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Nerd Nite is on January 9th!

coffee copyWelcome to 2017, all! And while Nerd Nite did really well in 2016 with some awesome talks, we personally weren’t too sad to see it go. We hope you’ll start the new year right with some fellow nerds and these two talks on nitro-brew coffee and defending someone you know is guilty. We will also be donating 50% of the proceeds to the Food Bank of Western MA.
The location

World War II Club (aka The Deuce) / 50 Conz /  Northampton, MA
January 9th @ 7:00pm  /  $5 Entry. All ages welcome in the banquet hall, but valid ID required for front bar and alcoholic purchases.

The talks

‘Nitro Brew Coffee: Is it Safe to Drink?’
By Elonia Lamontagne, chemistry teacher at Chicopee High School 
A general chemistry flashback including review of the atom, electron configuration, bonding, states of matter, periodic table, etc. Using chemistry, we can look at nitrogen as a gas, nitrogen in the air, the nitrogen cycle, and nitrogen in the body, then we will determine if we should be putting nitrogen gas into our coffee.

‘How Do You Defend Someone You Know Is Guilty?’
By Meredith L. Ryan, Esq., criminal defense attorney

It’s the question every criminal defense attorney is asked about their work. How on earth do they stand next to people who do bad things and argue for them? Why do we even bother when we know someone did it? Learn how defending one person can affect the rights and liberties of all people, and the role defense attorneys play in protecting our Constitution.

Nerd Nite December: Journalism and Drones

15129541_1278778468830089_1362217330946851386_o**Nerd Nite NoHo will be donating 50% of Monday’s entry fee to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and any additional donations are welcome.**

$5 Entry. Guests under 21 years are welcome in the banquet room area, but are restricted from the front bar, so please have your ID on you if you’d like to order alcoholic beverages.

‘How did those journalists get it so wrong? An election postmortem’

On November 8, many Americans woke up expecting Hillary Clinton to become the country’s next president. Weeks of coverage by prominent news organizations had assured them of that. On Election Day, the Huffington Post gave Clinton a 98% chance of winning, the New York Times an 85% chance, and even the revered FiveThirtyEight was thought to be playing it safe with the 71% chance they gave her. On November 9, those same people woke up to President-elect Trump. How did those journalists get it so wrong? This election postmortem will use both mass communication theory and emerging evidence to evaluate that question, and end with a different one: What can we do about it?

Rodrigo Zamith is an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at UMass Amherst, where he studies the intersection of journalism and technology. As a Minnesota Vikings fan, he is accustomed to disappointment and proving the odds-makers wrong.

‘Drones for good – How aerial robots are shaping the future’

We are blessed to live in an age when massive technological advances are improving our lives and our planet. Drones – or aerial robots – are one of these advances which have amazing potential in the creative as well as practical arts and sciences. From farming to search % rescue to storytelling, these amazing aircraft are already transforming our world. This fast paced presentation will bring viewers up to date with the technology – and, more importantly, the positive effects that flying robots will enable in the near future.

Futurist, technologist and author Craig Issod divides his time between the Pioneer Valley and Coastal Rhode Island. He has worked in many diverse fields including construction, alternative energy, publishing, innovation and technology. Craig has published three best selling books on consumer drones and runs a popular blog at



The World War II Club is recovering from some burst sprinkler system pipes, which has left the kitchen temporarily out of commission. What does this mean? Unfortunately, we can’t offer food. You are welcome to bring something to eat or order takeout while at the deuce. Bring some pizzas and have a pizza party!

Nerd Nite November: Emotions & Architecture

14681709_1244665035574766_9074518492221639513_n**Nerd Nite NoHo will be donating 50% of Monday’s entry fee to the ACLU, and any additional donations are welcome. Until (and beyond) then, peace and love to all our fellow nerds.**

$5 Entry. Guests under 21 years are welcome in the banquet room area, but are restricted from the front bar, so please have your ID on you if you’d like to order alcoholic beverages.

“Moods and Measurements: Quantifying Emotion in the Decision Process”

From hot heads to cold calculations, emotions have long been considered to have a substantial influence on decision making. In this presentation, we will first discuss the distinct effects that emotions such as anger, fear, and happiness are thought to have on the decision process. We will then focus on a central question underlying these findings: though sophisticated techniques have been developed to measure the effects of these emotions, what tools do we have to measure the emotions themselves?

Andrea Cataldo is a doctoral candidate in the Psychological and Brain Sciences department at UMass Amherst, where she studies mathematical models of decision making. She grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts and consequently knows a little too much about cranberries, clams, and Dunkin Donuts.

“Triple Deckers: New England’s Working Class Vernacular Architecture”

Originally built to house factory workers, Triple Deckers remain one of the most visible examples of New England’s Industrial Age past. In this presentation, we will examine the historical environment that produced these buildings, discuss their current status in post-industrial New England cities, and contemplate their lasting legacy on the community and landscape. Specific attention will be given to the architectural features that combine to constitute the style.

Brianne Zulkiewicz divides her time between serving on the board of Valley Free Radio and working at a local museum. She is a committed preservationist and an amateur architectural historian. She grew up in Western Massachusetts and graduated from Hampshire College.

Nerd Nite October: 3 Years, 3 Talks!

catspace2October 10th, 7:00pm
World War II Club (The Deuce)
50 Conz Street, Northampton
We can’t believe it’s been three years already! To commemorate this event, we will be having three presenters at 15 minutes each (instead of 20). Also as a throwback to the very first Nerd Nite in history, we have someone speaking about birds.

Free snacks and giveaways will be provided as well. We hope you will come celebrate with us!

$5 Entry. Guests under 21 years are welcome in the banquet room area, but are restricted from the front bar, so please have your ID on you if you’d like to order alcoholic beverages.

A Game of Cat & Mouse: How One Parasite Hijacks Brains and Manipulates Behavior
by Dan Vahaba

Does free will exist? While we like to think we’re in charge of our own actions, the notion of free will is greatly challenged by parasitic organisms that hijack the brains of other animals. Brain parasites come in many flavors and exert major influence on the behavior of their hosts in order to reproduce, but one particularly fascinating species is the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (“toxo” for short). Toxo is a unicellular organism that can only reproduce in the gut of cats, but when it ends up in rodents, it manipulates their brain and behavior in a big way. My talk will focus on the life cycle of toxo, how it ends up in and impacts rodents, and what it does to find its way back into cats. At the end of the talk, I’ll discuss the possibility of toxo’s influence on humans.

Dan Vahaba is an owner of two hopefully toxo-free felines (Peanut and Leon), as well a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience & Behavior program at UMass Amherst. His dissertation research has nothing to do with brain parasites, but instead explores how brain estrogens facilitate communication learning and auditory processing in songbirds.

How Diversity Improves Systems
by Presley Pizzo

Diversity is a hot topic in the tech industry, but we often assert that it’s important without explaining why. I’ll argue that gender and racial diversity, biodiversity, and even diversity of inanimate resources all benefit us in the same fundamental way.

Presley Pizzo is a software engineer at Originate. She has a PhD in linguistics from UMass Amherst and a penchant for metalworking. She works with leadership and the grassroots diversity initiative at Originate to improve diversity and inclusivity in the company.

Neotropical Migrant Birds: Why Conservation in Panama Matters in Massachusetts
by Ezekiel Jakub & Melva Olmos

Migratory birds such as the warblers, flycatchers, and raptors are some of the most enjoyable and anticipated birds to watch during our spring and summer. These migrants spend, in fact, most of their lives not with us in Massachusetts but in the new world tropics (“Neo-tropics”) including Mexico, Central and South America.

In a rapidly developing and globalized economy of the Republic of Panama, conservation has not been a priority. Loosing land to forest fragmentation, loosing forests due to illegal logging, poor funding for the environmental ministry, and only “paper parks” have made conservation of wildlife difficult! Lacking public funds and commitment conservation is largely a “privatized” movement by non-profit organizations, land owners, and community groups.

Come enjoy an evening with Ezekiel Jakub (Executive Director and Ornithologist) and Melva Olmos (President and Jaguar Biologist) of Conservación Panamá and a kaleidoscope of photographs, sounds, and video of a tropical paradise in danger! Learn about our work towards neo-tropical migrant conservation and what you can do!

Nerd Nite September: Words and Weather

The World War 2 Club (aka The Deuce)
50 Conz Street, Northampton
September 12, 2016 – 7:00-9:00pm

I Know You Didn’t Mean That: How Your Beliefs Guide Language Comprehension

UMass Linguist Brian Dillon will talk about how we as listeners understand sentences in the course of normal conversations, and the various ways in which we sometimes ignore what is actually said, and instead, seem to hear what we want to hear.

Brian Dillon is an assistant professor in Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he runs the Cognitive Science of Language lab. The lab focuses on psycholingusitics, the study of how children and adults acquire and understand natural language.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Weather in Amherst

Jasper Lapienski is a culturally controversial community organizer who lives in Northampton. Jasper grew up in Amherst and has made a hobby of studying the local weather history since the moment of conception (give or take a few years). What was the weather like around here on the day women got the right to vote? Look up the date ahead of time and be prepared to find out!


The World War II Club is recovering from some burst sprinkler system pipes, which has left the kitchen temporarily out of commission. What does this mean? Unfortunately, we can’t offer food. You are welcome to bring something to eat or order takeout while at the deuce. Bring some pizzas and have a pizza party!

July 11th Nerd Nite: Zombies on the Oregon Trail!

Apologies to our guests for the most recent hiatus! You’ll be happy to hear we are back in full force on July 11th at the Deuce. Here are the details:

Where: The WWII Club aka “The Deuce / 50 Conz / Northampton, MA

When: July 11th at 7:00 PM

Who: Julie Rose on “Attack of the Zombies!: A Brief Introduction to the Problem of Consciousness” and John Vilk on “Digital Preservation: Bringing Oregon Trail to your Web Browser”

There is a $5 admission fee (cash, please), which goes towards our speakers, our audio equipment rental and sound tech, the person helping out at the door, and general overhead expenses. It’s greatly appreciated!

RSVP not required, but getting a headcount is super helpful for us. You can RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.

NOTE: The World War II Club is still recovering from some burst sprinkler system pipes, which has left the kitchen temporarily out of commission. What does this mean? Unfortunately, we can’t offer food. You are welcome to bring something to eat or order takeout while at the deuce. Bring some pizzas and have a pizza party!


“Attack of the Zombies!: A Brief Introduction to the Problem of Consciousness”

Why are we conscious, and where does it come from? In this talk, we’ll explore the Zombie Argument, a compelling contemporary philosophical argument for the claim that consciousness is not a physical phenomenon.

Julie Rose has a master’s in philosophy from UMass Amherst, where her research focused on the problem of consciousness. She has also farmed lettuce in Hawaii, made wine in France, and worked at a plastic bag factory.


“Digital Preservation: Bringing Oregon Trail to your Web Browser”

Thanks to rogue archivists who chose to “Copy That Floppy”, the Internet contains large collections of old software and video games that are of historical interest. Unfortunately, experiencing these digital artifacts firsthand requires complicated setup procedures and antiquated technical expertise. In this talk, I will describe how I collaborated with a loose collective of amateur archivists to bring these items to life in a single click on the Internet Archive, along with the importance of digital preservation.

John Vilk is a PhD student and a Facebook Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst whose research focuses on improving the web browser for developers. His nerd credentials include owning every issue of Nintendo Power, having a fairly decent collection of video game systems, working with the Internet Archive and other volunteers to bring old computer software and video games to millions of people, writing a complete Java Virtual Machine in JavaScript called Doppio, and working with Microsoft to bring time-travel and privacy-preserving augmented reality to Internet Explorer.

April 11: Inside the Guantánamo Bay Library + The Politics of Pork

The April Nerd Nite is right around the corner! We have some fascinating speakers, who coincidentally both have a connection with Turkey. Max Price, who will be presenting ‘Pigs and the Political History of the Near East’ will focus his presentation on what is now modern day Turkey. And Muira McCammon, a former Turkey Fulbrighter, will be presenting ‘Stories, Scandals, and Surgical Masks: The Ridiculously Complex World of the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library’.

Nerd Nite will again take place at the World War II Club in Northampton. The kitchen is still under reconstruction, so ordering food on-site is unfortunately impossible. But the good news is you can bring food in from any other place you desire!

RSVP on Facebook, pretty please.

The Deets

Nerd Nite 27: Inside the Guantánamo Bay Library + The Politics of Pork
Monday, April 11, 7:00PM
World War II Club (The Deuce) Banquet Room
50 Conz Street, Northampton
$5 Entry – Guests under 21 years are welcome in the banquet room area, but are restricted from the front bar, so please have your ID on you if you’d like to order alcoholic beverages.

Pigs and the Political History of the Near East
Max Price will discuss the domestication of pigs around 8000 BC in what is now modern Turkey, discuss the importance of pork to the lower classes during the emergence of cities and state, and conclude with why he thinks pork is now taboo.

Max Price is a recent PhD from the Harvard Anthropology program, who has dedicated the better part of the past decade to unearthing the ancientsecrets of livestock maintenance. He is a real-life Indiana Jones in every sense except that he is not at all charming, good in a fight, or cool in any manner.

Stories, Scandals, and Surgical Masks: The Ridiculously Complex World of the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library
This talk will shine a light on the people, policies, and practices that have shaped the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library. We will delve into declassified Department of Defense documents and try to make sense of this labyrinth, this library that is 1548 miles away from Northampton. We’ll touch on questions big and small, like what books are on the shelves and how Fifty Shades of Grey ended up in one detainee’s cell. And perhaps most importantly, Muira will explain what aspects of the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library keep her up at night (hint: surgical masks are involved).

Muira McCammon, a former Turkey Fulbrighter, is writing her M.A. thesis at UMass-Amherst on the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library. She has written about information access at Guantánamo forSlate’s Future Tense and the Kenyon Review Online. Muira also moonlights as a research assistant at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

January 11 Nerd Nite: Future Civilizations & Ancient Cuisine

Happy New Year, all! We hope you can join us for the next Nerd Nite, titled “Future Civilizations and Ancient Cuisine”. Also, we’ll be returning to the original Nerd Nite location – the World War two Club! Since we’ve grown so much since those first few weeks, the talks will take place in the banquet hall, and there will be drinks and food for purchase.

Details and RSVP
World War II Club (The Deuce) Banquet Room
50 Conz Street, Northampton
$5 Entry

What’s for Dinner in Medieval London?

When most people think of medieval food, they think of bland brown mush, huge hunks of meat, and spices covering up the taste of spoilage. In
reality, the residents of medieval England had incredibly diverse food options, including fresh vegetables, urban takeout joints, and flavor combinations that might have tasted more like today’s Thai cuisine than anything else. Come find out what you might really have eaten in the Middle Ages!

Rebecca Slitt has a PhD from Fordham University and was a professor of medieval history for eight years. Her research focused on aristocratic culture, chivalry, and historical writing in twelfth-century England. Now she’s a writer and editor for Choice of Games, applying her knowledge of medieval combat to help figure out how the presence of dragons would affect a castle siege.

Type 1 or Bust! The Kardashev Scale and Civilizations of the Future

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement. This talk will explore what the different types are, going from 0 to 3, and use real life and sci fi references to illustrate these types (e.g., the Borg are a Type 3 civilization). Then we’ll explore our past with a simple 5,000 year timeline of history and ideas based on current technology that could give us a clue to what a Type 1 civilization on Earth would look like.

Aaron Jensen is an artist and middle-school teacher who is developing the Looping Spectrum Theory, combining philosophy, art, and science.

December 14th: Virtual Reality and RPGs – Not Just for Nerds!

Bill Nye with virtual reality gogglesWe’ve reached the last month of the year! Which is also arguably the most stressful month, between holidays, exams, shopping, and the reality of winter sinking in.

Now that I’ve thoroughly bummed you out, I’ll remind y’all that Nerd Nite is back on December 14th! Like last month, we’ll be at Union station.

Monday, December 14th, 7:00PM

Union Station Banquets, 125 PLeasant Street, Northampton (on the bike path)
$5, 21+

Bringing Virtual Reality Music to Virtually Everyone by Pat King

In August of 2015, Pat King of the Northampton game studio Woodpenny partnered with singer / songwriter Ben Sollee to create a Virtual Reality animated music video app called The Vanishing Point. Pat will talk us through his serendipitous introduction to Ben Sollee and how his studio’s wooden board game led the studio to a 3-month project and crowdfunding campaign to introduce an entirely new way for people to experience music.

Pat King is the Owner & CEO of Woodpenny, a creative design studio based in Northampton. The studio formed in January 2014 as a collective of artists, programmers and designers.


Roleplaying and Human Nature by Hannah Shaffer

Have you ever seen a roleplaying game in a bookstore or game store and wondered, “What the heck is this?” “Who does this?” “Is this for me?” Game designer Hannah Shaffer joins us to talk about roleplaying games as an extension of the human need to share stories, and the importance of inhabiting imaginary worlds as adults.

Hannah Shaffer is a web and game designer based in western Massachusetts. Credits include Questlandia, 14 Days, and a silly little game about birds. Find Hannah at and on twitter @hanbandit.

November 16th Nerd Nite: Bitcoins and Bird Bits

Happy unseasonably warm November, everyone! Our next Nerd Nite will indeed

be in NoHo at Union Station Banquets. We had a bit of a psychology trend
the past two months, but we’re shaking things up this month with a talk on
Bitcoin accompanied by a talk on bizarre animal genitalia. Both are sure to
make for some fun Thanksgiving conversation starters!

Please let us know if you’re coming by RSVP’ing on facebook.

Event Details

Monday, November 16th, 7:00PM
Union Station Banquets
125A Pleasant Street, Northampton (On the bike path)
$5, 21+

*From Stone Money to Cypherpunks: What does the Island of Yap have to do
with Bitcoin?*

Rai stones on the Island of Yap and crypto-currencies like Bitcoin
are two very different implementations of the shared illusion we call
“money.” Gavin will talk about where value comes from, and why sailing
canoes across the ocean worked as the basis for a monetary system.

Gavin Andresen was the lead maintainer of the Bitcoin open source software
project after it’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, disappeared. He is currently
a software developer at the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, and still
serves as the Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation. He began his
career working on 3D graphics software at Silicon Graphics Computer
Systems, and has founded or worked at several startups. Gavin lives and
works in Amherst.


*Why are there so many freaky genitalia, and why do we care?*

Patricia Brennan will discuss the incredibly diversity and complexity of
genitalia, using some examples from her own research to try to answer the
question of why there are so many strange genital morphologies. She will
also talk about why anyone would be crazy enough to study such a weird
thing, and why such studies matter to scientific progress.

Dr. Patricia Brennan is a visiting lecturer at Mount Holyoke in the
Department of Biological Sciences. She is an expert on genital evolution
and topics related to sex and sexual selection. She obtained her PhD from
Cornell University in Neurobiology and Behavior, and did post-doctoral work
at Yale University and University of Sheffield in the UK. Her work has been
featured in multiple documentaries and textbooks, and has received lots of
press coverage.

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