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Nerd Nite #49: Pirouettes, pedagogy and Punnett squares

Can you help out an old ’49er? Some of you Star Trek nerds will get this. The rest of you will think it’s a reference to our 49th show. The good news is you’re all correct! We have a little art, a little science, and a little but of content from left field. It’s the ultimate Nerd Nite line up.

So be there AND be square!

When: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 (doors @ 7:30pm | show @ 8pm)
Where: Westbury Lobby, ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave NW)
Tickets: $20 in advance (plus fees + GST)
No minors.

Tickets on sale NOW!

Our line-up of talks includes:

The future of DNA technologies
Mikolaj Raszek

DNA sequencing is rapidly altering the world of medicine and entering popular culture. But being the most efficient repository of information in the universe, combined with its ability to interact with itself and other molecules, DNA holds an incredible array of possible uses. DNA is most famous for storing information on how to create a life form, but it can store any information desired, opening doors for manipulating living organisms into new artificial directions outside what is found in nature. DNA can also form three dimensional structures, and act as a computer program. This provides the opportunity for DNA to become a tool of advancement and progress or a weapon of unimaginable destruction; a tool for distributive justice, or a treasure held by elitist hands. In this talk, we will review a few of these possibilities and what the future might hold.

Dr. Mikolaj Raszek made a mistake of getting a doctorate degree, and by the time he realized what he was in for, he had to actually plan some career to accommodate his degree. Enter DNA sequencing business, exit normal life. Prior to genetic commercial speculation, Mikolaj was quite a normal member of society, particularly being fond of outdoors, freezing extremities during winter, or testing the limits of sun tanning at any beach he could find in the summer, no matter how accidental. But that is all thing of the past. Since then, Mikolaj discovered he has a genetic predisposition for a higher level of nerdiness that merited further nourishing.

Teachers Reaching Teachers
Jessica Kornder

Teachers never stop learning. Or teaching, for that matter. But it’s not as simple as showing up at a couple of PD days at the Shaw Conference Centre each year. Many of us travel the world to share our knowledge and learn from others, often in unexpected ways. I have been involved in thee projects with Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and 1 with Change For Children. I’ll be talking about what Project Overseas — CTF and Change For Children initiatives are and provide brief narratives of my various experiences. I’ll touch on how my profession is similar worldwide and how teachers can work in solidarity with colleagues, at home and abroad, to ensure that all children have access to quality public education.

I was born and raised as a bookworm in Grande Prairie. I moved to Sherwood Park in 1998, finished high school (where my dad was the principal—yes, I am a super nerd) then left to spend a year in the Dominican Republic doing volunteer work. I came back to complete my B.Ed. at the Campus Saint-Jean U of A (with Honors—yes, more nerd-spice). I started teaching Grade 1 in a French Immersion program. After 5 years there, I spent a year teaching on the Sunchild Reserve close to Rocky Mountain House. When I returned to Edmonton, I switched into the Spanish Bilingual program and taught Grade 1 Spanish for six years. I am now a Learning Coach in a dual track (French/Spanish) school, where I get my nerd on by helping teachers in figure out what their students need to best learn.

How to compose ballet music, in case you’ve ever wondered
John Estacio

What comes first when creating a new ballet; the choreography or the music? Well, technically, neither because the story comes first. But in case you’ve ever wondered how a composer approaches writing music for a never-seen-before ballet, John Estacio will shed some light on the process and talk you through how he composed music for the Cincinnati Ballet’s production of “King Arthur’s Camelot.”

John Estacio has worked as composer for three decades. He was the Edmonton Symphony’s first ever composer-in-residence and has also held similar positions with the Calgary Philharmonic and the Calgary Opera. In addition to composing for the symphony, opera and ballet stages, he has also composed music for film. He loves film music and sometimes he’ll watch a movie just to listen to the music and study how it is integrated with the performances and action on the screen. He has been nominated for a JUNO Award four times and in 2017 he was awarded the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Award for Excellence in the Arts. He lives in Edmonton with his partner of 19 years and their pup Chewie.

Nerd Nite #48: Family planning, city planning, and joking

A genealogist, city planner, and psychologist walk into a theatre. They tell you things you didn’t even want to know: was Elizabeth Warren nuts when she laid claim to indigenous heritage? How are parking minimums shaping Edmonton’s urban form? Can we make a good (or bad) joke out of any of this?

The great news is that these questions and many others will be answered at our March Nerd Nite. You won’t want to miss this one, and the three reasons why (our speakers and their topics!) are listed below

Nerd Nite: It’s like the Discovery Channel, but with beer!

When: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 (doors @ 7:30pm | show @ 8pm)
Where: Westbury Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave NW)
Tickets: $20 in advance (plus fees + GST)
No minors.

Tickets on sale now!

Our line-up of talks includes:

Genetic Genealogy: The Joys, Risks, and Follies of Spitting in a Tube
Alyssa Paterson

From finding lost siblings to uncovering unknown family histories, to discovering that your dad is not your dad (surprise!), we’ve all heard stories of shocking discoveries that have come from spending $129 to spit in a tube or scrape some cells from inside your cheek. Genetic genealogy is big business and is growing bigger by the day. Learn about how these tests work, what they’re actually telling you (hint: it’s probably not what you think), reasons why you should take them, and reasons why some of you probably shouldn’t.

For the past 18 years, Alyssa Paterson has answered the question “What are you nerdy about?” with the word “genealogy”. In her undergrad, she pursued a dream of becoming a Genetic Counsellor, until she failed Organic Chemistry and gave up on science forever (she’s really a music person anyway). By day she works as General Manager of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Winspear Centre, and by night she builds out her family tree, branch by branch.

Zoned Out: How Legalese Shapes the World Around Us
Anne Stevenson

City planning is about big ideas: how we grow our cities, build our neighbourhoods, and connect our communities. These big ideas, however, ultimately get boiled down to a single document: the Zoning Bylaw. Likely to put most readers to sleep, Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw is 800 pages of often inscrutable rules that nonetheless profoundly affect the way our city looks and functions. Join me as I share the sordid history of zoning, the pseudoscience behind some of the regulations, and how a single comma can change the shape of the future.

Anne Stevenson is a proud born and raised Edmontonian. After a BA in international development, Anne was inspired to pursue an MSc in Urban Design at the London School of Economics to better understand how the shape of our cities can help – or harm – our communities. Anne has had the chance to live and work around the world, and currently serves as Senior Planner of the Zoning Bylaw with the City of Edmonton.

What are you laughing at? A scientific look at the world’s worst jokes
Chris Westbury

Although scholars have proposed and debated theories of humour for over 2000 years, the study of humour has never been put on a scientific basis. This is largely because theories of humour tend to be post hoc, hand-wavy descriptions that are too general to make explicit testable predictions. I will discuss experimental studies that solve this problem by focusing on the world’s worst and second-worst jokes. By stripping humour down to so little, we have had considerable success in building statistical models that predict humour judgments in advance. Our model of the humour of single words is simultaneously consistent with several major theories of humour and synthesizes and weights information from a large number of independent measures (yes, single words are really complex!). I will also share my less-than-scientific thoughts on why we (and other primates) laugh at all.

Chris Westbury was born and raised in Calgary. He attended university at McGill University in Montreal, where he obtained a PhD in clinical psychology. Following post-docs in philosophy, neuroanatomy, and psycholinguistics, he was hired in 2001 in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, where he is currently a professor. His research focuses on studying the structure, organization, neurological foundations, and computational modelling of language processing, with a main focus on semantics, the meaning of words.

Tickets on sale now!

SOLD OUT! Nerd Nite #47: Our past and present futures

February might be the month of love, thanks to the martyrdom of Saint Valentine (somehow?), but it’s also an important month for nerds who love learning from other nerds. Passion is the name of the game, whether it’s a passion for solar power, or dubious history. We’re excited to present a February Nerd Nite that looks back, with a mind toward the future.

Nerd Nite: It’s like the Discovery Channel, but with beer!

When: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 (doors @ 7:30pm | show @ 8pm)
Where: Westbury Theatrea, ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave NW)
Tickets: $20 in advance (plus fees + GST)

Sold out!

Our line-up of talks includes:

Shocking moments and facts about Alberta politics
Dave Cournoyer

Since Alberta was founded in 1905, our province has been at the vanguard of some of Canada’s biggest, and strangest, political shifts. From the founding of the democratic socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation to the rise of Bible Bill’s Social Credit Party and Preston Manning’s Reform Party to the election of Rachel Notley’s NDP, politics in Alberta can be a wild ride. In my talk I will focus on some of the more shocking moments and events that have shaped Alberta politics over the past 114 years and as we approach the 2019 election.

Dave Cournoyer is a writer and communications professional based in Edmonton. He is the publisher of the popular politics website daveberta.ca and co-host of the Daveberta Podcast. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta and in 2015 was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Yeggies for a decade of blogging about politics in Alberta. He lives in northeast Edmonton with his beautiful wife Kyla, his son Ben, and their dachshund, Maximus Dogus. He once ate dinner with the Queen.

The Nerd Value of Solar Power
Andrew Leach

Two years ago, my students convinced me that I should install solar power on my house. How did they do that? They included nerd value in their financial calculations. In 20 minutes, let me tell you about how solar power works, whether it will make you money, what happens when it snows, and how to watch a solar eclipse from your basement.

Andrew Leach is an energy and environmental economist in the School of Business at the University of Alberta. In 2015, he chaired Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. Since then, he’s been yelled at a lot on social media. His research spans energy and climate change and covers topics including the changes coming to our electricity sector and the challenges facing our oil sands. When he’s not being yelled at on social media, you can find him cycling, running, or spending time with his two kids, Will (10) and Caroline (9).

Where We Stand: Edmonton’s legacy of discrimination and how we can move forward
Bashir Mohamed

If you have lived in Edmonton for a while then chances are that you have probably driven by Connors Hill, enjoyed thrilling rides at K-Days, walked by the old Enbridge building downtown, or gone for a swim at Borden Park. These are locations integral to Edmonton and are places that Edmontonians remember fondly.

Remembrance is important and shapes how we view our city in the present day. However, remembrance of our dark history is also necessary. For example, the landmarks mentioned above also hold a dark history. In 1931, the Klan lit a cross on Connors Hill to celebrate one of their supporters becoming Mayor. In 1932 the Klan got approval to hold a picnic and cross-burning at Northlands – where K-Days happens. In 1922, Lulu Anderson — a Black woman — was refused entry to the Metropolitan theatre (where the old Enbridge building stands now). And in 1924, the newly opened public pool in Borden park refused to admit Black citizens. This is our history and remembering it is necessary to understand the legacy it has to this day.

Bashir Mohamed is an Edmonton-based writer. He is interested in Alberta’s history and how those legacies connect to the present. Currently, he works as a civil servant and spends his free time cycling or in the archives