#27 Nerd Nite – 3 October 2017

Come hang out whilst we celebrate our 4th birthday!

Watch this space for detailed speaker bios and talk summaries as we get closer towards our next event on Tuesday, 3 October.

We will be hosted by our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium who will be serving up cold beers in their awesome venue. Bring your own dinner/snacks!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

#26 Nerd Nite – 1 August 2017

In August, Nerd Nite speakers will be discussing how food intake impact our bodies , can our food choices impact the climate, and bans on blood donation from gay/bisexual men.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

*Presentation 1
Putting the money where the mouth is: How to tackle climate crisis through the food we eat
by Prof Trichur Vidyasagar
Description:  Faced with an existential crisis from global warming, the world seems largely blind to the single most effective solution to avert the catastrophe.  While fossil fuel use has quite rightly been a burning issue and we are making belated and largely inadequate attempts to reduce its use, most people have been blissfully unaware of or delusorily deny the massive impact that their daily food habits have on the environment – on greenhouse gas emissions, large-scale loss of habitat with consequent loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, water shortage, etc. Specifically, the huge increase in our consumption of meat and dairy in the last 70 years is contributing more greenhouse gases than transport, heating and other non-agricultural uses of fossil fuels together.  Even moderate reduction in our consumption of meat and dairy has the potential to take us far beyond the targets set in Paris. It will be helped also by carbon sequestration from reforestation of large areas of land presently devoted to livestock.
Bio: Prof Trichur Vidyasagar (called Sagar) qualified as a medical doctor from the University of Madras and then did a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Manchester.  He then worked at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen (Germany) and the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra before moving to the University of Melbourne in 2002. His main research has been on the neural mechanisms underpinning perception and attention, mostly undertaken by recording the activity of single neurones in many mammalian species. He has a further interest in applying these to understanding how we normally read and what is neurally different in dyslexics. Unafraid of heterodoxy, he is writing a book called “Why I am a vegetarian and do animal experiments”, to explain how both positions are imperative and also ethically consistent with each other.  Almost everyone has polarised opinions on these two issues, leaving Sagar with very few like-minded friends.

*Presentation 2
(Functional) food for thought: nutrition and nutraceuticals for mood and cognition
by Prof Andrew Scholey
Description: “You are what you eat” as the saying goes. Over the past two decades there has been increasing interest into the influence of diet and nutrition on mental functions in both clinical and healthy populations. This has led to studies revealing that certain components of diet are associated with better mood and cognitive functions. These include certain vitamins and other specific nutrients found in fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate, wine, tea and certain herbs and spices. These components can be enriched in the form of functional foods or made into “nutraceuticals” for improving mood and brain function. This talk will illustrate how changes in cognitive performance are measured. It will present evidence, including from brain imaging studies, demonstrating that certain nutritional interventions can improve mood and mental function.
BioProfessor Andrew Scholey is director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University, Melbourne Australia. He has led research into the neurocognitive effects of metabolic substrates, recreational drugs, natural products, supplements and food components. His current research focuses on neuroimaging and biomarker techniques to better understand the mechanisms of cognitive enhancement. Andrew works closely with industry which allows rapid translation of research into evidence-based end-user health benefits.

*Presentation 3
Gay blood is good blood? How respectability politics, privilege and HIV stigma rekindled the gay blood ban as an object of gay activism
by Tyler Gleason
Description: The ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in Australia has long been a contested area of health policy. Initially seen as an unjustified attack on the gay community at a time of great uncertainty about the origins of AIDS and the public scandal of the ‘Queensland babies’ case, the ban eventually became broadly accepted as a necessary part of the national response to HIV/AIDS. In recent years, there have been increasing calls for the ban to be lifted, supported by arguments that it constitutes an unjustified form of discrimination against gay men. This talk, co-written with Paul Kidd, will examine the history of the Australian ban on blood donations from the 1980s to the present, and the ways in which the gay community has responded as the experience and understanding of HIV has evolved.
Bio: Tyler is a Research Assistant at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, where he also taught a course on China’s ongoing social, economic and political transformations. He’s a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) graduate from the University of Melbourne, where his thesis examined the use of language and online spaces by gay men in mainland China. His research interests largely focus on the greater China region and span across histories of sexuality, gender, disease and epidemics. If you want to know more, you can tweet with him at @tylergleason.

#25 Nerd Nite – 6 June 2017

In June, Nerd Nite speakers will be discussing how scientists are growing mini-brains, tea culture and how the animal kingdom is adapting to the environmental change around us. Be there and be square!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

Back to the lectures at hand:
*Presentation 1
Making mini-brains in a dish
by Dr Damian Hernandez

Description:  Once upon a time we were all just one single cell, a single cell that was formed by one oocyte and one sperm from our parents. That single cell managed to survive, growth, multiply and organised into a more complex structure to become the person that we are now. Ten years ago, a group of scientists discovered a way to reset the software and modify an adult skin cells into that single cells that has the potential to become any cell of the body such as heart, brain or blood cells. More recently, we have figured it out how to not just transform those single cells into other cell types, but to generate a whole organoid-like structure with a more complex cell organisation. We can now generate mini-guts, mini-kidneys, etc. Here you will be hearing on how we are generating mini-brains from skin cells of people to study Alzheimer’s diseases.

Bio: Damian is a stem cells researcher from the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the University of Melbourne. He graduated from the University of Mexico, his home country, and moved to Melbourne where he studied his PhD degree at St Vincent’s Institute, University of Melbourne. His research focuses in the study of stem cells and their potential to become any type of cell in the human body to study relevant diseases. He is currently generating human “mini-brains” to study Alzheimer’s diseases in a dish.

*Presentation 2
Tea – ‘The Cup of Humanity’*
by Dorothy Chan

Description:  In a city dominated by incredible coffee culture, tea often takes a back seat when we think of an energising beverage in our busy day-to-day schedules. But with speciality tea slowly and steadily increasing in popularity within the western world, heightened interests about the health benefits, varying styles and types of tea are also raising interests within its culture and its complex and often brutal history. What is tea culture? What benefits does it bring to the individual? And why is it so strongly upheld within certain cultures worldwide? In this presentation, Dorothy will be touching on tea and its properties, and discussing how tea and its governing principles have personally affected her way of life and how they have solidified her reflections on identity.
*’The Cup of Humanity’ taken from the title chapter “The Book of Tea”(1906) by Kakuzo Okakura (b.1862-d.1913)

Bio: Dorothy is a certified tea master with the Australian Tea Masters Association, and winner of the Tea Paring category of the Australian & New Zealand Tea Masters Cup 2017. Currently working via correspondence with various independent tea companies researching integrated agriculture of tea fields throughout China, Japan and Cambodia, she hopes to also work alongside small communities, farming families and individuals globally, in their youth education and economic development. Having experienced some incredibly diverse countries, many communities and individuals have enriched her life and, thankfully, her palate. Her respect and devotion to understanding flavours across the globe, preservation of tea culture, environment, and understanding of heritage and community, grows more passionately and deeply everyday. She hopes to pass on good will and happiness through the way of tea to all individuals, regardless of race, colour, religion, social standing, and sexual orientation.

*Presentation 3
Species we love and hate
by Dr John Martin

Description: Has a seagull ever stolen a chip from your hand? Have you ever thrown bread to the ducks? We all have a wildlife story. Some are love stories, like giving a koala a drink on 40 degree day; others are hate stories, like being kicked by a horse. We humans have changed our surrounding environment (building cities, clearing land for farms, etc.) and some species have adapted to exploit these environments. We’ll discuss how ibis are becoming hipsters, how cockatoos are spying on you, why flying-foxes are making a ‘concrete change’ and moving from the bush to the city, and what it means for the future.

Bio: John is a wildlife ecologist. Ultimately he thinks nature is pretty cool and the opportunity to catch and observe animals is freaking awesome. Being able to assist the conservation of wildlife is also cool. John works at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.

#24 Nerd Nite – 4 April 2017

Three awesome speakers will discuss what exercise does to your neurons, craftivism and game design.

Pick up food from Huxtaburger from across the road and eat at the venue with cold beers from Mr Wow’s EmporiumBe there and be square!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

*Presentation 1
Is exercise an aphrodisiac for neurons?
by Dr Michelle Rank
DescriptionNeurons are the basic working units of the nervous system. We are able to move, speak and think because of how neurons in the brain and spinal cord connect and communicate with each other. When things in the nervous system go wrong, like after a spinal cord injury or a stroke, our neurons lose their connections and stop communicating. This ‘silent treatment’ means that can’t move, speak and think in the same way. Exercise is often touted as the magic elixir to improve almost any health condition, but can it also help people recover from a spinal cord injury or stroke? Is exercise the aphrodisiac that can help our neurons get connected and stop giving each other the silent treatment?
BioDr Michelle Rank is a Senior Lecturer at RMIT University. She has always been interested in pushing the boundaries of neuroscience research to unlock the secrets of neuron communication. Her research explores why injury to the brain and spinal cord is so devastating, and how exercise can help repair and recover damage to neural networks caused by stroke or spinal cord injury.

*Presentation 2
by Jacquie Tinkler
Description:  Melbourne is renowned for its street art, and amongst the painted graffiti, paste ups and stencil pieces you will sometimes find pieces made from fabric and yarn. Using these mediums, street artists create artworks that include pieces that deal with difficult social issues such as domestic violence and homelessness, as well as works that directly protest the actions of government. Using craft as way of drawing attention to political issues is called ‘craftivism’ and it can involve street art methods as well as political actions and performance. This presentation will explore the work of a number of practising craftivists and their political motivations and messages.
Bio: As a craftivist, Jacquie seeks to communicate her frustration with the increasing conservatism in Australia through craftivist actions. Prior to segueing into academia, Jacquie taught art and craft in schools, and continues to weave art through everything she does, including her current academic work. Jacquie maintains that craft can be introduced into a number of unexpected places in order to reframe our understanding of our social and political lives. She founded and curates the Facebook pages The Crochet Collective and Craftivism and Radical Gardening, which collectively have almost 140,000 followers worldwide. In Australia Jacquie has been an active member of Knit Your Revolt – a network of crafters sticking their needles to misogynistic knit-wits and extreme conservatism.

*Presentation 3
Imagination: storytelling and games design
by Dan Fish
Description:  Since before the first clay covered hand was slapped on a cave wall, humanity has been telling stories, using imagination to escape into alternate realities. Sometimes these stories have been pure escapism, other times parables, or records of heroic deeds, or even ways to understand the things that seemed inexplicable. Imagination is one of the gifts that humanity possesses,  so what is it, and where does it come from? What is this creative font we have been blessed with? Dan Fish talks about where imagination comes from, how it has helped him in his personal world, and to do so all within the context of creative writing and games design.
Bio: Dan Fish is but a single human, clinging to the thin crust of a planet hurtling through space, and wondering how cosmic chance was kind enough to provide gravity. In his time he has done many menial and repetitive tasks for money, most of which were quite forgettable. He has also been wandering worlds of his own design since he was a child, and has been writing, designing and playing games for as long as he can remember. Many times through his life he has sat up late at night having conversations with himself. Apparently if you write them down you are not mad.

#23 Nerd Nite – 21 February 2017

We are kicking off 2017 by once again collaborating with The Research Bazaar. You will find us under a large tent outside of Wilson Hall (end of Monash Road) at the University of Melbourne. This will be a very special Nerd Nite where we will be able to congregate under the stars in outdoor tents, whilst we learn from three awesome speakers.

Kick off 7pm, no cover.

*Presentation 1
Testosterone Rex
by Dr Cordelia Fine
Description: We’re all familiar with the idea the men and women have evolved different natures, implemented by biology, that explain sex inequality. But how do the assumptions of this popular and influential story stack up against the evidence?
Bio: Cordelia Fine is Professor of History & Philosophy of Science, in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her latest book, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the myths of our gendered minds, has been described as “a witty corrective” (Nature) and is an Amazon Best Book of January 2017.

*Presentation 2
TIMTAMs: Technology, Innovation and Medicine – Traps and Minefields
by Jason Cheun
Description: How is technology transforming the delivery of modern healthcare? And what are some of the potential risks and pitfalls?
Bio: Jason is a Clinical Senior Fellow in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences based at the Austin Hospital Department of Surgery. He is a Specialist Vascular Surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Jason is Director of Vascular Surgery at Austin Health and is also the Director of the Austin Health 3D Medical Printing Laboratory, formed in collaboration with The University of Melbourne Department of Mechanical Engineering. Jason maintains a strong interest in multiculturalism, diversity, safety and quality in healthcare, surgical education, simulation and training, as well as systems innovation and medical device development.

*Presentation 3
Tears, Fears, and Cocaine: a PhD Story
by Isabel Zbukvic
Description:Isabel has just submitted her PhD thesis, investigating what makes the adolescent brain vulnerable to drug addiction and anxiety disorders. In this presentation she will share her findings, as well as her own experiences surviving and thriving during a PhD.
Bio: Isabel is about to complete her PhD at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health and the University of Melbourne. She is a passionate mental health advocate, and developed the Mental Health Representative position on the Florey student society. Isabel is also part of the ResPlat family, working as an Engagement Officer to translate research into online content.

#22 Nerd Nite – 6 December 2016

For our last event of 2016, we have speakers talking about Melbourne as a space for start-up culture, the HIV cure and the computer game genre.

Our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium will be hosting us with cold beers whilst the Burger Boys serve up juicy burgers. Be there and be square!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy

Doors 7pm/$5

Back to the lectures at hand:
*Presentation 1
Why Melbourne? business, startups, entrepreneurship
by Michelle Mannering

Description: What is it about Melbourne that makes it so awesome? There’s events running all the time, and we have culture festivals. Expos and conventions are a highlight in the city, hackathons are a growing phenomenon, and business is expanding. Big companies are setting up their HQs here, and we’re still sitting as the most livable city in the world. What have we got that makes us special?

Bio: Coming from both a Science and Arts background at the University of Melbourne, Michelle spent the bulk of last year as the Events Coordinator for Carlton Connect. Running a multitude of events around innovation, technology, science, the arts, and entrepreneurship gave her great insights into the professional culture of Melbourne. Not only has she co-founded a company, Michelle is heavily involved in the startup ecosystem from running hackathons to MCing, speaking, and facilitating a range of events. Through these functions, Michelle has grown her network incredibly in both depth and scope, making her the Ambassador for Future Assembly, NVIDIA, Microsoft, and AngelHack.

*Presentation 2
The HIV Cure
by Talia Mota

Description:  Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has greatly improved the lives of people living with HIV by reducing viral load to undetectable, thus preventing the development of AIDS. However, given toxicities associated with ART as well as continued stigma and discrimination people living with HIV face worldwide, there is an absolute need to discover a cure for HIV. The biggest barrier to HIV cure is the HIV reservoir hiding silently in various anatomical locations of the body, including the peripheral blood and gut associated lymphoid tissue. One strategy to purge there reservoirs is called “shock and kill” where we attempt to shock the virus out of hiding and kill the infected cells, with hopes to eradicate HIV from the individual. Talia’s work focuses on investigating molecular tools that shock the virus out of hiding.

Bio: Talia is an HIV Cure Researcher at the Peter Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne, nearly finished with her PhD. She has a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Davis, where she majored in molecular genetics, and a Master of Public Health from the University of Melbourne, where she majored in epidemiology and biostatistics. Her dream in life is to contribute to a cure for HIV in a meaningful way, inspired by her amazing friends living with HIV as well as her experience working with woman and children living with HIV and AIDS in Cambodia.

*Presentation 3
Roguelike-like-like: How a niche computer game genre exploded
by Xavier Ho

Description: In the early days of Unix, when computers were mere text processors, when all of the internet users fit in a phone book, a video game exploded. Rogue, in all of 80 by 24 characters, was a game shrouded of mystery and excitement. Internet, open source, and mailing lists made possible a community who will carry on the legacy decades to come. Gone were the days of ASCII in mainstream video games. Graphics cards and parallel processors came, however, the spirit of roguelike games linger on. This talk will take you through a journey spanning 40 years, back to the first ever text adventure game that would influence the game to be, Rogue. Let us step through the windows of time.

Bio: Xavier Ho is a curiosity-driven designer, researcher and software engineer. He currently works for CSIRO creating interactive data visualisations. Pursuing a PhD part-time at University of Sydney keeps him busy, and sometimes he wonders about machines and humans and that philosophical lot. Previously, Xavier worked in a Sydney startup doing computer vision work, freelanced as a videographer, and taught a handful of programming classes to university design students. His passion lies somewhere in the spectrum of chocolates, video games, and a better world.

#21 Nerd Nite – 4 October 2016

Happy birthday to us on Tuesday, 4 October as we celebrate our third birthday. We have two speakers lined up to talk about epilepsy, and using neuro waves to control motor movements. As part of our birthday bash, we will also be hosting a birthday trivia with door prizes!

Our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium will be hosting us again with cold beers and amazing cocktails while Burger Boys serve up juicy burgers.

Tuesday, 4 October
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

Back to the lectures at hand:
*Presentation 1
Sensing the world: how the brain works
by Dr Lucy Palmer

Description: The brain has many areas specialised for specific functions, which must communicate with one another to generate an internal representation of the surrounding sensory environment. How the brain achieves this is one of the most intriguing mysteries of neuroscience and is the inspiration of my research. Individual neurons within the brain receive information from different sensory systems onto branch like structures called dendrites. Dendrites contain active conductances which enables them to transform this information to either enhance or dampen the signal. Therefore, understanding dendritic activity is at the heart of unravelling how the brain computes our sensory environment. My laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health uses advanced recording techniques including patch clamp electrophysiology, two-photon microscopy and optogenetics to measure both the voltage and fluorescence response of neurons and dendrites during sensory stimulation. Understanding sensory processing within the brain at the level of a single neuron is crucial to understanding many neurophysiological diseases where the processing of external information is compromised such as autism, depression and drug addiction.

Bio: Lucy graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor in Science and a Bachelor in Arts in 2001. In 2003 she obtained a Masters in Science from the University of Minnesota and was awarded with a Ph.D from the Australian National University in 2008. She then pursued postdoctoral studies at the University of Bern, Switzerland and Humboldt University, Berlin before returning to Australia to head the Neural Network Laboratory at the Florey Institute in 2013. Her research investigates the dendritic activity and underlying neural networks contributing to sensory perception and behaviour in the mammalian brain.

*Presentation 2
Brain-computer interfacing – reading brainwaves for control of prosthetics
by Ewan Nurse

Description: We use our motor system constantly to control our body to complete everyday tasks. Every movement we make in order to talk, walk or eat involves the synchronised coordination of multiple brain regions and dozens of muscles. So what do we do when this system malfunctions? Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) provide a direct method of communication between the brain and devices like robotic limbs and computers. In this talk, Ewan will discuss the history of the BCI, the current state of the art, and the future hopes for this technology.

Bio: Ewan is a PhD student in the Neuro Engineering lab at the University of Melbourne, and an intern with the Brain-Inspired Computing team at IBM Research Australia. His research focuses on signal processing and machine learning with brain activity data, and novel ways to record from the brain. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Defence Science Technology Group and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Animal Biotechnology. Ewan’s research has appeared on ABC’s Catalyst, the Discovery Channel and in Wired magazine.

*Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, Dr Tully O’Neill who was previously listed as a speaker, is no longer able to talk at this event. We hope to bring Tully back at a future event.

#20 Nerd Nite – 2 August 2016

Three awesome speakers who will discuss visualisation neuroscience, the web and its support of scientific research, as well as how stress impacts sperm.

Our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium will be hosting us again with cold beers and delicious food from the Burger Boys.  Be there and be square!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

*Presentation 1
Performing science from a web browser
by Dr Robert Kerr
Description: Open-science is about making scientific research accessible to everyone, from other scientists to the general public, but too often that means just dumping data sets and publishing the researchers’ interpretations. To truly communicate findings and ignite collaboration, we need to expose the tools that the scientists used to analyse the data, simulate the mathematical models, and visualise the results. As a neuroscientist and a web developer, this is something Robert has been working towards. In his talk, he will show how the old-school, computationally-heavy software used in science can be set free using the centralised power of cloud resources and the ubiquity of the browser. He will present real-time, publicly-broadcast simulations of the electrical activity in brain cells, which will be visualised in 3D using JavaScript.

Bio: Dr Robert Kerr is a Research Staff Member at IBM Research Australia where he works on a variety of neuroscience projects, many with research collaborators at the University of Melbourne, and on developing web and cloud based tools for doing scientific research. He has been at IBM since February 2014 when he completed a PhD in computational neuroscience in the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

*Presentation 2
Visual Neuroscience — ‘seeing’ what the brain is up to
by Errol Lloyd
Description:  Vision is our greatest skill.  Whilst the eye is a biological marvel, the brain’s task of using the rich information in the light of the world is daunting.  In unravelling what it is to look and see, and how the brain makes sense of the flux of light, we start to discover the tricks that our unconscious mind uses to give us an image of reality, and just how little we know about what is to perceive, let alone to think.

Bio: Errol Lloyd is an over educated professional student.  Born in Frankston, and finally arriving in Melbourne, he honestly sometimes loses count of the amount of degrees that he has started.  This saddens him.  A few years ago, though, a simple logical point was made by a lecturer about what a few neurones hanging out and chatting could get up to.  He thought that there was something simultaneously beautiful and profound in this, even though technically, the lecturer was talking about the colon … and cholera . A linking of mechanism and humanity?  After a masters in visual neuroscience, he now pursues a PhD on the same topic hoping to see detail in the big picture … or something.

*Presentation 3
Epigenetics: Can we inherit our parents stress?
by Dr Annabel Short
Description:  Have you ever wondered whether your personality is due to your DNA, or due to the sum of your life experiences? Our DNA has the ability to carry messages from our environment and can shape our lives in surprising ways. It is possible that these environmental messages may also be passed on to our children. Could our personality be a combination of not only our parents DNA, but also their life experiences?

Bio: Dr. Annabel Short is a postdoctoral researcher at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. She is investigating the effects of lifestyle on DNA and how this affects our behaviour and the behaviour of our children. She has a particular focus on anxiety and depression disorders and hopes that her research may lead to a better understanding of what causes mental health issues, with an aim to improve treatment outcomes.

#19 Nerd Nite – 7 June 2016

In June, we have 3 awesome speakers lined up for you to talk about engagement in political debates, Artificial General Intelligence and if junk food impacts your brain. Our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium will be hosting us again with cold beers and delicious food from the Burger Boys.  Be there and be square!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

*Presentation 1
Dialogue with the disgusting
by A/Prof Sarah Maddison

Description: In public life the protection of ‘safe spaces’ is seen as a righteous aim—some views are considered too dangerous, offensive, even disgusting to be a part of our public discourse. So, for example, we have laws against hate speech, progressive organisations have campaigned for the refusal of entry visas, and activists sometimes engage in ‘no platforming’ against those whose views are deemed unfit for democratic debate. Counter this belief in the importance of safety, however, agonism suggests a way of thinking about democracy that understands conflict over competing views to be an essential political dynamic. Although the agonistic view is sometimes in tension with other democratic values, in this talk Sarah will consider the democratic risk posed by protective strategies, and suggest options for instead engaging offensive views in our political debates.

BioSarah Maddison is Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her areas of research expertise include reconciliation and conflict transformation, democracy, Indigenous political culture, and social movements. In 2015 Sarah published Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation  (Routledge) based on research in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Australia, and Guatemala. Her other recent books include Black Politics (2009), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (co-edited with Morgan Brigg, 2011), and The Women’s Movement in Protest, Institutions and the Internet, (co-edited with Marian Sawer 2014).

*Presentation 2
AI? Great idea! When do we start?
by Dr Colin Hales

Description:  Why has the robotic AGI technical solution not been found already? Figuring out this blindness has been harder and more fraught than the technical solution itself, which is fairly obvious once you see it. It turns out the reason we do not all have robot butlers is that we have been, for about 70 years, unknowingly inside a unique cultural anomaly in science that has systematically blinded us to the solution. The fix is more than just a technical correction. It’s part of a very rare kind of revolution in science. Colin thinks the privilege of being inside such a historic moment is very very cool.

Bio: Dr Colin Hales graduated from Monash University as an electrical engineer in 1979. He had an entire career in industry, establishing a sizable industrial automation company where he parted ways with in 2000. Colin had an opportunity to play with a lifelong fascination with AI and robots that started when little boy Colin saw the movies and TV of the 1960s. Factory automation is just big dumb robots and their real-time control systems. Colin wanted to sort out why they were so dumb, and now in a complex world, damagingly dumb. AI is currently in an explosion of successes. Despite this, and since its inception, AI and robotics has failed, and continues to fail, to create Artificial General Intelligence. AGI, not merely AI. Why? The reverse-engineering of the brain is a solution to this dilemma. Part of that involved a PhD in brain electromagnetism at Melbourne Uni. Dr Hales is now some kind of late-onset neuroscientist. He wrote a book. He’s had a smattering of other publications. Yet all Colin ever wanted to do is to solve the problem of robotic AGI. That is what started in 2001 and that is what continues today. Try as he did, academic funding of a nearly 60-year- old so-called early career post-doc with his own ideas was never going to work. So Colin now works on an alternate source of industry funding. He’s built a cognitive robotics lab for prototyping. A new kind of robot is the goal of a 5 year plan.

*Presentation 3
The Hungry (Hungry) Hippocampus
by Dr Amy Reichelt

Description:  We all know junk food is bad for us, but we continue to eat it. We are surrounded by fast food restaurants, supermarkets and cafes making it easy to access a plethora of delicious sugary, fatty treats. Food is associated with pleasure, and these processed foods are refined to hit you right in your sweet spot – your brain. Junk foods are not only tasty but can change our brains; altering how we behave and learn about the environment we live in. The memory centre of the brain – the hippocampus – is particularly vulnerable to the effects of junk foods and sugary soft drinks and becomes dysfunctional. In this talk Amy will tell you about some of the ways your banana bread / coca cola / muffin habit is impacting on your brain, and what you can do to minimise the damage.

Bio: Dr Amy Reichelt is an Australian Research Council Research Fellow and lecturer in Psychology at RMIT University. She relocated from UNSW, Sydney in March 2016, and will agree enthusiastically that Melbourne is far better than Sydney. She completed her PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience in 2011 at Cardiff University, a location that earned the title of Britain’s Wettest City. Her research seeks to explore how the brain controls our behaviour and understanding the mechanisms by which our experiences in the environment can shape our responses to events. A major focus of her research is how our modern day diets full of soft drinks and junk foods can alter our brains besides just making us overweight. Our brains not only make us want to eat more of these foods because they are damn tasty, but the high sugar and fat contents are damaging brain regions critical for forming memories and controlling behaviour. Aside from making rats obese and looking good in a lab coat, Amy enjoys “normal” things like drinking whiskey, travelling to other countries, eating brunch, going to CrossFit, attempting to touch wild animals and befriending people’s dogs.


#18 Nerd Nite – 5 April 2016

For our first event at Mr Wow’s Emporium in 2016, we bring you three awesome speakers who will discuss consciousness, the use of data in journalism and data visualisation.

Our friends at Mr Wow’s Emporium will be hosting us again with cold beers and delicious food from the Burger Boys.  Be there and be square!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016
at Mr Wow’s Emporium
97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Doors 7pm/$5

*Presentation 1
From Neural Basis of Consciousness to Artificial Consciousness
by Dr Naotsugu Tsuchiya

Description:  Neuroscientific studies of our subjective experience or consciousness, is the core of the age-old mind-body problem. Over the last 25 years, there was a tremendous advance in this field in terms of empirical research. To make sense of the deluge of the recent experimental results, several promising theoretical frameworks have been proposed.  In this talk Dr Tsuchiya will talk about one of the most promising theories, called Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness. IIT, if it is true, may be able to give a deep insight into the connection between the physical and the mental world, promising a potential receipt to create artificial consciousness, beyond artificial intelligence.

Bio: Dr Tsuchiya was awarded a PhD at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2006 and underwent postdoctoral training at Caltech until 2010. Receiving a PRESTO grant from Japan Science and Technology (JST) agency, Dr Tsuchiya returned to Japan in 2010. In Jan 2012, he joined the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University as an Associate Professor. Since 2013, he is an ARC Future Fellow. His main research interest is to uncover the neuronal basis of consciousness. Specifically, he focuses on 1) the scope and limit of non-conscious processing, 2) the relationship between attention and consciousness, and 3) the neuronal correlates of consciousness by analysing the multi-channel neuronal recording obtained in monkeys and humans and 4) testing a theory of consciousness, in particular, integrated information theory of consciousness.

*Presentation 2
News by Numbers
by Kim Doyle

Description:  What is data journalism? It’s the latest buzzword to shake up traditional journalism, but data actually has a long history in print media. Discover what makes our digital era different to what came before and the role data can play in journalism ethics and democratic transparency. You’ll be introduced to the world of crowd-sourced journalism, sensor and algorithmic journalisms and the potentials and pitfalls of doing journalism with data.

Bio: Kim Doyle is a PhD student in Media and Communications, she specialises in social media, textual analysis and data journalism. She has an honours degree in Media and Communications and a Master of Global Media Communication. Her current thesis is on data journalism and she works at the University of Melbourne teaching nature language processing.

*Presentation 3
Making numbers beautiful
by Ri Liu

Description: In the modern age, data is everywhere. We are finding more and more ways to capture the world around us digitally and storing these observations as numbers in databases. How can we extract this information stored in machine and communicate it in away that is engaging? Data visualisation is a field that attempts to solve this problem by bridging the gap between science and art. We we discover the long history of data vis and some of the new, novel and unexpected ways of making numbers beautiful.

Bio: Ri Liu is a data visualiser who uses design and code to paint narratives of structural inequalities. She currently works for The Guardian creating data stories and interactive content. In her work, Ri focuses on expressing data in novel ways and exposing social injustices; from creating art out of motion captured dance data, to exploring the gaps between men and women around the world. In 2015 Ri’s Close the Gap project was a finalist for the UN Human Development Data Visualisation Competition and was awarded an honourable mention in the Information is Beautiful Awards. Her work has been featured in various online and offline publications including Fast Company, Wired UK and The Washington Post. She has previously worked on projects for The Conversation, Google, Facebook, Popular Science, Foreign Affairs, The Nation, and Pew Charitable Trusts.

2017 Season

31 January
4 April
6 June
1 August
3 October
5 December

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