At August’s Nerd Nite East Bay, Heather Jackson will talk about the strength of materials, Lita Stephenson will discuss platypusseseses, and Greg Babinecz will share his knowledge of oysters, as well as some samples.

DJ Ion the Prize and your hosts Rick and Rebecca will slurp down the extras.

Monday 8/26
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
All Ages
FB event
g+ event


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Materials are like people…it’s their defects that make them interesting. If real materials were perfect, we’d be missing out on steel, laser pointers, pop-top soda cans, and much more. On the other hand, defects sank the Titanic as well as square windows on airplanes. So, stuff breaks, and the structure and properties of materials has something to do with it. But how? Everyone knows that windows shatter and car bumpers dent, but what about the chassis that crumples in some places and is rigid in others? When design tweaks only take us so far, how can materials and process engineering optimize the performance of the structures, machines, and vehicles we depend on, and make them less likely to kill us or waste our money?

As a consulting engineer at Structural Integrity Associates in San Jose, Heather Jackson helps keeps the lights on. She works to prevent failures of structural components at nuclear and fossil power plants by harnessing lessons learned from metallurgy, corrosion, and fracture mechanics. Before that, she kept busy breaking stuff at Sandia National Labs and figuring out how stuff broke at NASA Johnson Space Center. Heather is an alum of MIT and Imperial College London and reckons the terrible weather helped by never distracting her from her studies.


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It’s a duck! It’s a beaver! It’s a mole! It’s some kind of … what the hell is that thing? It’s a platypus! Arguably nature’s silliest creature, these adorable little guys have a lot of oddness going on. An ancient mammal, the platypus is the only living member of their family and genus. Among other bizarre traits, it is venomous, lays eggs, produces milk, but has no nipples, and is also one of the only mammals able to perceive environmental electrical signals. As long-time platypus dork and sensory-system enthusiast, I’ll give you a closer look at how these charming little beasts use this electroreception system in combination with mechanical stimuli, without other senses, to locate and capture their fleeing prey in 3-dimensional space. We may even tackle the age-old question: “What is the proper plural form of ‘platypus’?”.

Lita Stephenson began life as the child of two lunatics who dragged her, kicking and screaming, all over the planet. Along the way, she developed a great passion for weird and ugly animals, and pursued further information relentlessly. She used her appropriately abbreviated B.S. in Neurobiology and Physiology from UC Davis to spend as much time studying the platypus as she could get away with, but the crushing realization that she’d have to euthanize one at some point led her to pursue molecular cytogenetics at UCSF instead. Since then she’s filled her time telling people what’s wrong with them, professionally and personally, and writing badly about other people’s science.


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Few foods create such a spark of excitement or gasp of revulsion in people. It certainly takes a culinary stalwart to slurp back his or her first briny bivalve. They are, after all, the only things we eat raw and alive besides each other. And, of course, we all know what they say about oysters. I’d be lying if I said that a few dozen have’t led to some amorous activity in my past and will hopefully continue to do so. However, the true value of oysters to us goes way beyond their gastronomic provocation or role as an aphrodisiac. We’ll discuss the historical importance of oysters in 19th century American development, oysters’ lifecycles and ecological impact, and their role as the most sustainable form of aquaculture. We’ll also explore what makes oysters so unique as to elicit so many cultural tributes such as poems, folklore, and festivals. You wouldn’t, after all, find M.F.K. Fisher writing a book titled “Consider the Crab.” Oh, and we’re serving free oysters!

Greg Babinecz received his BA from Johns Hopkins University in 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland. Working at a local fish market while completing a post graduate internship at University of Penn ignited Greg’s interest in local, sustainable seafood. He spent two years in Central America working on Pre-Colombian archaeological projects and teaching English. Upon returning to the States 2010, Greg moved to San Francisco where began moonlighting at Waterbar, a Bay Area Top 100 seafood restaurant. In 2012, Greg quit his day job and began managing the raw bar full time at Waterbar, where he continues to further his knowledge of oysters, aquaculture and sustainable fisheries. He is devoted to local food sourcing, supporting the reinstatement of Oysters in the Bay through the Watershed Project, and spends whatever little free time he has writing his blog.