What happened in November

Nerd Nite San Diego #3 was full of bio-badassery!

Our first speaker is microbiology postdoctoral fellow Marcy Erb. Marcy studies how phage interact with antibiotic producing bacteria! As a PhD student at UCSD she accidentally became a phage biologist, and as they say … once you go phage, you never go back.

We are facing a worldwide antibiotic resistance crisis: bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics faster than we are developing new ones. Bacteriophages – the viruses of bacteria – may be able to help us. They are the perfect bacterial assassins, having been in the bacteria killing business for the last 3 billion years. Not only can they teach us how to more creatively kill bacteria, but they may be hiding their own antibiotic secrets, too. Come hear about all the ways these viruses are bacterias’ worst nightmare – and humanity’s new best friend.

Our second speaker is Erik Peterson, a postdoctoral fellow in computational neuroscience at UCSD. He makes models of where biology and cognition meet.

Did you know that your brain makes waves? Electrical waves! We’ve known this since Hans Berger in 1929 put electrodes on people’s heads, and started recording. We also know these waves change as you remember, and ponder, and learn. But why there are waves at all, and what they do, isn’t fully clear. Come hear Erik talk about our best, most serious, theories for what brain waves do … by talking about things that happen at an EDM show! The music. The dancing. The sex. The drugs.

Our third speaker is coming all the way from San Francisco to talk about the greatest mass murderers of all time – cyanobacteria! Rick Zuzow is an entrepreneur working at the interface of science and social good. While doing a PhD at Stanford in biochemistry, he was seduced by their design school, and left academia to use science to design for the base of the economic pyramid. Rick is now the CTO of EarthEnable, a non-profit that uses the chemistry of plant oils to make ultra low-cost polymer floors in Rwanda.

During his PhD, Rick researched why cyanobacteria seem to naturally puke out compounds we think of as “jet fuel.” This is, surprisingly, one of the least insane things cyanobacteria have done. Chief amongst their accomplishments is poisoning the entire planet with their gaseous metabolic waste, or as you might know it, Oxygen. Rick’s talk will be a crash course in why multicellular life as we know it first required pond scum to poison the earth with photosynthetic farts.

What happened in October

Storytelling in Meatspace: How I design Escape Rooms and Other Real-World Games

Games can be about a lot of things. They can be about measuring ourselves against one another, about exploring distant worlds, about coming to terms with what we must face daily, about struggle, about success. But at their heart, games are about two things: choices and stories. Truly excellent games force us to make choices, and from those choices arise compelling stories. So what happens when the choices you make in a game viscerally affect your real life? Find out as escape room designer and creator of The Puzzalarium Stevenson Streeper shares his experience in game theory … and straight up getting in people’s heads.


Inmates with Paints

When creative arts overlap the prison system: Tara Centybear, art teacher and curator at the San Diego History Center, shares her experience in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. No, not as a tenant (as far as I know), but with Project PAINT, a local nonprofit art program in this San Diego prison. Learn the backstory of the arts in corrections landscape in California: a once thriving establishment of programs that inspired other states around the country.


Hunters of the Savage Garden

The San Diego Carnivorous Plant Society presents … exactly what you’re hoping for. Meat-eating plants of all shapes and sizes. Feed me, Seymour! Also, live plants!

What happened in September

The Future is Now … What’s Next?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law captures the world in which we live, often without our awareness of how advanced we are. Or, as Louis CK puts it, “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” Yesterday’s super powers are today’s gizmos: The 1960s Enterprise worked off levers and knobs, with a computer that seemed less powerful than an iPad. Now it’s a fully-automated, semi-sentient AI. Iron Man was literally just a guy in a suit of armor – now his “suit” is a series of nanoparticles embedded within his body that he commands with his mind to form armor around him. Could this mean that tomorrow’s gadgets will be AI supercomputers and nanoparticle toys?

In this talk, neuroscientist Dr. Brad Voytek (of zombie brain fame) explores our technological future as predicted by comic books and science fiction. He’ll cover some history of science in science fiction and comics, how those themes reflect, and are reflected by, our current scientific achievements, and how the ideas behind today’s sci-fi and comic book magic may soon be tomorrow’s everyday technology.


InSex in the Undergrowth: Stories of Entomological Kink and Fetish!

The bizarreness of insect sex calls into question the universality of Rule 34. Sure, there are insects that engage in erotic practices with human equivalents: you’ve got your insect sadists and cross-dressers. But some insect kink seems to defy human imagination.  Join entomologist Dr. Michael Wall as he explores the deviance and debauchery of six-legged sex.

Dr. Wall has been looking at insect tallywackers and naughty bits for over two decades. All in the name of science, he swears.


Heterodyne with Scott Paulson!

The purported love child of Vincent Price and Garrison Keillor, Scott is well known for his spooky sound effects, whether for old-school radio drama, experimental theatrical sound design, or live and lively silent film accompaniment. The Theremin is an audience favorite in Scott’s underscoring activities.  Scott uses the Theremin in many settings, from modern chamber music to STEM instructional activities. Many of Scott’s Theremin activities take place in Geisel Library at UC San Diego (the very space-age “Mother Ship” building in the middle of that La Jolla Campus – Halloween silent horror films coming up in the Seuss Room there next month!).

Nerd Nite #1 has Scott Paulson demonstrating the Theremin and celebrating the magic of the “space age” instruments’ swirling radio waves in the ether around us. We’ll here famous examples of Theremin music and explore the kitschy yet classy Theremin in popular culture and beyond – with joys and regrets of the inventor Lev Theremin and his muse Clara Rockmore.

We’ll learn how it works and see a premiere of a short new work for Theremin and other gestural instruments … featuring volunteers from the audience!
Here is an appropriate onomatopoetic representation:   OOOOooooEEEEEeeeeeOOOOooooo!!!!