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Nerd Nite #67 - The Medium Place: Big Data and Ethics

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 1:44pm

This Nerd Nite talk features U-M engineering PhD candidate Ben Swerdlow discussing the moral quandaries that may occur when algorithims are applied to the sheer quantity of personal data that is collected.

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Nerd Nite #67 - Let's Talk About Stress, Baby!

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 1:39pm

This A2 Nerd Nite talk features U-M PhD candidate in biopsychology Sofia Carrera explaining how neurotransmitters affect our behavior and feelings. 

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Nerd Nite #66 - Hidden Planets

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 8:53am

Could there be a planet lurking at the edge of our Solar System that we haven’t discovered yet? Maybe! It’s happened before. In this talk, Larissa Markwardt explains how the orbits of objects we already know about in our Solar System can be used to infer the existence of yet unseen planets. Larissa also discusses the history and science of the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, searches for other hypothetical planets (Planet X and Vulcan), and the current hunt for Planet 9. 

About Larissa: 

Larissa is a PhD candidate in Astronomy and Astrophysics and NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Michigan. She studies tiny, faint, and distant space rocks in our Solar System, specifically Earth Trojans and Kuiper Belt Objects. In her free time she likes to go hiking and kayaking, play board games, and watch Stargate. Find her on Twitter @LarMarStar.

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Nerd Nite #66 - Making the Impossible Possible: Lessons from Apollo

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 8:31am

In 1962 under President Kennedy’s direction, our nation committed itself to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” At the time, this goal was physically impossible. In order to accomplish this goal, it had to be broken down into component tasks. Accomplishing these tasks determined the mission objectives of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Samuel Carpenter discusses not only the accomplishments these early space exploration efforts, but also outlines a general process of how to take on impossible goals. You will be able to apply this process in your own lives in order to achieve your ‘impossible’, whatever that happens to be. 

About Samuel:

Samuel is a Pennsylvania native who recently relocated to Ann Arbor from Portland, OR. Throughout a career in academic research and volunteering as a prehospital medical provider, he has maintained an avid interest in space exploration history as well as current progress of existing space programs. Find him on Twitter @carpensa1.

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Nerd Nite #49 - Let Them (fruit flies) Eat Cake

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 8:09am

Fruit flies’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs (no, really, they are), but this is not why they love sugar. In our lab we feed cake to fruit flies to see what happens to their brains (#badlyexplainyourjob), and boy, a lot happens, and most of it is NOT good. Maybe this is why we all love sugar and can’t stop eating it. And if you are one of those weird people who doesn’t maybe stop by the lab so we can study you?

About Monica: I received my first microscope at age 7, a gift from my dad, and had an idyllic childhood in Italy pulling hair off Barbie’s and legs off bugs and looking at them under the microscope. What really kept me in science, however, was the pervasive beauty of the natural world. I still remember the first time, as a high school student, I heard about molecular biology: I was amazed by its beautiful complexity. Nearly twenty years later, I still haven’t found something that is man-made and more beautiful than the natural world, not even a Dolce and Gabbana dress. At 18 I left Italy for the USA, majored in Biology and Philosophy, got a Ph. D in biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and in 2015 started a lab at the University of Michigan where I also teach genetics and neuroepigenetics. My favorite things in life are dogs, desserts, philosophy and post-modern literature, pastel colors, fuzzy things, and unicorns.

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Nerd Nite #65 - 10 Things you Need to Know about Language

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 4:29pm

You speak a language, so you know everything about how language works, right? Wrong! In this talk, Emily covers the Top 10 things most people don’t know about language. In doing so, she dispels several common myths and reveals some fascinating facts about the systems we use every day to communicate with each other. If you’ve ever wondered how many languages there are in the world, why language death is on the rise, where grammar comes from, or how it is that kids learn language so effortlessly – this talk is for you! Or, if you simply find yourself in need of a few high-quality conversation starters for your upcoming work party, this talk will prepare you to explain what exactly the Bilingual Advantage is, why British accents sound smart, how whistled languages work, whether Spanglish is a language, which high-profile court case was a glaring example of linguistic discrimination, and why English spelling is such a mess.

About Emily Rae Sabo:

By day, I’m a researcher and PhD student of Linguistics at The University of Michigan. By night, I’m a local standup comedian at dive bars near you. In my work as a linguist, I compare how monolingual and bilingual listeners respond to various types of lexical ambiguity and speech errors in order to investigate the cognitive mechanisms that underlie language processing as well as the social priming that modulates how people perceive Spanish-accented English in the U.S. today.

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Nerd Nite #65 - A Tale of Two Lakes: Eutrophy in Western Lake Erie and Oligotrophy in Lake Michigan

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 4:24pm

In Western Lake Erie, massive mats of blue-green algae blossom every summer, stirring up memories of the 2014 Toledo Water Crisis with every reappearance. Meanwhile, in Lake Michigan, there are nearly as many invasive mussels in the lake as there are gallons of water. Each mussel is the size of a thumbnail and, under the right conditions, their combined force can filter the entire volume of water in Lake Michigan in less than a week. The resulting crystal clear waters are great for beachgoers but extremely problematic for the lake ecosystem. In this talk, Christine discusses some of the causes of eutrophy (too much vegetation) in Western Lake Erie and oligotrophy (too little vegetation) in Lake Michigan and how lake-wide management strategies for one problem can exacerbate another.

About Christine:

Christine Kitchens is a research technician at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan. She graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from North Carolina State University and an M.S. in Conservation Ecology from the University of Michigan. While she performs a variety of tasks at the cooperative institute, she primarily spends her days helping monitor and understand harmful algal blooms in Western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. When she does manage to find some free time, she spends it running around doing more volunteering with the Huron River Watershed Council and other various local environmental organizations, playing video/board games, and basically being a massive nerd in all facets of life.

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Nerd Nite #65 - Cats: A Look Into the Feisty Feline

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 4:16pm

This talk takes a look into the domestication of cats, cultural influences, and a few cat anatomy characteristics. There is also interactive trivia on different cat breeds.

About Jessica Amey:

Jessica loves cats.

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Nerd Nite 1/17 MRI Magic

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 1:00pm

NNA2 #61 dives into MRIs and what we can and cannot learn about the brain with neuroscience researcher Sam Carpenter, exploring how protons are structured, inside and out, with physics grad student Nicole Lewis, and talking about why we play - or don’t play - video games with Mark Kazmierski.

Sam Carpenter – MRI: Magic Really-cool Images

We often hear in the media about some new scientific study where “brain scans reveal something interesting” But often, not a lot of effort goes into describing what is meant by a “brain scan”, how they work and what they can tell us. A common method of “brain scan” is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). I break down what an MRI is, how they work and what we can and cannot learn about the brain. 

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Nerd Nite 1/17 Why We Play Video Games

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 12:53pm

NNA2 #61 dives into MRIs and what we can and cannot learn about the brain with neuroscience researcher Sam Carpenter, exploring how protons are structured, inside and out, with physics grad student Nicole Lewis, and talking about why we play - or don’t play - video games with Mark Kazmierski.

Mark Kazmierski –  Game On! Why you do (or don’t) Play Video Games

What makes games so addictive? In a world of over-stimulation and short attention spans, what makes games the thing that we are drawn to? We will attempt to break down what keeps people playing, as well as what prevents people from getting started.