Archive for the ‘events’ Category

Nerd Nite 013

Date: Wednesday April 17, 2013
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Astrophysics on Ice: Shaken, not Stirred

Summary: Physics can take you many places, including the bottom of the world. Two of the largest particle detectors ever built are in the ice at the South Pole with construction managed and conducted by local Madison folks. We’ll look at why these projects are in Antarctica, what’s it’s like to live and work at 90 degrees south, and a little bit about neutrino astrophysics. We’ll also give away some t-shirts!

Presenter bio: Mike DuVernois has bowled on all seven continents. He’s interested in most everything as any visitor to his home could verify. He’s a senior scientist with the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center and a research professor in the Department of Physics.


Do You Hear What I Hear?: Numbers Stations, Mystery, and Meaning.

Summary: Although the era of ham and shortwave radio operation has waned with the advent of the internet, the ears of men and women through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were tuned to the mysterious and eerie transmissions of so-called “numbers stations.” These stations were located all over the world, and communicated through simple signals of beeps, static, or recorded voices that only listed numbers or nonsensical words. Although their popularity has only grown through the internet and popular culture, the true purpose and origin of these stations has remained a mystery for decades. In this presentation, I will discuss a brief history of the various number stations, as well as their worldwide (yet elusive) presence. I will then explore the meaning behind the number stations, including scientific evidence, potential conspiracy theories, and educated guesses from the men and women who have dedicated their lives to uncovering their secrets.

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. Nick spends the majority of his time telling people to watch The Wire, reading whatever he can get his hands on, and dreaming about nice things during work.


Roller Derby 101: Will you be my lead jammer?

Summary: By now, you may have been exposed to one of the fastest growing sports in the country – Roller Derby. Chances are, you’ve attended a bout, know someone who plays, seen in on TV, or have at least seen posters at the coffee shop! The first time you watch derby, you may be confused by the action and wonder what the heck is going on (other than girls skating around in circles knocking each other out of the way). Understanding the basic derby rules can be as easy as wading through quicksand; we will try to shed at least a little light on the game! Come take a trip with us through the history of derby past and present, get to know what it takes to be a derby girl, and be able to impress your friends at the next bout!

Presenter bios: 

SuggahPony (Nikki McGreevey) came to Madison from Colorado by way of Florida to work at the UW veterinary school as a resident in Large Animal Internal Medicine. She grew up around the Midwest and Western U.S. with a background living on dairy farms and riding horses. This background turned into ump-teen years of schooling, a few diplomas, and a chance to be part of the Wisconsin cheese culture. She began her roller skating career during elementary school at the (now non-existent) rink in Ames, Iowa. On those epic evenings, she participated in fun, gossip, candy eating, and nightly features such as the spin skate, the backwards skate, and, the always classic, limbo. Putting skates on again last fall was not like ‘riding a bike’ as she could barely stand up without falling over. Since then, she is able to stand and roll and is learning to become proficient at hitting bitches (derby rule #1 – bitch is a term of endearment in derby!). The best part about derby, according to SuggahPony, is the great community of amazing women involved in the sport. Outside derby and work, she likes to hang out in the sun with her two dogs and husband, John, who is now enjoying all that alone time he has always wanted due to her newfound hobby!

Aphrosmite: The Goddess of Shove (Liz Barkowski) moved to Madison last summer from Austin, Texas to work at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW. Living in Austin, the re-birth place of roller derby, she frequently attended bouts and always had dreams of becoming a derby girl. After years and years…and more years… of higher education, she finally has time play roller derby! According to Aphrosmite, derby is a great way to be active and challenge yourself, make amazing friends, and develop an obsession with tights and booty shorts. Outside of research and roller skating, she loves cooking, taking long walks with her dog Chad, and trying to figure out how the hell to pronounce the names of Wisconsin cities.

Nerd Nite 012

Date: Wednesday March 6, 2013
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The Game Theory of Life: if the sounds I made could be what you hear

Summary: It’s a common academic conundrum: a scholar comes up with an elegant theory– and then has to figure out why anyone should care. Many scientific (and those aspiring to be scientific) disciplines have given up attempts to answer this question to those outside their field, motivating legions of pop psychologists and nerd nite speakers to spread the good word. Here, Christopher will evangelize on the crucial importance of Game Theory and why you need to know about a pair of illustrative examples if you are interested in communication, along with answering some vital questions about life: Why are people assholes? Why can’t people figure out how to trust in one another? And why is it so difficult to communicate true information when everyone knows we are motivated to do so?

Presenter bio: Christopher is a modern-day-commonplace intellectual dilettante/wanna-be drifter. Three years ago, he left Northwestern’s Economics graduate school ABD, and he still can’t figure out what academic economists are researching these days. By that time, he had already learned all of the information he’s contributing during this talk, but he’s continued to live in bewildered amazement. Since that time, he’s worked on statistical analysis with the New York Yankees, and is currently employed by a healthcare software company you’ve probably never heard of. In his spare time, he does more silly things, such as rank the top 200 songs from the last decade, and is a fierce disciple of John Darnielle, Nate Silver, and David Foster Wallace–learn from them, please.


The scientific creativity behind musical instruments and its effect on musical geniuses

Summary: Soviet abduction, human capacitance, electromagnetic induction, and Jimi Hendrix: technology has influenced music as we know it today, often in unexpected ways. Musical instruments, the enablers of acoustic output from human input, are fundamental to the interplay between musician and scientist (often the same person). Guitars and synthesizers, twists and turns, surprising interactions, telephones, doorbells … all reveal music and technology are deeply intertwined!

Presenter bio: Marco was born in Milan, Italy and was raised in Minnesota and North Carolina, which resulted in an eclectic and juxtaposed background. In elementary school, he was a fiendish rocket fanatic, trying to get the largest rocket engines into the smallest rockets. He’s also confident he was the first to have launched a beanie baby into space (read: 10 feet). In middle school, he blew his life savings ($100) on a guitar, and it’s one of the best things he’s ever done. Since then, in some way or another, science and music have been the two interweaving threads that have guided his path. Presently, he’s en route to a PhD in chemistry studying the bio-nano interface. Wheeeeee!


Sex on Six Legs

Summary: Can you make your lover explode with passion? Follow you for life? Die for love? Insects can. You think your ex screwed you over? Bugs don’t even want to hear about it. And whatever that weird thing is you’re afraid to tell your partner about, don’t worry, it’s natural. When it comes to the evolutionary arms race for love, insects are way ahead of us. 398 million years and 6-10 million species, to be exact, and they didn’t get there by staying home every night.

Presenter bio: Deborah Seiler is a science communications specialist for the UW-Extension and WI Department of Natural Resources. Tonight’s talk is just about her favorite hobbies.

Nerd Nite 011

Date: Wednesday January 23, 2013
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Mickey, Vader, and Spidey Walk into a Bar: Why Disney’s Acquisitions Matter to Media, Merchandising, and Meaning

Summary: With Disney buying up both Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm in recent years, major media franchises like Star Wars and The Avengers now sit in new relationships to consumers, to media markets, and to one another. Of course, these media products have never been singular, with film and comic products surrounded by armies of other products–toys, television shows, video games, spin-offs, trailers, DVD bonus materials, and more. While we often assume these other products to be peripheral or secondary, they have had major impact on how people engage with the “tentpole” commercial media in which we seem to be more invested, whether shaping how and why viewers make meaning from and grow to love or hate blockbuster fare, or forcing media workers to craft their creative identities from positions perceived as marginal or illegitimate compared to making the “real” product. This talk, therefore, treats the interrelations between media products not as peripheral but as centrally important, asking why they matter to fans, to media workers, and to popular culture more generally. Rather than examine what acquisition of companies like Lucasfilm will mean for Disney’s bottom line, this talk can instead consider how the new, revised relationships that result between merchandised products, consumers, and institutions might further impact the meanings we invest in media culture.

Presenter bios:
Jonathan Gray is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at University of Wisconsin, Madison. After spending the first ten years of his life with all things Star Wars, the next five with more pirated 5 1/4″ PC games than one could imagine, and the next five with all things Simpsons, he turned to media studies and started analyzing, not just playing. He is now author of Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts; Television Entertainment; and Watching with The Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality, as well as co-author of Television Studies. He is also co-editor of Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World; Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era; Battleground: The Media; and, soon, A Companion to Media Authorship. He still wishes he had a suit of Mandalorian armor.

Derek Johnson is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not rearranging the action figures that adorn his office, he works to understand how creativity and creative identities are structured, imagined, and managed in the media industries. He is the author of Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries (Spring 2013), and the co-editor of the forthcoming Intermediaries: Cultures of Management and Management of Culture as well as A Companion to Media Authorship. In partnership with his 3-year-old daughter, he has also completed numerous Lego projects as well as created characters like “Feminist Batman,” and together they enjoy watching Star Trek and walking to the comic book store.


Hacking, Reality vs. Hollywood

Summary: Find out why most TV shows and movies make technology professionals, especially those that know about network security, twitch. Just why did that nerd start giggling and groaning during James Bond: Skyfall? Not only will this talk cover the ways that Hollywood gets things wrong, but the surprising ways in which they get things right.

Presenter bio: Glen Murie has been working on computers since he was a boy more years ago than he likes to think about. In that time he has done everything from building computers to web programming to network administration, and is currently doing software support and technical writing for a medical transcription software company. He has worked at more places than he can easily remember, from slaughterhouses (where debugging a printer takes on a whole new meaning) to nuclear power plants. So far, the radiation has not given him super powers, but he did have to stop eating fast food


So you want to have a cow?  Artificial insemination in the cattle industry.

Summary: Enjoy cheese? Good chance that the dairy cow providing the raw material was not the product of a good old fashioned romance, but instead a well thought out breeding plan which gave the best chance for a healthy and productive animal. A majority of dairy cattle are artificially inseminated, a technique pioneered in the early half of the 20th century. The process is both simple and challenging while allowing for some surprising opportunities, such as selecting the gender of the offspring.

Presenter bio: Dave is a Wisconsin native who grew up in the country, but not on a farm. He spent a great five year stint at UW Madison getting a degree in Chemical Engineering before heading to the land of the Red Sox and “chowdah” where he collected a PhD in Biological Engineering from MIT. Frankly, even after more than a year working in ag-biotech he has trouble not snickering at some of the common office vocabulary.

Nerd Nite 010

Date: Wednesday December 5, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Field Notes from a Catastrophic Outburst Megaflood

Summary: Towards the end of the last glacial period, rapid (natural) climate warming led to increased melting of ice sheets, forming large glacial outwash lakes. Many of these lakes were held back by precarious ice dams that often failed due to various reasons I won’t go into here or why would you bother coming to the talk? Evidence of these large floods are found throughout the world, with most having left large, impressive land surface features. Consequently, this groundbreaking research has since led most civil engineers to agree that ice is an unsuitable building material for dams.

Presenter bio: Laura Hayes is a geomorphology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. Her research interests include Quaternary dating methods, glacial geology, and late Pleistocene megafloods. To the people of Siberia, she is known as картофель идиот, which, she thinks, means ‘highly esteemed, beautiful lady scientist.’ It actually means ‘potato idiot,’ due to her inability to peel potatoes to the high standard of the 85th Motor Rifle Leningrad-Pavlovskaya Red Banner Division.


“L’art de la bise” or “Why do the French kiss so much?”

Summary: If you have ever been to France, you probably had to go through this awkward moment when French people will try to kiss you to say “Hi!” Audrey, a REAL French person, will share with you why French people kiss and how it is done. Be ready for some potential demos! Super-special guests will also demonstrate some common ways people from other countries greet each other.

Presenter bio: Audrey grew up in Strasbourg, France. Moved to Lyon, France when she was 8 and pursued a degree in Chemistry at CPE Lyon. As she was completing her Master Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, she had the opportunity to start her PhD in Materials Chemistry at the UW – Madison. Grad School in the US is just so bad ass! She enjoys playing with as many instruments as she is allowed to and hopes to graduate by 2015 while spreading her French Touch.


Selected Badasses of French Literature

Summary: The author may be dead, but in this selection of some of French literature’s wildest and weirdest writers, their life stories live on with their work. This talk will discuss anecdotes about writers from the middle ages to the present day. Come for the literary history, stay for the crime sprees, fortune hunting, sex, death, and plentiful chest hair!

Presenter bio: Rachel Tapley is getting her PhD in French literature at UW-Madison. She has never been successfully convicted of murder.

Nerd Nite 009

Date: Wednesday October 24, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

A Brief History of Fandom

Summary: Hugo Gernsback published the 1st science-fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. Moments later, SF fandom was born. Richard S. Russell, who lived thru and participated in much of it, reprises his 2008 fan guest-of-honor speech from Odyssey Con 8, at which he articulated his 3 Principles of Fandom: (1) All fandoms are created equal. (2) Seduce the young. (3) Always bring a book!

Presenter bio: Richard S. Russell is a long-time Madison science fiction fan who has worked on all the WisCons, Odyssey Cons, and Geek.Kons there have ever been. He is proud to have a pseudopod planted in media, literary, gaming, comic, costuming, convention, and fanzine subfandoms. He’s a former WisCon coordinator and Fan guest of honor at both X-Con and OddCon.


Exploration of Lightning Through the Eyes of a Chemist and Astraphobic

Summary: Lightning, a natural phenomenon that has been studied, worshiped, and even feared for thousands of years; however, have you ever wondered how lightning occurs and what effects it has on the Earth’s atmosphere? This presentation will explore the important role that lightning has played throughout history, as well as the science behind the flash of light, the roll of thunder, and the reactions it catalyzes in the Earth’s atmosphere. *Warning* this talk will debunk common myths which may or may not leave you disgruntled at having been duped for so long; however, it will equip you with lots of facts that can prove to be useful if you ever need to impress a potential mate while standing in an open field during a storm, which means you’re not the only idiot to walk around outside during a storm and you’re probably meant to be together.

Presenter bio: Michelle grew up in the small city of Chardon, Ohio, southeast of Cleveland. She went to Ohio University and graduated with a B.S. in chemistry in 2008 then decided she was not ready for the “real world” so decided to move to Madison, WI to attend graduate school for materials chemistry. Michelle is wrapping up her thesis research in metal oxides and their applications in renewable energy. After graduate school, she hopes to make enough money to support her beer-snobbery and expand her collection of stray animals.


Who’s Learning From Whom? How Machine Learning can help us understand human learning.

Summary: If you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket, you’re already carrying around a device that is learning in a way not possible just a decade ago. Who you like to call, what websites you like to visit, what messages you consider spam. But what if, in addition to this stuff, it knew that you wanted to learn something new, and could itself learn how to help you do that? (Some of you just said “Cool!” and some others “Creepy!”. Both reasonable.) Traditionally, Machine Learning (a subset of Artificial Intelligence) has been used as a toolset to do things like extract information from big data or automate decision making. Recently, the ideas and techniques from Machine Learning have been applied to human learning in an effort to better understand, and influence, human learning behavior. I will discuss some of the studies and what the future may hold for human/machine cooperative learning.

Presenter bio: Bryan is a PhD student, research assistant and lecturer in the Dept. of Computer Science, UW-Madison. He likes long walks, short algorithms and the Monty Hall problem keeps him up at night.

Nerd Nite 008

Date: Wednesday August 29, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Ruminations of a Former Beef Princess

Summary: We face a lot of options when we arrive at the grocery store meat counter. Besides different cuts of meat available, there can also be different grades and certifications assigned. In my talk I will explain what some of these credentials mean, such as the USDA’s grading criteria and the qualifications required for the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) Program – such as how beef does not have to be from an Angus animal in order to qualify as CAB! Finally, after visiting the meat counter I will move on to the rest of the grocery store as I touch on the many beef by-products stocked outside of the meat department..

Presenter bio: Caroline’s family has been raising Angus cattle since 1923, and beef cattle in general for a bit longer. Her parents met in the meat lab at Ohio State and will still occasionally process their own animals when the weather allows it, leading to the garage becoming a make-shift butcher shop during the winter months. While Caroline’s chosen field of study is chemistry, growing up she was active in the beef community and held such titles as Allen County Beef Princess, Black Swamp Angus Queen, and Miss Ohio Angus.


Sex and the Sick Bee

Summary: Using the beloved and timeless characters of the HBO comedy series as our guide, we will explore the beautiful evolutionary journey from single egg-laying sawflies to honey bee orgies. But it’s not all sex and nectar drinking in our honeycomb city, and just as Samantha had her breast cancer (SPOILER!), so too must the honey bee deal with her Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s a story of sex, drugs, deception, exploding males, and zombies. Just like any other episode of Sex and the City, only with three times the shoes.

Presenter bio: Ben Taylor is the Assistant Director of Education for the UW Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, but, even more so than jamming words into his job title, his real passion is for bees. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in entomology from the UW-Madison, Ben worked on a nine-month research project focusing on native bee pollination in Wisconsin’s apple orchards. Yes, he has been stung in the face. No, it was not a pleasant experience.


Coffee: Frag Faster, Brew Better, Sleep Never!

Summary: Do you worship the Holy Brew? Can’t start a day without it and wish they would hurry up and invent a coffee I.V.? Sick of constantly putting up with crappy coffee but not sure what to do about it? You’re in good company! This is a tribute to the Bitter Brown Bean’s care and preparation, and will enable you to take your own love affair to new jittery heights!

Presenter bio: Mike Rolfs is your average computer geek/musician/chef/gardener/woodworker/ fabricator/lumberjack/…actually no, he’s not much of an average anything. Mike is originally from Minnesota and after passing through Santa Fe, El Paso, Boston, he has come to rest in the Rolfs-family stronghold of Madison. These days he’s a network administrator by day and a roller derby referee by night, with a million plus other hobbies sprinkled throughout. And as we’ll soon discover, he’s a SERIOUS coffee addict.

Nerd Nite 007

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Stories from the Last Ice Age: Vegetation responses to the last global warming and species extinctions

Summary: If a tree grew in the forest 15,000 years ago, did it make a sound? And why should we care about long-vanished ecosystems anyways? In 20 minutes or less, I’ll make the case that the end of the last deglaciation is endlessly fascinating, both as a topic unto itself (Mammoths! Mile-high ice sheets! Migrating plants! Giant aphids that would tear your face off! [last one not true]) and as our one of the best model systems for understanding forest responses to climate change, species extinctions, human-driven shifts in fire regime, and other matters of pressing concern today.

Presenter bio: Jack Williams grew up wanting to be a mad scientist, but these days he is rarely more than mildly grumpy, at best. Jack is a professor of geography at UW-Madison and the current director of the Nelson Center for Climatic Research. Research interests include: paleoecology, paleoclimatology, global climate change, and vegetation dynamics, and pretty much anything else that intersects with these topics. See and for more info. Or follow his intermittent twitter feed @IceAgeEcologist


How to Revive a Nation: Ein Abend mit der Germans

Summary: With the presidential election in full swing we are constantly barraged with ideas as to which direction our country needs to take. Undoubtedly, everyone will claim their idea as the panacea for all that ails our country. How are we to sort through these various prescriptions? Unfortunately, I can’t help you there. What I can offer is a journey to a far away land (known as Germany) that once faced this very debate. In the early 20th century, many Germans felt that their country had gotten off track and proposed various ways to return her to her rightful glory. Perhaps we should shed bourgeois society by removing our clothing and worshiping the sun. Or maybe a quick war will sweep away the malaise and melancholy of modernity and catalyze a national revival. Indeed, the Germans tried it all and tonight we will consider their proposals for our own time and place. Tonight, we will revive our nation.

Presenter bio: Charlie Cahill is a PHD student in Modern European History at UW-Madison with a focus on 20th century Germany. Before moving to Madison Charlie lived in Germany for two years in order to study their mysterious ways. After resisting the siren call for the past four years Charlie is moving back to the promised land in the fall.


Creationism: When you don’t know the difference between The Flintstones and a National Geographic documentary

Summary: Why do forty percent of the American public believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time in the Garden of Eden, and that 4400 years ago eight humans took care of over fourteen thousand animals (and their poop) on a boat for a year while the entire Earth was covered with water? Why would anyone spend forty seven million dollars on a so-called museum promoting such ideas? Because they believe the book of Genesis is a science book, and the story of Noah’s Ark is historical fact. Cross over the to dark side from reason and rationality. Get ready for some zany creationist quotes and other factoids from the “field” of “Creation Science.”

Presenter bio: Skip Evans has been studying creationism for a couple of decades, and did so professionally as the Network Project Director at the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California from 2001 to 2004. He currently lives here in Madison, basking in the over-educated, hippie glow and organizing Science Pub which brings scientists and the public together over food, beer and good times. He occasionally blogs at and maintains

Nerd Nite 006

Date: Wednesday May 23, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Eine Kleine Nachtnerd: What Are You Made Of?: A Brief History of Microscopes and What They Are Good For: I Love Colons: Ha Ha

Summary: Most thinking people and even some politicians accept that living things are made of cells, cells are made of molecules, molecules are made of atoms…and the list goes on. But how do we know all this? In one form or another, the family of instruments we call microscopes have informed most of what we know about the world of the small, the tiny, and the truly itty-bitty. Together, we will explore the 400-plus-year history of the microscope (skipping a bit here and there) and see what the most cutting-edge microscopes of today can show us about what the universe is made of. During the course of the talk, there will be forty-one images, twelve facts previously unknown to you, and two jokes.

Presenter bio: Joe Yeager is a graduate student in chemistry at UW-Madison where he is attempting to complete the first half of as many projects as possible. He was born, raised, and schooled in Kentucky, and it was also there where he met his wife, Rachel, whom you may remember from that talk with all the historic porn. He has the head of a man, the body of a lion, the arms of a starfish, and the voice of an angel with bronchitis.


Animals and alcohol: the evolution of intoxication

Summary: Boozing beasts give us insight into the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems!

Presenter bio: Zach Throckmorton is a PhD candidate with UW-Madison’s Anthropology Department whose research includes the lighter side of biological interactions.


It’s the Clothes That Make the (Pac) Man: Masculinity and Early Videogame Characters

Summary: With the early limitations of videogame design, it was necessary to use overly emphasized features to underscore, enhance, and display the masculinity of characters like Pac-Man, Mario, Donkey Kong, and Ryu.  With no clear genitalia, how do we know these four are male? How do heteronormative features such as a bow tie, a bushy mustache, or bulging muscles, overtly masculine names, and cliched male-female relationships gender these characters?  This talk seeks to understand how and why we recognize Pac-Man, Mario, Donkey Kong, and Ryu as men, and what this means about our understanding of masculinity.

Presenter bio: Alexandra Newman is a second year Master’s student in the Department of Art History, working on her thesis entitled “The Trope of the Boy Adventurer: Tintin and Jonny Quest.”  She studies French and American cartoons and comics, and American pop music ephemera.  She spends her spare time watching reality tv and cartoons, trying to convince her boyfriend it’s “art historical research.”

Nerd Nite 005

Date: Wednesday April 11, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Multiple Choice Memory: The Joker and John Locke’s Account of Personal Identity over Time

Summary: The Joker is Batman’s greatest enemy and arguably the greatest comic book villain of all time. The character has appeared in dozens of classic stories such as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke as a foil and antagonist for Batman…or has he? According to some accounts of personal identity over time, it seems that The Joker’s characteristic insanity might prevent him from being the same person over time. In my talk, I’ll discuss Locke’s account of personhood and personal identity and evaluate The Joker in light of Locke’s account. Also, there will be a surprising amount of dick jokes.

Presenter bio: Derrick Murphy is a philosophy graduate student at The University of Wisconsin, Madison. Derrick’s main interests are in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, with an emphasis on issues such as personal identity over time. Among other things, he reads and collects comics in his spare time, and boasts a collection that has all the first printings of the entire Crisis on the Infinite Earths series and Grant Morrison’s entire run on JLA. If you know what those are and why they might be important, it is unclear whether you should be congratulated or pitied.


Building the Tower of Babel: Why are there so many languages and why are some so damn complicated?

Summary: There are over 6,000 languages in the world. Why are there so many and why are some of them so weird and so complicated? Seriously, English is child’s play in comparison! For example, in English we say “this” and “that”, In Inuktitut, there are 88 (!) ways of specifying where “this” is. What’s up with that? This presentation will reveal how the heck someone (Gary!!!) can answer this question. Hint: there are children and immigrants involved. Curious yet!??!!!

Presenter bio: Gary Lupyan is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at UW-Madison. His mind has been so warped by science that everywhere he looks he sees experiments in the making. He also flies planes (and occasionally gives rides — ask him!).


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.

Nerd Nite 004

Date: Wednesday February 22, 2012
Time: 8pm
Location: Genna’s Lounge (map)

Lasers in Science Fiction: Can they really DO that???

Watch on Vimeo

Summary: When Goldfinger threatened to slice 007 in half with a laser, did James really need to fear for his junk? Could you really see a phaser beam when it’s fired? Could the Death Star really have blown up Alderaan, and come to think of it, can laser beams actually bend like that? Answers to these questions and more, plus plenty of videos of lasers blowing stuff up. You might even learn a bit of physics along the way, and I promise it will be totally equation-free!

Presenter bio: Jennifer Laaser is a grad student in physical chemistry at UW-Madison, where she spends most of her day playing with (guess what?) lasers. Contrary to popular wisdom, her last name has nothing to do with her choice of research topics, thought it is handy for helping people remember who she is!


Giants with Many Arms: Living, fossil, and mythic enormous squids

Watch on Vimeo

Summary: Enormous squids have inspired lore throughout history, from ancient myths to modern media hype. What are giant squids really like? Did their extinct kin also evolve into giants? What is the key to their monstrous growth? When will they strike next? Find out here!

Presenter bio: George Rothdrake is a non-cephalopod animal who loves the the living world. When not investigating and whipping up mass enthusiasm for a variety of earthly creatures, he busies himself working at grocery co-ops.


From Myth to Reason: The Earliest Greek Philosophers and the Always Amazing but Sometimes Crazy things they Said

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Summary: Before Socrates, Plato and Aristotle set the stage for the next thousand years of philosophical and scientific inquiry, a handful of even earlier Greek thinkers, sometimes referred to as the Pre-Socratics, paved the way by developing new ways of explaining the world around them. This talk will examine what they had to say, what effect it had on their successors, what relevance it still has for us today, and why it is that we think of the Pre-Socratics as the first “masters of rational thought.”

Presenter bio: Tim Aylsworth is a graduate student in philosophy at UW. He specializes in the history of philosophy with a particular emphasis on 17th and 18th century thinkers. When not pondering the perennial questions of philosophy, he likes to nerd out about language (he’s an aspiring polyglot), history, music, and whatever else he can get his nerdy hands on.