We have an amazing guest line-up for you this month for special THEMED Nerd Nite: a trio of speakers from Global Plasma Month! (

Please welcome Andrew Seltzman, Vladimir Zhdankin, and Ryan Norval, plasma researchers from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Join us for a night of tipsy learning from the people at the forefront of this fascinating topic!

You know the moves, NiteNerders:
March 18th at the Bottom Lounge
Doors open at 7pm
First speaker at 8pm
Done and drunk by 11pm.

Check out these awesome talks:

Pretty Plasmas Produce Perfect Products

Plasma research has been going on for some 60 years now, mostly in the quest for fusion energy, but what do we as researchers have to show? Well a ton of spin off products and technology! A crash course in the wondrous ways plasma works itself into the world, from textiles and TVs to force fields and ion engines.

[Ryan Norval is currently a graduate student in plasma physics at UW-Madison. What this really means he is a sorcerer in training, specializing in fire and lightning.]

Nuclear Fusion

Plasma makes up stars, galaxies and over 99% of the visible universe. On earth, they have many practical applications such as fluorescent lights, and manufacturing computer chips, however no application is more exciting then the promise of fusion power. Scientists have been overcoming numerous trials and tribulations in the quest to harness the almost unlimited potential of fusion power since the 1950s for the clean, radioactive waste free, production of electricity. An overview of the history and future of fusion power research will be presented.

[Andrew Seltzman went to Georgia Tech as an undergrad majoring in physics and electrical engineering and spent most of his time building robots and fusors. After graduating, he came to UW Madison where he is now a PhD candidate in the physics department focusing on microwave heating of plasmas in the Madison Symmetric Torus.]

The Plasma Universe in a Solid Nutshell

Scientists estimate that plasma constitutes over 99% of the observable matter in the Universe, making up stars and most of the interstellar medium. However, it is not naturally present on Earth’s surface and therefore remains mysterious to most humans and other known lifeforms. Plasma is a very exotic state of matter due to its high temperature and high electrical conductivity, leading to complex dynamics including the spontaneous generation of magnetic fields and violent instabilities. It may seem that plasma is hazardous to life and should be avoided at all costs; however, it actually plays an essential role by mediating nuclear fusion in the Sun (and potentially in future nuclear fusion reactors), thereby producing the energy required for our existence. I will give a visual tour of the Universe to describe the various ways in which plasmas shape the Universe as we think we know it.

[Vladimir Zhdankin is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in stubborn pursuit of a Ph.D. in physics. He specializes in theoretical plasma physics, asking the question of how to best describe turbulence in space plasmas and having no real answer in turn. He sometimes considers the more tangible problem of turbulence in his cup of tea as it is being poured or stirred.]

Nerd Nite Joins Forces with Lion VS Gorilla!

Friday, January 30
8pm first presentation 

Hairpin Arts Center 
2810 N Milwaukee Ave 2nd Fl, Chicago, Illinois 60618

Nerd Nite at a Gallery! Lion vs Gorilla hosts Nerd Nite at their utopias mini-expo


Bonus Nerd Nite this month!

Nerd Nite is excited to team up with local art gallery concept Lion Vs Gorilla for their weeklong mini-expo on utopias, Crystal Palaces in Cockaigne!  It has all the things Nerd Nite loves best:  Booze, Truth, and Booty. (BYOBooty).


a donation bar, with gin or absinthe cocktails and two styles of beer available, courtesy of Letherbee Distillery and Finch’s Beer.  Donations accepted in hard currency, and, transistors willing, Square. (Songs can no longer be accepted in exchange for goods and services. Grow up, you hippy.)

Truth! (or some matter for debate, at least)

The Bosses of Chicago Nerd Nite step out of their usual roles as curators, coaches, and emcees of Chicago’s nerdiest drunken experts to bring you presentations on some actual attempts at utopias.  As the name implies, things fall apart, the center cannot hold… But what a great time we’ll have along the way! Here are the deets:

From Here to Utopia

from a surprise presenter

From Yogaville, VA to Galt’s Gulch, Chile, groups of overly optimistic people decide that they’ve figured what a perfect society looks like and made it themselves.  Join us for a dissection of what can make a utopian ideal become a reality, and the many ways things can so spectacularly wrong.

Pullman, Chicago: It’s 1880 and Your Boss Just Elected Himself as Your Mayor

by Jason St. John

The Pullman neighborhood of Chicago got its start late in the 1880s as a company town, among the most complete of many in this country.  Beautifully designed and poorly conceived, some of the original architecture remains, as it was when the workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company were contractually obligated to make their homes there.

Nerd Nite: Evidence-Based Entertainment
naked people hanging out in the 12th C

Nerd Nite at the Lion Vs Gorilla mini-expo on utopias, “Crystal Palaces in Cockaigne”

Nerd Nite January: Emotions, Utopias, and the Taxonomy Tango

Wednesday, January 21
7pm doors
8pm first presentation 

Bottom Lounge (Upstairs)
1375 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607


MadAndSillyWe’re bringing you extra excellence with our next Nerd Nite!

We’ve got a low, prime number of presenters ready to edutain you, and we’re stoked to be putting them onstage at the large, excellent UPSTAIRS space at Bottom Lounge. In additions to sweet, sweet knowledge, you can get great beers and good food at this joint!

Dry T-Shirt Contest

We’re doing another of our DRY TSHIRT CONTESTs!  Wear your nerdiest T and compete for the validation of our admittedly rather arbitrary panel of judges! Woooo! Arbitrary!

Experimental Nerd Quickies!

Got a fascinating factoid?  Filled with a mini-rant on an obscure topic?  We’d like to hear about it, and we’d like to hand you the mic for a quickie, 2-minute pitch.  If the audience likes it, or, hell, if the Bosses do, you might get to become a nerd nite presenter at the next nerd nite!

Finally, the milkshake that brings all the nerds to the yard:

Did the eyes give me away?
Effective Affect

by Michael Maloney

Emotions are messy, disorganized and don’t help us make rational decisions.  Right?  Then why do we have them?  Scientists have gone through great lengths to study emotions including electrical shocks to the face, torturing dogs, botox injections, conversations with cannibals, use of the postal service, and inappropriate use of a No.2 pencil.   What are the findings of all this research?   Presentation may even include an adorable picture of a baby gorilla taking a bath, but that is just to get an emotional reaction from the audience.

Michael is a research counselor (yes that is a thing).  He is a recovering comic book collector with a superhero complex. While he does not know if he has a super power (YET), he does know his arch-nemeses are chandeliers.

From Here to Utopia

by Nate Noonen

From Yogaville, VA to Galt’s Gulch, Chile, groups of overly optimistic people decide that they’ve figured what a perfect society looks like and made it themselves.  Join us for a a dissection of what can make a utopian ideal become a reality, and the many ways things can so spectacularly wrong.

Nate Noonen is a Christian, a husband to Kimmy and a father to Charlotte.  He has been arguing Calvinistic vs Wesleyan theology with his dad since he was a child and loves a good debate, preferably over as many beers as it takes for him to tell you how much he loves you. He has a few nuanced loves: the oxford comma, hip-hop, and cooking.

Taxonomic Tanglz: How to Spend a Nice, Quiet Evening with a Tomato

by Matthew Knisley

Matthew’s talk, which is about this, that, and the other, is a kind of presentation. Sometimes a tomato is a fruit… or is it a vegetable? Depends on whether you’re a bureaucrat or a Supreme Court Justice, a botanist or a cook. Pay attention; there will be a quiz.

Having been named the Illinois State Champion in Vegetable Display at the age of 13, it’s no coincidence that Matthew will be talking to us about incredible edibles.


Nerd Nite: Evidence-Based Entertainment


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.

NerdNite returns: August 6 at the Bottom Lounge!

Cheating/Not Cheating, Helping/Not Helping, and Landing on the Moon

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Doors 7pm, talks start 8pm

Bottom Lounge (upstairs)
1375 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

Dear nerds, we miss you. We miss your smart-ass wise cracks and your endearing way with alcohol. So we’re laying a nerd-trap for you, then telling you about it, because that’s what villains do. Please attend!

We have a great lineup for this Wednesday, and we want you to see it! We have a particle physicist sharing how to cheat at bike racing, a film maker expounding on morally iffy tourism fads, and a food scientist enthusing about the Apollo moon landing.


Voluntourism – You’ve Probably Done it, and it’s Maybe Bad” – Jack Newell

You know that friend you have that did Peace Corps, or visited an orphanage in rural India, or tutored some disenfranchised kids in a low income area? Of course you know, because they posted a photo of themselves doing it on Facebook.

Voluntourism seems like a new phenomenon with the social media tools of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter but it actually has roots stretching back to the Victorian era and for those who are actually hoping to enact some type of effective change for the almost 3 billion people who live below the poverty line it is not helping.

In fact, that friend who posted a photo of themselves helping others is doing more to harm the war on poverty than help it.

See also, this Onion article to make you laugh after reading those two depressing paragraphs.

Jack Newell is a filmmaker and teacher who is currently in production on his first feature length documentary, How to Build a School in Haiti about the challenges surrounding International Economic Development.


How to Fail at Cheating at Bicycle Racing” – Michael Kirby

No details. That would be cheating.

Dr. Kirby is Some Kind of Scientist


The Apollo Moon Missions — How NASA and Their 36,000 Employees and 376,000 Contractors Got Humans to the Moon and Back.” – Darryl Suskin

45 years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Yet nobody remembers Michael Collins, who had to stay in lunar orbit, or the 300,000+ NASA employees and contractors that helped make it happen. I’m going to cut out the hours worth of details and explain how it was done, in 20 minutes or so. If I have time, I may even show you a big explosion because my wife says that all good presentations have explosions.

Darryl Suskin is a food scientist who gets obsessed with different science topics unrelated to his job. Right now he is going through his moon phase and probably has no business giving this talk. He will probably transition towards a nuclear phase after his presentation. His chili is better than yours and he can beat you at Tetris.



Winter is Resurgent, and so is Nerd Nite

Wednesday, May 28
7:30pm until 10:30pm localtime

Bottom Lounge (Upstairs)
1375 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607


We’ve been staying extra hours at the lab, but now it’s time to get back on the Nerd-Horse!

We’ve got totally rad* talks from three of our own, and we’re stoked to be putting them onstage at the large, excellent UPSTAIRS space at Bottom Lounge. In additions to sweet, sweet knowledge, you can get great beers and food at this joint!

Here’s the lineup:


The Urban Jungle

by Seth Harper

Have you ever looked at a weed growing out of a sidewalk crack and thought to yourself, gee, I wonder what this weed can teach me about life? No, of course not. Nobody thinks dumb stuff like that. But smart folk like you may have at least wondered what that weed is called, where it’s from, and why it’s so ding-dang good at growing out of sidewalks. Or maybe just you want to know how to kill it. That’s okay, I’m not here to judge. I’m just here to dispense a healthy dose of sweet, sweet botanical knowledge about the flora of the urban cosmopolis.

Seth Harper is a Horticulturist at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. He also writes books, smokes cigars, and is an all around swell guy, allegedly.

Goldilocks and the Extrasolar Planets

by Bo Jayatilaka

Sometimes a planet’s orbit is just right. Find out what the goldilocks zone (or, more boringly, the circumstellar habitable zone) is and why it’s the key to all life as we know it (hint: it’s not just the porridge). While we’re at it, we explore whether the entire universe was once a habitable zone. And, as an added bonus: a tally of the known (habitable?) planets in our galactic neighborhood!

Bo Jayatilaka is not the kind of doctor who can fix broken bones. He’s the other kind. The science kind.

Leeches, maggots, and ants – Oh my!

by Monica Metzler

Sometimes the wide gap between torture and therapeutic medicine is a narrow crack, or missing altogether. We’ll gawk at the gory horrors of ancient medical practice, and talk about why some are making a comeback today. Monica, founder of Illinois Science Council, is a huge proponent of science here in Chicago, and supremely grateful to be be alive in the Post-Anesthesia Age. You should be, too.

Nerd Nite: Evidence-Based Entertainment

* Slang gets/will-had-gotten a little dated, from all the work on my time projection chamber. Sorriness.

Even Gianter Nerd Nite, with Special Guest Emily Graslie

Tuesday, February 11
7:00pm until 10:00pm in the CST
American Junkie

15 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654

Nerds of Chicago, we miss you!

Maybe it’s all the instabilities of the jet stream, but this pre-climate-change, traditional Holocene winter makes us all nostalgic and excited.

We also have friends in from out of town, attendees of IPSEC 2014, the International Public Science Events Conference.

It’s high time we hold the Nerd Nite Dry T-Shirt Contest, too! Come in your dorktastic best; the nerdiest T-shirt wins!

And finally, most excellently, we’re stoked to announce that Emily Graslie, host and writer of The Brain Scoop, as our featured Special Guest.

All of this nerdery means we’re gonna need an Even Gianter Nerd Nite this month. (Hence the change of location to American Junkie.) To keep things manageable, we’re using EventBrite to sell tickets, which is a total first for us. (Nominal ticket fee, payable at the door if we haven’t sold out.)

But what will the substance of the night be? Read on, dear horn-rimmed ones:

Christ on a Cracker!

by Laura Lanford

(Pareidolia, Apophenia and Reality)

The human brain has a remarkable ability to attribute consequence to non-meaningful data patterns. While Nerd Niters are generally a skeptical bunch and not prone to over-attribution bias, understanding pareidolia — the brain phenomenon that finds these patterns — is valuable information for understanding our survival as a species and, quite possibly, our individual quality of life.

Laura Lanford is a preparedness hobbyist highly skilled in making Type I errors. Ask her about the Post-Apocalyptic World after her second drink!

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language

by Kathryn Jepsen

In the south of Israel, in the small village of Al-Sayyid, it doesn’t matter if you can hear; you’d better know how to sign. That’s because Al-Sayyid has the highest concentration of hereditary deafness of any community in the world. The sign language there is homemade, from scratch, with a different grammatical structure from the spoken language, Arabic. As far as languages go, ABSL is just a baby—about 80 years old. But its story has helped illuminate how languages form and change over time.

Nerd Nite presenter Katie Jepsen is a lover of linguistics. She knows at least the basic curse words in a variety of tongues.

…And finally, our Special Guest Lecturer from the Field Museum:

What Lies Beneath: The Secrets of the Field Museum

by Emily Graslie

In the short time Emily has been at the Field Museum, she’s found secret doors, fossils hidden in the floor, and curious figures in dioramas. Emily will take you on a virtual Easter Egg hunt through the museum to showcase the special objects without tags or plaques, hiding in plain sight within exhibits and beneath your feet.

Emily Graslie is Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum, host/writer of The Brain Scoop (an educational YouTube series that explores the behind-the-scenes world of natural history museums), and has the most awesome beetle earrings you have ever seen.

Can’t wait to see you there!

I can hear you, Nerd Nite! – a Nerd Nite of the senses

Monday, October 14, 2013
8:00pm until 11:00pm in CST
Cole’s Bar

Giant-Ear Girl has one giant ear.

We’re like, nearly all ears. (90% +- 10%).

2338 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647

All Audio, All Night!

Join us at Cole’s on Milwaukee for an evening of audio nerdery!

Owl Mixed Up

by Alana Kirby

You know how disoriented you feel when you put on your fellow nerds’ glasses for fun? Ever wonder if barn owls feel the same way? Barn owls have astonishing hearing, which allows them to hunt rodents in pitch blackness. We’ll talk about what makes the ears of these magnificent birds special and if they’re enough to overcome wearing the thickest of glasses.

Alana Kirby is among the world’s leading mad scientists in the highly popular field of cyborg guinea pigs. She is among them, but not wholly of them.

Your Feedback is NOT Desired, Please

by Nick Gibson

The Beatles introduced it to the world… Hendrix made it into art… And it’s exactly what you don’t want in your next Nerd Nite presentation. Acoustic feedback is a musician’s tool, but a public speaker’s deadliest enemy. And if you know a few key facts about how a sound system works, whether you’re an astrophysicist, cultural anthropologist or medieval art historian, you’ll benefit from knowing the Proper Use of Audio Technology. I’ll use plenty of illustrations, demonstrations, and amplification to show the basic elements of a sound system and the interaction that causes acoustic feedback, with an emphasis on the most essential tool in your AwesomeTalk (TM) or other public address… The Microphone. And you’ll see how YOU can help stamp out feedback in your own public address.

Nick Gibson is an audio technician and sound designer. As a professional stagehand, he has been dealing with folks speaking or playing music into microphones for 20 years.

Nerd Nite with Zooniverse: Doing It Yourself, with Pro Results

Monday, July 8, 2013
8:00pm until 11:00pm in CST
Cole’s Bar
Duct Tape Neck Tie
2338 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647

Dearest nerds,

It has been too long! Join us again at Cole’s Bar as Nerd Nite teams up with Zooniverse to bring you an evening in the style of the City That Works. There’s doing it yourself, and then there’s doing it yourself the way the professionals do!

The Big Winds of the Windy City

by Mike Renkosiak

Quasi-Linear Convective Systems — Line Echo Wave Patterns — Meso-scale Convective Vortex– or just plain old Derechos. They all knock out your power and take limbs off your tree. Why not enjoy the atmospheric science and be the weather geek of your social circle? Weather gadgets, apps and arm chair forecasting that can keep you ahead of even Tom Skilling.

Film Editing – The Invisible Art

by Jack C. Newell

Film is a tug-of-war between the rules that make it intelligible and the creativity that makes it worthwhile. Part philosophical and part technological, this talk will explore the thought process that goes into good film editing and why it is considered the invisible art. Alternate, more in-your-face title for this talk is, “how to edit film without sucking”. Jack makes independent films for the masses and
lives in Chicago.

And introducing…

Zooniverse + Space Warps

starring Amit Kapadia

Zooniverse is a citizen science platform used to crowdsource scientific tasks to the general public. It has a community of more than 800,000 volunteers that have helped classify hundreds of thousands of galaxies, comb through tens of thousands of archived weather documents, and even discover a planet! The most recent Zooniverse project, Space Warps, hopes to discover rare astronomical objects known as gravitational lenses. New discoveries could help astronomers understands cosmological mysterious such as dark matter.

Be there AND be square.

Nerd Nite 0xE: The Survival of the following: Worms in Compost, Scurvy-Prone Explorers, and Appalachian Hikers

Monday, February 25, 2013
8:00pm until 11:00pm in CST


Beer and worms!

Join us for drinks and celebration of the final week of Chicago’s favorite month with talks from three excellent, enthusnerdtastic presenters:

‘Worms and Compost’ by Amber Gribben of Chicago’s own Urban Worm Girl

One phylum’s trash is another phylum’s essential nutrient mix, and sometimes it goes both ways. Earthworms (which themselves go both ways) and humans have such a happy arrangement. Amber will guide us through the highlights of that subterranean, soil-producing world. She’s not only a local composting expert; she’s also a client!

‘Scourge of the Seas!’ by Laura Lanford

Laura’s a veteran nn presenter and experimental sparger who will regale us with the surprisingly variable history of scurvy (with a close look at specific Antarctic voyages). Scurvy is the answer to the riddle: “What do pirates, Antarctic adventurers, and guinea pigs have in common?”

Invariably fatal if untreated (yet trivially simple to cure), scurvy has plagued mankind since long before it was first described by Hippocrates. It’s the reason the British Navy took over Europe and the subject of the first known scientific clinical trial. The actual cure was found – and lost – multiple times over the last 500 years while the disease continued to ravage sailors on the seven seas as well as adventurers to both poles. The theories of its cause and the recommendations for cures ranged from laughable to downright disgusting.

Scurvy: so much more interesting* than you’d think! For those joining us at Cole’s on Monday night, Laura recommends ordering a Sidecar, a Tom Collins or (her personal favourite) an Aviation.

‘How to Survive the Appalachian Trail’ by Amanda Jepsen

Neophyte nn presenter and part-time (insert positive descriptor here) will detail the differential insanity of long-distance hiking equipment philosophies.

Your 9-5 routine got you feeling a little cooped up? Feel like abandoning society and walking for six months in the mountains? Do you want to smell like a rotting goat? Then, friends, it’s time to load up your pack, lace up your boots and head down to Georgia for 2,172 miles of good, smelly, tiring fun. But, you say, what should I take on this epic adventure? Have no fear NN friends, Amanda will do her best to give you some un-sober advice so that you don’t end up with raging shin splints, a Giardia infection or get eaten by bears.

Amanda recommends sipping from a Nalgene flask filled with cheap whiskey.

Be there and be square.

Monday, Feb. 25, 8pm – 11pm
Cole’s Bar
2338 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647