Nerd Nite East Bay #13: Supercomputers, Lake Merritt, and DNA Sequencing

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Put on your birthday hats: Nerd Nite East bay is 1 year old! To celebrate the Bay Area Science Festival, we bring you a night of science and technology talks. Paul Constantine will let us know why the supercomputers of the future will be smarter and less malignant than HAL 9000. Then Wild Oakland’s Constance Taylor will take us on a tour of Lake Merritt’s flora and fauna, including the sharks! Finally, Damon Tighe informs us of the latest and greatest in DNA sequencing technologies. Be there and be square!

Get blinded with science by DJ Ion the Prize and hosts Rick and Rebecca!

Monday 10/28
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
$8
All Ages
Tickets
FB event
g+ event

WHEN WILL SUPERCOMPUTERS TAKE OVER THE WORLD? by Paul Constantine

The world’s biggest computers keep getting bigger, faster, and more powerful. In the last few decades, we’ve seen a consistent exponential increase in computing capability as measured by floating point operations per second, with many modern machines now operating at the petaflop scale—in other words, a thousand million million operations per second. This astonishing progress has inspired many futurists to posit the day when some beefy calculator with glowing red eye-like LEDs will become self-aware and take control of the world. In reality, scientists in our nation’s top research laboratories and universities harness this computing power daily to make scientific progress with sophisticated simulations—and no legitimate threat of Skynet. I will discuss some trends in supercomputers and survey the science being done with them.

Paul Constantine is an assistant professor in applied math and statistics at Colorado School of Mines. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford’s Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering in 2009 and was awarded the John von Neumann Fellowship in Computational Science at Sandia National Laboratories. His research interests in computational science include uncertainty quantification, where the goal is to devise and compute measures of confidence for big computer simulations. He’s also seen Terminator, like, twice.

THE SIX KINGDOMS OF LAKE MERRITT: LINNAEUS AT THE LOCH by Constance Taylor

It’s not actually a lake! All the squirrels are imports! And yes, there are sharks that patrol the waters of our beloved urban slough. We’ll go on a whirlwind tour of all six Linnaean kingdoms and learn how some of the animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, protists, and archaea fit together in this bioregion.

Established in 1870 as America’s first wildlife refuge, the area we know as Lake Merritt has changed dramatically over the past century and a half. From tidal estuary to… er… a more human-impacted tidal estuary, this beleaguered environment is still home to a surprising array of species. Hopefully on your post-Nerd Nite visits to Lake Merritt you’ll notice the red-shouldered hawks perched on buildings scouting for prey, bat rays crunching clams, the jellyfish blooping in the Glen Echo finger, the domestic fowland freshwater turtles people abandon at the lake, the cliff swallows swooping to catch insects to carry back to their mud nests at Laney College, and think about ancient life forms when you see (and smell) all that lovely mud.

Constance Taylor started an organization called Wild Oakland in 2012, a non-profit dedicated to providing free, local environmental education for adults. She likes to think of WO as an “urban ecological sampler”- topics covered on the walks have ranged from bird illustration techniques to insect identification to how the 7th Street flood control station works to keep Lake Merritt from flooding Oakland during heavy rains. She’s learned quite a bit about the social and natural history of Lake Merritt, but is always discovering new and surprising things about this oft-misunderstood ecosystem.

THE EVOLUTION OF DNA SEQUENCING TECHNOLOGIES by Damon Tighe

How exactly do you you sequence a whole freaking genome? Warm up your neurological thermal cycler and get ready for this medium level technical dive through the past ten years of DNA Sequencing technologies. We will start with the classic method of Sanger Terminator DNA Sequencing; the backbone of the Human Genome Project and make our way through contemporary technologies that now allow for the sequencing of a whole human genome in less then a week for an almost almost affordable cost. There will be a quick eye forward to some of the emerging technologies like the super sexy nanopore that biologists and physicists can both delight at. GATACA? Yeah, its almost here!

Damon Tighe works for Bio-Rad Laboratories where he supports educators across the western United States teaching biotechnology through hands on training and curriculum development. He grew up in the frog jumping capital of Calaveras county and attended Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. He taught high school in Portland, Oregon in between beer binges, but moved back to the bay for sobriety and to work on the Human Genome Project. He hung around for the free lab alcohol and worked on “Biofuel” related DNA Sequencing projects and deciphering the bugs in the ass side of a termite at Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Labs. He also pretends to run a small photography business in between foraging for mushrooms and manages an apartment complex in downtown Oakland.

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