Category: Uncategorized

Nerd Nite 054

Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

Polygamy vs. Monogamy: One Rose is Not Enough

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

Caleigh Guoynes

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

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

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

Zach Sielaff

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

The Talmud: The Secret Life of Jewish Teenage Boys

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

Eliezer Posner

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

Nerd Nite 053

Date: Wednesday, November 29 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

“T-Cellvengers Assemble!”

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

Akshat Sharma

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

Defenestration: Stories of Openings and Objects

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

Catherine (née Schweitzer) Killam

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

I Like Live Coding and You Should Too

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

Scott Fradkin

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

Nerd Nite 052

Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

Tryannicide at the Acropolis: How Athens got its Democracy

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

Teddy de Groot

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

Just My Type: The History of the Typewriter

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

Caroline Sullivan

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

Sign Language: Why two hands are better than a mouth

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

Mark Koranda

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

Nerd Nite 051

Date: Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

EyeSpy: How to turn your eye into a microscope

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

Alison Huckenpahler

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

A Goat, A Cat, and a Bartman.

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

Nick Marzotto

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

Hustle & Flow: The Rise of Computational Fluid Dynamics

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

Kelly Senecal

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

Nerd Nite 050

Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

The order of the night’s line-up will be announced on the Facebook event the day of the show.

Sunscreen: A Guided Safari

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

Laurel Legenza

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


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

Ken Fager

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

1984: The Best Year in Music

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

Rob Lumley

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

Nerd Nite 049

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

Guns, Drugs, and Money: Prison Reform in Wisconsin

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

Jake Jay

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

Doin’ it Like They Do on the Discovery Channel

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

Tomissa Porath

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

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

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

Zach Hanes

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

Nerd Nite 048

Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Bacteria are friends… and also food, but mostly friends.

Summary: All too often, bacteria get a bad rap. Known as a chief contributor to disease, we have become obsessed with eliminating them via antibiotics and disinfectants. Our society is cleaner than it has ever been, but with antibiotic resistance as a big fat “spoiler alert,” we have realized it is impossible to completely get rid of bacteria. Turns out, getting rid of bacteria is more harmful to us than keeping them around. What do bacteria do for our overall health? Can they help us cure chronic illnesses that are on the rise? Can they help save our environment, or even shape the world as we know it? The overall answer is: yes, and so much more.

Macy Huettl

Presenter Bio: Macy is currently wrapping up her final semester as a master’s student and teaching assistant for the Department of Bacteriology at UW-Madison. In the fall, she will continue her studies and begin dental school, where she will work towards achieving her dream of becoming a dentist. In her very limited and sad free time, she enjoys word vomiting facts about microorganisms; running to the beat of Miike Snow’s iii; hanging out in her kayak, Gloria; drinking pitchers of PBR at the Argus; and loving her spoiled, cross-eyed cat, Benny. She is super pumped about her very first Nerd Nite presentation, and even though she likes several odd things (including other people’s mouths and infectious diseases), she thinks you’ll enjoy her presentation!

What I’ve learned from playing video games.

Summary: Video games have gotten a lot of attention in the media as time-wasting, frivolous, and even violence-promoting artifacts. To counterbalance this, I am going to go through some of the positive things research has to say about playing video games and how they have personally impacted me. Areas including promoting good teamwork, developing meaningful relationships, leveraging passion to improve ability, and developing persistence.

Craig Anderson

Presenter bio: Craig is a doctoral student in Digital Media here at UW, soon to be switching to informatics at UCI, and originally hailing from Canada. A lifelong gamer and science enthusiast, he aims to figure out the ways games cognitively influence players and how they can be leveraged for good.

Who wants to live forever?

Summary: We’ll take a look at physical, metaphysical, and fantastical ways human have proposed to capture eternity—everything from becoming a god to uploading your consciousness. We’ll begin with religious views on immortality and transition to scientific and computer approaches with a sprinkle of science fiction and fantasy along the way. Some are these ideas more feasible than others, and we’ll try to find your best bet to live forever.

Mike Hendrickson

Presenter bio: Mike is a neuroscientist and sometimes vegetable gardener. who works for local biotech startup. He lives on the East Side (okay, it’s technically Monona) and has a cat named Birdy who makes pigeon noises. This will be his third time presenting at Nerd Nite Madison.

Nerd Nite 047

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Your Body Wants You to Get Pregnant: Birth Control, Anti Depressants, and the Female Hormonal Cycle

Summary: Did you know that hormone levels affect the brain? Learn how the female hormonal cycle conspires to get you pregnant, and how antidepressants and birth control can work against your hormonal cycle, affecting your fertility and your mood.

Essie Lenchner

Presenter Bio: Essie recently quit working in healthcare IT and is now pursuing rock climbing, biochemistry, and her period.

The Mormon War and the King of Beaver Island

Summary: This story will be in three parts: a brief history of Mormonism in America, the death of Joseph Smith and subsequent schism between Brigham Young and Joseph Strang (the King of Beaver Island), and the Mormon war of 1857-1858.

Liam Walsh

Presenter bio: Liam is an adventurer and man about town. He’s a transfer from Detroit, by way of Edinburgh who lives with two paranoid and loving tiny dogs in Monona. He has found that a bachelor’s degree in fine arts is both priceless and useless. This is Liam’s first time speaking at Nerd Nite, but he’s been spinning yarns for years around town and around the world.

Lessons from the Sockeye Salmon

Summary: Join Ben as we explore the Alaskan Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run. Salmon have an amazing physiology to cope with their strenuous migration and their popularity has lead to their near destruction in 1950’s. He’ll take you on a whirlwind tour of the unique biology, economics, and fishing mechanics governing one of the largest migrations on earth.

Ben Beduhn

Presenter bio: Ben is a second year medical student from an Alaskan commercial fishing family. He thinks that seafood is better than any of your Midwest beef, and is excited to share some of his sea knowledge with you greenhorns. Grab your rain gear and find your sea legs, because you’re on a boat now.

Nerd Nite 046

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)

Semiotics: How to Be a Real-World Symbol Hunter

Summary: In this talk John will do three things:

  • Define semiotics (the science of signs and symbols) and talk about its real-world applications.
  • Talk about one such application, the applying of visual semiotic theory to the training of deep-learning neural networks, that is, training such networks to think better as a function of teaching them to see better, as in “Ah! I see what you mean!”
  • Talk about “5 Principles of Semiotics” that any would-be symbol hunter, “grail” quester, Robert Langdon, or Sherlock Holmes should know, principles such as “The Theory of Facial Height,” “The ‘Price Is Wrong’ Principle,” the “Meme, Seme, Deme Distinction,” and the “Sherlock Homing Principle”!
John Coletta

Presenter Bio: W. John Coletta, Ph.D., Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), is a former President (2010) and Vice President (2009) of the Semiotic Society of America, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of The American Journal of Semiotics. Professor Coletta’s principal research interests include Peircean semiotics; physiosemiosis; ecocriticism; biosemiotic criticism; the history and representation of ecological and evolutionary thought; and the major British poet and minor naturalist John Clare. He is also CEO of INT3RP INC, a consulting company with offices in Madison and Stevens Point offering “semiotic services” in several domains.

Cute Aggression: The Struggle to Resist Squeezing Cute Things

Summary: Puppies, kittens, and babies – why do all these adorable things make us go crazy with cute aggression? Often we find ourselves overwhelmed with a desire to squeeze or even act violently toward cute things, but somehow we very quickly suppress those feelings. This strange human reaction could be a coping mechanism by the brain when overloaded with too. much. cuteness.

Asuka Eguchi

Presenter bio: Asuka Eguchi, PhD, does stem cell research in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While the focus of her research has been on designing molecular switches to control cell fate, she enjoys all things science and has a particular fascination with information processing by the brain. She was a wolf in her previous life and still spends all her free time running.

How we make stuff — mass manufacturing plastic things

Summary: Every piece of plastic that you’ve bought is made using a set of tools that are carefully designed. Whether it’s injection molded, blow molded, cast, or thermoformed, that plastic was converted into a shape, and the tools left telltale signs. You’ll never see everyday objects the same, because after this talk you’ll be thinking about the underbelly of the plastics industry with everything you touch.

Bob Baddeley

Presenter bio: Bob is a computer engineer and works in consumer electronics for some of the hardware startups around Madison. He designs and builds Internet-connected sensors. He’s also a member at Sector67, the local makerspace where you can get experience with many of the plastics tools he will discuss and participate in crazy projects like a Bluetooth-enabled outhouse.

Nerd Nite 045

Date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Time: 8pm
Location: High Noon Saloon (map)
Facebook event >

Transcription Factors: the Pianists Playing the Music of our Cells

Summary: Every cell in our body has the same genetic information; a blueprint necessary for the fabrication of all types of cells in our body. Your eye cells have the same genes as your heart cells, but the function and the appearance of these cells are completely different. Have you ever wondered why? Of course you haven’t, who in their right mind would? Well biological scientists, like José, do. José hopes to convince you why it’s important to spend money and time in this type of basic research, but first you will learn what makes heart cells and eye cells distinct despite their identical genomic information.

José Rodríguez-Molina

Presenter bio: José is a PhD student at UW-Madison studying the nervous system. He grew up and lived for 23 years in Puerto Rico and ironically learned to sail in Lake Mendota. In the summer he loves to garden fruits, vegetables and flowers, and in the winters he waits for summer to come back.

A Brief History of Disco: from Dionysus to the Disco Duck

Summary: What was the first disco song (around 1972) and why did it come to flames in Chicago’s Disco Demolition Night (in 1979)? We’ll examine how established elements of Jazz, Funk, Latin & Soul cultures came together to worship “four-on-the-floor” & “the hustle.” Ritualistic dance fads will be surveyed as we travel sonically through known episodes of ecstatic dance music in history culminating in NYC nightclubs of the early 70s and the mainstream disco explosion years later.

John Feith

Presenter Bio: John has been the guitarist for VO5 (the Madison disco band) for 11 years and recently recorded and produced VO5’s debut album “Dance Originality,” winner of the MAMA’s 2015 “Unique Album of the Year” award. He is also the author and nature recordist of the “Bird Song Ear Training Guide” CD used by thousands of birdwatchers in the Midwest. Mr Feith has an Electrical Engineering degree from UW-Madison, where he once made an Ultrasound Theremin MIDI Controller. Other nerdy accomplishments include developing Noise Reduction and Acoustic Modeling algorithms for Sonic Foundry and building a near-anechoic chamber in his basement.

Facets of Steven Universe

Summary: How a show about gay space rocks shows us how to be humans.

Liz Davison

Presenter bio: Liz is a School Counselor at Madison Country Day School, a former library assistant/English teacher, and is out to get your children (to be better people). She’s probably wearing a costume right now.