Nerd Nite 028

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.

Nerd Nite 027: Sex, Drugs, and Frisbee

Date: Wednesday January 28, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

What Makes a Sport Real: The Case of Professional Ultimate Frisbee

Summary: Professional sports are a big business, and sports once considered niche are attracting more and more attention in the form of media coverage and financial sponsorships. But the biggest hurdle sports face when trying to break into the mainstream is the perception over whether or not they are real. So what makes a sport real? This talk will discuss various benchmarks established by fancy academics to judge when a sport has successfully transitioned from the edge into the mainstream, and apply them to the case of pro ultimate. It will also look at how a historically marginalized sport attempts to shed the stereotypes that have long defined the sport in order to attract new fans.  

Presenter bio: Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she specializes in media history and writes papers about Ultimate Frisbee on the side (her lack of coordination prevents her from being a serious on-the-field threat).


A Brief History of Cannabis: A Dope Story

Summary: Cannabis is currently legal in four states and the District of Colombia, and 23 states have medical marijuana laws. But what is Cannabis? Why was it illegal? Why did these states legalize it? What effects have these drug laws had? What is “medical marijuana” used for? Should you care? In this invigorating talk, I’ll keep you from feeling dazed and confused and take you on an excellent adventure to learn more about this famous plant, its history, and its uses, so you can be a better educated citizen! 

Bio: M Stillwell has learned from his time in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin that science is an incredibly important aspect to understanding the world around you. Originally from Colorado, he takes great interest in nature and loves finding new surprises that nature leaves. He is also interested in policy and does his best to stay up to speed with politics when he isn’t living under a rock in lab.


Rodents of Unusual Size and Islands, Environments of Unusual Character

Summary:Approximately 150 years ago, mouse stowaways made the jump from ships to Gough Island, one of the most remote islands on the planet. Since that time, Gough Island mice evolved the largest body size of any wild mouse population in the world – truly, rodents of unusual size! This phenomena has been observed in other species on other islands: animals and plants marooned on islands often evolve either gigantism or dwarfism. Our lab maintains a colony of Gough Island mice. We aim to uncover the mutations and genes underlying the island-induced size evolution of these mice. Perhaps our most helpful colleagues in this quest are other islands, since they naturally crank out other unusually sized rodents, permitting us to answer one of the most important questions in evolutionary biology: Do two widely separated populations that share a trait, such as large body size, evolve that trait as a result of mutations in the same or different genes?

Presenter bio: Mark J. Nolte is a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Genetics at UW-Madison. He hopes that his academic success in Evolutionary Biology can catch up to his success in applied Darwinian Fitness where he boasts four children and a beautiful, choosy wife. He enjoys reading about altruism, cognitive science, religion and naked mole rats (which is really just more altruism).

Nerd Nite 026

Date: Wednesday December 3, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Bitcoin and the Mystery of Money

Summary: It’s in your pockets, it’s deep underground, it’s even in the cloud. Everyone uses it in some ways shapes and forms, that right I’m talking about money! All sorts of money from dollar dollar bills to gold to cryptocurrency, it’s everywhere in our society, but have you taken a moment and actually thought about what money is? Fear not, this talk is going to break if down for you. In the first half we’ll go on an allegorical journey and shift your paradigm of what money is in a cultural and philosophical sense. In the second half, we’ll break down this convoluted and controversial topic of Bitcoin.  

Presenter bio: By day, Sisi Li is a graduate student studying neuroscience at UW-Madison. By night, she is a crochet and wine enthusiast. Ever since a young age, she’s been interested in understanding how the world works which naturally lead her to investigate the superlative organ that enables all learning, the brain. Her hobbies include International traveling (6 continents and counting), improv, sailing, crochet, ultimate frisbee, wine, and most importantly learning.


Wikipedia (disambiguation)

Summary: Wikipedia is the sixth most popular site on the interwebs, it has been cited in important legal rulings–including Wisconsin’s Wolf v. Walker–and now it even has a statue (in Poland of all places). In this talk I’ll share how the site came to be what it is today, and share some facts that will be especially useful in cocktail party banter. I’ll also demonstrate why Wikipedia is such a splendid distributor of knowledge: a fancy thing called hyperlinks. 

Bio: Jamie Holzhuter once made it through an entire semester of Greek classics literature by writing response papers based on reading Wikipedia articles (he prefers to call it “efficient learning,” and the articles were actually quite good). We works at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, which is not at all related to his talk but it’s good to know anyway.


Axotlotl in Regenerative Research

Summary: Learn the tale of a delightful little amphibian that did just fine despite its perpetual immaturity. Through a presentation that spans evolutionary biology, massive inbreeding, regenerative medicine, and a handful of disturbing images, Laura Felley hopes to convince you that no matter how large the discrepancy between your chronological and behavioral age, everything will be peachy just the way it is.

Presenter bio: On graduating college, Laura Felley decided she was not yet ready to leave her warm cocoon of academics and social awkwardness. As such, she joined the MD/PhD program at the University of Wisconsin. Currently a graduate student, she studies human immunology and novel vaccination strategies. Her average workday is spent drawing blood, ordering reagents and equipment worth two to three times her net value, and trying to convince everyone to get a flu shot. (You DID get the flu shot, right?)

Nerd Nite 025

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

The Magic of Solar Panels and Why They Will Save the World

Summary: Solar power has been in the news lately as the “it” girl of alternative energy. But is she really that awesome on the inside, or is it just more hype? We’ll play science dodge-ball, and learn why solar roadways are a HORRIBLE idea but other applications of solar power will truly save the world.  

Presenter bio: Robin Lawson is a Jane of all trades, master of many. A 4th generation mechanical engineer, she grew up in northern WI with her very own maker space in the woods. Robin is currently the co-founder (with her genius engineer brother) and design diva of Lumen Electronic Jewelry, which creates twinkling LED jewelry powered by the magic of solar cells. She also enjoys tricking minors into loving science through their kits and classes. When she isn’t melting metals she can also be found dancing like no one is watching.


All Samples Cleared: The Curious Rise and Fall of Sampling In Hip-Hop

Summary: At the bedrock foundation of hip-hop is sampling. Flipping drum beats, chopping up horn stabs, and looping breaks for the b-boys used to be the way it all went down. Then, once the money started flowing starting with Rapper’s Delight, the lawyers came calling and more or less put an end to it making it so that landmark albums like Paul’s Boutique would now be too cost-prohibitive to ever get produced and released legally in today’s music landscape. In the same way that English teachers use hip-hop to make poetry fun, let’s try and use it as a jump off to examine the current messed-up state of copyright laws in America. 

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.


Midwest is Best!: Serial Killer Heavy Hitters

Summary: We’ve all heard the phrase “Midwest is Best,” and that sure rings true when it comes to serial killers. Four of the most infamous serial killers of the past 150 years have hailed from the great states of Illinois and Wisconsin: H.H. Holmes, John Wayne Gacy, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer. This presentation will delve into the lives and deaths of these four men and their heinous crimes, looking at what may have driven them to kill, details of some the murders, and the aftermath personally for these men, for popular culture, and for the reputation of the midwest. Whether it’s that clown at your child’s birthday party, your doctor, that chocolate factory worker, or your neighbor, you just can’t always trust that Midwestern hospitality.

Presenter bio: Originally from Ohio, Alexandra Newman came to Madison a few years back, receiving her Master’s degree in Art History in 2012 with the thesis “The Trope of the Enwhitened Boy Adventurer: Tintin and Jonny Quest.” She studies French and American cartoons and comics, and American pop music ephemera. Currently she teaches Art History at Madison College, serves as the Celebrity and Stardom Chair for the Midwest Pop Culture Association, and has a mild obsession with watching Investigation Discovery crime shows.

Nerd Nite 024: At the Wisconsin Science Festival!

Date: SATURDAY October 18, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: DISCOVERY BUILDING, UW-Madison Campus (map)

Anything you can do, ants can do better: why ants rule and humans drool

Summary: Us… humans…we like to pat ourselves on the back, citing several accomplishments that make us superior and unique (e.g. modern medicine/antibiotic use, agriculture/domestication of crops, and complex social society). In addition, humans are “uniquely” capable of extraordinary, and sometimes shameful, tendencies (e.g. global colonization, slavery, and military defense). What you might not know is that these things are not unique to humans. In fact, they evolved in ant species millions of years before humans evolved. This presentation will reveal many of the extraordinary behaviors that ants exhibit, showing how these tiny creatures can be just as complex and interesting as us humans.

Presenter bio: Eric Caldera is a native Texan who is either well rounded or confused – he is a biologist, musician, and aspiring poet. As a doctoral candidate studying evolution, ecology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has received the National Science Foundation predoctoral fellowship and doctoral dissertation improvement grant, and a National Institute of Health fellowship. For his research, Eric studies coevolution between ants and a complex of microbial symbionts, which combines fieldwork in neo-tropical rainforests with population genetics. Eric is also the guitarist in the Madison-based instrumental band El Valiente and plays guitar and sings in the singer/songwriter project Oedipus TX.


Why is an ear growing on the back of that mouse?

Summary: You have likely found yourself wondering, “Why did researchers grow an ear on the back of a mouse, and how can I get one?” It was 17 years ago that we first saw pictures of “earmouse”, and 20 years ago that researchers and the media declared that we would have fully functional engineered organs ready for transplantation within a decade. Where do we stand with this prediction? Can you go to the hospital and receive an off-the-shelf living organ to repair your own damaged tissues? The answer: kind of. In this talk, we will explore the hype and hope of tissue engineering, and I will answer your burning questions about whether those off-the-shelf organs will be ready in time to complement that totally awesome costume you have planned for this Halloween. 

Presenter Bio: Ten years ago, Kristyn Masters decided to take a break from being a full-time rock climbing bum and try out this whole professor thing. She is now an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering whose research focuses on using tissue engineering to better understand the progression of various cardiovascular diseases. In addition to climbing and science-ing, Kristyn’s other talents include being remarkably bad at dancing and regularly consuming truly unreasonable amounts of chocolate.


0.9999… = 1, But Not For The Reason You Think, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Hilbertian Formalism

Summary: People get really heated up over whether 0.9999….., where the string of 9’s is understood to go on forever, is equal to 1. I have seen otherwise sober people nearly come to blows over it. Tonight I will try to settle the question once and for all, and try to make the case that this is not just a trivial nerd battle but a question where fundamental questions about mathematical philosophy are at stake. Not that there’s anything wrong with trivial nerd battles. 

Presenter Bio: Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at UW, specializing in number theory and arithmetic geometry, which is a long way of saying he’s part of the three-thousand-year-old tradition of being confused about basic questions about whole numbers. He is the the author of the New York Times bestseller How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking.


Ribonucleic Acids: A Love Story

Summary: The fields of biochemistry and genetics experienced a revolution in the mid-20th century. In this talk, I look back at the radical and heroic experiments that established the central dogma of molecular biology, and marvel at the skill and chutzpah of the scientists who performed them.

Presenter bio: Emily Ruff is a postdoctoral scholar at UW-Madison who studies molecular biology and physical chemistry. She previously presented a Nerd Nite talk entitled “Entropy: Everyone’s Favorite Thermodynamic Function.” Emily loves DNA, J. W. Gibbs, talking about science at bars, Atlas Improv Co., and strong coffee, among many other things.

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.