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Nerd Nite Brighton 35: Rewilding, supermarkets, boffins

We’re back with three more fascinating speakers, eager to tell you what they’re nerdishly passionate about.

1. Penny Green – Rewilding in Sussex

Penny is the resident ecologist at the Knepp Rewilding Project. She guides Knepp Safaris and co-ordinates the biological monitoring of the rewilding project. She studied countryside management at Brinsbury College and went on to work with the National Trust, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and then the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre. Penny is passionate about biological recording, and loves to enthuse others with wildlife-watching. In her spare time she’s moth trapping, bird-watching, trail running, and volunteering with the RSPB’s Sussex Stone Curlew Project. Penny sits on various committees including Butterfly Conservation’s Sussex branch, the Sussex Mammal Group, the Sussex Dragonfly Group and the Sussex Moth Group.

2. Jack Klaff- Arty bloke among the boffins

Jack is an award-winning actor, writer, solo performer and academic, whose first movie role was in Star Wars. He now works closely with Intelligence Squared. He has written a number of their online debates and he has taken part in several of their live events. Jack has taught or presented at institutions and festivals around the world, including Florida State University, Goldsmith’s, Oxford, Cambridge, Boston University, Bristol, Imperial College, the Cheltenham Festivals of Literature as well as Science, TEDx at the European Parliament and he has held four visiting professorships at Princeton. He was Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Starlab in Brussels from 1998-2002 and maintains his connection with that institution in its present incarnation in Barcelona.

3. Ruth Anslow – This is the story of the supermarket rebels

What if you had an idea of how supermarkets “should be” that you turned into a voice? And that voice became a rallying cry of thousands of people? And that crowd enabled you to open a chain of stores? And those stores transformed supermarkets for the 21st century? And more people were inspired to follow their own ideas of how it should be? That’s Ruth’s journey…Ruth is the Co-Founder of hiSbe Food CIC. She’s in love with the idea that business can be a force for good, by serving the interests of the public and communities, not just a few shareholders and directors. Ruth’s into destructive innovation that makes out-of-date business models obsolete. She believes that when we follow a vision of “how it should be,” we can transform whole industries. Ruth dreams of reinventing big business, starting with supermarkets. And she’s made that dream her priority.
As always we’ll have the usual quizzing, cakes, music and drinks.

Tickets £4 (£3 Student/65+ nerds) from Eventbrite.

Nerd Nite Brighton 34: naturalism, sampling, alcoholism.

Join us in our new venue for another fun night of evidence-based entertainment. This month we have three great talks on wonderfully varied topics. Learn about why pan-species listing is important for naturalists, hear an argument for intelligent musical thievery, and take a look inside AA.

1. Graeme Lyons – Going down the pan-species listing route to becoming a better naturalist

Graeme Lyons is senior ecologist for Sussex Wildlife Trust, a freelance consultant, life-long naturalist and founding member of the Pan-species Listing Movement. 38 years old, he has already seen and identified 6,345 species in the UK. Graeme is also the county recorder for bugs (heteroptera). Graeme’s main passion is invertebrates, particularly beetles, bugs and spiders, but his interest in wildlife is far-ranging with birds, bryophytes, molluscs, cetaceans, fish and fungi high on his identification ability.

In his talk, Graeme will tell us about becoming a better naturalist through pan-species listing. His skills revolve around setting up efficient and focused monitoring strategies across a broad range of taxa to answer questions about habitat management. He also uses this data to inform the management planning process in a feedback loop which constantly informs and fine tunes the habitat management cycle! For more info, see

2. Dave Waller – Stealing is wrong (but sampling is ace): an argument for intelligent musical thievery

In his talk, Dave will lead us on an audio trip through the magic and history of sampling. His tools: his own blessing/curse of a record collection and a wonky portable turntable. Sampling has had a bad rap since it exploded, almost accidentally, in the mid-80s, with arguments that it’s uncreative and steals work from actual musicians. And thanks to the threat of costly court cases, it’s pretty much off the map now for any hip-hop producer who isn’t Kanye West or working for Jay Z. Which is a shame, as there’s so much beauty in sampling too: not only can a four-bar snippet propel you down a rabbit hole into a lifetime’s exploration of forgotten musical treasures, but there’s a real alchemic quality that comes with stumbling on the old, dusty and/or weird and creating something new.

Dave is a writer who was dubbed ‘the hip-hop encyclopaedia’ upon arrival at university. Disclaimer: that was 20 years ago. But it’s thanks to hip-hop and sampling that he’s still spinning such gems as ‘Actual Business Letters’, Cliff Richard’s ‘Two a Penny’ and ‘Fight the Flab with Terry Wogan’.

3. Jon Stewart – Inside AA: Can God Cure Alcoholism?

Alcoholics Anonymous offers a commonly accepted and media endorsed “spiritual” programme of recovery — but can God really offer meaningful solutions to this debilitating, potentially fatal condition? If so, how do we help all the secular alcoholics?
AA’s famous 12 Step programme evolved from the tenets of a now forgotten evangelical Christian mass movement. First published in 1939, it remains entirely unchanged since then.

How did a Higher Power become the go-to treatment modality for one of the great social health scourges of our time? Is spiritually-based health care even ethical? It’s the twenty first century, is this really the best we can do?

This wide ranging talk draws on the work evolutionary psychologist Andy Thomson (Trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation) and philosopher Dan Dennett to show how sacred texts and faith-based belief systems are being challenged in a new age of internet transparency. Jon Stewart was co-founder, guitarist and co-songwriter for platinum-selling Britpop band Sleeper. He currently lectures in popular culture at a local HE Institution, and is a PhD researcher at University of Southampton. A grateful sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 14 years, Jon also campaigns for more up-to-date evidence-based secular treatment options via his blog at

As always we’ll have the usual quizzing, cakes, music and drinks!

Tickets £4 (£3 Student/65+ nerds) from here – book early to avoid disappointment

Nerd Nite Brighton 33 18/8/16 – Massive data, missing organs and the Oympics

We hope you all enjoyed double Nerd Nite July last month. It’s August and we are back to enlighten you once more. Hosting his last Nerd Nite Brighton this month is founder Partha Das so please come and join us for the usual cake, drinks, quizzing and merriment.

Our talks:

1. The algorithm will see you now: big data and the future of healthcare – Ben Bray

Our health records contains some of the most personal and intimate information about ourselves, but as healthcare (finally) moves into the digital age, what are the technological, social and ethical implications of a world rich in electronic health data? From medical artificial intelligence and an internet of healthy things, to new challenges to privacy and data ownership, we will explore the ways that big data is transforming health and healthcare.

Dr Ben Bray is a public health doctor and research director for the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme. Based at the Farr Institute of Health Informatics at University College London, he works on new uses of data analytics and visualisation in healthcare

2. Scanning for gold: what makes an Olympic athlete? – Malcolm Johnston

In his talk, Malcolm will explore the anatomy and physiology that makes an Olympic athlete ‘superhuman,’ and how modern imaging techniques can show why an athlete’s body is adapted to perform at the highest level. Using MRI scanning to demonstrate how the body changes with training across both power and endurance events, Malcolm will discuss how measurements of different parameters are used to optimise performance. Are we all potential Olympic athletes or are some people just destined for greatness?

Dr Malcolm Johnston is a consultant radiologist in Brighton specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of disease using modern imaging techniques. He is a qualified skiing instructor and competes at downhill mountain biking but has never come close to Olympic level sport. In fact he often struggles in the parents race on sports day.

3. Believing in life after death – why everyone should be an organ donor – Hannah Maple

Despite living in Crawley, Hannah managed to get into King’s College London Medical School and is now a transplant surgeon. Having graduated in 2007 she pursued a surgical career before taking a break from clinical work in 2011 to undertake a PhD. Based at Guy’s Hospital, London her research examined the psychological aspects of donating kidneys from the perspective of the donor and sought to understand more about what donors get out of the process. Why would someone want to give up an organ? She has recently conducted the world’s largest study of non-directed altruistic organ donors (people who donate their organs to strangers) and will tonight discuss her work alongside other ethical and legal controversies in the transplantation of organs.

Doors at 7.30pm for an 8pm start downstairs at Patterns

Tickets £4 (£3 Student/65+ nerds) from here – book early to avoid disappointment

Nerd Nite Brighton 30 – Food glorious food

What are you up to on June 23rd? Coming to our food special of course. We’re co-hosting this with our friends at the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network at our new venue Patterns.

This month our speakers are:

1. The rise of the ‘heritage’ vegetable – Abigail Wincott

What do Reclaim the Fields, Raymond Blanc and the UN have in common? They’ve all championed ‘heritage’ vegetables, fruit and seeds. From seed swaps to restaurant menus to the gardens of stately homes, the idea of ‘heritage’ vegetables has become almost inescapable for UK consumers in the last few years. The politics and economics of heritage vegetables is confusing. Their advocates include anti-capitalist activists but also the National Trust and Michelin starred restaurants. Sometimes they’re given away free, yet where they’re for sale, they’re always expensive. Globally there’s a huge and growing network of publicly funded seed vaults and research programmes. So what is so special about ‘heritage’ vegetables and seeds for all these groups? And what on earth does it all mean for the rest of us?

Abigail Wincott is an academic and programme maker who is interested in how we make use of the past in thinking about the current and future of food, including understanding food poverty and the politics of food heritage.

2. Complexity theory and food – Rachael Taylor

Food systems are complex and complexity theory presents a useful way of understanding interactions between different parts of food systems. Starting with an example of the humble apple, this talk will take a look at the complexities of food and how an apple in Brighton interacts with food in vastly different contexts. Using the concept of complexity theory, the non-linear, unpredictable, dynamic, and emergent behaviour of food systems will be explained in relation to the apple.

Rachael Taylor is a PhD candidate at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. Her PhD research is on adaptive capacity in agricultural livelihoods in Northern Ghana. She also works as a researcher for a range of institutes and organisations, doing research on food-related topics in the UK and West Africa.

3. Making sense of the sugary stuff – Carol Williams

Brighton is the first ‘Sugar Smart’ city and sugarphobia is rampant. For example ‘Sugar Puffs’ are now ‘Honey Monster Puffs’ . Carol will be scrutinising sugar, fruit and food and trying to find the proverbial balanced approach.

Carol Williams is a public health nutritionist and academic who worked with the nongovernmental organisations that brought the 5 a day fruit and veg message to the UK in 1992, and wrote the first published guidance on what counts as a portion.. She is interested in how public health recommendations are interpreted by manufactures and consumers.

Yum yum!
There will be the usual cake, quizzing, music and merriment. See you there!

Tickets from here (£4 regular nerds, £3 NUS/65+ nerds, doors 7.30pm for 8pm start)

Nerd Nite Brighton 29: Fringe Special 26/5/16

So we said we’d give May a break because of the Fringe but then an opportunity came up that we couldn’t turn down. We are delighted to be hosted in the Main House at the amazing Warren site courtesy of our friends at Otherplace who have looked after us so well at The Basement.

We’re starting a little bit earlier with doors at 7pm for a 7.30pm start and finishing a bit earlier too as have 2 rather than the usual 3 talks. But, that’s good news for you nerds as it means cheaper tickets – woop woop.

Our talks this month:

1. The Best Animal Ever – Mr Russell Arnott

What do you think the best animal is? Is it the cutest? Or the biggest? Or the fastest? No! Whatever your current favourite is, Russell will convert you (HINT: it’s not a whale).
Russell Arnott is an oceanographer, physics teacher, and outreach officer for WhaleFest’s Incredible Oceans. He visits schools around the country with an inflatable whale and teaches children how important the oceans are. He also enjoys homebrewing and shouting in punk bands.

2. Masturbation and Mutilation in Victorian England – Dr Catherine Pope

Catherine Pope has a PhD on the Victorian novelist and saucepot Florence Marryat. Catherine is based in the Doctoral School at the University of Sussex, and also runs Victorian Secrets, an independent press dedicated to publishing books from and about the nineteenth century. She will be discussing women’s sexuality and the extreme measures that were devised to control it.

Beers, cake, music, quizzing and the usual in a huge inflatable dome thing! And there’s tonnes going on in the Warren before and after!

£3 regular nerds, £2 NUS/65+ nerds – tickets direct from Otherplace

See you there!

Nerd Nite Brighton 28 – numbers, numbers, numbers!

Sorry about our tardiness getting the word out on the street about this month’s Nerd Nite which is everything to do with numbers and maths. Our talks and speakers:

1. Probability: making sense of an uncertain world – Prof Enrico Scalas

Most popular science books totally ignore probability so it can be a bit of a mystery to the general public. This is a shame becaise it is essential for our understanding of the world and is at the foundation of all applied sciences. It is also an active field of research with many open problems. Enrico will unravel probability using a coin and a pair of dice following the historical path paved by Pascal and Fermat. He’ll also try to reply to a gambling question posed by Pascal’s friend Antoine Gombaud, a.k.a. Chevalier de Méré.

Enrico Scalas is currently Professor of Statistics and Probability and Head of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Sussex. He works on the applications of probability to physics, economics and finance. He is author of more than 100 papers and 2 books.

2. Chaos and synchrony: the maths of life – Dr Yuliya Kyrychko

Complex systems are everywhere. They arise in a variety of natural and artificial settings such as electrical power grids, computer communication networks, transportation systems, global financial institutions, neurons in the brain and the social media used by millions every day.

Yuliya will use real world examples to discuss how we can use mathematical modelling to understand the dynamics of such systems, and what we can learn from their emergent behaviour. We will see how these systems can be completely disordered and unpredictable, or fully synchronised.

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Sussex. Originally from the Ukraine she completed her PhD in Mathematics from the University of Surrey before moving to the Department of Engineering Mathematics in Bristol. In 2007 she was awarded the EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on modelling of structure responses in earthquake situations, the only such award in the history of the Faculty of Engineering in Bristol to date. In 2010, she moved to Sussex as a Lecturer in Mathematics, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014. Her interests lie in the area of mathematical modelling of real-world phenomena, nonlinear analysis and delay equations.

3. The mathematics of infectious diseases – Dr Konstantin Blyuss

Mathematics can help us understand how infectious diseases spread and damage organisms. Konstantin will take you on a journey exploring how maths can model infectious disease behaviour both at the level of the population and from the perspective of how microorganisms evade the human immune system.

Having obtained his MSc in theoretical physics in Ukraine and a Diploma in Germany, Dr Konstantin Blyuss came to do his PhD at the University of Surrey in 2000. This was followed by positions in Exeter and Oxford and lectureships in mathematics in Keele University and the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences before coming to the University of Sussex in 2010. Konstantin works in the area of applied mathematics with a particular interest in nonlinear dynamics and its applications to epidemiology and immunology.

And the usual cake, beers, quizzing, drinking, laughing, silliness, etc

With live dynamic real-time hosting by Dr Mick Taylor

Doors 7.30pm for an 8pm start
£4 regular nerds, £3 NUS/65+ nerds

Tickets from our lovely hosts at Otherplace at the Basement on Kensington Street.

Nerd Nite Brighton at the Science Festival

February is Brighton Science Festival and we’re excited to be partnering up with them again. Check out everything that’s on but on 25th Feb swing by to our friends at Otherplace Brighton for:

1. The extraordinary story of water – Alok Jha

Water may seem the most ordinary of substances – it pours from our taps and falls from the sky – but you would be surprised at what a profoundly strange substance it is. It bends the rules of chemistry and defies easy scientific understanding. Without this rebel behaviour, however, none of us would exist. Alok Jha will change the way you look at water – showing how it has shaped life on earth, and how this molecule connects you and everyone else to the birth (and death) of the universe.

Alok is ITV’s Science Correspondent having previously worked for The Guardian and has reported on everything from space to stem cells. He has broadcast live from Antarctica, flown in a zero-gravity plane normally used to train astronauts and told the exclusive behind-the-scenes story of the scientists who made world’s first lab-grown burger. In 2015 he authored The Water Book: the Extraordinary Story of Our Most Ordinary Substance. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook

2. What do babies think about colour? Alice Skelton

One of the most common myths that parents hear about their child’s development is that babies can only see in black and white but this isn’t the case. Although colour is just a wavelength of light, we (grown ups) do a lot of strange things with it, like group them together, and pick favourites. So what about babies? Once colour reaches the infant brain, what do they make of it? How do they think about colour?

Alice is a PhD student working at the The Sussex Baby Lab at the University of Sussex investigating infant colour perception. The Sussex Baby Lab is a colourful, friendly place that is interested in finding out how babies see, think, and learn. Disappointingly it does not involve any baby sized lab coats. Alice’s favourite colour is a sort of blueish-purple.

3. Astroquizzical: unusual questions for an astrophysicist – Jillian Scudder

Astroquizzical began 3 years ago as an open forum for people to anonymously submit their questions about the Universe, and receive a reasonably complete, clearly worded reply in exchange. Astroquizzical has since fielded questions about the plausibility of movie and video game scenes, some technical explanations, and many questions which begin “what would happen if…”. This talk will walk you through some of the least anticipated questions Astroquizzical has received, and their answers.

We’re excited to have Dr. Jillian Scudder return to Nerd Nite. Jillian is an astrophysicist working at the University of Sussex. She studies galaxies, particularly how they change after colliding with another galaxy. Jillian runs Astroquizzical, a blog which answers questions from the public about anything to do with space. Astroquizzical posts have appeared in The Conversation, Medium, and Forbes. You can find her on twitter

Drinks, Cake, Quizzes, Lots of Silliness as per usual
Hosted by Dr Mick Taylor from University of Sussex and GoodMoney
Doors 7.30pm for an 8pm start
£4 regular nerds, £3 student/65+ nerds

tickets from the venue

Nerd Nite Brighton 26: dead animals, space doughnuts, iPhone time-wasting

Happy nerdy new year! This month we’re back at the lovely Otherplace at the Basement and our talks are:

1. Exceptionally preserved fossils – Oliver Knevitt

Think fossils and most people think of bones, teeth and shells – mineralised tissues that are not far from rocks themselves. Most organisms through history didn’t have hard material like this, and so would be invisible if these were the only fossils. Luckily, in very rare cases, soft tissues can be preserved in so-called exceptionally preserved fossils. Oliver will use evidence from rotting shrimps, fossilized eye tissue, and other fascinating examples to look at the pitfalls in taking these exceptionally preserved fossils at face value. As you will see, we are occasionally in danger of overly relying on these rare fossils to reconstruct the history of life.

Oliver teaches in the Department of Geology at the University of Brighton. Before that, he did a PhD at the University of Leicester and has amongst other things investigated ancient algae deposits in Norway.

2. Black Holes and the spaghettification of hot doughnuts – Darren Baskiil

Black Holes: what are they? Where are they? Should we fear them? Black holes get a lot of bad press, and the line between theoretical ideas and observational facts are confused at best. In this talk, you will learn what we know about black holes and what ideas remain just dreams of the theoreticians.

Dr Darren Baskill got his PhD in X-ray astronomy, discovering a few black holes in the process. He now runs the outreach programme for the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

3. Secrets of Candy Crush Revealed! David Amor

Candy Crush Saga has been downloaded 1 billion times and is played by 100 million people each day. Why is it so popular? Why is it so addictive? How is it worth more than Star Wars? David describes the psychology and science behind the game.

David has been making videogames since the ZX Spectrum. Electronic Arts, PlayStation, Xbox and most recently those addictive little games you might find on your iPhone.
Cake, beers, quizzing, music and the usual light fillers
Doors 7.30pm for and 8pm start
£4 regular nerds, £3 NUS/65+ nerds

Another Nerd Nite Brighton Christmas 17th December 2015


The Brussel sprouts are already on the boil, families up and down the country are preparing their topics to argue over when they get together on Christmas Day and people are queuing up for the release of some eagerly anticipated film. We on the other hand are delighted to invite you to Another Nerd Nite Brighton Christmas Special.

This festive month:

1. In your element: boron

Dr Jonathan “Sid” Harrison is perhaps the most enthusiastic man in Brighton and will be delighting us with his musings on that perhaps unsung hero of the elements, boron. The Periodic Table fans amongst you will surely be rubbing your hands in apoplectic excitement.

Sid in his real life is a general practitioner and expert in the construction of geodesic dome tents. He has never completed the Kessel Run.

2. Nerd News review of the year

There were several bona-fide talks that could have taken the second slot for the Christmas Special. Instead we’ve opted to drag Nerd Nite Brighton Boss Partha Das out to give an overview of the top nerdish news items from 2015. And, as you shall find out, what a year it has been…

3. Star Wars: The science strikes back

Last Christmas we gave you our heart and also Dr Zeeshan Khawaja who took us on a journey through the scientific (im)plausibilities of the Star Wars story. It’s a Nerd Nite Brighton pleasure to welcome him back again for more of the same and perhaps another heated debate on the fate of the Ewoks after the destruction of the Death Star.

Zeeshan is a cardiologist and has a PhD in coronary physiology and computational modelling from King’s College London which have little if anything to do with tractor beams

Hosting the Christmas special will be festive compering regulars Jane Hume and Alice Roueche.

Expect physics Christmas carols, cakes, music and merriment.

Back at the Caroline Of Brunswick, doors 7.30pm for and 8pm start
£4 regular nerds, £3 student/65+/festive nerds

Get your tickets from HERE

Nerd Nite Brighton 24: Decaying food, Punk Science, Mo Money Mo Problems

We’re back for some October nerdery!

This month we’re being hosted by Otherplace At The Basement! Lots of space for all our lovely nerds!

1. The Science of Decay – Vera Zakharov
Discover the wonderful, edible, world of food “waste”. Brighton & Hove throws away 50,000 tonnes of food every year. Yet some of the tastiest foods are technically food waste. What the heck is going on, or going off, as it were? Find out with Vera, our local foodie waste warrior.

Vera Zakharov coordinates Brighton & Hove’s Love Food Hate Waste Campaign, as well as the Sussex Gleaning Network. She is also working on Feeding the 5000 Brighton on 29th October, where 5,000 people will dine on “food waste”. In her spare time she forages and star-gazes.

2. (Re)Making Money – Mick Taylor
Previous speaker and some time Nerd Nite Brighton compere steps back into the limelight with some more musings on money, capitalism and a search for a better and fairer way for economies to operate.

Mick has a PhD in mathematical epidemiology, lectures Mathematics at Sussex and also runs the social enterprise Goodmoney. Mick is fascinated by human systems, particular in monetary systems and how the design of our money supply impacts on all aspects of human life.

3. Punk Science: The Revenge
Our favourite duo from the Science Museum in London return once again to Nerd Nite Brighton. There will be the usual blend of science, comedy, music and gameshow stupidity.

Drinks, music, cake and quizzing as per usual! See you there
£4 Regular Nerds, £3 Student/65+ Nerds

Tickets from here