Nerd Nite East Bay #37: Swallowing, Oakland Geology, and Language of Birdsong

Poster designed by Cindy Wang.

Poster designed by Cindy Wang.


December’s Nerd Nite East Bay offers drunken education with three great talks: Lo Scheiner will discuss how we swallow (and how, sometimes, we don’t), Andrew Alden will teach us about East Bay geology, and Madza Y Farias-Virgens will relate birdsong to human language. And alumnerd/expert-of-pi-day Matthew Herbie Harman triumphantly returns as guest MC!

Doors will open promptly at 7. The bar opens then and Jellicles will offer vegetarian indian street food.

Rick, DJ Citizen Zain, and the Oakland Public Library will toast the chestnuts.

Be there and be square.

This event is 21+.

Monday 12/28/2015
Doors (+food,drink) at 7 pm, show starts at 8 pm and ends at 10:30 pm
Club 21, 2111 Franklin St, Oakland
(two blocks from the 19th St BART)

Advance tickets are $8 and are available until 3PM the day of the show or until they sell out.
Your CC statement will denote these come from Drinkified Learning, LLC.
Door tickets are $10 (cash or card).

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[INSERT BLOWJOB JOKE HERE]: A Serious Talk About Swallowing by Lo Scheiner

Swallowing… everyone does it, but almost no one thinks about it. How does it work? What happens when it goes wrong? How do we fix it? What in god’s name is a bolus? All this and more… everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about swallowing!

Lo is a speech and swallowing therapist. She graduated with her Master’s from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and has been working in the Bay Area ever since. She’s worked with people of all ages, but now primarily works with geriatric adults who have speech, language, cognition and swallowing disorders.

Diversity in Deepest Oakland: Rocks of the Town by Andrew Alden

Oakland is a diverse city; that’s what makes it wonderful. And its diversity goes deep — right down to the bedrock. Sure we’ve got shale and sandstone, who doesn’t? We’ve also got serpentine, our state rock. Plus stuff you probably never heard of: Argillite! Blueschist! Metabreccia! Amygdaloidal basalt! And what we don’t have naturally is abundant in our building stones. I’ll give a tour of the surprising wealth of rocks we have and make the case that, square mile for square mile, Oakland is the most lithologically diverse city in America.

Andrew Alden is a longtime writer on Earth science who is busy exploring Oakland’s rocks and landscape for his blog, Oakland Geology. His mission is to share some of the useful and pleasurable insights that geologists give us — not just facts about the deep past, but an attitude that might be called the deep present.

What is in a Tweet? Birdsong and the Evolution of Human Language by Madza Y Farias-Virgens

Speaking is a skill that comes so naturally even to the youngster among us. We take in sounds, we repeat them, and we learn to talk. And yet, we do not know the origins of speech. Researchers studying the evolution of human speech have long been held back by the lack of animal models. Fortunately, those times are over, and birdsong might be the key for it.

As it turns out, there are remarkable similarities between how bird brains process song and human brains process speech. A consistent set of around 50 genes show similar patterns of activation in areas of the human brain that are important for speech, such as areas that control the larynx, and areas of the songbird brain that are crucial for birdsong. So, even though humans and birds are separated by millions of years of evolution, the genes that give us the gift of gab have much in common with those that lend our feathered friends their inspiring melodies.

In his book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote “The sounds uttered by birds offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language”. Was he right? So far, the evidence points to “yes”- but to which degree can the evolution of birdsong teach us about the evolution of speech in our own species?

Madza Y. Farias-Virgens is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, studying biological anthropology. Initially inspired by a renowned Brazilian telenovela, “O Clone”, she got lost among ATCG sequences and made proteins wiggle, during her studies in medical genetics. While those were some good times, she is now using this background to study how speech evolved. Considered a “bird brain” by some of her colleagues, she has now discovered that bird brains are complex, and more similar to human brains than anyone might have guessed, and so takes this as quite a compliment.

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