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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

Nerd Nite #46: New Year, new nerdy you

We don’t want you to get tied up in knots about Nerd Nite… Well, we do, but only with your enthusiastic consent. Join us for the first Nerd Nite of 2019. We have a line-up of speakers passionate about a range of topics off the beaten path — as always. With a twist: this time, we’ll be doing the show in the Arts Barns Lobby!

Get that Christmas shopping done early and get those tickets today!

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

When: Tuesday, January 8, 2019 (doors @ 7:30pm | show @ 8pm)
Where: Lobby, ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave NW)
Tickets: $20 in advance (plus fees + GST) — AVAILABLE NOW!

Our line-up of talks includes:

The Making of Midgard: How did complex life arise on Earth, and what do Thor and Loki have to do with it?
Beth Richardson

This talk is about EUKARYOGENESIS, a horrific word created by mashing together the Latin and/or Greek words EU (good, well), KARY (nut, kernel), and GENESIS (making of, creation). We’re going to discuss what makes a really good nut — the “really good nut” in question being the cell nucleus. The origins of cells with nuclei, or eukaryotes, is a controversial issue in evolutionary cell biology. It has resulted in: opinion pieces in Nature; counter-opinion pieces in Nature; counter-counter-opinion pieces in Nature; yelling at conferences; and grown-ass men dragging each other on Twitter, all in the last forty years. I will introduce you to the history, the science, and the myths surrounding eukaryote origins, and how a little bit of divine intervention from Asgard has finally allowed us to get some real evidence for how these squishy info-nuts genesis-ised.

Beth Richardson grew up in a small town in Oxfordshire, England. She studied for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Natural Sciences with a biochemistry specialisation at the University of Cambridge (though she tells everyone she went to Hogwarts). She joined the University of Alberta in 2014 after her PhD supervisor lied to her extensively about the weather, and now uses computational biology to figure out how single-celled eukaryotes adapt to environmental change while never going outside herself.

Nuclear Radiation: that thing you’re afraid of but don’t know anything about
Sean Wagner

“Nuclear waste,” “Contamination,” “Hundreds of thousands of years of uninhabitability…” If these phrases pop into your head whenever someone talks about nuclear power, you might be victim of misinformation about radiation, what it is, and how it works. Since Sean does not own a tinfoil hat, he doesn’t really care why so many people are against nuclear power: only that the misinformation they have spread over the past 40 years has almost made it impossible to stave off global climate change. So, hoping that a little bit of knowledge can go a long way, we get to have a little trip through the basics of radiation and why there are good reasons that we require stringent safety measures, but also why it’s not nearly as bad as it is made out to be, and far less harmful than most people think.

Sean has been a lifelong nerd in as many fields as he could find, theatre, space, lasers, materials, track and field, Star Trek, and now nuclear energy. With two degrees in engineering, he feels that he has an okay grasp of how systems work and how to optimize things that currently aren’t working. Right now, the things that he believes aren’t working are our response to Global Climate Change and the growth of the economy in ways that benefit all people, not just corporations. Luckily for him he thinks that the answer to both problems is more efficient and effective production of energy and that is nuclear power. Let’s see if he can convince us all.

‘Hey honey, I’ve seen it on Pinterest. Let me tie you up to the ceiling’ — A primer on rope bondage
Jeff Vanelle

“Rope bondage,” “Shibari,” “Kinbaku.” Most have heard those terms, most have seen pictures, maybe some videos — far fewer have experienced it. Deeply rooted in medieval Japan (XV century or so) as a mean to restrain prisoners, the “art of binding” came to be in the early XIX century. From there, the art developed as any others in different currents influenced by the culture surrounding it. Today this art form has taken an aesthetic and erotic form, retaining the psychological and physical aspect of its origins. I have been very fortunate to be exposed to shibari through some incredibly talented friends in town and abroad. While each of them is far more of an expert than I am, some have dedicated their lives to it, I have not. In fact, I don’t speak Japanese, my mentors are Mexican, German, Scottish, American, and… I’m French! So don’t expect a lecture on Japanese Arts and History. Still I’ll share my own humble experience with ropes, provide you with some basic information and shed some light on this beautifully exciting hobby of mine. Is it safe? Does it hurt? Will it leave a mark? Can anyone try? So many knots to learn!

Jeff is an eclectic, life long learner, passionate about too many things to fit in a day. Computer graphics tech nerd, saké brewer, photographer, bacon, cheese and sausage maker, competitive dragon boat racer. Each of those topics could be the subject of a Nerd Nite (who knows?!). But today, Jeff will share his experience in… Rope bondage.