Date: Wednesday February 25, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

How the Sun got its spots…(and other plasma astrophysics stories)

Summary: A long, long time ago, down by the banks of the Limpopo River…well, the Sun probably had sunspots back then too. The question astrophysicists ask is, why? We know that sunspots are a result of the Sun’s turbulent and twisting magnetic field, but the real question is: why do stars, planets, galaxies – practically every visible thing in the universe – even have magnetic fields to begin with? In this talk we’ll go on a whirlwind tour of the many different types of magnetic structures that populate the heavens, and see how scientists are trying to replicate the underlying physical processes in laboratory experiments. The key ingredient? Plasma, the exotic 4th state of matter, unimaginably hot at millions of degrees, and being tamed here on Earth for next-generation power plants, microprocessor fabrication,…and graduate dissertations.  

Presenter bio: Dave Weisberg is a doctoral candidate in the UW Madison Physics Dept. studying hydrodynamic flows and kinetically-driven MHD instabilities in unmagnetized plasmas. When he’s not burning off his fingerprints in the electronics lab, Dave also likes to study the aerodynamics of Frisbees, the friction coefficients of rock climbing, and (insert compulsory coffee joke here). PS: Happy Global Plasma Month!


From Photons to Faces: A Visual Tour of the Visual System

Summary: For most humans, vision dominates our experience of reality. With decent acuity, we perceive depth, color, and motion. To accomplish this, our visual system collects and processes a tremendous amount of data. It contains specialized modular areas to maintain your circadian rhythm, track moving objects, and recognize faces. We’ll follow the flow of visual information from detection of photons in the eye through creation of conscious visual percepts in the cortex with a few stops along the way. Immediately after the Q&A, we’ll test your knowledge of facial recognition with a contest to name characters form nerd-dome. 

Bio: Mike Hendrickson is a staff member in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at UW-Madison, and has a long-standing interest in neuroscience. He is also co-founder of NeuroSolis, Inc., a drug development start-up working on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. If you have a spare million dollars to invest, see him after the presentation—he’ll buy you a beer and a slice of pizza. He’s not joking about the last part.


Love is Weird, and Sometimes Gross

Summary: Love is an elusive topic to define, but for as long as people have been baby-makin’, bizarre and sometimes gross rituals and practices have been put in place for the single end-goal of helping people get down. And if love wasn’t complicated enough already, enter the internet! and science! It’s a messy story of love in its past and present forms that will ultimately have you falling in love with love and all its quirks, squirts, and sweaty shirts.

Presenter bio: Maia first fell in love with love when she found out that (Spoiler Alert!) chemicals in our sweat may have something to do with it. This was for a project on the “Neuroscience of Love” she did as a wee college student. Maia is now a grown-ass graduate student studying Neuroscience full-time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her part-time leisure activities include playing matchmaker for her friends and consuming music by the earful.