Author Archive

Chapter 10

So we sort of almost have a theme this month, with talks from three people who work with places that are both far away and quite close at the same time – cosmology, the past and under the sea. This months line up is quite frankly, superb. So for those of you who missed last months (also superb) talks about geckos, cricket statistics and ancient Egyptian orgies, I recommend you gather your geeks and come along next Tuesday, August the 6th, to Nectar in Kingsland. Around 6:30 is a good time to get there.

And now, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I now provide you with the full speaker list for the August Nerdnite …


One fish, two fish, Big fish, little fish Tom Trnski is an authority on the larval stage of fishes from Auckland Museum. He studies their identity and the consequence of their behaviour on dispersal and connectivity in marine populations. Museums have collected specimens for centuries and they continue to make new species discoveries, providing a record of the distribution of species over time, and evidence for the mechanisms responsible for the observed distributions. Tom will be taking us through the results of two recent expeditions to islands north of New Zealand, demonstrating the interplay between environment and behaviour that explains unexpected species distributions.


Richard Easther – you remember him? The physics professor chap who gave that very cool talk about Beatrice Tinsley earlier in the year? When he’s not helping authors write books about physicists, Richard is a physicist whose research focusses on the mechanism of the big bang and the evolution of the overall universe. And he’s back. This time, with a talk called: Dead Man’s Hand: Does the Sky Play With A Stacked Deck? The universe is big. Very big. But we only have one of them. So how could we tell whether our universe was weird? And what does “our” mean in that last sentence? You mean there is more than one universe?? That would be weird. Richard will talk about the structure of the universe on very large scales, what we can learn from it, and what we already know.


And finally, one I’ve been trying to organise for quite some time now, Brigid Gallagher, archaeologist, lover of dirt and jigsaw puzzles. Dirt conceals evidence associated with decay, survival and a treasure trove of information. An archaeological jigsaw is a 3-dimensional puzzle that comes on a micro and macro scale, and enables the ultimate detective story that delves into the recent and ancient past to unfold. These are the stories that describe the birth of nations. Brigid has worked on sites dating from 50 to 9000 years old, for Auckland Museum, at Catal Hoyuk in Turkey, all over England with Time Team and for her own company in Waihi Beach. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I imagine her talk will involve dirt, but as anyone who’s watched Time Team knows, dirt can be very, very exciting.

Nerdnite Chapter 8

Another line up of talks from all over the spectrum lined up for July.
If all goes according to plan, we’ll be hearing about animal cognition, art conservation and mapping the solar system and near earth objects.
First up, we have Alex Taylor, a lecturer at Auckland Uni’s School of Psychology, who asks ‘What can tool-making crows teach us about the evolution of human intelligence?’  We don’t want to crow about it too much, but this should be a good talk. :)
Our second speaker is Sarah Thompson who spends a lot of time pointing lasers at art pigments to learn about how paintings fade from exposure to light. Sarah will be shedding light on some cool discoveries and techniques used in the art conservation science.
And then we have Applied Mathematician Philip Sharp whose research centers on the use of computer methods to simulate physical processes that vary with time.  Philip will be taking us through the ramifications of the latest news to hand, namely:  “Large asteroid  hits Nectar bar”.  The chances of a large asteroid colliding with Earth are very small, but as the dinosaurs found out, if one hits the effects are catastrophic. What could happen? what we can do to prevent a collision? would an evacuation of greater Auckland would work? (My guess is no, btw)
Gather your geeky and your nerdy. Bring people who like learning and beer. Nectar, in Kingsland at 6:30pm, Tuesday the 4th of June (it’s free).

Nerdnite – Chapter 7

Back to it. nerdnite returns, same bat-time, same bat-channel, with a technologically orientated evening on Tuesday May the 7th at Nectar, above the Kingslander in … Kingsland. Materials science, 3d printing and differential analysers (google them, they’re awesome machines).First up, we have Shaun Hendy, visiting us all the way from Wellington. Shaun is a physicist by trade, specialising in nanotech and materials science, and will be speaking about economics, science and innovation in his talk entitled “Get Off the Grass”.

Our second speaker Danny Dillen is a product designer currently running his own small 3D printing, prototyping and product development company in auckland. He will be introducing us to 3D printing methods, particularly the newer filament extruder printers which have begun to dominate the consumer market, as opposed to the half million dollar+ machines used in industry.

We also have William Irwin, a volunteer from MOTAT, who will be taking us through the history and restoration of the Meccano Differential Analyser No. 2, an analog computer that solves differential equations. This particular one was used to help build Benmore Hydro Dam, and design the bouncing bombs used to destroy hydro damns in the Ruhr Valley during WWII.

Chapter 4

We had 3 speakers confirmed for our 4th Nerdnite.

We normally have a wide range of topics for our talks, we made an exception this time and it was all about beer.

The first speaker to confirm was Ron Beatson from Plant and Food Research, all the way from Motueka, giving us a summary of the hop breeding programme in NZ, which will include: Hop Botany 101, main features of hops, the history of the NZ hop industry, NZ hop growing & production, chemistry & brewing and development of NZ bred cultivars.

We also had Brent Westein from SOBA, the Society Of Beer Advocates talking about what SOBA is about and some of the changes in the Auckland beer scene in the past few years (good, but not as fast as Wellington, grumble mutter mutter grumble).

And for the bits in between we had Master Brewer Albrecht von Wallmoden, with everything else you need to know.


Chapter 3

Speakers for our 3rd Nerdnite (which went very well despite large numbers of malingerers who felt Radiohead were more important) were:

Cather Simpson.

“How can lasers light up YOUR life?”

Dr Cather Simpson runs the Photon Factory, a facility that provides incredibly fast laser pulses to a variety of researchers as well as the ability to microscopically machine pretty much any material.


Matthew Dentith,

Why we’re all conspiracy theorists now (or, we should be).
Conspiracy theories get a bad rap. They’re considered to be only believed by outsiders, they are irrational beliefs and even though we know conspiracies do occur, most of us don’t think that means we should treat conspiracy theories seriously.


Mike Dickison

Why aren’t birds bigger?

Madagascar used to be home to Elephant Birds, the largest birds in the world. Despite their name, they weighed only a tenth as much as an elephant. Which is curious, as flying birds are bigger on average than flying mammals, and flightless birds bigger than flightless mammals. What determines the maximum size of birds? Some have proposed it’s because they lay eggs; others put it down to them not having tails. Who’s right?

Mike did his PhD at Duke University on the evolution of giant flightless birds ( He’s also a graphic designer, specialising in the communication of scientific data (, and the author of a best-selling book on how to play the ukulele (
If you would like to speak or want to suggest someone that you think should speak (or something that you want to hear about), let me know, contact details on the contact page. Funny that.

Chapter 2

Speakers for our 2nd Nerdnite were:

Daniel Hurley:

“Tango: what do silver and settlers in turn-of-the-century Argentina have to do with a modern participatory art form?”

Daniel Hurley gives us a brief history of the music and dance of tango; from simple music created by displaced people, to a subculture present all over the world. Tango dance is easy to learn, and based on understandable physical principles – but there are no rules, and every couple looks different when they dance. Tango music has been played for more than a century – but there are violent disagreements even today about what is, and is not, tango. Listen to this talk, and the next time you see a black-clad stranger walk across an empty space, stop, and look speculatively at the floor, you’ll know what they’re thinking.

Brendan Moyle

“An accidental tourist- exploring the illegal markets for wildlife”

Brendan Moyle, (of Poaching of wildlife is a serious threat to many endangered species. Effective strategies to address this need to be developed. This leads into the less conventional research I’ve been doing in Asia. As neither smugglers nor their customers are good at filling out statistical returns, a more on-the-ground approach is required. This leads to encounters that never quite get into any academic journals.

Steven Galbraith

“Six impossible things (in cryptography) before breakfast”

Steven Galbraith – Associate Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Auckland and a leading researcher on elliptic curve cryptography will give us a whirlwind tour of some concepts in cryptography and explain how a little simple mathematics goes a long way to solving interesting problems. Is it possible to send credit card details securely over the internet? How do I know that software updates are not a virus? Can I share a secret? What has mathematics got to do with any of this? If you would like to speak or want to suggest someone that you think should speak (or something that you want to hear about), let me know, contact details on the contact page. Funny that.