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.

Nerd Nite 036

Date: Wednesday December 16, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Soils: The Rodney Dangerfield of Natural Resources

Summary: Soils sustain life, yet most people know more about the stars (and thanks to The Martian, Mars) than they do the earth beneath their feet. Learn more about what soil does for humans, and what you can do to preserve it.

Presenter bio: Susan Fisk is a life-long nerd (who may really be a geek, what’s the diff?) After leaving the organic chemistry graduate program at Duke, she studied marketing and communications. She now works with scientists to help them tell the public about their research.


That’s What BEE Said: A Talk about Talking Animals

Summary: uhhhh A look at how animals communicate with each other and with us

Bio: Sasha Rosser is a genetic identity QA specialist at Promega.
She’s done research in neuroscience, genetics, and evolution.
She collects mustards and R2-D2s.


NOW USUALLY I DON’T DO THIS, BUT… [trigger warning]

Summary: This talk will take a deeper dive into the controversial history of R. Kelly, comparing and contrasting him to other arguably “genius” artists with despicable skeletons in their closets, as well as take some guesses as to why he seems to still manage to skate by while other celebs **cough** BILL COSBY **cough** have been professionally destroyed by the horrendous accusations leveled against them. With this presentation I’m not looking to bring the proceedings to a screeching halt, and in no way plan on trivializing the terrible things R. Kelly allegedly perpetrated, but be forewarned that there will be some potentially uncomfortable things referenced and discussed.

Presenter bio: A Madison transplant from North Carolina where he wrote his undergrad thesis on “Hip Hop’s Interdisciplinary Cultural Roots”, Chris sometimes writes things for The Isthmus and Tone Madison, occasionally performs standup comedy, often times sells people records at MadCity Music Exchange, and will always have a last name that’s a sex-verb.

Nerd Nite 035

Date: Wednesday November 11, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

How Cats are Plotting to Take Over the World… and Succeeding

Summary: Long ago, cats made a decision to leave the natural world and join up with humans to ride the easy food train. OR SO WE THOUGHT! Secretly, cats have been using a well-developed, long-term scheme to not only become the dominant species of the planet but to both subjugate humans and destroy their mortal enemies of birds and mice. Through biological, psychological, and guerilla warfare they are already well on their way to succeeding. The only way we can stop them is by informing the masses of their plot and FIGHTING BACK!

Presenter bio: Lauren Brooks recently graduated with her Master’s in Zoology at UW, in which she investigated the factors influencing mice body size change across islands. From her work in restoration ecology as an undergraduate also at UW, she has a strong passion for debating if any species is truly native to anywhere and promoting a love of prairies. Shes also loves comics, coffee, fantasy football and wrestling with her dog.


The Social Life of the Human Voice

Summary: Human beings have an incredible amount of control over how we use our voice, from producing subtle shifts in loudness or pitch to letting loose with a death metal scream. In this talk we’ll learn more about the little bundle of cartilage and muscle that makes these things possible: the larynx. From there, we’ll look at how different uses of the human voice take on social meanings that vary across languages and communities, exploring gendered understandings of vocal pitch, the culturally-sensitive meanings of a whisper or breathy voice, recent panics over young women’s use of “vocal fry,” and more.

Bio: Joshua Raclaw is a postdoc and resident sociolinguist at the Center for Women’s Health Research at UW-Madison, where he studies language and communication processes in scientific grant review panels. He’s also interested in how language works to construct our relationships and identities and the ways that new technology changes how we communicate with one another, and one time he wrote over two-hundred pages on the word ‘no’. In his spare time he enjoys baking, spoiling his cats, and kindling a newfound love of sour beers.


Declare Your Allegiance! Differences in Early East Coast and West Coast Hip Hop

Summary: Whether you’re an OG or a just a lower case g, you’re probably at least peripherally aware of an East-West rivalry in the early days of hip hop. How did this rivalry start? And more importantly, what are the differences between the two subgenres that dominated the sound of early hip hop? We’ll explore the history, sounds, and samplings to try and find the answers to these questions and more. And maybe, just maybe, you can drop this knowledge to bump your street cred, or just impress while you’re chillin’ with your boo.

Presenter bio: Greg Flygt is an attorney specializing in business law, contracts, and intellectual property. A lifelong Madisonian, he learned everything he knows about hip hop from the mean streets of the West Side (and The Internet). Besides listening to hip hop, he dabbles in rapping at karaoke, wasting time on Reddit, and always using the Oxford Comma.

Nerd Nite 034: At the Wisconsin Science Festival!

Date: Saturday October 24, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (map)

Books on the Move: #Bibliomigrancy

Summary: How did the Epic of Gilgamesh—which the Sumerians read on stone tablets 2000 years ago—end up on your electronic tablet? How do books travel? How do they become vessels of stories and migrate from one part of the world another? How do they find shelf space in libraries of new readers? How are our perceptions of books and libraries “coded” and “recoded” through history? Care about these questions? Come listen to one of your Area Book Nerds. Don’t care? You are still welcome.

Presenter bio: B. Venkat Mani is Professor of German at UW-Madison. He co-directs UW-Madison’s Mellon Sawyer Seminar, “Bibliomigrancy: World Literature in the Public Sphere.” He spent a year recently at the German National Library as an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow. His first book, Cosmpolitical Claims (University of Iowa Press, 2007) was on migration of human beings and literature. His forthcoming book, Recoding World Literature (Fordham University Press, 2016) is about migration of books. His bucket list consists of pilgrimages to libraries around the world. He judges books by their covers and cities by their public libraries.


The Physics of Color

Summary: Unless we are colorblind, as soon as we look at something, we know what color it is. Simple, isn’t it? No, not really. The color we see is rarely just determined by the physical color, that is, the wavelength of visible light associated with that color. Other factors, such as the brightness surrounding a certain color, or the illuminating light affect our perception of that color. Most striking, and useful, is understanding how the retina and the brain work together to interpret the color we see, and how they can be fooled by additive color mixing, which makes it possible to have color screens and displays. Pupa will show the physical origin of all these phenomena and give live demos as she will tell us how they work. Bring your own eyes!

Presenter bio: Pupa Gilbert is a professor of physics at UW-Madison, who studies biominerals, including seashells, sea urchin spines and teeth, corals, and eggshells. She likes to figure out how they are formed by living organisms who master physics and chemistry. She lives in Madison and Berkeley, teaches “physics in the arts”, likes to travel and collect biominerals, to do experiments at the synchrotron, and to make wine.


From Filter Bubbles to NBIC Technologies: Why it’s easier and easier to be wrong about science, and what we can do about it

Summary: We live in a world in which it is possible for citizens to access more (scientific) information with less effort than ever before. At the same time, politically divided news environments have created a world of filter bubbles and echo chambers that allow us to only hear what we already believe in. What are the effects of these new news environments on our democracy? And why are we as a country less equipped than ever before to debate controversial issues with each other in a civil fashion? This talk will explore some of these questions and what the latest research tells us about causes and possible solutions.

Presenter bio: Dietram A. Scheufele is the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Honorary Professor of Communication at the Dresden University of Technology (Germany). He currently also co-chairs the National Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences. Scheufele’s deals with the interface of media, policy and public opinion. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, and a member of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering. His consulting experience includes work for PBS, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank.

Nerd Nite 033

Date: Wednesday September 30, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Doin’ It Like They Do On the Discovery Channel: A Guide to Zoo Animals Gettin’ It On

Summary: Unlike their counterparts in the wild, most species living in zoos need a little assistance to reproduce. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) works to ensure that animals in zoos are able to procreate to keep the circle of life going now and for the next 500 years. Surprisingly, most of this work takes place real close to Madison is more complicated than just letting two animals going at it. With a lot of data, science, and research behind it all, the AZA keeps zoos full of baby animals for people like us to coo over.

Presenter bio: Although she worked for a zoo, Tomissa Porath never worked directly with the animals or their reproductive behaviors. Tomissa currently works for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association as a Prospect Research Analyst. In her spare time, she enjoys craft beer, travels the country in search of the best fast food burger, and drinks a whole lotta coffee.


Lovecraft and the Superfan: A Not-Quite Inspirational Tale of the Evolution of Modern Horror

Summary: Ever play the Dark Descent or Batman: Arkham Asylum? Watch the Evil Dead? Get disappointed by the second season of True Detective because it was nowhere near as good as the first? Modern horror and suspense would be completely unrecognizable without the influence of H.P. Lovecraft, but his influence would have been gone unnoticed if not for the tireless work of one man. This is an improbable story of friendship, horror, and tireless devotion that would forever change what we think is scary.

Bio: By day, Laura Felley is an MD/PhD student who spends her days drawing blood, begging cells to grow, and telling people to get HIV tests and flu shots. But by night, she is The Cultist: An unrepentant horror nerd and blogger ( from whom no weird fiction or Lovecraft-inspired story is safe.


Booze Hacking

Summary: Making booze is easy. Long before hoppy craft beers, Stone Age humans made primitive cocktails from grains and raisins. Animals regularly get wasted off rotten fruit. Huge clouds of alcohol even occur naturally in space! This presentation covers the history and science behind booze production, then shows how a trip to Woodman’s and some simple tricks are all you need need to start making your own DIY hooch.

Presenter bio: Mark Coatsworth is a graduate student at UW Computer Science. He moved to Madison from Toronto in 2014 and indulges his spare time in hockey, old time banjo, fast bicycles and whitewater canoeing. He is an alumnus of Nerd Nite Toronto, and is super excited to bring his science experiments to an international audience.