Nerd Nite A2 #90: Currency Conundrums, Fermenting Foods, and Girl Grapplers

Are you feeling what we are? That it has just been TOO LONG since you’ve heard a lecture in a Nightclub? If you’re experiencing that same longing, we’ve got GREAT NEWS! Nerd Nite is returning to LIVE (102 S. First Street) on Thursday, July 11. Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge!

We’ll start off joining Matt DeJonge to puzzle over a philosophical stumper: The Enigma of Money: An Exploration of A Challenging Question. What is money? Really think for a second—what is this thing many of us spend so much of our time earning, but have difficulty understanding? Matt will cover the history of money and what it means today (or, at least, what it means to him!)

Matt is a Conservation Technician with over a decade of experience in forestry and agriculture spanning from time in a learning laboratory at Grand Valley State’s student farm, to working in the big west coast timber, to now working for the Washtenaw Conservation District. Matt’s always had a desire to learn and ask questions about natural resources. In his free time, he dives deep into the rabbit hole of asking questions and trying to learn about money, and spends a good amount of time discussing these ideas in the Bitcoin community.

Next we’re going Lac-to-basics with Oriol to learn about the simple science and surprisingly complex applications behind lactofermenting fruits and veg, including sauerkraut, pickles, and less obvious produce. Learn these highly transferable skills to feed your gut biome and social capital.

Oriol is a wineseller, AADL desk clerk, avid lactofermenter, and self-identified “food a-hole.” He has been lactofermenting for eight years with only minor regrets. Oriol intermittently streams video games and reviews drinks both hard and soft at

We’ll finish the evening by going back in time with Emily Murphy for This Isn’t Kayfabe: How an Ann Arbor Girl Brought Women’s Wrestling from a Joke to an Olympic Sport. In the 1970s, 9-year-old Tricia McNaughton wouldn’t take “girls don’t wrestle” as a satisfactory answer. Emily will share the Ann Arbor Story of Tricia’s grapples on and off the mat. Spoiler alert, even at nine, Tricia was unafraid to make history.

Emily is a librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library, where she works extensively with the Summer Game, the Fifth Avenue Press, and Nerd Nite (hey, that’s the name of the show)! When not at work, Emily loves to cook and bake, do crossword puzzles, and hang out with her husband Frank and dog Roy.

Nerd Nite A2 #89: Winning Words, Vanishing Ventures, and Potato Politics: an evening of Competitive Scrabble, Theme Parks, and Breakfast Potatoes.

It’s time to journey to the Top of the pack . . . erm, the Top of the Park, for an EXTRA-AMAZING, EXTRA-ENTERTAINING, EXTRA-OUTSIDE edition of Nerd Nite on Friday, June 14 at 7pm! You didn’t misread the date—we’re Nerd-Niting on a Friday Night, Baby! Join us at the Annex at Top of the Park (915 E. Washington St.) for an evening of Nerdy Delights! (Want more info about how to get there and where to park? Check out A2SF’s FAQ)

Kayla Zochowski will start us off with Bingos, Phoneys, and Triple-triples: Learning the Babble to Dabble in Scrabble. Scrabble is a classic (dare we say beloved) board game we all have encountered in some way, shape, or form. However, the game is much more than a board and 100 tiles. Come learn more about the world of Scrabble from its history, to its dictionary, to the many facets of strategy implemented by the top (local!) competitive Scrabble players.

Kayla is a biologist who began her Scrabble journey after stumbling across a National Scrabble tournament over a decade ago. As a previous Nerd Nite speaker who has focused solely on the OPTICS of scientific TOPICS, she is filled with ELATION from her head to her TOENAIL to talk about a favorite hobby that RETAINS attention from ANTSIER RETINAS and even ORIENTS STONIER individuals to be LIGHTED with the DELIGHT of anagram solving (and beyond). 

From the World of Words to the World of Space, things are handed off to Rich Retyi for Space World: A Total Entertainment/Awareness Experience for the Entire Family! In the 1970s, the Thomas Edison of cleanrooms (we’ll get into it, don’t worry) asked himself, “Why not make a Disney World but make it space-themed?” And why not put it in Ypsilanti? A monorail. Lunar buggies. UFO rides. It would be called Space World. They estimated that in year two, the park would draw 1.9 to 2.4 million guests and earn $20m in revenues for the park alone. Not to mention local businesses and jobs. What happened to the theme park that never was?

Rich is the communications and marketing manager at the Ann Arbor District Library and likes to write and podcast about local history stuff. For more stories of Ann Arbor’s past, you can buy Retyi’s Book of Ann Arbor which is available in fine Ann Arbor bookstores, or listen to his dormant but maybe returning soon podcast, Ann Arbor Stories, available wherever you get your podcasts. 

Finally, we’ll close with Amir Baghdadchi with You Say Potato: the Great Hashbrown vs Home Fries Debate, and what it tells us about America. The USA is a nation of ideals, and one of the most important is the ideal plate of hashbrowns — but why can’t we agree on what they should be? Shredded, cubed, sliced? Fused into a disc or allowed to skate around the plate as free moving chunks? We look at the cultural significance of hashbrowns, and their complex role in the American psyche. We might just also explain the chemistry behind superior hash.

Amir is a writer, comedian, and host of The Moth StorySLAM in Ann Arbor. He has appeared at the Pickathon Festival and on the Moth Radio Hour, and was once hired by the San Francisco Bay Guardian to eat at every 24-hour restaurant in the city in a 24-hour period.

Nerd Nite A2 #88: DNA in Pop Culture, Saving Snow Leopards, and Mind Control

It’s time to celebrate the start of spring the way any good nerd does: by gathering at a nightclub, grabbing a drink, and listening to the always educational, always entertaining lectures on tap! You know, that CLASSIC spring tradition?

(Okay, we’re making that tradition up, but give us another couple years and it will be a nationwide phenomena.)

Let’s all make this a thing by meeting at LIVE (102 S. First Street) on Thursday, April 11. Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge!

Nathalie Catchings will kick things off with Science fact or science fiction? talking about DNA in pop culture and whether we should trust what TV and movies tell us about science (spoiler alert: kinda but not really).

Following in the footsteps of many NNA2 presenters, Nathalie has been doing science her whole career. She is an expert at taking DNA out of things (the weirder, the better) and pulling out useful information from it: from crime scenes, to wooly mammoths, to COVID samples (in the very early days of the pandemic). Recently relocated from California to Michigan, she is currently taking a well-earned break from work, while her family settles in. 

Next up is a trip to Nepal with Paul Buzzard to answer the question Can We Save the Snow Leopards?: How Climate Change, Construction, and Covid are threatening these great cats. Snow leopards are iconic species of the Himalayas and other Asian highlands, but they are facing increasing threats to their conservation. Paul will look at some of these threats specifically focusing on the Gaurishankar Conservation Area in Nepal

Paul got his PhD from Columbia University studying the behavioral ecology of monkeys in West Africa. His snow leopard work began with the China Exploration and Research Society, continued as Director of Conservation with the Detroit Zoo, and continues as a regenerative farmer at Detroit Flight Path Farm and as a Conservation Technician with the Washtenaw County Conservation District.

Katie Furman will close out the night with Mouse Mind Control: How Neuroscientists Use Lasers to Activate Brain Cells, and Solve Science Mysteries. What if she told us that she could flip a switch and change how we feel? That it could make us hungry, thirsty, or even sexually aroused? Well she can’t. But in neuroscience labs across the globe, researchers have developed a technique which allows them to do just that in their laboratory animals. Katie will tell you all about how this works and why it’s a pivotal tool in understanding how the brain works.

Katie is a PhD student in Neuroscience at the University of Michigan where she uses optogenetics and mouse behavior techniques to study the neural circuits involved in food-consumption decisions. In her free time, you can find her picking up an impossible amount of sci-fi/fantasy books from the library, or going on long walks with her chihuahua, Edison. And if you know of any job opportunities in science communication… you should totally hit her up. 

Nerd Nite A2 #87: Lasers, Light, and Llamas!

Oh, hey there Nerds, fancy meeting you here! We really had a great time last month when we met up at LIVE. Do you think you might want to do it again? How about Thursday, March 14 back at LIVE (102. S. First St)? Oh good, it’s a date! See you there!

Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge!

We’ll kick things off with Mike Gould and go Through Time and Space with Illuminatus Lasers! Mike will explore the last decade of laser shows in Ann Arbor at FoolMOON. Get an up-close look at these interactive laser displays be they against the wall of science or various buildings downtown. You *might* even have the chance to play with a laser or two in the breaks throughout the evening’s Nerd Nite!

A victim of his own artistic tendencies, Mike is a Michigan-based laser, graphics, video, and electronics artist. Mike has been gleefully working with lasers, wacky electro-optic gizmos, assorted digital arts, and odd industrial design since 1972. He is still trying to get it right. You can find him at

Keeping it on the light side (get it? GET IT?), we have Saaj Chattopadhyay with How I ask molecules what their political leanings are (with the help of gold echo chambers). Do molecules have political tendencies? Okay, no, they don’t, but just like people’s politics, molecules “handedness” leans to either the right or the left. When they interact with twisted light near gold nanoparticles, their “leaning” is amplified and scientists like Saaj are studying individual molecules to understand their leaning to make bio-sensors!

Saaj is a graduate student at the University of Michigan who is fascinated by how much we can understand about the world by looking at how light interacts with it. She spends a lot of time in a dark room hoping that the small gold particles she is looking at will do something cool and interesting.

We hope you’ve still got small things on the brain because it’s time for Nerd Nite on Nanobodies: Llamas + Science + Tech! Oh My! What are these tiny little proteins called nanobodies and what do llamas have to do with it? Mary Skinner from the Taubman Nanobody Initiative at the University of Michigan will be discussing this promising new field of research and the potential it brings for new tools in therapeutics and research. 

Mary is the Research Lead at the Taubman Nanobody Initiative and has been working in the molecular biology field for 15 years, managing laboratories at the University of Michigan since 2012.  She was the first ever winner of the Best Lab Manager Award throughout North America and Europe in 2016. 

Nerd Nite A2 #86: Safety, Solar Eclipses, and Super-Thin Material!

February blues got you down? Well, your pal Nerd Nite A2 is here and ready to pump you back up! Come out out on THURSDAY, February 8 at LIVE at 102. S. First St!! Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge!

Don’t learn safety by accident: Safety from a Safety Manager’s Perspective! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, except for workplace accidents which can leave you with a lifelong disability. Join Samuel Friedman for a short and quick overview about safety and what you can do to be more aware!

Samuel is a two time graduate of the University of Michigan and currently works as the Safety and Occupational Health Manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Ann Arbor. His hobbies include ceasing to exist when you’re not paying attention.

Total Eclipse: Is it really that big of a deal? We all get it right? The Moon is going to move in front of the Sun and block the light for a few minutes, and everyone makes a big fuss about it. This talk by Buddy Stark will try to convince you that it’s worth driving two hours and spending a day of your life to go see it happen.

Buddy manages the planetarium at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. He has been working in the planetarium field educating school groups and the public about astronomy since 2008. He holds a master’s degree in science education and is working on his Ph.D. at Western Michigan University.

Two-dimensional Materials, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Do Physics Like A Third Grader. In the last 20 years, 2D materials – the thinnest substances in the world – have gone from a niche theory to a full, vibrant field in physics, chemistry, and materials science. Joseph Essman is going to dive into the shockingly simple way they were discovered and the dizzying array of new experiments and technologies they make possible.

Joseph is a PhD Candidate in Applied Physics at the University of Michigan, studying the quantum mechanics of 2-dimensional materials at ultra-low temperatures. He spends most of his free time adjusting to Michigan winters and calling his parents to ask if his cat is doing ok.

Nerd Nite A2 #85 Making a Difference, the Mystery of Chlamydia, and a Machine Learning Primer

Whether your New Years Resolution is to learn more, to laugh more, or even to drink more, Nerd Nite is HERE for you! We’re kicking 2024 off right with another Nerd Nite THURSDAY, January 11 at LIVE at 102. S. First St!! Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge!

Nerd Nite: where politics and gaming intersect! We’ll start things off with Changing the World and Why ‘Island’ is the Best Card in Magic the Gathering with State Senator Jeff Irwin (MI-15). Sen. Irwin will share his experience and knowledge of the local politics that impact us, his policy priorities, and why “Island” is the best card in Magic the Gathering.

Sen. Irwin was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, but his family made Washtenaw County their home. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Kathryn, and their two children, Sylvia and Mackinac. Prior to being elected to the State Senate in 2018, he served 11 years on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and 6 years in the Michigan House of Representatives.

From there, we’ll switch gears to Unraveling the unknown… about Chlamydia. Chlamydia is the highest reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States and is caused by bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis. Since chlamydial infections often show no symptoms, they frequently go untreated, and existing treatment options not only target Chlamydia, but also attack ‘essential bacteria’, contributing to antibiotic resistance. Scientists need to understand how the bacteria causes the disease and how it goes undetected. However, the major bottleneck in understanding chlamydial biology is that the function of genes in the chlamydial genome or genetic material, remains a mystery. Srishti Baid will share how her University of Kansas study worked to help unravel this mystery.

Srishti is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. Her current research focuses on blood clotting mechanisms and protein transport inside the cell. She got her Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Kansas, where she studied factors important for disease-causing ability in Chlamydia. In her free time, Srishti is involved in different science communication endeavors and outreach efforts, and enjoys traveling and trying new things.

Tired of sitting out the conversations about OpenAI and ChatGPT? Learn something meaningful to contribute with The Machines are Learning; Why aren’t we?: A short look into how AI and ML are shaping our lives. The past year has been an absolute cyclone of artificial intelligence news. Frank Murphy will look at the many ways that machine learning already weaves through our daily life. Then, he’ll review the latest advancements in the field and touch on some possible individual and societal impacts. He’ll conclude with a few proposals for how we could shape these coming changes.

Frank escaped the Land of Forever Hot (Florida) to study at Michigan Tech and considers himself a Michigan convert. One of his teeth is backwards, but he otherwise is a relatively modern person. He works for an ML startup and resides in Ann Arbor with his wife Emily, who he definitely did not bribe to get a speaker slot for his talk.

Nerd Nite A2 #84: Microplastics, Making Your Point, and the Magic of Spit

It’s NERD NITE A2 ALL OVER AGAIN! Do they ever stop? Yes, we are taking December off. Thank you so much for asking.

But before that, join us THURSDAY, November 9 at LIVE at 102. S. First St for the last NNA2 of 2023!! Doors open at 6:30 pm, talks start at 7 pm and as always, there’s no cover charge! Just bring a friend, grab a drink, and find a seat and we’ll wow with you the expertise of our amazing speaker lineup!

Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic no bigger than a pencil eraser, and they’re worryingly ubiquitous here on our little blue planet. We’ll take to the skies with Rebecca Parham in A Plastic Predicament: Are There Microplastics in the Air We Breathe? to better understand microplastics’ potential health impacts when inhaled, and who may be affected most. 

Rebecca is a graduate student in the doctoral program at the University of Michigan’s Department of Chemistry and studies air quality from an atmospheric chemistry perspective. Some of her favorite pastimes are reading and hanging out at the library, doing anything outdoorsy, and dreaming of one day having a dog.

In the just-in-time department: Matthew Facciani will help us consider How to Have More Productive Political Conversations At Thanksgiving. He’ll share five strategies that may very well be worth magic-markering onto your arm for later ease of use… decide for yourself, but come prepared!

Matthew is a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame, where he studies political polarization, misinformation, and media literacy. His forthcoming book, Misguided, describes how our identities and personal networks impact our susceptibility to misinformation and what we can do about it.

Could the Nite get more unbelievable? How about a neuroscientist talking about saliva? Believe it! Deanna Cannizzaro will give us the Salivary Sensory Scoop: neurons and the salivary glands are intertwined. Deanna will dig into the unseen role of sensory neurons in these glands… with relish.

Deanna is a PhD candidate at U of M studying how sensory neurons influence the salivary glands to promote healthy saliva and protect the mouth from disease and deterioration. When not in the lab, you can find her reading, writing, or hiking with her husband and dog.

Nerd Nite A2 #83: Geolocation, Germ Resilience, & Graveyard Evolution!

Whether or not you’re one of those people whose weekend starts on a Thursday, what better way to celebrate than with Nerd Nite: NOW ON THURSDAY NIGHTS (NITES?!?!)! That’s right! Amble over to LIVE (102 S. 1st Street) at 7pm on Thursday, October 12 for an excellent evening of Nerd Nite goodness and start that last part of your week off right!

First, Gregg Saldutti Jr. gets us situated with Finding Their Bearings: How to Google Your Way Through Geolocation. He’ll show us how to geo- and chrono-locate images using open-source tools and techniques—and also suggest why finding the when and the where of photos might be useful beyond just impressing your friends.

Gregg is a geographer, bike rider and computer nerd who can attribute most of his success (both personal and professional) to being good at internet searches.

Then we’ll find out How Germs Live to Fight Another Day from Achala Chittor. Do you know disease-causing bacteria can survive antibiotic treatment by modifying their trash chutes to expel antibiotics? Achala does, and she’ll teach us all about it!

Achala is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology department. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and received her bachelor’s degree from Williams College in 2015 and her PhD from Harvard in 2021.

Things take a turn to the macabre (or will they?!) when Sexton Leif Laufeyarsen takes us through The Evolution of the Cemetery. Learn about the difference between a cemetery and the graveyard (did you even know there was one?) as Sexton takes us through the shift from graveyard to cemetery and some surprising activities that took place in those early cemeteries. He promises it won’t get (too) gross!

Leif has a degree in history and has presented at tours, museums, and cemeteries in South Eastern Michigan and South Eastern France. He has also been known to roam the countryside looking for lost cemeteries, usually with success.

Nerd Nite A2 #82: Bonefish, Reading Across the 50 States, and the History of Krypton!

The final weeks of summer may be upon us, but at least that means that we’ve reached the time for September’s Nerd Nite!!! Whether fall is in the air, or we’re getting the last dregs of a heat wave, LIVE on a Nerd Nite is always the coolest place to be! So put Wednesday, September 13 at 7pm in your calendar and meet us at LIVE (102 S. 1st Street)!

Have you heard of the Bonefish: Florida’s fish worth $3500 a year that NO ONE can eat? We hadn’t either, but luckily we’ve got John Heider to teach us all about Florida’s bonefish population, what makes them and their habitat unique and worth preserving, and how the purely recreational, catch-and-release fishery for the “Grey Ghost of the Flats” brings in an estimated half billion dollars a year for the Sunshine State.

John is a photojournalist, freelance writer, kayaker and fisher (sometimes both at once). He is the sole proprietor and owner of Ann Arbor’s only Confuse-A-Cat business.

Surabhi Balachander will take us on a journey of Reading the 50 states in 2023. Surabhi is intentionally reading a book about or set in each U.S. state, one book a week, going through the states in alphabetical order—as of now, she’s up to Nebraska! Surabhi will incorporate insights from her background as a scholar of multiethnic and rural American literature to discuss the goals of this project and focus on some of her favorites.  

Surabhi is a PhD candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, where she studies rurality, race, and environment in American literature from 1920-2020. In her spare time, she reviews books and talks about how much she loves AADL on Instagram @surabhi.reading.

Modern depictions of Superman’s home planet are generally quite serious and sterile, but it wasn’t always that way. Scott Vertical is thrilled to share vibrant stories of The History of Krypton that have been unheard for generations!

Scott is the Morning Host on Ann Arbor’s 107one and has been collecting comics for over 40 years. His collection includes a complete run of ActionComics from 1985 – 2011. He thinks Batman needs to get over it already.

Nerd Nite A2 #81 Building Neighborhood Ecosystems, Killer Bacteria, and Finding Exoplanets!

What’s better than ONE Nerd Nite at LIVE? Why, it’s returning there as our regular venue, of course! That’s right, folks, Nerd Nite and LIVE are back together and better than ever! Celebrate the reunion of Ann Arbor’s nerdiest “it couple” (or as much of a couple as an event and a nightclub can be) by coming to A2NN #81 on Wednesday, August 9 at 7pm at LIVE (102 S. 1st Street)!

We’ll start things off learning to Recreate a Functioning Ecosystem in Your Neighborhood. So the world is falling to pieces, eh? Let’s grab those pieces and put’m back together. William Kirst of Adapt will show you how.

William is the founder of Adapt Community Supported Ecology and Adapt Landscapes. He’s fairly optimistic that we humans can do this.

Get ready to dive into the world of bacteriology and microorganisms! In Killer Klebsiella: The Bacterium You Need to Know About, Lavinia Unverdorben will teach you enough to become an “honorary microbiologist” before exploring the dangerous yet fascinating bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Lavinia is a PhD student at UofM studying risk factors associated with bacterial gut colonization and infection. When not in the lab, you can find Lavinia at a local CrossFit gym or hanging out with her cat, Teddy.

We’ll close out the night with Finding Exoplanets, Fixing the Drake Equation. Jim Ottaviani will show how we detect exoplanets and share what we have found so far. As a bonus, he’ll also touch on “The Drake Equation: the most famous way to estimate if ETs are really out there. It’s old enough to get Social Security and could use an update. Let’s fix it together!

Jim is a NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador (SSA), a comic book writer, a retired librarian, and a former nuclear engineer.