Category: Regular Monthly Event

Nerd Nite 65: Comic Con Origins, Insatiable Alcibiades, Dark Matter Detection


  • $8 advance tix/$10 at the door
  • Monday June 25, 2018
    • 7PM: Doors and Games
    • 8PM: Talks
  • Club 21, 2111 Franklin St, Oakland
    • 2 blocks from 19th St BART
  • 21+
  • FB event

Mind Over (Dark) Matter: How Scientists Invent New Ways to Detect Dark Matter

Learn why the search for dark matter takes us deep underground to a former gold mine and requires 20% of the world’s entire supply of xenon, and why the “unsuccessful” LUX detector actually taught us a lot about our universe without seeing anything at all. Then follow the path from new hardware to new data to new breakthroughs as the new LZ detector races to identify the elusive dark matter particles that make up 95% of our reality, and why finding them is so important.

Lucie Tvrznikova works on direct dark matter detection at the Berkeley Lab in her PhD studies. Originally from Prague, she is part of the LUX and LZ dark matter collaborations and built a spark-making detector at LBL called XeBrA. She enjoys getting her hands dirty in her work and joined CrossFit so she could tighten all the nuts and bolts.

The Insatiable Alcibiades of Athens

Beautiful geniuses come in many forms, and the legendary Alcibiades of Athens was likely the most absurd. A brilliant tactician in war, a stunning orator, obscenely wealthy, and attractive beyond compare, he carried on with Plato, then heroically led Athens to victory over the Spartans before switching sides and leading Spartan armies back against Athens, all while bedding the King’s wife. Put on your Nerd Nite toga and follow the *quite* circuitous path of one of history’s most ridiculous characters.

Teddy de Groot graduated from the UW Madison’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, but has taken an inexplicable interest in classical studies and the history that was written before all the stories were ruined by Germans and their 19th century socioeconomic explanations for everything.

The Comic Con Origin Story

Delve deep into the prequel-worthy origin stories of sci-fi fandom and Comic Con in America. Find out how Comic Con went from a small gathering of the world’s most passionate comics fans at the Hotel Coronado to the modern behemoth that drove comics, science fiction and cosplay into the cultural mainstream. Plus hear reports from the very first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939, attended by aspiring young writers Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, where the founder of science fiction fandom Forrest J Ackerman introduced the first known cosplay.

Bob Calhoun is the author of Shattering Conventions. He writes the Yesterday’s Crimes feature for SF Weekly, a monthly column and video feature for Meetings Today, the trade magazine covering the conventions industry, and wrote “Blood, Beer and Cornmeal”, chronicling his experiences as a wrestler in San Francisco’s own Incredibly Strange Wrestling League in the 1990s.


#50: Dongs, Derby, and Rocks

NNEB Feb 2017

Poster by Rebecca Cohen.

Join Nerd Nite East Bay‘s 50th (!) show on Monday Feb 27th for

  • The Personality of the Pet Rock!
  • Roller Derby!
  • The Evolution of the Penis!

Mingle from 7-8PM with games, tasty food from Grilled Cheese Guy and tunes from Citizen Zain, then grab a drink and a seat as the talks begin at 8PM.

Early bird tickets just $8, tickets $10 at the door.

Club 21, Oakland

The Dong of Man
Hard Facts and Little Lies About The Human Penis

This month’s swell talk on the human penis has us pumped! Learn how pensises evolved, why sexual selection advanced this absurd appendage, and why it’s pretty great to not be a great ape. Get straight up phallus facts, and find out how little science knows about the female vagina compared to men’s mono-log.

Benji Kessler studies courtship behavior and the sensory systems of jumping spiders in the PhD program at UC-Berkeley. His work includes Googling things like “comparison between human and chimpanzee vaginas”, and he’ll happily write a limerick about your research.

Stone. Cold. Steve Austin?
The Surprising Personality of Pet Rocks

Find out why our brains see faces everywhere, and how this Anthropocene perspective actually gave personality to pet rocks. Learn how personification goes into the collection, presentation and disposal of rocks, and get flattened by morbid tales of people who disrespected “rocks as people” and ended up between a rock and a… bigger, harder rock.

Andrew Alden runs the Oakland Geology blog and is a former U.S. Geological Survey staffer. He has been writing and speaking about the geology of the solar system, Earth, California and Oakland for 20 years, was the founding geology expert at, appeared in KQED Science and Bay Nature, and is writing a book on the geology and landscape of Oakland.

Skate or Die
Physics, Physicality and Survival in Roller Derby

Discover the hard hitting history of roller derby, and how Bay Area Derby has brought the skirmish on skates into the modern era. Learn how derby is also science on skates, where Newton’s laws, malicious math and a little change in body posture can be the difference between smashing and getting smashed!

Chewie, Moxxxie and Pie of Bay Area Derby bring flat track roller derby to arenas throughout the Bay. Emily “Chewie” Chu, Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry at CCSF, officiated roller derby with BAD and volunteers as a math and science instructor for Prison University Project at San Quentin. Melissa “Miss Moxxxie” Chamberlain co-founded BAD in 2004, skated and coached the SF ShEvil Dead, is the BAD Head Announcer and Editor in Chief of the legendary roller derby fanzine HELLARAD. Sherryann “Pie” Danna-Vandervort first laced up her skates with Gotham Girls Roller Derby in 2005. She is the head of BAD marketing and coach of the ShEvil Dead. Her time is spent thinking about how to break down derby drills, throwing kettlebells about, and long-winded rants about ‘the good ole days’.

Nerd Nite East Bay #46: Liar, Liar, Hair & Drones on Fire

Poster via Jeanette Yu.

Poster via Jeanette Yu.

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We’re not gonna lie: September’s Nerd Nite East Bay lineup allows a pretty awesome opportunity for you to grab a drink and learn about some pretty fascinating topics. Audience-favorite Patrick House will review the neuroscience basis…and legal consequences…of lies; Sarah Gold McBride will discuss the science…and historical pseudoscience…of hair; and Eric Cheng will discuss flying…and landing…drones on active volcanoes.

Starting at 7PM, We’ll have food from ToliverWorks, beats by DJ Citizen Zain, and Detention by Ann-Marie.

Rick, Rebecca, and the Oakland Public Library will be hanging from telephone wires.

NOTE: October’s Nerd Nite East Bay will be a week early, on 10/24, in honor of both the Bay Area Science Festival and Halloween.

Be there and be square.

This event is 21+.

Monday 9/26/2016
Doors (+food,drink,"Detention" preshow) at 7 pm, talks start at 8 pm and end by 10:30 pm
Club 21, 2111 Franklin St, Oakland (two blocks from the 19th St BART)

Advance tickets are $8.
Your CC statement will denote these come from Drinkified Learning, LLC.
We will strive to allow some purchases at the door for $10 (cash or card), but we sometimes sell out.


The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Everything But the Truth: The Legal and Scientific Implications of a Lie by Patrick House

People must constantly create, separate, manage, and keep track of fictional and non-fictional worlds, partly to avoid collisions between the two. A famous psychology study—“What Does Batman Think About Spongebob?”—revealed that kids only slowly understand that fictional worlds are branches of non-fictional ones. But the rules of how to create fictional worlds, even for adults, are messy and complicated. Why are we so bad at counterfactuals? What happens when the legal system is put in charge of telling non-fiction from fiction? (I.e. The totally bizarre legal complications when memoirs are found to be false.) What does it mean that many bookstores around the world don’t even have different categories for fiction and non-fiction? Does it, ultimately, matter?

Patrick House has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a postdoc in genetics from Stanford. He studied that one cat parasite—you know the one—that makes mice less afraid of cats. He writes for The New Yorker and Slate and hopes, one day, to remake the 1982 horror film “Cat People”, on which he based all of his graduate research.

“Of A Perfect Hair”: A Cultural History of Science, Race, and Human Hair by Sarah Gold McBride

In the nineteenth century, Americans from different regions, racial groups, class backgrounds, and political inclinations shared a surprising belief: that hair exposed the truth about the person from whose body it grew. A careful examination of the color, texture, length, or shape of a person’s hair had the power to reliably reveal character and identity—whether, for example, that person was ambitious, courageous, or criminally inclined. One important way that Americans elaborated the meaning of hair was through scientific investigations of its structure and function. Yet the science of hair was never purely academic or objective. Like other contemporary pseudosciences, hair science had a social motive: to naturalize social hierarchies and power differentials. And in no realm of nineteenth-century life were the stakes higher than when it came to race, where the shape of a single strand of hair might mean the difference between enslavement and freedom.

Sarah Gold McBride is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department at UC Berkeley. She specializes in the social and cultural history of the United States. Her dissertation examines the meaning of hair in nineteenth century America, and its relationship to science, popular culture, identity, and power.

Flying Drones into Volcanoes by Eric Cheng

A couple years ago on a whim, Eric organized an exploratory trip to capture low-altitude drone footage of a volcano eruption in Iceland. Less than half a year later, the technology had improved so much that he and his team were able to live stream from the volcano on Good Morning America. In this talk, Eric will share how drones have unlocked a totally new perspective for everyday creators. Once the domain of innovators and makers, drone photography has become mainstream. Eric will share how to take advantage of the rapid pace of technological advances and show how these days anyone can live broadcast from a drone.

Eric Cheng is an award-winning photographer, technologist, drone expert, and author. He publishes, the leading underwater-photography community on the web, and writes about his aerial-imaging pursuits at In October 2015, Peachpit published Eric’s first book, Aerial Photography and Videography Using Drones. He is currently at Facebook as Head of Immersive Media.

Nerd Nite East Bay #24: Singing Spiders, The Brain, and Sci-Fi Sex Interfaces

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Sit back and sip on a some tasty beverages.  Nerd Nite East Bay warms you up for Thanksgiving and begins our third year with a particularly salacious night: Erin Brandt will show what happens when you aim a laser Doppler vibrometer at a male spider dancing on pantyhose to woo the corpse of a female spider; Zarinah Agnew will show mappings from regions of the brain to genitals; and Chris Noessel plots the design lessons science fiction provides in the realm of sex interfaces.

DJ Citizen Zain, Rick, and Rebecca will brine their turkeys. The Oakland Public Library will be there with a reading list and to issue cards. Be there and be square.

Monday 11/24/2014
Doors at 7 pm, show starts at 8 pm, show ends at 10:30 pm
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
All Ages


Like many animals, there are many aspects that go into jumping spider seduction. Males in the genus Habronattus must coordinate elaborate vibratory songs and flashy dances in just the right ways to attract females. To further complicate matters, these spiders live in dynamic and unpredictable habitats. Environmental factors also influence how courtship signals are produced by males and perceived by females. Erin Brandt, a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley, will tell – and show – with interactive demonstrations – how to win a lady spider’s love.

Erin Brandt is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Elias lab at UC Berkeley.  Her main project involves understanding how jumping spider courtship behavior (songs and dances) are affected by changing temperature.  She hopes to understand both short and long-term consequences of changing temperature on different species of jumping spiders.  Erin is also broadly interested in many aspects of biology, from locomotion (how jumping spiders jump), to large-scale questions in evolution.   When not in the lab, Erin is often found conveying her fascination with spiders and other arthropods to broad audiences, from classrooms to public talks.


What does that pinkish greyish mass in side your head doing? And how is it doing it? Zarinah will introduce basic concepts about neuroanatomy, what that has and has not taught us about how the brain functions and where we might aim to go next. As we go through the brain, we’ll look at what we know about each region of this complex mass, how these regions differ from those in other primates and what happens to people who sustain damage to those regions. We’ll cover some of the strange disorders that occur as part of localized brain damage, you’ll learn where your penis is in your brain (vaginas are still somewhat up for debate..) and by the end you should hopefully have some idea of the complexities that we are facing in neuroscience, and perhaps even be inspired to join in the quest for understanding.

Zarinah Agnew is a neuroscientist at UCSF where she works on how the brain controls complex voluntary movement. In humans, this generally refers to movements of the hands and articulators, our most dextrous bits. She uses a combination of different forms of neuroimaging and brain stimulation techniques to probe motor function in humans, both in healthy people and in patients with brain damage. A recent migrant from the UK, Zarinah received her PhD at Imperial College, where she worked on human mirror neurons, and went on to UCL to work on sensory motor aspects of speech. In London, she was heavily involved in science outreach, which led her to work with Guerilla Science, create a giant brain sand sculpture and let her into the murky world of science stand up comedy, which she can safely say, is the most terrifying thing she has ever done. Nerd Nite is her first foray into public engagement of science in the US.


The last chapter in the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction (Rosenfeld Media, 2012) is simply titled “Sex.” In this tour de force review of sex-related interfaces in sci-fi (and there are more than you probably think) Christopher Noessel discusses matchmaking interfaces, augmented coupling, mediated coupling, and yes, even sex with technology. Along the way he shares practical lessons that the sometimes surprising, sometimes hilarious interfaces inspire for those of us designing for the real world.

Bio to come.

Nerd Nite East Bay #23: Picture Books, Parasites, and Pandemic: Paralytic Snakes

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Party on, our potent potable drinking people. September’s alliterative line-up brings a presentation from Oakland Public Librarian Sharon McKellar on picture books, Kelly Weinersmith‘s PowerPoint on zombifying parasites, and Matthew Lewin‘s proposal on how to cure poisonous snake bites. All with plenty of time for pleasureful potation of pivo.

Mana and Walter will be there from OPL to issue library cards and help you pursue a plentiful plethora of extra resources.

DJ Ion the Prize, Rick, and Rebecca will provide pluck and pizazz.

Be there and be square.

Monday 9/29
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


Picture books aren’t always as simple as they appear. With equal importance of storytelling and visuals, the picture book should be taken seriously as a tool and an art form. Come see a brief history of this medium and also learn about the prestigious Caldecott Medal. How does a group of librarians decide the most distinguished picture book each year?

Sharon McKellar has been a librarian with the Oakland Public Library since 2003, serving as a children’s librarian, a branch manager, and currently as the Community Relations Librarian. She is a reader, a writer, an excited member of the 2015 Caldecott Selection Committee, and a giant nerd.


Do you find parasites disgusting? If not, they may have already gotten to you. Some parasites are like little mad neuroscientists, forcing animals to bend to their wicked whims. Parasites can make ants into zombies, make fish beg to be eaten, and make humans get in car wrecks. In many animals, parasite manipulations are downright surgical. They manipulate behavior in ways that cannot yet be replicated in medicine.

Modern parasitology seeks to ask these little mad scientists to give up the secrets they’ve been developing over millions of years of evolutionary tinkering. I am one of those parasitologists, and I’ve already squeezed a secret or two out of this these tiny tinkerers. I’ll chat with you about some of my favorite examples of parasite manipulation, and what they may tell us about the brain, the immune system, and behavior.

Kelly Weinersmith is a PhD student at the University of California Davis, where she studies how parasites turn their hosts into zombies. Groups like the National Science Foundation and the American Association of University Women have funded Kelly to do crazy things like sample fish in quantities measured in dump trucks, induce and analyze fish puke, and infect fish with brain-infecting parasites to measure how these parasites change fish physiology and behavior. It’s impossible for Kelly to keep her mouth shut about science, so when she isn’t actively doing science you can find her podcasting over at Weekly Weinersmith or Science…Sort of. For Kelly’s next big adventure, she she’ll be joining Rice University as a Huxley Faculty Fellow. Follow Kelly on twitter @Fuschmu.


Snakebite is arguably the most neglected of neglected tropical diseases, affecting nearly 5 million people annually. Lewin, along with an international group of colleagues, made headlines recently for their pioneering approach to the treatment of venomous snakebites using a nasal spray of inexpensive anticholinesterases. This novel technique is the first step toward finding a universal antidote for snakebite. Hear about the treatment and about Lewin’s exciting tales from the field.

Throughout his career, Dr. Matt Lewin has treated patients and scientists in some of the world’s most remote locations and under the harshest conditions. Since 2008, he has been the California Academy of Sciences emergency medicine liaison to UCSF. Now Director of the Center for Exploration & Travel Health and Fellow of the Academy, he has played an active role in developing and testing protocols for the safe handling and first aid of Academy and Aquarium employees potentially exposed to venomous animals housed on Academy grounds and on display to the public.

Nerd Nite East Bay #22: Bitcoin, Cosmology, and Underwater Robots

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Grab a beer and then listen up to this month’s Nerd Nite East Bay. Jeremy Rue will tell you how the encryption built into Bitcoin protects your cash. Roger O’Brient, who works on BICEP2 and other cosmic microwave background telescopes will discuss what these high-profile experiments have to say about how our universe came to be. Finally, David Lang will show how us how makers are using OpenROV to explore our waters.

Citizen Zain, Rick, and Rebecca will provide the beats and sign your encryption keys.

Be there and be square.

Monday 8/25
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


Some of you may have heard of Bitcoin, that crazy virtual currency with roller-coastering price fluctuations. But what you may not have heard is that the underlying technology running it is so brilliant, it could spark a revolution in how digital information is processed and verified online. Using encryption and distributed networking, Bitcoin solves some very fundamental computer science problems: it creates a system of trust in a place where trust should not be possible — that seedy underbelly of society known as the Interweb.

Jeremy is a lecturer of digital storytelling at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He teaches classes on programming for journalists, multimedia storytelling and designing online news packages. He’s a former print reporter, photojournalist and web developer. With the right software tool, you can verify anything he digitally signs online by his PGP fingerprint: A2F8 9A6A EA47 1319 7465 69E4 BEE1 A29D 00CE 40C7.


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Our team operates telescopes in the interior of Antarctica, searching the Cosmic Microwave Background for signatures of gravitational waves generated by the Big Bang. In March, our team announced that we had seen patterns consistent with these waves. In my talk, I’ll describe the science behind this measurement, specifically what we saw in our maps, and what implications this result may have for our universe’s origin and ultimate fate. Of course, critics have pointed out that this detection could just be glowing dust in our galaxy, so I’ll describe these critiques and how our team is moving forward to clarify what we’ve actually seen.

Roger O’Brient studied physics and cosmology at Caltech and Berkeley, where he also barely escaped a series of disasters relating to his hobbies of pyrotechnics, motorcycles, and beer-brewing. Despite this dubious history, the folks at NASA are surprisingly calm about letting him manage the CMB detectors program at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He’s spent more than a decade looking for CMB B-modes, much of it designing and vetting the sensors that enable the current and next generation experiments. The game’s finally afoot, with numerous teams racing to understand how our universe operates at the highest conceivable temperatures.


Citizen science and exploration – the process of discovery by non-professionals – is at a tipping point. The idea is nothing new. Any attempt to research the history of “citizen science” quickly turns into, quite simply, the history of science. Benjamin Franklin, Darwin, Newton. It’s a colorful lineage. The idea has taken on new meaning in recent years, as networked groups of amateurs have proven effective in contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge and understanding. Even more recently, within the past five years, the Maker Movement (the combination of low-cost tools and components, physical makerspace locations, and increasing access to the means of production) has accelerated the development of low-cost citizen science tools. Next stop: adventure!

David Lang is one of the co-founders of OpenROV, an open-source underwater robot and community of DIY robot builders. He is also a co-founder of OpenExplorer, a platform for DIY adventures and exploration. He is also the author of Zero to Maker and an occasional contributor to MAKE: Magazine.

Nerd Nite East Bay #21: Easter, Climate Change, and Mental Illness

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An Easter talk in July? It isn’t the climate, but because we’re mad.

At July’s Nerd Nite East Bay, Alice Handley will tell us why the days on our calendar fall when they do, Dan Miller will address climate change and some of the technological and policy changes that may address it, and Sharon Osterweil will talk about the history o’ crazy.

And, as usual, DJ Ion the Prize, Rebecca, and Rick will eat the carbon-neutral chocolate bunnies.

Be there and be square.

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


Easter is about bunnies and chocolate and the risen Christ—and also about all sorts of very delicious medieval European theological backbiting and wrangling. The Easter controversy happened when theology, astronomy, and politics collided in the early Christian Church to create what St. Eusebius would have undoubtedly called “a hot mess.” Learn about the centuries-long struggle to define a single date and how this argument played out across church and state in Europe and the Near East—as well as how it affected the calendar we use today.

Alice Handley received a BA in History from UC Berkeley and then an M.Phil. from The University of Cambridge but then decided to get out of the fast-paced, high-stakes, big-money world of Early Medieval History to focus on things that other people on earth might conceivably care about. Currently, she writes words on the internet for a living and resides in Oakland.


Climate change is obviously one of the greatest challenges facing civilization, yet governments (and the public) are mostly ignoring the problem. Why is that? And how bad might it get and how soon? Dan will discuss some technologies that could help the problem, and finish up by describing of a climate policy that will greatly reduce carbon pollution, boost the GDP, and create over 2 million jobs.

Dan Miller is Managing Director of The Roda Group, a Berkeley venture capital group he co-founded that is focused on cleantech. Dan is a former board member of biofuel manufacturer Solazyme, and he was previously the president of Ask Jeeves, Inc., both former Roda Group affiliate companies. Dan co-founded TCSI corporation, which became a leading provider of telecommunications software. Before that, he designed communication satellite payloads at Hughes Aircraft (now Boeing) Space & Communications.


How does a late 19th century outbreak of encephalitis affect the prognosis of people with schizophrenia today? What is an asylum and why is it different from a psychiatric hospital? Why are there so many homeless people who seem crazy? Why might my sibling/parent/friend with a serious mental illness take their medication so inconsistently? It’s tempting to think that with modern medicine, we clearly understand the causes and effects of various mental illnesses, but in fact, how mental illness is treated, who is mentally ill, and even what mental illness means has changed significantly over the past 300 years. By exploring the history of mental illness in the U.S., we’ll shed light in the darkest corners of the locked wards.

Sharon Osterweil currently works for Lifelong Medical Care—a high quality health care organization serving Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond—on a prevention-based case management pilot program. Before returning to her native Bay Area last year, she lived in New York and provided direct services at a supportive housing agency and later studied employment among adults with severe mental illness and histories of homelessness. She conducted research on employment for her MPH thesis at Pathways to Housing, the innovators of the Housing First model.

Nerd Nite East Bay #20: Bees in the Dirt, Development of Squirts, and Balls that Hurt

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Come one! Come all! To the twentieth installment of Nerd Nite East Bay! Where Hillary Sardiñas will dig up our pollinators where they live! Where Caren Walker and Sophie Bridgers will speak to how children learn! Where Adam Howe and Hunter Huston will rally the adult dodge ball league! And where DJ Ion the Prize, Rebecca, and Rick will wax lyrical!

Be there and be square.

Monday 6/30
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
squirts-and-balls-that-hurt/">More info

THE REAL DIRT ON BEES by Hillary Sardiñas

Bees are incredibly important to agriculture. One out of three bites of food we eat comes from a bee-pollinated crop. Honey bees, with their queens, colonies, drones and honey stores, are usually what comes to mind when we think of bees. In fact, there are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide. They have a variety of life history strategies that are nothing like those of the honey bee. We’ll delve into the diversity of wild bees, particularly focusing on where they nest: in the dirt!

Hillary is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on native bee nesting in agricultural regions, particularly whether creating natural habitat on farm edges can help bolster bee populations and boost crop yields. She can often be found buzzing around farms in the Central Valley helping growers make decisions about habitat management techniques. Hillary has also worked as a restoration ecologist in a variety of non-profits and governmental organizations around the Bay Area.


Historically, children were considered to be incompetent, irrational, short adults. Recently, however, there’s been a revolution in our scientific understanding of the minds of young children, transforming our interpretation of childhood and providing new insight into adult cognition as well. As adults, we have coherent, abstract and highly structured knowledge of the world. The foundations of this knowledge are constructed in childhood from the fragmented and concrete evidence of our senses. How do those seemingly useless (but adorable) creatures learn so much about the world so quickly and accurately? Our research shows that even the youngest babies have learning abilities that are more powerful than those of the smartest scientists and most advanced computers. In particular, we propose that children, like scientists, implicitly formulate hypotheses about how the world works, and test those hypotheses through their own exploration and play.

Caren Walker is an East Coast transplant, currently wrapping up her Ph.D. in Developmental Cognitive Science at the University of California, Berkeley. When she’s not contemplating the origins of abstract knowledge, she enjoys experimenting with the circus arts and spending time in nature. (However, Caren will be going on the job market next year, so if anyone asks: she spends ALL of her time in the lab).

Sophie Bridgers has lived in the East Bay her entire life but is brand new to the Nerd Nite community. She currently works as a lab manager for Dr. Alison Gopnik, but is betraying her Berkeley roots and heading to Stanford in the fall to get her Ph.D. in Cognitive Development. When she’s not collecting data for Caren’s studies, she spends her time in the dance studio (or with Caren, in nature).


Though most people only remember dodgeball as a childhood sport or zany comedy, it has actually become a thriving intramural activity for 20-30 somethings across the country. In this 30 minute presentation, RAD League dodgeball will guide you through the inner workings of this quirky sport while explaining the rules, strategies, and positions used in today’s modern game. So grab your favorite knee pads and headband as you won’t want to DODGE this unique discussion.

RAD League dodgeball was created with the sole purpose of bringing together different groups of people who know how to have a good time and love playing dodgeball. One year, four seasons, and over a hundred participants later, RAD League is going strong! Whether you are a grizzled vet or 1st time player, RAD league offers a fun experience for all. And while the goal on the court might be to eliminate your opponents, the social part of our league is to meet new people, and hang out with old friends.

Adam Howe was a founding member of RAD League and helps oversee the scheduling, roster relations, and event planning for RAD League. On top of RAD League Adam currently manages the Pyramid Alehouse in Berkeley, CA and has made Oakland his home for the past 6.5 years.

Hunter Huston is one of three co-founding members of RAD League and has been playing dodgeball competitively for over 6 years. He has also been coaching high school basketball and teaching for the last 4 years in Berkeley.

Nerd Nite East Bay #19: Burnside’s Lemma, Artificial Photosynthesis, and Paramedics

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I don’t need a counting theorem to let you know that the three talks we feature this month will be nothing less than nerd-a-licious. First, Nathan Ilten will offer one of the cooler pieces of group theory to show how you can count things. Then Alexandra Krawicz shows us how we can design better approaches to harvesting energy from the sun. Chris van Luen close, who gave us an alternative for his talk: “Life as a Street Medic. Yes, this shit really does happen.”

DJ Citizen Zain is back again already! And Rick and Rebecca will provide resuscitation between talks. Be there and be square.

Monday 5/26
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


Mathematicians and young children have (at least) two things in common: they drool more than they should, and they love to count things. While children are often forced to rely on their fingers for counting, older mathematicians often have more sophisticated tools available. In this talk, we’ll examine one such tool: “The Lemma that is not Burnside’s”, first discovered by Augustin Cauchy in 1845. Not only does it have a confusing name, this lemma can be extremely useful when counting objects with some kind of symmetry. As an example, we’ll solve a problem that would make your three year old niece break down in tears: how many ways can you paint the faces of a cube using 97 different colors?

Nathan Ilten grew up counting with his fingers, but quickly learned to use his toes as well. After learning to count a bit higher, he got his PhD in mathematics from the Freie Universität in Berlin. When not spending his time working as a visiting assistant professor at UC Berkeley, Nathan can be found out on the Bay in a sailboat.


Plants are photoautotrophic, they do not depend on anyone to synthesize their “food” or give them energy to grow. Through a series of light driven reactions plants split water and fix carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. Humans can mimic photosynthesis artificially, but are not as successful as plants. However if we become masters in mimicking plants we could use their “trade secrets” to become energy independent and produce carbon neutral and fully renewable solar energy. Our consumption of energy is growing at an exorbitant rate and since most energy comes from burning fossil fuels we continue to pollute the atmosphere we live in, and induce climate change. The goal of the work presented here is to mimic one part of the photosynthetic reaction. In nature, photosynthesis splits water into protons and oxygen and in the process releases electrons. These electrons are then used along with the protons to reduce CO2 and form sugars. We have developed a method for preparing an electrode composed of grafted molecular cobalt-containing hydrogen production catalysts onto visible light absorbing semiconductor p-type GaP(100) that can mimic the hydrogen production step. This construct is able to produce hydrogen (fuel) catalytically upon exposure to solar illumination. The preparation of the construct exploits UV-induced immobilization of vinylpyridine and subsequent surface-initiated photopolymerization to yield a covalently attached polymer with pendent pyridyl groups that bind to cobaloxime catalysts. Surface derivatization is characterized by several spectroscopic techniques and performance is assessed by electrochemical methods. The Co containing catalyst functionalized photocathode shows significantly enhanced photoelectrochemical (PEC) performance in aqueous conditions at neutral pH, compared to results obtained on GaP without attached cobalt complex, yielding a 2.4 mA cm-2 current density at a 310 mV underpotential, meaning that only solar light is driving the reaction and there is no applied bias. These results open new possibilities for re-engineering the catalytic constructs to improve their efficiency and durability.

Alexandra Krawicz is a Postdoctoral scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and The Joint Center for Artificial Synthesis (JCAP). She joined JCAP in August 2012 as part of the Interface group to work on immobilization of molecular catalysts onto semiconductors for solar energy conversion. Currently she is working on developing
stable attachment strategies for molecular catalysts to photocathodes to create constructs for solar fuel production. Despite her best efforts, she is heterotrophic.

911….WHAT’S YOUR EMERGENCY? by Chris van Luen

Everyday we see ambulances speeding down the street with lights and sirens blaring. Have you wondered…what type of emergency are they going to? Is it the life threatening heart attack or car crash like we see in movies or on television? Well, you might be surprised at what the real answer is. Come join us as we take you on virtual ride-along with paramedics during a 24 hour period and get an idea of what life is really like as a paramedic on the street.

Chris van Luen is a veteran paramedic who has been working in Emergency Medical Services for over 25 years. As a young medic he served as a Helicopter Rescue Swimmer in the US Coast Guard for 13 years. In 1999 he returned home to the East Bay where he has since been working as a paramedic in Alameda County with several years working the streets of Oakland. He is a published author on topics relating to pre-hospital care, a paramedic instructor and has received multiple awards including Paramedic of the Year.

Nerd Nite East Bay #18: Nuts, Maker Ed, and Race in Comics

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The next monthly installment of Nerd Nite East Bay brings many firsts: our first food science talk, the first talk (on modern education methods) based on audience suggestions in our facebook group, and our first talk about comic books. Megan Fisklements will dig through the two billion pounds of almonds California produces each year and distill the most nutritious and entertaining information about your nuts. Aaron Vanderwerff comes out of the shop to let us know how he’s teaching our young about making. Finally, Grace Gipson will show how we paint our superheroes of color in comics and graphic novels.

As usual, DJ Citizen Zain, Rick, and Rebecca will do their best to get the nuts & bolts together. Be there and be square.

Monday 4/28
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
All Ages


There are so many delicious foods out there, and almonds are one of them. But every few decades, the skins mysteriously loosen and fall off uncontrollably! Let me share with you my graduate research trying to shed light on this mystery of the slippery skins. Have you ever wondered what almond skins are made of? Or how they form during almond development? And how do they ever come off? Come with me on an adventure of plant anatomy, methods-MacGyvering, kinetics modeling, and Gary Larson comics. On the way, you’ll peak into the bizarre, joyful world of food nerds, and shed new light on common food products you’ve probably already eaten.

Megan earned her Ph.D. from UC Davis in the Food Science & Technology department, and has been working in food product development ever since. When not experimenting in the lab, she is a devoted keeper of sourdough and an anarchist quilter.


Why would you hand a bunch of five-year-olds saws?

Design and making (including crafts, electronics, woodworking and programming) give context to students’ learning, develop persistence and creativity, and expose students to new career paths. Making is being integrated into the curriculum both as a support to other subjects and as an end in itself. Kindergarteners with saws and hot glue guns develop into high school students who can imagine and create their own independent projects, everything from electric trucks to LED tutus.

Aaron has been teaching kids to make for years – even without knowing that was what he was doing. He has taught chemistry, physics and robotics in East Bay high schools, and is currently the coordinator of the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, where he works with teachers to integrate making into their classes.


Historically, comic books have often been dismissed as less relevant and inferior pop culture texts. However, academic scholars are now re-considering and re-introducing the discussion of comic books [and graphic novels] as complex texts deserving of serious scholarly study. Even though specific research on comic book characters [particularly those of black and brown distinction] has begun to emerge there still remains a need to fill the gap, which includes further examination of these superhero characters of color. These complex characters and their stories offer an opportunity to move beyond the surface narrative of the comic book pages. One might say the most fascinating aspect about the comic book world is that this particular medium has a way of strategically telling a variety of narratives from a diverse group of characters. Superheroes have played a significant role in “presenting idealized projections of ourselves as physically powerful, amazing and fantastic versions of ourselves; as well as serving as a roadway to escapist fantasy or funhouse mirror reflections of our desires to create bigger-than-life personas that can exert our will and power in the world” (Nama, 2009). Overall, the superhero plays a huge role, both positively and adversely, in the formation of our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas within popular culture.

Grace Gipson aka Quiet Storm is a Bay Area and Nerd Nite neo that hails from Champaign, IL by way of the Atlanta, GA who by day is a current nerdy doctoral student at UC Berkeley in African American & African Diaspora Studies with research interests in Popular Culture Studies, Film/Media Studies, presentations of Race/Gender in African American Film and Comic Books, Black Gender & Sexuality Studies, Race, and Media. By night, Grace is a mutant-android international scholar at the Berkeley Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters (also known as the Xavier Institute). Her big sister is one of the most well-known X-Men, Storm (Ororo Monroe). And as a student of the human and mutant world, Grace aims to promote academic excellency and the co-existence of nerds, androids, mutants, and humans. All in all, as a researcher of comic books, Grace attributes much of her work to her fascination of the well-known Marvel series X-Men (particularly Storm). So with these last words spoken by her big sis Storm, “Enter freely, and of your own will.”