Nerd Nite 058

Date: Wednesday, May 23
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.

May the Law be With You: Legal issues from a galaxy far, far away

Summary: There are a lot of Star Wars movies and even more legal issues in the Star Wars universe. From product liability questions related to the design of the Death Star to hazardous work conditions for Jabba’s employees to the rights of droids to be served at the Cantina, we discuss some of the legal issues that are raised in the Star Wars movies. We can all come out of this ready to sue the Empire in civil court!

Jessica Mederson

Presenter Bio: Jessica Mederson joined Hansen Reynolds LLC in 2011 and serves as the Managing Partner of Hansen Reynolds’ Madison office. Prior to joining the Firm, Ms. Mederson was an attorney with Vinson & Elkins LLP in Austin, TX. Ms. Mederson litigates business and IP matters in state and federal courts across the nation. Licensed in four states, she focuses on construction defect litigation, management and director/officer disputes, employer-side employment litigation, contract disputes, and patent infringement litigation. She is a graduate of The George Washington University and the University of Texas School of Law. She is also a founder of The Legal Geeks and blogs on the intersection of law and geek culture at She has presented at San Diego Comic Con every year since 2015.!

Biomimicry: Learning from Nature’s Wisdom

Summary: Nature thinks “inside the box” by creating amazing innovations despite working within the bounds of heavy constraints. Biomimicry is the study of these natural strategies, and the resulting lessons are turned into abstractions that can help us solve our problems while ensuring balance within the world around us. This talk will provide a brief introduction to this amazing toolset!

Benjamin St John

Presenter bio: Ben is a designer and innovation manager currently about to start work in the software industry. He completed his undergrad at Arizona State University in a hybrid program between the engineering and business schools in 2015, followed by a Masters of Science in Biomimicry (also at Arizona State University) in 2017, and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. His mother, a horticulturist, taught him about the the value of nature and its ecosystems and these lessons stayed with him throughout his career and personal life. An avid hiker and camper, Ben is most at home taking in the awesome power of nature with its ability to maintain incredibly delicate and balanced ecosystems.

We Can All be a World Champion: How an every-man won the World Series of Poker

Summary: Celebrate the 15th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker (that is his real name) vaulting poker into popular culture and spawning a new world of poker players. On May 23, 2003, Chris won $2.5 Million after spending $86 on an online satellite entry. This tournament was full of amazing characters and unlikely winners and losers. Chris’s story and what he did to the poker world resonates today. I will discuss how parts of popular culture, technology, and luck led to Chris’s unlikely win.

Brad Green

Presenter bio: Brad is a professional fundraiser for the University of Wisconsin. He is average (maybe) at poker but loves it. He spends his free time playing guitar and hanging out with his 5 year old daughter and his old dog.

Nerd Nite 057

Date: Wednesday, April 25
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.

♬ I Feel the Mars… Move… Under My Feet ♬

Summary: Nerds, get excited! A rocket will soon launch to Mars carrying a robotic lander that will undertake one of the greatest studies in planetary science history. While it may not be as sexy as sending humans to the red planet, we’ll dive into NASA’s upcoming InSight mission and learn about how checking a planet’s ‘vital signs’ will help uncover the secrets of the early solar system (including Earth) and the implications this has for humanity’s future in space. At the very least, you’ll walk away with a much greater appreciation for MARSQUAKES!

Tristan Mentz

Presenter Bio: Tristan Mentz is a DJ, event planner, and volunteer astronomy nerd with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Solar System Ambassador program. When he’s not laying down beats he likes to contemplate life’s mysteries under a sky of stars and orbiting satellites. Tristan hopes to someday travel to the moon, see the stars from the far side, and gaze back on our planet suspended in the vastness of the cosmos. GO SCIENCE!

Tinder, Twitter, and Trump: How Social Media Creates Societal Silos

Summary: Social media has supplanted broadcast media. Technology has made the world ‘smaller.’z The exchange and distribution of information faster and easier but it’s more than just fast… it’s different. We have more ways of connecting, sharing, and creating yet news and social networks feel more divisive than ever before. That’s because we’re being ‘siloed’ by the very thing that is supposed to bring us closer: Social Media. We’re going to talk about what social media really is, what it’s not, and its effect on individuals and groups through the lens of the social media bubble. We’re striving to better understand how social media funnels us into silos, affecting our relationships, shapes our opinions, and changes our perspective.

Joel Ondercin

Presenter bio: Joel is a self-described ‘over-enthusiast’- he tends to get very excited and ‘nerd out’ about things that he likes. Joel likes a lot of things but is good at very few; Social media, photography, and drinking are some of the few. He spends his work weeks as the social media manager for an education technology company, Renaissance, doing everything from analytics, corporate policy, publishing, and strategy. When not at the office he’s usually drinking, gaming, bingeing content or spending time on his latest [short-lived] hobby or trend. Since he spends most of his waking life on social media he has a pretty dim view of humanity which can be confusing considering his enthusiastic personality.

The Ben Franklin Bodyslam: Wrestling Virtue in a Modern World.

Summary: When the life you thought you were building falls apart, how do you build yourself back up? Using a system devised by Benjamin Franklin in 1726, I set about rebuilding myself one character trait at a time. Seems that some of those revolutionaries really had their stuff together.

Will Ringland

Presenter bio: Will is an all purpose nerd. He graduated from Beloit College in 2004 with a BA in English and Psychology. His primary day job is managing accessibility process for a local healthcare company. In his spare time he writes about building character, productivity, and being a better person in a world growing less virtuous.

Nerd Nite 056

Date: Wednesday, March 21
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.

Your voice got the moves (like Jagger)

Summary: Your speaking voice conveys a lot about your personality, and it’s set, right? Like your fingerprints, it comes with you and you go with it? This is real life, so you know it’s not that simple. Let’s make some weird noises together and play around with your sound.

Amber Nicole Dilger

Presenter Bio: Amber Nicole is a voice teacher and performance anxiety coach who is endlessly fascinated by both the physiology and psychology of the human vocal instrument. Based in Madison, she has taught and performed across the country and is happiest when her travels bring her to the ocean + trees + warmth. Find out more at

Children of the Corn: Americans’ Obsession with an Overgrown Grass

Summary: Americans love corn. We guzzle corn syrup, shovel in spoonfuls of cornflakes, and cut into prime steaks from corn-fed cows. We drive our cars with corn gasoline down highways lined with endless fields of corn. We’ll learn how the roots (ha!) of our obsession go back more than 8,000 years to a bushy grass in central Mexico and continue into the bowels of our most hated biotech companies — and show that corn is, in many ways, the most American plant.

Eric Hamilton

Presenter bio: Eric is a science writer with a particular obsession with plants, which probably explains why he used to be a plant scientist. He’s also a lifelong Midwesterner, which probably explains why he thinks so much about corn. And he’s a recently transplanted Madisonian, which probably explains why he loves pull-tabs so much.

Is this a Cult? And Other Better Questions about Intentional Communities

Summary: Didn’t intentional communities all die out in the 70’s? Are people really living off the land? What’s the difference between a commune, an ecovillage and a cohousing community? What kind of environmental and social impacts are communities making? Do people have to share toothbrushes? Answers to these and other burning questions brought you by intentional community hopper and analyst, Rachel Huber.

Rachel Huber

Presenter bio: Rachel studied Environmental Science at Purdue University and then unintentionally spent the next 7 years visiting/living in intentional communities across the U.S. Her eye for efficient systems, vision for a sustainable future and heart for human happiness has led her to believe that she has a thing or two to report to muggles public.

Nerd Nite 055

Date: Wednesday, February 21
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.

Sex Ed Update: Misconceptions about Conception and Other Useful Facts

Summary: Most Americans have sexual intercourse, however they define it, for the first time as teenagers and, for years, attempt to avoid getting themselves or another person pregnant. This presentation will be a contemporary look at Sex Ed, including why it is the way it is, as well as some practical tips on reproduction (how to, as well as how not to) that it would have been helpful to have learned in school.

Meredith A and Gina W

Presenter Bio: Meredith and Gina are local sex-perts whose expertise stems from mandatory sex ed training in middle school and high school, along with hundreds or perhaps thousands of logged hours having The Sex, with a focus on enjoyment and avoiding reproduction. Their backgrounds include educational policy, journalism, and improv, all of which will be incorporated into their first Nerd Nite presentation together.

Exposed! — Subliminal Messaging in Movies & Advertising

Summary: Michael is a director for hire, and it’s his job to communicate to you through film and ads without ever actually saying anything. In this talk, he’ll reveal the two ways that specific ideas are communicated through images alone. From the Soviet film theorists in 1917 to the Michelin Baby, creatives have hidden their messages in one of two places: the cut (the negative space between two images) or within a single image itself. You will never see the visual arts the same way again.

Michael Neelsen

Presenter bio: As a child, Michael wanted to become a lawyer. Because that career would bring him too much comfort and money, he became a documentary filmmaker and commercial director instead. His current project is “Beyond Human Nature,” an oral history of the Tom Monfils “pulp vat murder” investigation from 1992-1995. His previous feature film, “Last Day at Lambeau”, was a documentary on the divorce of Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers. It was broadcast on PBS in 2016.

His favorite beer at the moment is New Glarus “Cabin Fever” and he will move heaven and earth to see Tom Waits perform live if he ever goes on tour again.

Naked Mole-Rats, a.k.a. Penises with Teeth

Summary: Prepare your mind to be repeatedly blown as Frank comically covers just some of the many incredibly odd characteristics of naked mole-rats, small rodents that live in underground colonies with a queen and are very different from both moles and rats!

Frank Castelli

Presenter bio: Frank is a freshly minted Ph.D. of Behavioral Evolutionary Neuroscience from Cornell University where he studied naked mole-rats and hamsters. He is currently a Research Specialist at UW-Madison studying California mice. In the past he has also studied prairie dogs, voles, tailless whip-scorpions, cichlid fish, ants, howler monkeys, and fossilized bird regurgitations.

Nerd Nite 054

Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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.

Polygamy vs. Monogamy: One Rose is Not Enough

Summary: Why are some species polygynous and some monogamous? Caleigh will go over the basics of polygyny and monogamy, dispel some myths, and show some really cool animal examples and some entertaining human examples.

Caleigh Guoynes

Presenter Bio: Caleigh is a PhD student at UW-Madison studying hormones and behavior. She has done research with prairie voles, house mice, and California mice, and has been bitten many, many, times. If you’re on the isthmus, you may run into Caleigh spending time outside with her favorite animal, her dog Mozzy.

Are you the guy with the sticks? Air Traffic Control and You

Summary: Few jobs are as well hidden from the public as that of air traffic control. Despite the fact that every time you get on a plane, your safety is in the hand of numerous government bureaucrats spread all across the country, almost no one knows they even exist, let alone gets to look inside their strange workplace world. Well, tonight that’s about to change! Get ready to pull back the curtain (there are literally curtains) to the radar room, raise the shades on the tower cab, and learn all about the very bizarre individuals who spend their days bossing planes around the sky.

Zach Sielaff

Presenter bio: Zach is a former air traffic controller who spent six and a half years as a radar controller for Washington Dulles, and two years as a radar and tower supervisor in Madison. He left the staid, safe world of federal employment for the joys of freelancing last year, and now works as an audio-book narrator and a sports play-by-play announcer. You can view his website at

The Talmud: The Secret Life of Jewish Teenage Boys

Summary: There’s this book, the Talmud. It’s long, and it’s dense. It’s got some profound bits, and it’s got some wacky bits. You can spend an entire lifetime just reading what’s been written about it and still not master it. It’s the book that makes Judaism Judaism, but few non-Jews have heard of it. Except the South Koreans. They think it’ll make them smart. No joke.

Eliezer Posner

Presenter bio: Eliezer was a hard-core Orthodox Jew. He studied the Talmud a bunch and got ordained as a rabbi. But atheism made more sense to him. So he studied math a bunch and got a job as a software developer. Today he occupies himself by climbing, playing hockey, cleaning old people’s houses, being an uncle to nineteen children, and trying to share bits of Talmudic wisdom with his friends, who don’t quite get his point.

Nerd Nite 053

Date: Wednesday, November 29 2017
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.

“T-Cellvengers Assemble!”

Summary: The immune system works non-stop and with perfect coordination to make sure that you don’t succumb to nasties from the outside or those within. Arguably, the one type of immune cell which directs traffic within the immune system is the T-cell. Without T-cell help, the cells of the immune system are greatly limited in what they can do to serve and protect you. Yet, not every T-cell is the same. Different T-cell subsets do different — sometimes even contradictory — things. Yet, to launch a successful immune response practically all these subsets need to work together. It’s almost like they are a superhero team…

Akshat Sharma

Presenter Bio: Akshat is a gemini, ENFJ, chaotic neutral PhD student studying — wait for it — T-cell biology at UW-Madison. He is a strong believer in espresso, barbells, vaccines and common sense. His favourite affirmation is printed out and hung above his desk at work: “No boyfriends until graduation.” This is Akshat’s first Nerd Nite ever.

Defenestration: Stories of Openings and Objects

Summary: The unusual and often gruesome act of using windows as an exit. Examine our strange fascination with it historically, literarily and as a dramatic device in films.

Catherine (née Schweitzer) Killam

Presenter bio: She speaks frequently, and fairly well, IHNSHO.

I Like Live Coding and You Should Too

Summary: Imagine a mashup between a rock band, a DJ, and a computer programmer. Do you have that image in your mind? Does it take the form of someone sitting at her computer typing out lines of arcane text while a house beat emanates from the speakers? Live coding music is a relatively new approach to music creation where a coder will create sonic soundscapes from their code in a live setting. Join him to learn more about how to make your computer break speakers and create the next dancefloor hit at an algorave near you!

Scott Fradkin

Presenter bio: Scott is a lead developer and team lead for a local consulting company, Flexion. When he isn’t coding for food, he creates music with his code. He also likes to teach kids how to program and is convinced that live coding music is the way to get kids interested in coding. To find links to his music and to see what he’s up to, browse to

Nerd Nite 052

Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
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.

Tryannicide at the Acropolis: How Athens got its Democracy

Summary: Daggers, unrequited love, ceremonial baskets, myrtle, paranoia, isonomia! These are the ingredients that went into the founding of the first great democracy of the West. The heroes of Athenian democracy, Harmodius and Aristogeiton just wanted to get down with each other when the tyrant Hipparchus comes along wanting some of that sweet Harmodius. Hipparchus doesn’t take rejection well and his plan for revenge backfires ending up with him dead and Athens getting a democracy.

Teddy de Groot

Presenter Bio: Teddy graduated UW-Madison last year with PhD in biomedical engineering. He spends most of his day building tumors. He nerds out hard on classical history on his off time. This will be his second Nerd Nite featuring Ancient Athens. Join Teddy on his quest to bring back classical history telling as it was before the Germans came around in the 19th century and ruined everything with their socioeconomic-driven explanations for everything.

Just My Type: The History of the Typewriter

Summary: Before our laptops became so portable and silent, you had the typewriter. How did this machine come about and how did it help evolve technology through its many iterations to where it is now? Furthermore, we’ll chat about how has pop culture has made these machines the cool, new thing again.

Caroline Sullivan

Presenter bio: Caroline enjoys good coffee and even better conversation. When she’s not spreading the gospel of higher education and fundraising at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association as a Senior Marketing Coordinator, she’s often successfully trying new recipes in the kitchen or massively failing at home improvement projects in her Eastside house. When she’s not doing either of those things, she also enjoys reading and watching trashy TV.

Sign Language: Why two hands are better than a mouth

Summary: We got sign language swear words, tricked up dirty sign and some saucy sign poetry, bro. There’s gonna be some mad myths debunked in this one. Like, bet you didn’t know British Sign Language looks nothing like American Sign Language. Deep answers in here, bro. Like, the grammar of duck lips. You’ll see why language scientists are staring stupid hard at a whole lot of moving hands. (Staring is caring, right?)

Mark Koranda

Presenter bio: Mark grew up listening for three, because his mom and pop are Deaf. People were always like, “How’d you learn to talk?” Good question. These days he’s trying to figure out how anybody talks at all, experimenting on how thoughts become words (in the psychology department). In a former life he listened to some foreign talk for the the Marine Corps. So, there’s that. When he’s not listening, he likes to take pictures of crumbling buildings.

Nerd Nite 051

Date: Wednesday, August 23, 2017
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.

EyeSpy: How to turn your eye into a microscope

Summary: A thrilling tale full of excitement (!), romance (!), and appropriation of technology from the military industrial complex! Learn the cutting edge science behind ‘Adaptive Optics’ and how we’re using it cure blindness.

Alison Huckenpahler

Presenter Bio: Alison graduated from UW-Madison in 2012. Being terrified of becoming an actual adult with a real job, she signed on for 8 more years of school and started an MD/PhD program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Currently in year 5, she classifies herself as an alcoholic with a research problem and knows a lot about eyes.

A Goat, A Cat, and a Bartman.

Summary: The Chicago Cubs took 71 years to return to the World Series and 108 years to win it. Along the way, the franchise and fan base was struck with 3 major curses that became the bane of generations of Cubs fans. Luckily, this story ends happily ever after (if you’re a Cubs fan or like to see curses broken).

Nick Marzotto

Presenter bio: Nick has lived in Madison for the past six years. He has a deep love for singing, trivia, and as his wife calls it “Sportsball.” A sports geek to the core, Nick loves to nerd out over stats and sports gossip.

Hustle & Flow: The Rise of Computational Fluid Dynamics

Summary: If a material flows, it’s a fluid. Gases and liquids, aka fluids, are a big part of why everyday objects operate the way they do. From airplanes and cars to blenders and HVAC systems, the dynamics of fluids determine the design of many things around us. But how do we go about architecting the next race car or wind turbine? We could throw everything in a wind tunnel, but physical tests are expensive. Come learn how computational fluid dynamics is reducing the need for physical testing by rising to the challenge of virtual engineering design.

Kelly Senecal

Presenter bio: Kelly co-founded the software company Convergent Science while earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering at UW-Madison. In addition to running the business, Kelly enjoys playing the drums, attending live concerts, and long walks on the beach…but only after applying SPF 70…at night.

Nerd Nite 050

Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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.

Sunscreen: A Guided Safari

Summary: On the brink of summer, join us in the wild hunt for the prime sun protecting product. How do some ingredients block UV rays while others absorb them? Safari hats and binoculars recommended for this game drive.

Laurel Legenza

Presenter Bio: Laurel is a pharmacist working on research projects at UW-Madison. Her research includes infectious disease quality improvement projects in Wisconsin and South Africa that support a culture of antimicrobial stewardship.


Summary: This presentation clarifies what diabetes is, dispels common fundamental misconceptions about the disease, and provides tips for supporting someone who lives with its challenges.

Ken Fager

Presenter bio: Ken is an Apple-oriented IT Librarian for Bucky by day, a Geeks Who Drink Quizmaster by night, and is a genuine Type 1 diabetic.

1984: The Best Year in Music

Summary: Which year had the best music? This is a fun argument to have at a bar with friends. Rob will tell you a story about a King, a Boss, a Prince and a Virgin and by the end, you’ll realize why and how 1984 became the best year in music.

Rob Lumley

Presenter bio: Rob builds websites for the Morgridge Institute for Research. He also is a co-host of the podcast, Tombstone Minute—the minute by minute podcast about the movie, Tombstone. This is his third time on the Nerd Nite stage and much like his other two, he’ll continue to discuss pop culture nostalgia.

Nerd Nite 049

Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Guns, Drugs, and Money: Prison Reform in Wisconsin

Summary: Why do we need to reform prisons in Wisconsin and how do we do it? The US has 5% of the world’s population but 23% of the world’s prisoners. One in two-hundred-fifty Wisconsinites are currently in prison. One in sixty-five are currently in prison or on community supervision. Wisconsin has the same crime rate as Minnesota yet it has twice as many people in prison. Prison reform can be done in a bipartisan manner (Is that still allowed?), especially if we focus on the savings, aka the almighty dollar. Finally, Jake will let you know a couple ways to drastically reduce the number of people in prison.

Jake Jay

Presenter Bio: Jake is a law graduate from UW-Madison who focused on criminal defense but now works for Wisconsin prisons. He enjoys happy hour, podcasts, public transportation, and perhaps most importantly the Milwaukee Bucks. He is passionate about reducing the number of people in prison and finding a way to effect that change in the state of Wisconsin.

Doin’ it Like They Do on the Discovery Channel

Summary: Many are asking when April the Giraffe will have her baby, but the more important question is how the hell did she even get pregnant in the first place. We will cover how zoo animals breed and the scientific process occurring all over the world.

Tomissa Porath

Presenter bio: Tomissa always has a book in her bag and is either drinking a latte or craft beer at any given moment. While working for Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, she became transfixed in fundraising for nonprofits, which led her back to Madison where she now works for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

We All Talk Like Sailors, Even When We’re Not Swearing

Summary: You’ve been three sheets to the wind; you hate having the wind taken out of your sails; you’ve liked the cut of a jib or two. But you might not know that the impact of nautical terminology on the English language goes far beyond kitschy ways to say you’re drunk. In this talk we’ll look into how an extremely specialized slang spoken only by a handful of lonely, illiterate, sunburned men three hundred years ago become so influential in the way a quarter of the world communicates. We’ll be chock-a-block with scuttlebutt from the futtocks to the topgallant!

Zach Hanes

Presenter bio: Zach is a Wisconsin native and occasional comedian who recently returned to Madison after a stint out east, where there is an ocean. There he dabbled in improv, sketch, and stand-up comedy, and wrote some so-far unpublished comic books. He has almost no actual experience with sailing, but he loves history, words, and things made out of wood.