Author: Laura Lanford

Nerd Nite! Parasitic Plants and Bad-Ass Women


Rafflesia Flower

We did it! Together we survived another polar vortex. (But don’t rest on your warm little laurels; the jet streams are still destabilizing…)

It’s time to celebrate with another night of drinking and learning really interesting things. This time we’re trying something new: two talks bookending a friendly audience competition, because experiments are a great way to play with the world and we have great expectations for your nerdy contributions.

Tickets (only $5!) are available here.


Witchweeds, Corpse Lilies, and the Farmer’s Dodder: The Sordid Lives of Parasitic Plants

Seth Harper leads us through the bizarre world of plants that suck. Literally.

Seth is the Manager of Horticulture at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, with nearly twenty years experience in the plant biz. Though his career has taken him from rainforests to prairies, he has spent an inexplicable amount of brainpower on virtually useless plant-based trivia.



Chicago Dry T-Shirt Contest!

Nerdiest apparel wins. It doesn’t have to be a shirt – wear your chemical structure earrings, shark socks, or official Star Trek cufflinks. Or that Klein bottle hat.

Verily, any article of clothing which puts thy nerdery on display where the audience can see it. That’s right, you have to be wearing it, and you have to show it to the audience. Bring your math puns, your historical shout-outs, your Millennium Falconry. Entrants register a name at the door so we can be ready for you. Winner gets a very special mystery prize! (Psst, it’s a free drink)



The Women Who Fought Rome (And Almost Won)

The Roman Empire lasted in the West for almost a millennium, and over the course of its history, many people from Hannibal to the Huns tried to unseat Rome from the center of the world. So join us for the tale of three such people who all took their shot at the Roman eagle, all women. One used charm, one used brute force, and one played politics with a skill that would have made Machiavelli go pale and clutch nearby furniture for support. Sure, they all lost, but so did most of the men who took on the Empire. Even the ones who won pretty much only succeeded in painting targets on their backs for the next guy. Winning’s not really the point here, is it? They each got closer to pulling it off than the men who ran the Empire would be comfortable admitting, and more importantly for our purposes, they all made for one hell of a story.

Kevin Curran is a Chicago attorney at a non-for-profit agency working with survivors of domestic violence. When not at work, he loves musicals, Star Trek, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he is happy to talk to you about at length given the slightest opening. You can find him online writing theater reviews at and comprehensively analyzing Star Trek with his friend Matt at



We have a special event on the horizon. (That’s not a black hole joke)

Saturday, April 13, join us for Nerd Nite After-Hours Party at the International Museum of Surgical Science.

This is limited attendance event, so get your tickets early!

Pirates! Aliens! Death!

Nerd Nite is an evening of empirical entertainment, back from the dead. Three nerds give short talks… in a bar. History. Science. Linguistics. Japanese astrodendrochronology. Unlike that time at your thesis defense, drinking and good-natured outbursts are encouraged!

Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018
Half Sour (755 S Clark St)
Doors at 7pm, Presentations begin at 7:30

Tickets (only $5) are limited by the awesome, intimate space.  Grab yours early!
In honor of Halloween, three veteran nerd nite speakers take the stage this proto-Halloween to set the tone for the coming year of Nerd Nite drinking, friends, and good, old-fashioned weirdness.  Geekiest costume (as judged by audience applause) wins a free drink on us.

Pirates: Scurvy! (Lost & Found & Found (& Found Again)) – Laura Lanford

Do you think pirate talk was all “Avast, ye miserable scallywags!” and “Shiver me timbers!”? Likely you’d also hear mutters along the lines of “Ow, me teeth hurt!” and “Argh, me aching bones!” Life on the sea was more scurvy than it was swagger, in no small part because we kept losing the ubiquitous yet elusive cure for this dreaded vitamin deficiency. From the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn, from Greenland to Antarctica, come and hear tell of the convoluted tale of the Scourge of the Seas!
Laura is a veteran Nerd Nite presenter and the co-Boss of Nerd Nite Chicago. She talks a lot about a lot of things, including medical esoterica.

Aliens: Astronomy with Gamma Rays & Gravitational Waves – Michael Kirby

Did you hear the one where a pair of multi-Solar-mass black holes do-si-do’ed into a single, giant object? Well you would have if you had Laser-Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatories for ears. When alien life gives us a call, there are at three ways their text messages can now be seen (with telescopes), heard (with distortions of space-time), and even felt (with massive neutrino detectors). Grab a drink and we’ll watch the universe do something it can’t undo.
Kirby is a three four-time Nerd Nite presenter and can often be seen around Chicago smashing atoms and racing bikes. Not necessarily at the same time, but also not mutually exclusive.

Death: The End of the Universe as We Know It – Jason St. John

Starting from the destruction of the Earth (yes, this one is pretty much guaranteed), find out just what science tells us will happen to the Universe (this one that we’re in). Is it complete heat death? Nothing but clumps of iron floating around in space? Or a place you can round off a day with breakfast after doing six impossible things in the morning?
When Jason isn’t nerding out over drinks with friends and strangers, he’s probably revving up a particle accelerator at the lab or falling down a research wormhole… which will mean more excited explanations of obscurata very soon thereafter. (Can we talk about the ancient symbolism of the ouroboros and the punctuated rise in the use of this word in English?…)

November Nerd Nite: Bees, Stinkeye, & Conmen!

We hope to see you at our upcoming Chicago Nerd Nite! Please join us at the Bottom Lounge on November 19th for our next round of tipsy, nerdy goodness!

Wednesday, November 19th, 7PM

Bottom Lounge, upstairs

We have a great combo lined up: a veteran, a first timer, and our first visiting Nerd Niter from Madison, Wisconsin!


First up, Ben from Madison will be presenting the Life of Bees, with a twist:

Using the beloved and timeless characters of Sex in the City as our guide, we will explore the beautiful evolutionary journey from single egg-laying sawflies to honey bee orgies. But it’s not all sex and nectar drinking in our honeycomb city, and just as Samantha had her breast cancer (SPOILER!), so too must the honey bee deal with her Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s a story of sex, drugs, deception, exploding males, and zombies. Just like any other episode of Sex and the City, only with three times the shoes.

Ben is the Assistant Director of Education for the UW Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in entomology from the UW-Madison, Ben worked on a nine-month research project focusing on native bee pollination in Wisconsin’s apple orchards. Yes, he has been stung in the face. No, it was not a pleasant experience.


Next up, welcome Nerd Nite audience member turned Nerd Nite presenter, Bardia Noohi, who will be presenting An Eye on the Politics of Envy.

Stinkeye. Mal de ojo. Disti. عين الحسود. Buri nazar. Malocchio. The belief in the envious gaze — the evil eye — is nearly ubiquitous in older cultures. The details of the proscribed cures, symptoms, and protections are varied, but the underlying idea that being an object of envy puts one in danger is a common thread. Bardia will explore why this particular superstition is so pervasive through the anthropological lens of the purpose of envy in a culture.

Bardia Noohi is the guy at your game night who has memorized the instruction book.


And finally, veteran Chicago NN presenter Laura Lanford returns with more about how we all fool ourselves with Rainbow Ruses and Russian Dolls

She’s getting a distinct vibe, something about, numbers, and spectacles, and barley…. She’s feeling community, a common interest, a science-y vibe…. Does this mean anything to you?

Join Laura for a discussion of the cognitive biases and mental heuristics that make us all susceptible to the techniques used by psychics, con artists, mentalists, and fortune tellers.

Laura has presented at Nerd Nite before and is generally a fan of things nerdy and beer themed.