Posts Tagged ‘neuroscience’

nerd nite 24: lost in translation(al neuroscience)

Well, we’re on for the twenty-fourth edition of Nerd Nite Wellington, and the awesome continueth 🙂

As always, we have a superb lineup of speakers who’ve stepped forward to share their Nerd, and it’ll all be taking place at:

  • Hotel Bristol (home of Nerd Nite Wellington)
  • 6pm (speakers starting at 6:30pm, but you’ll want to get there early to get good seats!)
  • Monday 22nd September, 2014

[Use our useful calendar to make sure you never forget again]

And yes, Nerd Nite Wellington IS STILL FREE! Because we love y’all. And there are 2 for 1 specials on some mains, too, so bring an eating buddy or many 🙂

Without further ado, then, the lineup (not necessarily in this order):



Nerd Nite Wellington #24 poster

Poster! Click to enlarge and print out for your school/workplace/laboratory/lair.

Thinking matter
Andrew Jackson

We all have 100 billions neurons in our brains.  Scientists have been slowly unravelling what they do.  What can science tell us about – why we forget what we were looking for, why we always want more and how to design the perfect date?  I will explore these questions and other issues such as – are there drugs which will enhance the performance of my brain and if so what are they?

Andrew is currently the Deputy Chief Executive in the Ministry of transport.  Originally from England, he moved to Wellington in 2007 and has fallen in love with kayaking and scuba diving in and around Wellington.  He dreams of finally making the trip to the Islands to enjoy those sports in sunnier climes.   He studied science and the philosophy of religion at University, then did a post graduate diploma in economics and law while working in the civil service in the UK.  He had a dream job before coming here, when he worked with the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser.  His role was to explore big issues like the future of drugs, the challenges of obesity and cyber trust, by tapping in to the leading science experts on these issues.  This has given him a thirst for knowledge and solving stuff and an appreciation that there is always someone who knows heaps more than he.

F*** the duck till exploded” –  Linguistic and cultural pitfalls of translation
Marco Sonzogni (@SonzogniMarco) 

Whether it’s a menu or a film, a poem or a manual, translation is never – as many still think – a mere exchange of words. Every form of translation involves a very complex process of cross-cultural negotiation which requires ethical as well as linguistic and aesthetic skills.

In this short presentation, Macro will highlight the challenges and the rewards of translating.

Marco Sonzogni is a widely published academic and an award-winning poet, literary translator and editor. He firmly believes everything can be translated – how is another story altogether.

If Tanizaki only knew: the festish and fashion of women’s shoes in modern day Tokyo
Emerald King, @emeraldlking

In 1999 young Japanese girls’ habit of wearing 20cm+ platform shoes made headlines as high-heel and shoe related injuries climbed to the point where the Japan Consumer Information Center (now the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan) issued warnings alerting the public of the dangers of platform shoes. Even now the site of young Japanese women falling from their sky-high heels is a common, if disturbing, sight on the streets and underground malls of Tokyo.

These fashions (one part strip dancer, two parts Hello Kitty cute) have spread onto the global stage following in the wake of popular anime and games. Gwen Stefani and her ‘Harajuku Girls’ helped to popularise the look with lyrics that proclaimed a love of all things Japanese street fashion. While the reptilian monster shoes featured in the late Alexander McQueen’s 2010 spring/summer collectionPlato’s Atlantis were described by one commentator as being ‘reminiscent of Japanese foot binding.’ Orientalist inconsistencies aside, the statement illustrates how pervasive the image of exotic/errotic Japan remains.

The question that needs to be answered though is what do the Japanese think of these shoes? Or more to the point, what would Tanizaki Jun’ichirou think?

Emerald is a lecturer in Japanese at VUW. Her Facebook page insists that she’s an ‘Academic – Cosplayer – Kimono Enthusiast’but really she just enjoys slipping literary references into talks about fashion and fetishism.

nerd nite 14: braaaaaainz

UPDATE: The prezis from the talks are available here.

As some of you may know, this Saturday (Jan 12th) is the day on which Hal turns 21! We tried to organise a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey to commemorate this auspicious date, but the rights are incredibly locked down. Sigh.  No matter, though!  You can all still watch it at home with your friends and loved ones, and we encourage that most strongly 🙂

Our first nerd nite of the year looks like it’s going to be a corker, and has been set for January 21st, 6pm, at Hotel Bristol.

Yes, it’s a public holiday, but the Hotel Bristol is open (and NOT charging a surcharge, yay!).

Without further ado, our speakers:


Electrifying Brains
Gina Grimshaw

Blurb – Humans have been zapping their brains for centuries. Gina Grimshaw will show us how, and explain why we would ever want to do such a thing.

Gina is a cognitive neuroscientist in the School of Psychology at Victoria University. She thinks brains are cool.

UPDATE: to be a test monkey for Gina, contact her.


Look Blue Go Purple
David Bimler

David Bimler is a physicist who went over to the dark side and became a perceptual psychologist. He will not use his talk about Pigments of the imagination as a way of recruiting experimental subjects from the audience.

The present story really goes back 150 million years, when colour vision in mammals turned weird. Things took another strange turn 30 or 40 million years ago: tropical plants started selectively breeding our primate ancestors to serve
as their seed-dispersal devices, and the primates used a clever biological hack to re-invent three-colour vision. Much later, colour perception was hijacked when we discovered language.

However, I will be concentrating on more recent aspects of colour research.
These include:
— the Russian Blues
— the world’s largest survey of colour language, conducted by missionaries in the 1970s
— the field-work used by Estonian linguists as an excuse to stay in Florence.

There will be colour swatches and words like ‘taupe’.

UPDATE: to be a test monkey for David, contact him.


As always, do get in touch with with me if you or someone you know would like to give a talk 🙂
See you all there!


nerdnite wellington 3: in which we explore tragedies, games, brains, and stars!

UPDATE: Prezis from the talks are available here.

29 November at Betty’s in Wellington

We’re back for another evening of geekery!

Nerdnite Wellington #3 – In which we explore tragedies, games, brains, and stars!

When: Monday 29 November, from 6pm ’til we’re thrown out

Where: Betty’s at 32 Blair Street, Wellington

Sign up: Facebook page or @ us on Twitter if you can make it. Or you can email us.

In a very particular order, then, may we introduce our speakers:

Finity: Confronting Limits

Colin Jackson

There’s an economic concept called “The Tragedy of the Commons”. The notion is that people will rationally use the a free common good or service rather than their own resources. It’s usually framed in terms of grazing in English villages, but a really extreme example is what happened on Easter Island. (I have pictures) This leads to some economic theory on the best way to ration resources, that essentially says privatising public spaces in the right thing to do. I will then attempt to show that this analysis misses several points about how people behave in the real world, and in particular that so-called intellectual property is the misguided bastard offspring of voodoo economics. Not that I’m taking a position, you understand 🙂 I will end with the reflection that it’s a shame that governments can cooperate to restrict access to resources that are genuinely free to copy, but can;t agree how to ration limited physical resources like atmospheric carbon or tuna.

Colin’s been around internet stuff in Wellington for some time. And he’s been on radio.

Fever Pong: A (cautionary?) tale of videogame addiction (NOTE: THIS TALK WAS CANCELLED)

Alan Bell

Alan reminisces on the impact gaming has had on him and the people around him as the two grew up together.

Alan Bell is a passionate Videogame nerd. He’s been playing them since they existed and he clutters up his tiny house with thousands of the things, as if in some sort of test of both his wife’s patience and how high you can stack the different types before they fall over. In addition to playing them, he writes about them for a living and even spend nearly 7 years making them – some of which even won awards.

Unraveling the brain one step at a time

Fabiana Kubke

Why do some scientific ideas take off and some don’t? Many times it just has to do with what technology is available at the time to explore them. While rummaging through old issues of the scientific literature it is not hard to find many questions that just sit there waiting for the right technology to show up.

In neuroscience, developments in optics and electronics were crucial to advance our understanding of how the brain works. And as new technologies emerge, they continue to challenge the way we think about the brain. I will explore how microscopes, electrodes, chips and brain machine interfaces make us change our understanding of the brain.

Fabiana Kubke is a neuroscientist at the University of Auckland where she studies brain evolution. She blogs in at Building Blogs of Science, and exists as Kubke pretty much everywhere else around the web.

The Art of Astronomy in Aotearoa

Paul Moss

Paul will discuss the transition of sharing historical astronomical spaces to creating new astronomical spaces to share. The talk will cover traditional astronomy events and the explosion of new astro style eventing brought about with social networks, music and video, art, culture and environmentalism. Moving from the cave, stone circles, the observatory with telescope, planetariums, astro societies, to the art gallery, the street, the south coast, music and cultural festivals, the world, to the Forest, and finally to Stonehenge Aotearoa.

Paul Moss is a ‘New Media’ artist, specialising in astro-photography and astro-video, for entertainment and illustrative purposes, art gallery installations, and has been published in many newspaper and magazine articles, CD covers, posters, calendar’s/almanac’s, including the NZ award winning book, ‘Astronomy Aotearoa’. Paul organises events with telescopes on the street and live music performances, runs camera crews for video screens at major music and cultural festivals, and performs on occasion as vj, dj and dubmaster moza. Paul was awarded a global gold medal for ‘Most Outstanding Individual’ for record breaking astronomy events IYA2009.


The event’s free, and we urge you to bring your friends, enemies, pets and favourite extraterrestrials. Come drink with us!

Or, in the words of the unofficial nerdnite tagline, “It’s like the Discovery Channel…with beer!”

Have questions? Get in touch with us on Twitter or fill out the Contact form and our nerd monkeys will pound on a keyboard and get back to you.