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 makebigthings.com 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.

October 12th @ Eastworks: Babies, Bigots, and Birds

Happy fall, everyone! 

We hope you can join us for our first event of the season that we’re dubbing ‘Babies, Bigots, and Birds’. We’ll be exploring how understanding human can teach us about animal neurobiology based on UMass neuroscientist Luke Remage-Healey’s work. Then, we’re bringing back an audience favorite, Erik Cheries, who will talk present on his research on the origins of human prejudice. 

RSVP on Facebook

Monday, October 12th, 7:00PM
116 Pleasant Street, Suite 160
Easthampton, MA
$5, 21+

*Just Like Us: Can understanding humans teach us anything about the neurobiology and physiology of other animals?*

To understand and treat human diseases biomedicine relies on animal research. What about the other way around? Can we start with our human experience and learn anything about how animals work? Why would anyone consider doing this?

Luke Remage-Healey is a neuroscientist at UMass Amherst and is an expert on the esoterica of animal neurobiology.

Luke’s Website

*From Babies to Bigots: What are the developmental origins of human prejudice?*

Hear about some of the discoveries scientists have made about the origins of intergroup prejudice. Do we begin life immune to the stereotypes and biases that we observe in adults, or is there a ‘dark side’ to child development? The results may surprise you.

Erik Cheries is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UMass Amherst. He is a Cognitive Scientist who studies infants to help reveal how our minds work.

Erik’s Website


Nerd Nite is at Union Station in NoHo on September 14th!

As we mentioned in our last post, we’ve been spreading the love between NoHo and EHo (sorry). On September 14th we’ll be back in the Union Station Banquet Hall for two great talks. Coincidentally, both are by psychologists, but both aren’t about psychology. This will definitely be an interesting one (as usual, of course). Remember to RSVP on Facebook!

Nerd Nite 21
Monday,September 14th, 7PM
Union Station
125A Pleasant Street, Northampton (On the bike path)
$5, 21+

Living in a Post-Racial Society… Or Not.

Although we might like to think of racial bias as a thing of the past, there are many subtle ways in which it can still influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Is there anything we can do about it?

Linda Tropp is a Professor of Social Psychology at UMass Amherst and an expert in prejudice reduction strategies and social relations between groups.

Scrap and Splendor: Backyard Visionaries and Hand-Made Worlds

Fueled by spectacular visions and extraordinary persistence, backyard visionaries work mostly alone, sometimes for decades, using materials considered trash by others, to create monumental outdoor environments. Their creations are enigmatic, whimsical and sublime. Visit ten of these sites and meet their astonishing, inspiring creators.

Mark Karpel is a psychologist who likes to write about people who think big and get carried away, including visionary builders, cluster balloonists, and aerospace visionaries.

Nerd Nite back @ Eastworks on August 10th

We’re trying to spread the love around between Northampton and Easthampton and we’ll be back at Eastworks for our 20th (!) Nerd Nite. This is going to be a really interesting one if I do say so myself (OK, fine, I’m giving one of the talks). I hope you can make it and please spread the word! FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1646373535581138/

Nerd Nite 20
Monday, August 10th, 7PM
Eastworks, 116 Pleasant St., Easthampton
$5, 21+

Locked Up, but Not Locked Out: Juvenile Offenders Building Better Lives
Kids who go to jail are more likely to go to jail as adults. Massachusetts is using education to change that.

Gwynne Morrissey has a Ph.D. in Education Policy, is a program evaluator at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and is an advocate for educational equity for special-needs youth.


The Real Killer App: How Today’s Tech Diminishes Our Lives
Our gadgets and big data algorithms have been sold to us with the promise of deepening our relationships and improving our lives. What if they’re actually doing the opposite?

Mo Lotman is a freelance writer and publisher of The Technoskeptic, an online magazine examining issues of technology in society.

Next Nerd Nite: July 13th @ Union Station

Hey all,

We had such a good time at Union Station in April that we’re coming back in July! We don’t usually do themes at Nerd Nite, but this time we have an all-environment night and it’s going to be awesome, featuring the chair of the US Polar Research Board and the executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Be there indeed!

Nerd Nite 19
Monday, July 13th, 7PM
Union Station
125A Pleasant Street, Northampton (On the bike path)
$5, 21+

FB event page

Earth’s Changing, and You Are On It!
What if climate change is real and weird weather is likely to continue? Why should we care? Find out what we know about science at the poles that has a direct impact on us in the lower latitudes.

Julie Brigham-Grette is a professor of geosciences at UMass Amherst, and chair of the US Polar Research Board. She is an expert in the recent climate history of the Arctic and its connections to Antarctica.


Cymbella Vulgata and Richard Nixon (Or Learning to Love the Unexpected Heroes of Your Rivers)
Our rivers and streams are cleaner than ever. But we haven’t yet reached the ambitious goals set out in Nixon’s Clean Water Act. Learn how tiny creatures such as algae and bugs are pointing the way to healthier water.

Andrew Fisk, Ph.D. is the executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Since 1997 he has worked throughout New England as citizen, advocate, and bureaucrat to implement the Clean Water Act.

Nerd Nite is June 1st @ Eastworks!

Hello fellow Nerd Niters,

We’re back at Eastworks for our next event. See you there!

Nerd Nite 18
Monday, June 1st, 7PM
Eastworks, 116 Pleasant St., Easthampton
$5, 21+
Facebook RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1450437781920637/

Comic Book Continuity and How You Help Shape It!
Comic books have hopped back into the limelight thanks to dozens of popular films. But who gets to decide which of the dozens of conflicting story lines, character histories, and superpowers are “real”? The answer is… YOU?

James Olchowski is the founder of the Valley Nerd Watch, has an M.S. in cognitive psychology, and is the proud owner of over 17,000 comics.


STRESSED OUT: The Road Map of Stress
Find out the inner workings of stress and its effects on the body and mind from a Western and Eastern view point.

Thomas Schieffer is a clinical Chinese herbalist and Zen Shiatsu bodyworker at Clinic Alternative medicine in Northampton, and a professional in integrative medicine, stress management, and injury recovery.


Nerd Nite at Eastworks on 5/4

Hello fellow Nerd Niters! You may remember during snowmageddon when we had to cancel our amazing February lineup… Well, they’re baa–aack! Hope you can join us at Eastworks for the next event on May 4th. Please invite friends via the mode of your choice (FB event page is below). See you there!

Nerd Nite 17
Monday, May 4th, 7PM
Eastworks, 116 Pleasant St., Easthampton
$5, 21+

Welcome to Your Brain: Reality is a Biologically Constrained Illusion
Do you think that reality is shared among humans? What is perception and how does it work? In this talk we will briefly examine the neuroanatomy behind the senses, how we can use illusions to trick the system into revealing itself, and, in the process, learn about how our brains construct a shared reality (in theory, at least).

Kristina Curro is a  Ph.D. candidate at UMass Amherst, speech-language pathologist, and lifelong cognition junkie whose mind was blown in 7th grade when her biopsychology teacher showed her a Necker Cube.


Profound Games: Empathy, Community, and Teamwork at the Table
Games are fun—they let us unwind, escape, and even feel powerful—but can they be more? Come hear about just a few of the games that are redefining the medium, helping us connect with others, foster new perspectives, and become better people.

Joshua Yearsley is a freelance editor specializing in tabletop games, as well as a member of Owl and Raven, a non-profit game development cooperative in Northampton.

Nerd Nite comes to Union Station, 4/6

Nerd Niters: We are excited to bring the next Nerd Nite to Northampton’s beautifully renovated Union Station for our April event! In addition to being right on the bike path downtown, it has ample parking. There will be a dedicated bar and even table service with all the food options from their sister-bar Platform. So come on over and bring your appetite. You’re also not going to want to miss these two scintillating talks (the first one, quite literally). For those using Facebook, the event page is here. See you on April 6th!

Nerd Nite 16
Monday, April 6th, 7PM
Union Station
125A Pleasant Street, Northampton
$5, 21+

Lasers: They’re not just for death stars anymore
The general public’s understanding of lasers is usually via icons of pop culture like the light saber or a laser light show. When you delve a little deeper into what lasers actually are, a world emerges of a technology that makes modern civilization possible.

Joseph Roy is a graduate of the Laser Electro Optics Technology program at Springfield Technical Community College. He works in the laser industry at Nufern Fiber Optics and the International Photonics Group.


Does the language we speak change the way we think?
It’s often said that the language we speak changes the way that we perceive the world around us. It’s an intuitive idea, but is it actually true?

Brian Dillon is an Assistant Professor in Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He specializes in language comprehension and reading.