Date: Wednesday August 26, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Of Ants and ALF: Aliens, Inquilines, and Social Parasites of All Species

Summary: Ants are one of the most successful groups of organisms on Earth. They are fully social, incredibly adaptive, and form colonies of superorganisms capable of thriving on nearly every landmass on the planet. The Tanners are a suburban middle-class family in the San Fernando Valley. Both the Ants and the Tanners experience certain levels of social success, and with that social success comes freeloaders looking to cash in on the cushy, catered lifestyle of nesting with their successful associates. For Ants, these freeloaders take many forms: beetles, butterflies, even other ants. For the Tanners, it’s ALF, an Alien Life Form crash-landed from planet Melmac. In this talk, we’ll break down the beauty of social parasitism, and show how freeloading in the natural world can be so much more than just eating cats.

Presenter bio: Ben Taylor has been the Boss of Nerd Nite Madison since 2013. He’s big time psyched about that.


Killer Plants

Summary: If you’re feeling a little vengeful, look no further than the garden for an all-natural way to do a little damage to your fellow man. While you and I are no Walter White, a little know-how around castor beans and nightshades may give you an upper hand … or at least minimize your chances of harm when lost in the garden and hungry.

Bio: Christy Marsden is a Horticulture Educator for UW-Extension, a job that surprisingly makes use of both her BS in Human Development and MS in Environmental Horticulture from the University of California, Davis. This is her second time on the stage for Nerd Nite.


How to Invent an Alien Language

Summary: In 2013 I was hired to create a language for a race of aliens in a video game. Without actual aliens to go do fieldwork on, how do you go about creating an alien language? In this talk I’ll show how I used what we know — and don’t know — about natural human languages to help me create, if not a truly alien language, at least something better than processed gibberish or a simple code for English.

Presenter bio: By day, William Annis is a Unix systems administrator. Working all day with computers makes him about as mild-mannered as you might expect. By night, he practices the art of language creation, as he’s done for about thirty years now, mixed with occasional bouts of gardening, and playing the banjo to depress local property values.