through chemical and cultural warfare. Learn about plants that kill (or try to kill) other plants in order to survive. 

Presenter bio: Christy Marsden is a Horticulture Educator for UW-Extension, a job that surprisingly makes use of both her bachelor’s in Human Development and Masters in Horticulture in Agronomy from the University of California, Davis. She attempted to deny her plant nerdiness for many years, but finally realized that when put to good use by connecting people to plants, it didn’t seem so bad.


Pokemon and Capitalism

Summary: Pokémon has become the second-most successful and video game-based media franchise in the world. The franchise has also expanded into multiple realms of media entertainment including movies, tv-shows, trading cards, and merchandise. In this presentation, I use the capitalist theory to argue for the success of the Pokémon and how the Pokémon franchise has thrived in capitalist economies. 

Bio: Bio Haiku:

Minh from Milwaukee.
Mega rad Pokémon dreams.
In grad school, bitches.

Minhtuyen (Minh) Mai is back for her second Nerd Nite presentation. She is now a third year graduate student in Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison. She studies food insecurity among low-income students, and social media for scholarly professional development– all of which have nothing to do with her presentation.


The Chemistry of Brewing Beer

Summary: Have you ever wondered how chemistry is intertwined with the beautiful orgy of water, malt, hops, and yeast that produces that most glorious lovechild we intimately know as beer? If your answer is yes, you should come to this talk. If your answer is no, you should come to this talk. Why? Because imbibing will be riding shotgun on this magic carpet ride! This talk will guide you through the brewing process, from alpha acid to zymurgy, with an eye on the chemistry that leads to the huge variety of aromas and flavors we know and love.

Presenter bio: Eric Melby, like many of you, is a lover of beer. He exercises this love as a homebrewer and consumer of most beers he can get his hands on. Eric is currently working towards his PhD in Environmental Chemistry and Technology, where he does research on the chemical principles that guide nanoparticle-biological membrane interaction. In a previous life he taught many flavors of high school chemistry in Fountain, Colorado. What would he really like to do with his life? Ride into the sunset (on a mountain bike) with his wife, dog, and chickens (apparently a very large mountain bike), and operate a small brewery and hobby farm that both focus on environmentally sustainable practices.

Nerd Nite 021

Date: Wednesday May 28, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The Wonders of Plasma Physics and Fusion Power

Summary: Plasma makes up stars, galaxies and over 99% of the visible universe. On earth, they have many practical applications such as fluorescent lights, lasers, welding and even manufacturing computer chips, however no application is more exciting then the promise of fusion power. Scientists have been overcoming numerous trials and tribulations in the quest to harness the almost unlimited potential of fusion power since the 1950s for the clean, radioactive waste free, production of electricity. An overview of basic plasma physics, plasmas of the universe, practical uses of plasmas on earth, as well as the history and future of fusion power research will be presented along with amazing plasma physics demonstrations as you are invited to learn how to work with the stuff of stars.

Presenter bio: Andrew Seltzman went to Georgia Tech as an undergrad majoring in physics and electrical engineering and spent most of his time building robots and fusors. After graduating, he came to UW Madison where he is now a PhD candidate in the physics department focusing on microwave heating of plasmas in the Madison Symmetric Torus. In his free time he fiddles around with electronics in his secret lab, flies gliders, and dances argentine tango. He is currently the de facto coordinator of the plasma outreach table.


Zentai Suits: An Opaque Window into Human Identity

Summary: What if you could remove parts of yourself one at a time? Parts like your memory, your ability to communicate, or your face. When would you stop being you? When would other people stop thinking you are you? Psychology and sociology attempt to understand how we assemble our individual characteristics into our identity and the identity of others. This process profoundly affects our understanding of ourselves and the world, but it is something that is very hard to examine personally. After all, you can’t just temporarily remove a part of yourself and see how people react. Or can you? Join Dan Kaplan for a special, spandex clad Nerd Night talk that explores identity, perception, and the allure of zentai suits.

Bio: The presenter tells us he/she is Dan Kaplan, a person who used to make museum exhibits in DC and is currently a producer at the Wisconsin Media Lab.  However, we’ve only seen the presenter in full body spandex, so we aren’t sure any of this is true.  We have no idea what he/she actually looks like or if he/she really is Dan.  We just know the presenter as a human-shaped thing that is really into covering itself in spandex, so it is hard to form an opinion about the person.


FIRE: a story of explosives, soap, bronze, energy, and PEE

Summary: Fire! WTF is it? We’ll talk about that, and we’ll also talk about how humans use fire to unleash ancient sunlight. We’ll also discover exactly how it can turn trees and rocks into steel swords. This relates directly to the dawn of agriculture and a very surprising use for pee.  Bringing all this knowledge together, we’ll talk about that crazy hand-burn scene in fight club and the surprisingly cleansing uses for wood ash. ALSO, we’re gonna BURN some stuff on stage!

Presenter bio: Lee Bishop started Nerd Nite Madison along with Elena Spitzer almost 3 years ago. It has been SUPER fun, but he is moving back to Berkeley, CA to beg for change on the street. He is a PhD Chemist and full-time science enthusiast. He edits the scientist-written blog,, runs middle-school science clubs & events, and teaches introductory chemistry at Madison College. He loves to get excited about stuff, and he is really excited about fire!

Nerd Nite 020

Date: Wednesday April 9, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Why Captain America Should Be Madison’s Favorite Superhero

Summary: In the past few years comic book movies have become incredibly popular, making billions of dollars at the box office, to the point where even your grandmother probably knows who Iron Man is.  Unfortunately comic books themselves haven’t experienced similar gains and many of their characters struggle to find readers, even among nerds like us.  But no longer!  You are about to learn why, despite your misgivings about his name and spangly costume, Captain America should be your favorite superhero. And that’s because he is, like many of you Madisonians, a liberal, progressive, capital-D Democrat.

Presenter bio: Megan Riley is a Master of Public Health student at UW-Madison, where she also completed her undergraduate degree in Medical Microbiology and Immunology.  Her area of interest is primarily infectious disease epidemiology which of course has nothing to do with her talk at all.


Nerds Save History: the Physics and Philosophy of Time Travel

Summary: Perhaps the greatest moral good one can do is to travel back in time and kill Hitler before he comes to power. Unfortunately for history, this possibility has long been ignored by moral philosophers, philanthropists, and the United States Military for lack of a time machine. However you, as Madison’s finest nerds, should be able to throw one together over a few beers tonight. We’ll discuss the physics of time and how to travel through it, paradoxes and other causality concerns that might arise during your trip, and some of the philosophical implications of our understanding of time.

Bio: Nate Woods grew up in Madison in the Roaring Twenties before attending Middlebury College in Vermont, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2045. In 1877, he came back to Wisconsin to pursue a doctorate in UW-Madison’s high energy particle physics program, from which he hopes to graduate in 2018. This summer, he will move to Geneva, Switzerland to work on the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. He knows how the world is going to end, but isn’t saying because only bad people give away spoilers.


How to be a Nice Girl: the History of Women and Body Hair

Summary: Why do women shave? Did Ben Franklin import the idea from France, inspired by smooth-skinned prostitutes?  Did women in the 1920s launch the trend, attempting to look more like little girls?   The short answer: to prove that women are different than men. The long answer is a bit more complicated (though not much), so we’ll look at depilation practices from Pompeii through the present to try to get to the bottom of this. Along the way, we’ll learn how ancient Romans managed to look as smooth as those marble statues, the grooming habits of nineteenth-century porn stars, and why advertisers in the 1960s wished women would stop using their husbands’ razors, already!

Presenter bio: Anna has spent most of her life wondering why women shave. A Beloit College graduate, she earned her Master’s in History and Museum Studies from the University of Delaware, where she researched Civil War soldiers and their scrapbooking habits, the result of which has just been published in Winterthur Portfolio. In her spare time, she attempted to find the answer to that nagging personal care question, and is excited to finally bring those findings to the public eye (or at least the Nerds of Madison).

Nerd Nite 019

Date: Wednesday March 5, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

How to Fly

Summary: After thousands of years of trying to strap on wings and getting burned, humans finally learned how to f**n fly!! Gary will tell you how you too can fly. He will give you the scoop on general aviation and what’s involved in getting a pilot’s license and show some crazy stuff we can now do with flying machines (oh, and he’ll explain why planes can’t really fall from the sky).

Presenter bio: Gary Lupyan is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at UW-Madison. When he isn’t flying, he’s figuring out how language changes the human brain, which is fun and all, but it’s not flying.


Biology’s BFFs – A Colorful Tour of Symbiotic Systems

Summary: Tonight you’ll learn why all the biology you learned in college was WRONG… okay, not wrong, but way less cool than it could have been. Take a tour of symbiotic systems and the history behind their research (hint: females and communists need not apply). We’ll go micro to macro, first meeting the tiny critters that “live” in all of our cells and then the craziest underwater creature of ’em all, the photosynthetic sea slug. Trust me, GMO corn ain’t got nothin’ on these guys.

Bio: Julie has worn so many hats in the last 5 years that she’s had to hire her own personal haberdasher. Farmer, teaching assistant, complexity theorist, agroecologist, marine biologist (or, bane of hermit crabs), narrative inquirer and game-based learning researcher – she can’t tell you everything about any of them, but boy does she have some stories. Now a course coordinator for a large intro bio course at the UW, Julie has happily put her master’s thesis to rest at the bottom of several empty bottles of champagne.


Fun, Fun, Fun: Adventures In Mind Control with the CIA

Summary: Are you a person of flexible moral fiber? Do you have a general disdain for the homeless or destitute? Does the idea of slipping LSD into the coffee of your coworkers sound like a fun kind of Tuesday? Then take my hand, friend, and let us journey into the magical, wonderful world of the CIA in the 1950s and 60s! Here we’ll learn of the incredibly real and incredibly terrifying goal our government once had (and still might!) of developing and perfecting mind control for use on enemy combatants and anybody else that potentially got in the way. Under the innocent names of Project MKUltra and Project Artichoke (among others), the government tested and researched the effects of drugs, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, and oh so much more on unsuspecting members of the public until the project was shut down in 1973. Buckle your seat belts, because things are gonna get weird.

Presenter bio: Nick Knittel was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and completed his undergraduate in Film & Video Production at Ohio University. He came to Wisconsin following the completion of his masters degree in Creative Writing from Fairfield University in 2011. His first book of short stories entitled Good Things was published in October 2012. He also spent a very long time trying to make this bio fun and witty and then just gave up.

Nerd Nite 018

Date: Wednesday Feb 5, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Founder of Nerd Nite – talking about anything he damn well pleases – (official title TBA)

Summary: He started Nerd Nite over 10 years ago in Boston, and will be gracing Nerd Nite Madison’s stage.  Christopher Balakrishnan is in town! (Official summary TBA)

Bio: Christopher Balakrishnan! The indigo bird dude! OMG! (Official bio TBA)


Pogonotrophy: Facial Hair through the Ages

Summary: No longer just for Revolutionaries, Bikers, or 70’s pornstars; facial hair is seeing a resurgence of popularity in the U.S. and abroad. Some beards are big and bushy, others not so much. Some beards inspire love and trust, while others distinguish you from your evil twin. Regardless of any single beard, beards as a whole have had an impact throughout the ages.

Let’s take a look at the long and tangled history of facial hair and at its current manifestation in the competitive world of Bearding.

Presenter bio: Nathan S. Wilson is a proud member of the Madison Beard Wearer’s Union. His mustache has won the following awards…

* First at the final Beardcon Competition in Columbus, OH
* Second at the inaugural Chicago Beard and Mustache Competition
* Third (two years running) at the Mid Atlantic Championships
* Third in his category at the 2013 National Beard and Mustache Championships

In addition those awards, his mustache is also a sports icon, having appeared on the pages of ESPN magazine. Nathan’s mustache will be accompanied by the rest of his body for this presentation.


Recovering the Wisdom of a Hobbit’s Heart

Summary: Pity, Mercy, and Forgiveness. Look, I don’t want this to sound like the latest post on or .net or whatever, but these are the three things that The Lord of the Rings is really about. We discover the value of pity, mercy, and forgiveness through interaction with the radical other, Gollum. But, when Peter Jackson made his movies he completely stripped pity, mercy, and forgiveness out of the story, and we just missed it because we were drooling over seeing a Balrog. I’ll show you how he did this, with the assistance of a few friends I’ll bring to the stage: a Polish Samwise Gamgee, a Frodo Baggins who is over 6 feet tall, and a Gollum with a deep abiding love of bees. Come with me on this adventure to recover the radical wisdom of the heart.

Presenter bio: Brendon Panke is currently staying around home to take care of his tiny son. Once a month Brendon still gets out there to tell stories with the Madison Storytellers. Before that he would perform science for his meal tickets and improvise with Atlas Improv Co to keep clothes on his back. He has also spent a lot of time discussing The Lord of the Rings with philosophers and has thrown down in some wicked LOTR street battles. He’ll deliver this talk in a cape.

Nerd Nite 017

Date: Wednesday December 18, 2013
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Life is risky business

Summary: Fitness, or the ability to survive and reproduce, of every organism on the planet is influenced by risks.  But risks are not equally dangerous and vary over time and space.  Although organisms may perceive direct threats (e.g., muggers) as more of a risk, indirect threats (e.g., embezzlement) are often not sufficiently detected and could cause greater harm because more resources (money) are lost.  Therefore, organisms must be able to perceive where and when risks are likely to occur while acquiring needed resources, such as frozen pizzas or a potential mate with a spectacular physique.  We explore how the Risk Allocation Hypothesis helps us understand how humans and wildlife use similar behaviors to avoid risks and increase their fitness potential.  Whether it is hiding yo kids and yo wife from intruders or not feeding during moonlit nights to avoid being eaten by an owl, perception of risks is essential to life on Planet Earth.

Bio: Jared Duquette is a wildlife ecologist and currently working on a post-doc related to black bear ecology.  He is an avid outdoorsman, harmonica player, hip-hop dancer, and connoisseur of reuben sandwiches.  His afternoons commonly include researching charismatic mega-fauna, drawing crayon portraits of people, and listening to 80’s hair bands.


Entropy, Everyone’s Favorite Thermodynamic Function

Summary: Entropy has been causing serious philosophical angst since it was first formulated 160 years ago. Matter and energy tend to disperse, and since the universe’s energy is finite, in the end maybe it’s useless to even try creating order. Entropy’s tendency to increase limits the efficiency of engines and information transfer, and it might spell our doom by heat death of the universe. But, perhaps surprisingly, entropy is also a driving force in biology for creating organized structures like folded enzymes and a bacterial nucleoid separated from ribosomes. In this talk, I’ll examine what entropy means, how we study and talk about it, and our fight for order in an increasingly random universe.

Presenter bio: Emily Ruff is a UW-Madison graduate student who spends most of her time thinking about molecular biology. She loves thermodynamics, the liberal arts, and strong coffee, among many other things.


Schlongs of the World

Summary: Forget locker room comparisons, how does your penis measure up in the animal kingdom? More than 3 billion years of evolution have pounded the penis into myriad shapes, sizes and functions. You’ll learn which species boasts the longest, the strongest, the downright weirdest willy of all. How do they work? What do the ladies have to say about it? And why in Darwin’s name is it shaped like that?
“Heartwarming entertainment for the whole family.” NY Times Book Review
“Timed for the holiday season, Seiler’s insights are guaranteed to bring any conversation to a screeching halt.”  Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Two dicks up.” Siskel and Ebert

Presenter bio: Deborah Seiler is a science communications specialist for the UW-Extension and Department of Natural Resources. She returns to Madison Nerd Nite from her previous talk, Sex on Six Legs.

Nerd Nite 016

Date: Wednesday October 30, 2013
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The Economics of Malware: Why EVERY Computer is a Target (Yes, Even Yours)

Summary: Everyone has seen a warning from their antivirus that something has gone wrong, or read a story about a company’s network being compromised. What most people don’t understand is why those events happen. What makes malware (viruses, targeted attacks, trojans, etc) cost effective? Where does the money come from? This talk will explain where the millions of dollars involved come from, and how that money flows.

Bio: Pat O’Connell is a security architect who’s career grew out of time working in electoral politics and systems administration. He began with training clients to understand how they would be vulnerable to social engineering as well as policy to help protect their interests. From there, he branched out into penetration testing and data analytics, including showing clients how attackers would breach their defenses, and how to look for the needles in their haystacks indicating security incidents. He writes a security blog where he gives commentary and tutorials as to how to improve everyday security at


It Really Is a Series of Tubes

Summary: We all laughed when the late Senator Ted Stevens told us that the Internet was a series of tubes. Turns out he was right: he was just off by a century. Under the streets of every major financial city in the world and on every continent but Antarctica, pneumatic tube postal systems delivered telegrams and mail, powered by massive and majestic steam engines. In the early 20th century, pneumatic tube systems came indoors, serving as the messaging and financial mechanisms of just about every major building. In this talk, I’ll look at the glorious history of the pneumatic post, especially in Paris, and we’ll see just how right the late senator was.

Presenter bio: Molly Wright Steenson is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UW-Madison. Pneumatic tubes have made her Internet famous.


The Zombifying Wasp: a Survivors Story

Summary: Every day on planet Earth, a zombie is made. And not in the lab of some deranged scientist, but on the African continent at the hands (or more appropriately, stinger) of an Emerald Cockroach Wasp. In this harrowing talk, we’ll get a first-hand account of nature’s most precise and merciless zombification process.

Presenter bio: Ben Taylor is the Assistant Director of Education for the UW Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, but, even more so than jamming words into his job title, his real passion is for insects. Ben received his bachelor’s degree in entomology from the UW-Madison and considers cockroaches–sentient or otherwise–some of his closest friends.