OCTOBER 2019 – The “Star Trek Halloween Space” Show

“SPACE. THE FINAL FRONTIER.” These epic words were the inspiration for the first show of our 2nd season on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 7pm.

All 3 of our speakers dreamt of being astronauts when they were young so each talk has NASA & CSA connections! We’ll talk about how Star Trek inspired a love for space exploration with an ultimate Trekkie & filmmaker, how extreme underwater environments at Pavillion Lake (right here in beautiful B.C.) mimic Mars, and the gruelling but super cool testing that the Canadian Astronaut Program puts applicants through when they’re looking for the right stuff. Each talk is followed by a question and answer period with the speaker!

Talk #1: “Pavilion Lake, B.C.” / Speaker: Donnie Reid

The presence of strange structures in Pavilion Lake, B.C. (located in Marble Canyon, between Lillooet and Cache Creek) had been known for years by divers and locals, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the scientific discovery of Pavilion Lake’s unusual microbialites (carbonate rock structures) occurred.

It was immediately apparent that these structures were a scientific gold mine and that comparisons could be drawn between the lake’s microbialites and fossil microbialites that represent some of the earliest remnants of life on ancient Earth, and were common from ~2.5 billion to 540 million years ago.

The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) is an international science and exploration effort and is sponsored by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It has become an exciting field site for Earth scientists and astrobiologists who are interested in the application of the PLRP research to the search for life in our solar system and beyond.

Donnie works at Nuytco Research Ltd.  His talk will cover his years as Project Manager for NASA at Pavilion Lake and the cool joint human and robotic underwater efforts to explore and map the lake.

Donnie has been a SCUBA diver for over 26 years, having logged nearly 6,000 dives. Donnie has a degree in Accounting from UBC. He is an expert underwater photographer with credits in NATURE and National Geographic, has worked with the movie industry and ironically, hates getting wet.

Talk #2: “AstroNOT” / Speaker: Dr. Michael Koehle

In June 2016, for only the 4th time in Canadian space history, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) launched a call for potential astronauts. 4,000 applicants answered this call for only 2 spots to join the next class of Canadian space explorers. Of those that applied, Michael Koehle was selected for the 32-person shortlist!

Michael was a great fit; a scientist, a pilot and a doctor studying the impact of stress on human bodies in various environments, who had practiced in many rural and remote areas with limited resources — such as the Arctic, the Himalayas & remote areas of Africa. Michael is intrigued by how the human body adapts to different challenges, such as exercise, altitude, temperature, pollution, and space travel of course. No surprise, The Martian is his fav movie.

Michael’s visual talk focuses on what it takes to make the cut and the extreme testing involved in the selection process to become an Astronaut.

Michael is a Physician-Scientist and Professor, practising Sport and Exercise Medicine at the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic at UBC and Director of the Environmental Physiology Laboratory, UBC.

Talk #3: “Space, The Final Career” / Speaker: Matthew Cimone

Watching too much Star Trek while growing up, Matthew grew to understand that life was all about exploring the universe and doing good where one could.

Matthew believes that our exploration and understanding of the cosmos reveals the beautiful reality that our planet is not divided by race, colour, or boundary, but is one Earth shared by humanity as it struggles to find its place on our tiny blue marble, adrift in the universe.

Matthew will also share some details on his upcoming documentary about how space captures our childhood imaginations, featuring interviews with Eugene Roddenberry and Star Trek cast members, in a special Nerd Nite Featurette.

A University of Toronto alumnus, Matthew is an H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Interpreter, international development activist and is currently producing another upcoming documentary film “Chasing Atlantis,” which chronicles the last launch of the Atlantis space shuttle. If that wasn’t cool enough, Matthew was recently at SETI (where they look for life in other parts of the universe) to film additional footage. Matthew is also the co-founder/CEO of non-profit organization Esther’s Echo and a former TEDxUTSC speaker.

May 2019 – Astrochemistry, Accelerators & Apocalyptic Party Planning

Our May 3 show was a “Star Wars” themed, all-female line-up, in honour of all the awesome women of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math).
 We talked “Black Hole” Mania and had Star Wars trivia with nerdy prizes.
“Apocalyptic Party Planning” 
Geophysicist & Disaster Researcher, Mika McKinnon
Apocalyptic skills are a must for a modern Nerd, any gamer or zombie movie fan will tell you that.  Who better to teach us the basics than an actual disaster researcher and science fiction writer, specializing in tsunami, earthquakes and asteroid impacts — pretty much all the heart-pounding, doom-riddled science.

Mika received her BA in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005, attending the College of Creative Studies. There, she re-launched the Society of Physics Students and lead a student colloquia on science fiction, creating an environment for an exchange of views. She received her MSc in Geophysics from UBC in 2010 where her graduate work centered on assessing and managing risk of landslides using statistical models.

Mika is a field geophysicist and science communicator with joint appointments at SETI and FEMA. She is currently a co-investigator with NASA’s Project ESPRESSO, lending her expertise towards the project’s goal of characterizing extraterrestrial target surfaces – asteroids, comets and moons. Mika has produced the largest published collection of data on landslides in space!

Mika is also a United Nations Delegate for Hazard and Risk Reduction, and a science adviser to TV shows like Doomsday, No Tomorrow, Madame Secretary, Star Trek: Discovery and Stargate, where she adds science to their fiction.  She has been a contributing editor for Gawker Media and a science writer for Gizmodo. Like all Nerds, Mika is irrepressibly curious about our wonderfully weird universe and loves the outdoors.

“From Atom to Alien – The Universe As A Chemistry Lab”
Astronomer & Nerd Nite Victoria Host, Dr. Nienke Van Der Marel

We are all made of star-stuff! Everything on Earth consists of molecules built out of atoms, but what is the origin of these elements in the Universe? What molecules can we find in the regions where stars and planets are forming? How is it possible that molecules can form in those extreme environments of cold and emptiness? And how can we even observe those molecules? In this talk, Nienke will takes us on a tour through the most exotic chemistry lab ever…The Universe.

Nienke was born and raised in The Netherlands where she got her PhD cum laude in Astronomy at Leiden University in 2015, followed by a two-year fellowship at The University of Hawaii in Honolulu. In November 2017, she moved to Victoria for a fellowship at the NRC Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics. She is the Host of Nerd Nite Victoria (shows are the third Wednesday of every month at the Victoria Event Centre).

Nienke loves to travel and has some pretty mad latin/african dance skills! You may remember Nienke from her appearance at the January show for our thought experiment “What is a Nerd?”

“Searching for New Particles at CERN”
Project ATLAS Researcher and PhD Physics Student (UBC/TRIUMF), Robin Hayes
Buried beneath the border of France and Switzerland, nearly 100 metres underground, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator on the planet. The LHC collides particles at 99.999999% of the speed of light, recreating conditions that existed shortly after the Big Bang. In this talk, you’ll hear about how scientists study such intense conditions, and about some of the mind-blowing discoveries they’ve already made. Protons at the LHC collide about 800 million times every second! All the data from these collisions would fill enough CD-ROMs to stretch from the earth to the moon four times over the course of a single year. Don’t miss this rare access to all things CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research).
Robin is a PhD student in Physics at UBC and TRIUMF. She works on the ATLAS experiment, studying data collected at the LHC near Geneva. When she’s not doing physics stuff, she enjoys cycling to school at 0.000002% of the speed of light and working hard to perfect her baba ghanoush recipe.

MARCH 2019 – The “Unexpected Connections” Show
Space Donuts, Mental Health & Batman, Science & Unicorns

At our October show we talked about the unexpected similarities between Math & Improv and we continued to explore more “Unexpected Connections” at the March show.

We also put a little STEAM in our STEM and talked about what that means to Nerds!

UBC Astronomer, Christa Van Laerhoven

Talk: “Donuts in Space” (AKA “Kuiper Belt Objects & Orbital Resonance”)

The Kuiper Belt is a region of leftovers from the solar system’s early history. Like an asteroid belt, it has also been shaped by a giant planet, but far larger and shaped more like a donut than a thin belt. Mmmm donuts. The Kuiper Belt is truly a frontier in space — it’s a place we’re just beginning to explore and our understanding is still evolving.

Christa Van Laerhoven is a valley girl from Agassiz and a postdoctoral fellow at UBC, studying what she likes to call ‘orbital shenanigans’ (how the orbits of planets, asteroids, and moons can change over time). She has a PhD from the Department of Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona and a B.Sc. from UBC in Physics and Astronomy (Honours).

Science Cartoonist and UBC Public Health Educator Armin Mortazavi

Talk: “Mental Health & Batman”

In a unique talk using cartoons and storytelling, Armin will describe a period of anxiety & depression and how he came to terms with it all. We’re excited to see how our favorite “caped crusader” inspired him!

Scientoonist and North Shore guy Armin Mortazavi likes long walks on the beach and Hoobastank. He has a Bachelor’s in Microbiology & Immunology from UBC and a Master of Digital Media from the Centre for Digital Media (CDM).  Throughout the years, he has carved out a career in creating illustrations and design work to educate the public about health. Check out his Instagram @armin.scientoonist where he promises to draw you at least 1 or 2 cats. For real.

UBC Science Educator David Ng

Talk: “Science & Unicorns” (AKA “Public Understanding of Science”)

This talk will focus on scientific literacy generally, with good representation on the unicorn side of things. If you were at November’s show, you know whether unicorns were in fact real.

David Ng is a geneticist, science educator, part time writer, and professor based at the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia.

Of note: (1) he is partly responsible for the massive DNA helix emblazoned on his building’s facade; (2) his Dad beat up Bruce Lee; (3) his first foray into general publishing featured a unicorn on the front cover; and (4) his wife and kids are all exemplary.

JANUARY 2019 – The “Quantum Leap” Show
Quantum SQUIDS, Spoken Word Art & Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics
We chilled out and left the binary world behind when we took a Quantum Leap into an ALL-physics special!

Quantum SQUIDS – Colin Enderud

Colin Enderud is a superconducting circuit designer at D-Wave Systems. This basically means he draws coloured lines and shapes all day that eventually turn into quantum mechanical things.  His earliest memory of being a nerd is walking into a magic shop where an employee asked “Do you like magic?” to which he replied “Yeah, but I like science better.” Colin has a BSc in Physics from UBC.

Colin will talk about the type of SQUIDs that exist on silicon chips, not the type that live in the ocean (although they’re pretty great too.)  Superconducting QUantum Interference Devices are unbelievably accurate detectors of magnetic fields.  They’re not just super cool, they’re cryogenically super cooled.

Not sure what the heck SQUIDs are? We don’t know either, but we’re excited to find out because they can detect magnetic energy fields as low as 100 billion times smaller than the energy that moves a compass needle! The technology is used tons of ways, but sometimes in medical testing to measure faint signals in the human brain or heart by sensing the magnetic fields created by the neurological currents. Other applications include the construction of highly sensitive gradiometers, magnetometers and voltmeters.

Never heard of D-Wave? They’re just the world’s first quantum computing company and do tons of cool work with NASA, Google and Lockheed Martin (massive name drops). Yes NERD HERD, there is a world-class QUANTUM COMPUTER just over the bridge in Burnaby! They may not give public tours but it’s ok because they give free quantum computing time!!  Check out LEAP here www.dwavsys.com

Spoken Word Art – Angelica Poversky

Speaker & Guest Co-Host on this explosive night is the slickest Spoken Word Artist around and Slam Mistress, Angelica Poversky. Prepare to have your mind blown by her provocative science stylings. Check her work out: https://angelicapoversky.com

Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics – Dominic Walliman

Our Featured Speaker is Physicist, Author and YouTube sensation, Dominic Walliman discussing the fascinating and perplexing world of the Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics.

Dominic Walliman is a Physicist turned professional Author. He has a PhD in quantum device physics and an honourary degree in sitting around wondering why his experiments aren’t working. He now spends his days making YouTube videos about science and writing the Professor Astro Cat science books for kids. Check out his amazing and hilarious YouTube Channel “DOMain of Science”, our fav is “Movie Night with a Physicist” https://www.youtube.com/user/dominicwalliman

In this talk on the Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, Dom takes us back to the basics…whatever those are! Famous physicist Richard Feynman once said “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Since then, physicists have been very creative trying to come up with interpretations of quantum mechanics that make sense. Dom isn’t sure they’ve succeeded. Find out why on January 11.

We’ll also have our Twitter Competitions after each talk with extra prizes and plenty of surprises! Win Hawking’s final book “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”, tickets to Nerd Nite NV, Nn YVR & Nn Victoria (YYJ), and of course our Nn tool cards!

November 2018 – Laughs, Brains and Water

Lukas Grajauskas (MSc Student) – Love Your Brain
Robyn Fashler (BA Psychology) – The Laugh Track Legacy
Alan Shapiro (MSc) – A day in the life of a Water Nerd

Alan Shapiro – A day in the life of a water nerd

Summary: You probably don’t spend much time thinking about water, aside from staying hydrated and flopping around in it once in a while. On the other hand, I spend WAY too much time thinking, talking, and occasionally dreaming about water issues. I’ve had a chance to work on a bunch of cool projects, from oil spills and contaminated sites to water quality in First Nations communities. This talk offers a glimpse into a (slightly out of the ordinary) day in the life of a water nerd.

Bio: Alan Shapiro is a water scientist, unsurprisingly obsessed with all things water. He splits his time between working on water projects, teaching at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and supporting science communication through organizations such as Science Slam Canada. Alan recently read an article about “Canada’s only water sommelier” and now feels incredibly insecure about his life choices.

Robyn Fashler (BA Psychology) – The Laugh Track Legacy

Talk Summary: Despite delivering “the best medicine”, Laugh Tracks have a pretty lousy reputation. With this talk, Robyn aims to refute this unjust impression. She will discuss the history, controversy, and significance of canned-laughs and explain why they deserve a hearty guffaw unto themselves.
Bio: Robyn makes her way selling office furniture, which she is weirdly enthusiastic about. In all seriousness, she is deeply concerned with what type of chair you sit in at work. Beyond that, Robyn is a self-proclaimed comedy connoisseur and is mildly obsessed with classic television. Naturally, she is also fascinated by laugh tracks. She hopes you will see their value as well.

Lukas Grajauskas (MSc Student) – Love Your Brain

Talk Summary: Lukas loves brains, and he will tell us what we can do to show some love to ours. Ageing comes with wisdom, but sometimes you can’t even remember where you put your glasses (have you checked your forehead?). Although our brain may slow as we age, the good thing is, there are a number of things we can start doing early to keep our brains healthy. Lukas will take us on a journey inside our own heads to tell us what goes wrong in aging brains, and what we can do now to help slow the degenerative process down.

Bio: Lukas spends his time investigating our brains as a Masters Student at SFU. Lukas uses MRI machines to spin protons and look into peoples heads, helping him find effective ways of tracking ageing and diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases. When he is away from the lab, he is off running ultramarathons, travelling abroad, or adventuring in the mountains with either his hiking boots or snowboard.

October 2018 – Photonics, Sleep, Math & Improv

Improv & Math: Best of Friends? Or At Least Not Frenemies
Our featured speaker, Curt Da Silva is a math nerd (doy) and software guy who has been improvising for the past eight years with Instant Theatre and has a Honours B. Sc. in Computer Science and Math and a Ph.D. in Applied Math from the University of British Columbia.
Summary: This talk is about math — NO WAIT, COME BACK, KEEP READING! Understandably, math is a frequently maligned subject for many people (curse you bad math teachers!). But contrary to popular opinion, math is much more than figuring out the tip at a restaurant or figuring out why your Excel spreadsheet isn’t working. Math is abound with relationships between seemingly unrelated areas, from symmetries and number theory to geometry and algebra to exponentials and trig functions. Similarly, improv comedy is all about finding relationships between the unrelationshippable (not a word), making sense out of nonsense, and making us laugh in the process. In this talk, we’ll explore all there is to explore about the wonderful, weird, and surprising connections found in math, improv, and everything in between.

Dan Millar/ Your Sleep on Drugs

Dan Millar is a professional amateur. Following the completion of his Bachelors of Applied Science degree he worked as an Engineer for a grand total of 4 months. Feeling a need to be less qualified for his job he took a marketing and scientific communication role at a medical device company specializing in blood platelet testing. Not wanting to develop too much of an expertise in platelets, Dan has spent the past year diving deep into the world of sleep science, which he’ll be sharing a glimpse of in on stage.

Summary: Engaging in adequate amounts of sleep is arguably the single most important aspect to a persons physical and mental well-being. In this talk Dan will explore the typical sleep cycle and how everyday psychoactives like caffeine, alcohol and cannabis impact this critical life function. But don’t worry, Dan isn’t exactly here to preach sobriety, he’s more a fan of strategic debauchery.

Mina Mofazari / Muon Spin Spectroscopy

What did the thermometer say to the measuring cylinder? “You may be graduated, but I have several degrees.” Well so does Mina, she holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry from SFU, a Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Shahid Beheshti University, Iran and a Bachelor of Science in Pure Chemistry from Azad University, Iran. She is a veteran speaker and experienced T.A. When she’s not in the lab she runs and like all our nerds she LOVES HER cat!

Presentation Summary: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Sulphur, Sodium and Phosphorus walk into a bar. “OH SnaP” says the bartender. Physical Chemist Mina Mozafari is looking for a reaction when she talks about gas hydrates and muon spin spectroscopy. Hydrocarbon deposits are abundant in nature but did you know that there are cages made of hydrogen bonded water molecules, trapping gases inside?! These compounds are being studied as potential “nano-reactors” for small molecules, but not a lot is known about their chemistry so we employ muon spin spectroscopy to characterize organic “not-so-free radicals” inside them. Find out if there’s equality for liquids and solids in these icy cages when Mina breakdowns hydrocarbons for us in a fascinating look at gas hydrates and muon spin spectroscopy.