Summer’s here and the time is right for nerding out with friends! The 36th edition of NNA2 will be next Thursday, July 21! Up this month: a fantastic trio of full-spectrum talks by some of Ann Arbor’s greatest. Katie Prater will take us beyond The Game of Life to introduce us to the wide world of European board games. Lorraine Suzuki will explain what’s going on in your brain when you’re learning to ride a bike (and why that’s different than memorizing state capitals!). And Danny Mayer will show us how evolution shapes our lives by impacting culture as well as our genes. So grab a drink and a couple of pals to come beat the heat with your fellow nerds!
When: Thursday, July 21, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: Free because Ann Arbor District Library has got you covered!
Katie Prater: “The Death of The Die: The Rise of “Euro” board games in America”
Did you “Pass Go and Collect $200” on your way in to work today? If you grew up playing classic American board games as a child, you’re likely familiar with never-ending games of Monopoly or squabbling over some uninhabitable territory of Australia in Risk. But board games aren’t just for kids anymore! Adult nerds all over America are gaming, and loving it! We’ll discuss the characteristics of classic American games, the differences between those and Eurogames, and why everyone who tries them agrees that Eurogames are much more fun! If you’re interested in spending your nights and weekends breeding sheep, building temples, recycling garbage, and taking control of your own destiny, this talk will get you started!
>About Katie: When not in the neuroscience lab at UofM, Katie can often be found teaching new board games to friends, with her nose in a book, playing computer games with her husband, or enjoying the outdoors. She also loves attending GenCon, where she can check out the newest board games and show off her Kaylee Frye costume. She recently completed her PhD, during which she also co-founded a science communication organization called RELATE (www.learntoRELATE.org). Follow her on Twitter at @katieeprater.
Lorraine Suzuki: “Motor learning and memory systems”
As we learn motor skills we use two memory systems. These systems are separate and can compete with each other. My talk will go over some evidence of this interaction within the brain.
About Lorraine: Lorraine is a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Genetics from the University of Western Brittany (Universit de Bretagne Occidentale. She now works on understanding how learning new motor skills affects brain networks.
Danny Mayer: “Genes, Memes, and Human Beings: Why Evolution Isn’t Just a “Life” Thing”
Evolution is a part of our everyday lives. We might talk about how someone’s beliefs have evolved. We might explain the success of an app or business as “survival of the fittest.” But rarely do we consider that evolution—in the real, scientific sense—might be able to explain things other than life. Maybe life isn’t as special as we think—after all, viruses aren’t considered by science to be alive, and yet they evolve in more or less the same way that living cells do. Enter memetics: the study of how units of cultural information (memes) evolve. Using memetics, genetics, and philosophical theories of mind and consciousness, we’ll explore how evolution has shaped the world of information that we live in, how our identities are made up of both genes and memes, and how evolution plays an enduring role in the future of our species.
About Danny: Danny Mayer is a web designer and entrepreneur who’s proud to have called Ann Arbor home for the past 6 years. After getting a degree in English from U of M, he shifted his focus to web design and programming, and now works at Magnetic, an ad tech company. His passion for design and development has given birth to several websites and even an app (coming soon), and late last year he co-founded Hyzer Shop, a Disc Golf retail shop, designing and developing the company’s cutting-edge online store. Alongside all this, Danny loves keeping up with his academic interests, which include literature, philosophy, and evolutionary biology. He’d like to thank his family, friends, and amazing girlfriend, all of whom inspire him to be better, and to keep learning, creating, and laughing every day. Follow him on Twitter at @damayer92.
We’re back! NNA2 returns from break Thursday, June 16 — mark your calendar! We’ve got a solid session featuring quick thinking, robotic legs and sticky brains! First up, Patti Smith schools us on the history of improv comedy, illuminating the ways its concepts pops up in our day-to-day lives. Shai Revzen opines on the greatness of legs, and walking us through his related research — making robot legs and mobility better and better. Capping things off, social worker Sara Tischler breaks down obsession, compulsion, OCD research, and techniques that help people “un-stick” the brain. Grab a fellow nerd, order a refreshing drink, and we’ll see you there!
When: Thursday, June 16, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! Thanks for having our back, Ann Arbor District Library!
Patti Smith — Improv is Life: History & Facts About Improv Beyond “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
We use improv our entire lives, even we don’t realize it. One could say that humans started doing improv when we started using the spoken language. But how did improv as art form get started? And what does it look like now? Most importantly–how and why should YOU try it? Patti Smith will talk about the history of the art form, examples of improv, and local opportunities to try it yourself.
About Patti: Patti Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. Patti is the author of two books about history in Ann Arbor, the most recent of which is The History of Ann Arbor’s People’s Food Co-op. She loves storytelling, most forms of public speaking, especially improv! She believes that improv is for everyone!
Sara Tischler — Un-sticking your Brain: OCD and its Treatment
Obsessions are “sticky” thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel uncontrollable. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals that someone uses to get rid of the obsessions. Together they make up obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Hear about OCD and exposure and response prevention (ERP), an evidence-based treatment for the mental health disorder that affects approximately 3.3 million people in the United States.
About Sara: Sara is a clinical social worker in the department of outpatient psychiatry at the University of Michigan Health System. She has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University (Go Green! Sorry, Ann Arbor) and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan. She completed her internship and fellowship at the University of Michigan Child and Adolescent Outpatient Psychiatry clinic, where she is now a staff social worker. She provides psychotherapy for children of all ages and their families. Besides OCD, her clinical interests include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder, depression, and trauma/grief. She was born and raised in Southeast Michigan and lives with her partner, Alex. Together they have two beautiful (furry) “children” — Phoebe the dog and Bu the cat, whom she talks about constantly.
Shai Revzen — A Few Reasons Why I Love Legs
No animals other than ourselves move on wheels. That might seems strange, given how efficient and effective wheels are for moving around on land. Nevertheless, there are many good reasons to love legs. These include more obvious reasons, like the ability to use sparse footholds on rough surfaces, and less obvious reasons, such as newly discovered ways that legs make it easier for animals to control their movements. Insights from the animal world are leading to new and amazingly capable walking and running robots.
About Shai: Shai Revzen is an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department of the University of Michigan, and heads the BIRDS Lab. This confusion about where he belongs isn’t new — he is a bit of many things that don’t seem to fit together neatly in a box. His research focuses on the biomechanics of organisms, the legged locomotion of robots, and the mathematical tools that connect the two. Before becoming an academic by running cockroaches on treadmills for six years at the University of California at Berkeley, he worked as a Chief Architect in mid-sized company in Silicon Valley, went around the world, and was unabashedly nerdy.
Nerds! We’re taking a break during May – but check back for our next awesome event on June 16!
Drink an enlightening brew while you discover bacteria battles and cockroach control at this month’s Nerd Nite Ann Arbor! Come by to hear Ada Hagan tell of the zombie apocalypse that occurs when a certain virus attacks bacteria. Dylan Miller will explain how to take over someone’s free will with DIY neuroscience. And Ryan Engemann will explain scientific development through beer while you order another pint. We are excited to be partnering with the Michigan State University Science Festival this month, so come check out the awesome speakers we’ve got lined up to school you this time.
When: Thursday, April 21, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! cuz Ann Arbor District Library said so
Ada Hagan – Predator vs. Prey: A Micro Tail
Bacteria are feared by humans for their ability to cause diseases that can’t always be treated with antibiotics. But do bacteria have a predator of their own? Come learn about the virus that uses its “tail” to prey on bacteria, turning them into zombies. Predator versus prey may be a familiar story, but hear it with some new “micro” characters.
About Ada: Ada Hagan is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan in the department of Microbiology and Immunology. She does recon on the sneaky ways bacteria find nutrients (like iron!) when they are invading our bodies. Ada is a co-founder of the graduate student science communication blog MiSciWriters. Originally hailing from the mountains of East Tennessee, Ada spends her spare time writing, walking her dogs, cooking, and comparing strollers. Follow her on Twitter @adahagan.
Dylan Miller – The Body’s Electricity: From Cockroaches to You!
Have you ever had the desire to lose your free will? Or, alternatively, have you ever had the desire to take someone’s free will? This talk will discuss how Backyard Brains uses DIY-style neuroscience to bring to you direct control, via your muscle electricity, over cockroaches, machines, and even other humans!
About Dylan: Dylan Miller came to Backyard Brains as an undergraduate in neuroscience. He has since graduated from Michigan State University, and now works at BYB as a research scientist and on marketing. He initially joined in order to apply the RoboRoach setup to controlling scorpions, and moved on to manage several other undergraduate DIY-neuroscience projects. He also studies the behavior of scorpions in a separate research lab at MSU. Follow him on Twitter @BraconidaeBaron.
Ryan Engemann – The Science of Beer
Beer has been there from the beginning of the scientific revolution. From providing sanitary nourishment to the development of modern medicine and pasteurization, beer has been an integral influence on the development of science. Join Certified Cicerone® Ryan Engemann and explore this fascinating topic–over a pint, of course.
About Ryan: A nerd by nature, Ryan started working in the craft beer industry in Northern Michigan in 2011. He became the first Certified Cicerone in Northern Michigan and now can be found selling beers and talking science at Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids. Check out what the brewery is up to on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @breweryvivant.
We’ve got a special WEDNESDAY edition of NNA2 headed your way this March! Monica Dus will reveal the secret of why that sugar-free cookie just ain’t the same as the real thing. Lindsay Blackwell will explain the difference between harmless and super-scary trolls on the interwebs. And Brian Worthman will take us on a journey by describing how smarty-pants scientists figured out the makeup of the Earth’s crust. Three of the greatest nerds that A2 has to offer, awesome friends, and booze to boot? Get down to LIVE to geek out with us!
When: WEDNESDAY, March 16, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! bc Ann Arbor District Library RULEZ the SCHOOLZ!!
Monica Dus: “50 Shades of Sweet: How Sugar Dominates the Brain”
We like to think we can resist life’s temptations, but ever tried saying no to a cookie? It whispers to you, it calls to you. Sugar is a powerful force: it hijacks your brain and wins nearly all the time … I’ll talk about how this happens and also how, even if your mouth is fooled by fake sugar, your brain is not.
About Monica: I got my first microscope at age 7 and had an idyllic childhood in Italy pulling hair off Barbies and legs off bugs and looking at them under the microscope. What really drew me to science, however, was the pervasive beauty of the natural world. I still remember my first encounters with molecular biology: I was awed by its beauty and complexity. Nearly twenty years later, I still haven’t found something that is man-made and more beautiful than the natural world, not even a Dolce&Gabbana dress. I am currently a professor at University of Michigan where I head a research lab and teach genetics and neuroscience. My favorite things in life are dogs, desserts, philosophy and post-modern literature, pastel colors, unicorns, and of course, teaching.
Find her on Twitter as @Hardkandy000
Lindsay Blackwell: “Trolls, Trouble, and Telling the Difference”
For as long as we’ve had the Internet, we’ve had online trolls. But what is a troll, really—and how do we tell the difference between trolling and more serious forms of abuse? To build a better and more empathetic web, researchers, designers, and users must work in tandem. In this talk, PhD student Lindsay Blackwell explores the ins and outs of misbehavior online, including efforts to regulate and prevent online harassment.
About Lindsay: Lindsay Blackwell is a PhD student at the University of Michigan School of Information’s Social Media Research Lab. Her research explores misbehavior in online communities, including trolling and online harassment. Prior to graduate school, Lindsay enjoyed a career in social media marketing, where she won several awards for her work with clients like I Love New York. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter (@linguangst) or by visiting www.lindsayblackwell.net.
Find her on Twitter as @linguangst
Brian Worthmann: “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
From the guy who brought you acoustic waves in the air and ocean a few Nerd Nites ago comes another talk about the inner layers of the Earth. Many of us learned in high school (or earlier!) that the Earth is composed of a crust, mantle, outer core and inner core. But how do we know that? The easy answer is “well, smart scientists said so”. But assuming you consider that an unsatisfactory explanation, Brian will talk about some feats of science and engineering used in the last hundred years or so to explore what lies beneath our feet.
About Brian: A graduate student at the University of Michigan in the Applied Physics Department, Brian spends his not-free time researching acoustics and talking about science with whoever wants to listen. And he spends his free time nerding out pretty hard about physics, math and engineering, and binge-watching House of Cards Season 4. Brian is a 2015 RELATE alum, and also one of the newest members of the RELATE coordinator team.
It’s Media Mania Month at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor! We’re focusing in on the life after “the death of film” by exploring the process behind and the art created with non-digital photography with historic camera expert Ross Orr. We’ll hear from Martin Thoburn, an interactive filmmaker who finds endless ways to expand his video-based art beyond the screen. Andy Ross might know more about microphones than any person to ever speak into ours – and he’ll be telling the story of the impact of mic amplification on modern music. Join us for a deep dive into audiovisual awareness, plus drinks, laughs, and a spin on a vintage 35MM Carousel projector.
When: Thursday, February 18, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! Courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library!!
Ross Orr – Are Film Cameras Dead, and Why Not?
“Didn’t Kodak go bankrupt?” After the year 2000, sales of photographic film plunged by at least 95%. Yet there’s still a dedicated fringe who appreciate film’s tangible physicality and distinctive look. In a digital age, why are new converts dusting off decades-old, chunky, glass & metal cameras? For this talk we’ll bust out the 35mm Carousel projector and look at examples of why “slow photography” matters even today.
Martin Thoburn – Beyond the Video Frame
Take a walk beyond traditional filmmaking and into the world of interactive video art and video mapping. Our journey will go behind the scenes on how this artist’s projects were created from concept to execution. Discover more about the strange world of video beyond the rectangular screen.
Martin is a local animator and artist working in a variety of different media. He has produced and directed several short films, both animated and live action. Determined not to be confined to any one medium, Martin continually explores photography, live video mixing, design, collage, animation and motion graphics. Working with both modern and antique technologies sometimes in tandem, his work explores the uniqueness of the medium, technology, and/or tool. He is involved with YPSI24 and the Ann Arbor Film Festival and you can follow him on Twitter @duiceburger, or visit martin-thoburn.com
Andy Ross – Music and The Microphone
The invention of the microphone dramatically changed popular music, and allowed for the development of a more personal, intimate and emotional style of singing. We’ll look at, and listen to, this development.
Andy is a web and graphic designer, and a widely exhibited artist here in Ann Arbor. He’s also a dedicated amateur musician and singer, and he has taught courses in popular culture and its impact. Find more about him at andyrossdesign.com
or follow him on Twitter @andyrossdesign.
This month, Nerd Nite A2 turns FOUR! Yay, NNA2! Please join us to celebrate our anniversary and to get nerd-schooled on three fascinating topics that we likely encounter on a daily basis. If you’ve eaten food before, you’ll be interested to hear Joseph Tychonievich explain the origin stories behind fruits and veggies that we take totally for granted. Heather Wade is going to weigh the pros and cons of measurement history and it’s going to be the most accurate weighing any of you have ever experienced. Finally, Elizabeth Block is here to calmly explain how anxiety occurs and reassure you that your anxiety levels are normal – or are they???? So come on out for drinks, laughs, and some A+ nerd time.
When: Thursday, January 21, 2016, doors at 6:30 pm, talks at 7 pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! Big thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library!!
Joseph Tychonievich – The Great Pleasure (and Long History) of Creating New Kinds of Plants
Basically as soon as agriculture began, humans started messing with plants, controlling their sex lives in order to transform the weeds around them into the grains and vegetables we depend on today. And while the crazy origin stories of things like corn and broccoli are in the distant past, I still use the exact same traditional methods to indulge my inner mad scientist and create new varieties of plants in my garden. The results are fun (and sometimes delicious) and will make you see the produce section of the grocery store in an entirely new way.
Heather Wade – Great, and Not So Great, Moments in Measurements: Wait! What Units Were You Using?
We encounter measurements every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us up and we adjust the water temperature for our shower, get dressed in clothes that fit, take doses of medicine, cook our meals & coffee, drive to work, buy gas
& groceries, turn on a light switch, pay our bills, use gas/electricity, watch TV, build anything, pay for anything. How do we know these measurements are correct? What happens when these measurements happen in another country? How do we know the measurements “translate” from country to country & language to language? International System of Units and metrological traceability are the backbone of measurements. What does that mean? What are examples of non-traceable measurements? What happens when measurements go wrong? Proper measurements bring confidence & peace-of-mind to our lives. Understanding what measurements are help to ensure better measurements happen and life goes more smoothly.
About Heather: UM grad and Calibration Officer at NSF International, headquartered here in Ann Arbor, Heather is an ASQ-Certified Calibration Technician (www.asq.org). She is a co-author of The Metrology Handbook, 2nd Edition, edited by Jay Bucher and has been published in Cal Lab Magazine: The International Journal of Metrology. She just completed her terms as Chair of ASQ’s Measurement Quality Division and also as Chair of ASQ’s Certification Board subcommittee for the ASQ-CCT. She has presented and published at national and international conferences. She also does outreach as a Metrology Ambassador. She has worked as a microbiologist, extraction and analytical chemist, and as a physical test engineer prior to embarking on her career in metrology and calibration.
Elizabeth Block, MD – Anxiety Disorders: When Worrying Gets in the Way
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health diagnosis in the United States. This talk will outline how anxiety is manifested in our bodies, common medications used to treat disorders, and therapeutic techniques used to manage (or alleviate) symptoms.
About Elizabeth: Elizabeth is a third year psychiatry resident at the University of Michigan, set to begin a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in July. In addition to anxiety disorders, her professional interests include psychotic disorders and increasing mental health awareness.
We hope you have a very happy holiday season!
Nerd Nite A2 is all about approaching things from new perspectives this month. Sure our phones are smart now, but let’s consider the value of making other electronic devices intelligent enough to sense and transmit useful information – such as getting a heads up from your fridge before you’ve poured recently-spoiled milk over your cereal. We’ll review the sweeter side of presidential history with a project that re-interprets U.S. presidents as cupcakes, a lens through which even the worst policy decisions can become into melt-in-your-mouth magic. And finally, we’ll think about using social media to encourage voters to get to the polls, instead of as a method of sharing cat videos – and with the November election just behind us, we’ll even get to hear about how well it works! So come hungry for nanotechnology, Commander in Chief-flavored cupcakes, and civic-minded social media and join us for another nerdy good time.
When: Thursday, November 19, 2015, doors at 6:30pm, talks at 7pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! Courtesy of your pal, the Ann Arbor District Library!!
Matt DeJarld – How Nano-electronics might allow you to communicate with your refrigerator
Imagine having a refrigerator that can tell you when food has spoiled! The next technological revolution will be turning every appliance we use into a smart device. To create these devices, we need tiny sensors to allow the electronics to interact with the environment. Today these sensors are too large or too expensive, but luckily, engineers are working to reduce this sensor size and cost with the help of nano-electronics.
About Matt: Matt is a doctorate student at the University of Michigan. For the past few years, he has worked heavily with semiconductor nanostructures in efforts to improve the future of solar and indoor lighting technologies. In his free time he enjoys hiking with his dog, music, and movies/television.
Sherlonya Turner – 35 Offbeat Ways of Looking at the POTUS
Sometimes the President of the United States seems larger than life. This humorous talk will bring them down to size with anecdotes that present them as more man than myth. The Head of State Cakes project, in which a cake recipe is created in honor of each president, is what happens when you cross a lifelong interest in presidential history with a love of baking. The results are not only tasty, they’re pretty fun to talk about.
Sherlonya has an all-consuming and perhaps overwhelming love for the presidents. She’s interested in them less as politicians and more as men. Her history degree helps her put things in context. Her library degree gives her research tips and tricks. Her love of cooking has inspired her to create a tribute cupcake for each US President; see them all at headofstatecakes.com
. Her son is tired of hearing her talk about Lyndon Baines Johnson, her president boyfriend.
Sam Firke – Twitterbot Says Vote!
There are 90,000 registered voters in Ann Arbor. Most don’t vote. I built a Twitter bot that matched voter names to Twitter accounts, then sent reminders to vote in local elections. Learn more about the problem, the project, and how it worked!
Sam is a data analyst at an education nonprofit and a former high school math teacher. He’s active in local politics, makes things, and raises a couple of small nerdlings. He’s involved with the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild (aabg.org
) and you can find him on Twitter at @samfirke.
This month’s event takes us Back to the Future, because when BTTF 2 came out in 1989, October 21, 2015 seemed pretty darn future. Since we’re living in the future, we’ll talk about what the future looks like, or more accurately, what designers thought it would look like. We’ll find out the science behind instructing our (eventual) personalized robot servants to make our martinis just right. And finally, we’ll get hardcore about the Back to the Future trilogy, checking out how accurate their vision of the future really was. So power up your flux capacitors and get here for a flashback to the future!
When: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, doors at 6:30pm, talks at 7pm!
Where: LIVE, 102 S First St, Ann Arbor
$$$: NO COVER! Hey, thanks, Ann Arbor District Library!!
Nick Tobier – Where’s My Hoverboard?
Ready to assume vivid astro focus? We’ll follow the evolution of space-age design from the euphoria and optimism of the 1950s to the more cynical ‘70s, and see how artists’ conceptions of the future have influenced history and in turn, our society.
About Nick: Nick is an Associate Professor at the Stamps School of Art and Design and the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. With a background in sculpture and landscape architecture, Nick has long been interested in the social lives of public places and his work has been seen at the everywhere from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood.
Zhen Zeng – Everyone Can Teach a Robot
Ever felt too busy to do the laundry or too tired to cook? What if a robot could help you with all of this someday in the future? Developments in robotics are bringing this dream closer to reality by making robots that can imitate people and learn new actions. One day, you may be teaching your own robot how to make your favorite cocktail!
About Zhen: Zhen is a PHD student at the University of Michigan in Electrical Engineering, with a focus on robot object manipulation. When she’s not teaching Baxter the Robot to see, move, and think, she enjoys volleyball and card games.
Eli Neiburger – Back to the Future of Back to the Future
It’s the Future today! October 21, 2015 is the day Marty McFly visits in Back to the Future 2. Let’s take a detailed look at what they thought today would be like 30 years ago, and see what they missed, and what they nailed. READ MY FAX!
About Eli: Eli is Deputy Director at the Ann Arbor District Library and has given lots of talks across the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but this is his very first talk that’s not about libraries! You may have seen him leading the Nintendoland Family Band at the Water Hill Music Festival. You can follow him on Twitter at @ulotrichous.