Nerd Nite #102: Colors, Smallpox, Toy Companies

We’ve got three great talks lined up for you, including:

AJ Freeman, “What Color Is Our Sky?”

Many of us don’t properly appreciate that color, in human handcraft, is a powerful form of technology…Van Gogh could only dream of using certain shades of Blue, and the secrets of Purple were once so jealously guarded that for most, to wear it was to take one’s life into one’s hands.

The history of humankind is illustrated in color, and in “What Color is Our Sky,” we explore the role of these shades in shaping civilization. What was the first color? Why was the first synthetic fabric dye a medical miracle? Why is Red the most common color used in national flags? Why do the Flyers wear Orange? These answers and even more questions in “What Color is Our Sky?”

BIO: AJ Freeman is one of the region’s foremost chronochromatic experts and author of “64 to Infinity: Love Letters in Crayon. His favorite color is Indigo, because Isaac Newton pretty much made it up.

Dan Sanford, “The Life and Death of Smallpox”

The Life and Death of Smallpox

With Covid-19 still on the move you might wonder has humanity ever actually beaten a disease? It is rare, but sometimes medicine and policy manage to triumph. By 1980 doctors around the world were able to say that smallpox was gone. How did we manage to beat a disease that had spent centuries beating us?

BIO: Daniel Sanford was once seen in the Pine Barrens but nobody has been able to prove he is the Jersey Devil. Today he works in Philadelphia making sure you can access databases to prove the first part of this biography is false.

Ben Leach: “Philly’s Local Toy Companies”

Did you realize that the Philly area has given birth to some of the world’s most beloved playthings? In this talk, Nerd Nite Philly favorite Ben Leach returns to discuss Philly’s surprising toy past!

BIO: Ben Leach is a New Jersey-based science and medical writer. However, he is also a collector of the eclectic and unusual, especially if it’s something that relates to his childhood from the 1980s and 1990s. He has been a published author on collectibles since he was 19, with work appearing in Lee’s Toy Review, Toyfare, and Currently, he operates a website dedicated to antiques and collectibles with his family called The Collector Gene (

It all happens on Wednesday 12/15 at 7:30pm. Doors open at 4, we advise arriving early to get a good seat. $10, there’s an ATM on site and we also accept Venmo.

PLEASE NOTE: Attendees at Frankford Hall are required to be fully vaccinated and provide the restaurant with proof of vaccination. Contact the restaurant at 215-634-3338 for further information on masks and other questions you may have.

Nerd Nite #101: Transportation Engineering, Local Ads and More!

Hello friends! We’re back on Wednesday, November 3rd at Frankford Hall with a brand new Nerd Nite for you. Here’s what you can expect:

“Intelligent Transportation Engineering and Philly’s Future for Mobility and Access”

Everyone has gotten stuck at a red light that ruins the continuity of traffic flow down a corridor. Many of us have waited on the corner for a bus to come – only for three to show up. Why are there seven potholes on my block? Who designs this inefficient garbage?

This presentation aims to elucidate the reasons for these phenomena – the complex systems that transportation engineers study, the data that’s changing our decisions, what information we hope for in the future, and how urban mobility and our streetscape will change in the next few decades.

Come and join in a candid discussion of the trade, our perceived shortcomings and the real pitfalls that shape our transportation policy and overall mobility outcomes. Transportation is truly a shared experience – everyone has questions and anecdotes and we’ll welcome all of them.

BIO: Justin Ferri is an intelligent transportation consultant from South Philly that works for both public and private sector clients up and down the east coast. He cut his teeth a decade ago doing (surprisingly dangerous) 11-hour traffic counts on the mainline and doing (surprisingly wholesome) ADA curb ramp inspections outside of trap houses in Kenzo. He’s now mostly doing boring things like writing policy for intersection control evaluation for the feds, working with big data, cursing map conflation, and considering far-fetched implications for autonomous vehicles. His napkin math estimates that he’s walked about 65% of Philly’s 2,500 street miles on foot.

“The 10 Greatest Philly Local Ads Ever Made”

Do you have a passion for fashion? Have you ever seen what people who believe in the power of each other can do? What Philadelphia museum claimed that you can feel the fun? All of these confusing questions will be answered when Chris presents an audio/video overview of his picks for the ten greatest Philly commercials of all time in a presentation that will be certain to spawn debate…and leave you with endless jingles stuck in your head.

BIO: Along with being a Nerd Nite Philly co-boss, Chris Cummins is a writer for Den of Geek and the producer/host of Sci-Fi Explosion. You can follow all of his nonsense on Twitter @bionicbigfoot and tune into his free 24 hour live Halloween Spooptacular from 8pm 10/29 to 8pm 10/30 (bringing you hilarious vintage clips, short films and features, music videos, cartoons, comedy and so much more at

It Came from Below: Spooky Science Stories from (Down)stream

From scurvy on the seven seas to dynamite and cannons meant to control the rains, water plays a starring role in some of our strangest and most compelling true stories. But what about the myths, legends, and superstitions that bring us dangerous creatures and angry waves? Is that winding river really full of secrets? Is the salty ocean truly as mysterious as it seems?

Join Distillations podcast cohosts Lisa Berry Drago and Alexis Pedrick as they spin a few yarns, talk about the weird water stories they can’t get out of their heads, and why this shared resource is such a big part of our folklore.


Alexis Pedrick is one of the cohosts of the Distillations podcast and the Director of Public Engagement at the Science History Institute. She is a D&D-playing, science-loving, history nerd.

Elisabeth (Lisa) Berry Drago is the other cohost of the Distillations podcast. She is also a research curator and museum experience strategist at the Science History Institute and a huge, self-professed nerd.

Wed 11/3. 7:30pm.
Frankford Hall,
1210 Frankford Avenue.
$10. (There’s an ATM on site, a Wells Fargo up the street and we also accept Venmo).


Nerd Nite #100: The Return!

It has been far, far too long since we’ve been able to celebrate nerdery in Philadelphia with you. But all that will change on Wednesday, August 11th at 7:30pm at Frankford Hall when Nerd Nite Philadelphia returns! We’ve got a special lineup for you to welcome you back:

Flags are Physical Objects
by Simon M. Joseph

Nowadays you’re more likely to interact with a flag emoji than you are with an actual flag. This doesn’t stop these pieces of fabric from existing in the analog world, however. In his triumphant return to Nerd Nite, Simon will go through a few examples of how flags have evolved to meet our changing human needs.

BIO: And now ladies and gentlemen, it is the distinct pleasure of the management to present to you the evening’s star attraction. Here they are back after their exclusive three year tour of Europe, Scandinavia, and the sub continent. Won’t you welcome from Calumet City, Illinois, the show band of… wait, this is the intro from the Blues Brothers! Oh nuts, I’m going to have to come up with a better biographical statement before I hit the character lim

Cosmic Comics: A Tribute to Out of this World Funnybooks

by Chris Cummins

Join Chris as he presents an overview of the weirdest science fiction humor comics ever made. With a spotlight on the strange, Cummins will show you how space is the place for laughs!

BIO: Along with being a Nerd Nite Philly co-boss, Chris Cummins is a writer and comics historian who has contributed to Den of Geek, Archie Comics and USA Today. He is also the producer and host of Sci-Fi Explosion, a “cosmic cabaret of craziness” that focuses on science fiction ephemera.

Are Vampires the Elite Class?
by Timothy Wotring

What We Do in the Shadows is a vampire horror-comedy tv show which premiered on FX in 2019, and is based off the movie of its namesake from 2015. It answers that age old question, “What would it be like for eternal vampires to be roommates?” The show is full of gags and goofiness, but it also has something to say about class struggle. The vampires represent the wealthy class who refuse to allow for other economic systems, while the humans continue to struggle under the gaze of late capitalism. Join me as we explore how vampires hoard wealth and power and seek domination over the entire world! It will be bloody fun!

BIO: Timothy is a pastor and lives in Philadelphia, PA. He watches horror year-round and enjoys presenting on pop cultural topics pertaining to horror at conferences!

All this plus a very special performance by SKELETOR!

It all gets underway at 7:30pm at Frankford Hall on Wednesday, August 11th. $10 (cash, Venmo, or crypto only, there is an ATM on site and a Wells Fargo up the street).

Be there and be square, we have missed you so much!

Nerd Nite #99: An Evening with the American Cancer Society


Nerd Nite #99: Philadelphia Young Professionals of the American Cancer Society at Nerd Nite Philly

This month’s Nerd Nite is Wednesday March 4th. This event is a partnership with the Philadelphia Chapter of the Young Professionals of the American Cancer Society and will highlight some of the research and projects being funded locally.

Here’s the talks planned:

Victoria LeMay, “Health Equity: Eliminating Cancer Disparities by Addressing True Determinants of Health”

Your zip code should not be more important than your genetic code in determining your health. By partnering with communities and other organizations, the American Cancer Society is working toward eliminating health disparities and addressing challenges in the fight against cancer. This talk will outline the root causes of disparity and how ACS and others are working to advance health equity.

BIO: Victoria has worked for the American Cancer Society for eight years and currently holds the position of Senior Manager, Distinguished Partners in Philadelphia.

Jaye Gardiner will discuss pancreatic cancer treatments

BIO: Jaye Gardiner, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in the Edna Cukierman laboratory at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Jaye is studying ways to identify better treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients. Her project focuses on understanding the signaling that arises from cell-cell interactions in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment. The goals for her project are three-fold. 1) To reveal the driving factor(s) promoting pancreatic cancer’s stroma’s tumor supportive nature. 2) To evaluate the consequences these factor(s) have on tumor development and progression. And 3) to understand the finer details of the underlying biology with the purpose of discovering future druggable targets.

Austin Rennels will discuss tumor treatment methods.

BIO: Austin is a Research Specialist in the June Lab at the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the University of Pennsylvania. In the June Lab, they are interested in improving the efficacy of CART cell therapy for cancer, specifically solid tumor indications. They are investigating the role of the tumor microenvironment and T cell exhaustion in CART cell therapy and aim to overcome these obstacles to achieve more effective treatment of solid tumors.

Wednesday March 4th, 7:30pm. $10. Frankford Hall. 1210 Frankford Avenue in Fishtown.


Nerd Nite #98: DC Statehood, Monster Myths, Entomology, Death

Nerd Nite is back on Wednesday, February 5th, and whoa is it a super-sized one. Here’s what we have planned:

Bo Shuff, “What’s the State of DC and Why Is It All Philly’s Fault?”

700,000 people who call DC home have zero representation in Congress. We live in the shadow of the Capitol, yet have no voice inside of it. However, there’s a simple answer to righting a 200+ year wrong – DC Statehood. Find out all about the future 51st State – and how it’s Philly’s fault we ended up in this mess.

BIO: Bo Shuff is the Executive Director of DC Vote, the lead organization for Statehood for the people of Washington, DC. He has spent the last 20 years on the front lines of political advocacy and candidate campaigns to advance civil rights causes. Before joining DC Vote, Bo was the Campaign Manager for DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Kathryn McCluskey, “Intro to Entomology and Insect Mating”

For this talk, Katie will be introducing entomology basics, interesting insect mating facts and touch on insect biodiversity loss.
Bio: Katie works as an entomology research technician at University of Pennsylvania in the Biology Department. She has a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Dalhousie University and is pursuing her Masters in Environmental Studies at University of Pennsylvania with a focus on Environmental Biology. For her thesis project Katie is researching insects as environmental bioindicators and biodiversity loss. Katie runs a science instagram where she posts pictures of her lab and talks more about biology, bugs and science @BiotaScience

Michael McConville, “Talk, Dark, and Hairy: The Role of the Monster in American Culture”

For as long as humans have walked on Earth, we have feared that which we can’t see or what we don’t understand. The shadows of the forest, the depths of the seas – just beyond our control and comprehension exists a world of myth and monsters. While other regions of the world have stories of fanciful creatures and thousands of years of folklore, North America’s “monster culture” is much more grounded in the land and the people that inhabit it. It is even more starkly reflected in the popular culture of the United States, where monsters can be the stars of movies, television shows, and comics. Fear is replaced by familiarity, but the stories at the foundation of the American monster are largely forgotten. We’ll explore the roots of our monster mythos – and all become armchair cryptozoologists, as well!

BIO: Michael McConville has always been fascinated with the mysterious and the unknown, the stories and discoveries that raise more questions than they answer. This love of the unexplained – and the urge to learn and understand as much as possible about it – directly led Michael to teaching. A professor of American history currently on hiatus from the University of Central Florida and sales manager for the Spitz planetarium company just outside of Philadelphia, In both pursuits, Michael is tasked to be both a storyteller and a story facilitator — to take what can be mysterious and interpret it in new and exciting ways. This is Michael’s seventh Nerd Nite presentation: five for Orlando, and now his second for Philadelphia.

Jason Tabrys, “What’s Next? A Meditation on Death, the Afterlife, Pop Culture and the Search for Truth”

Get ready to laugh as pop culture expert Jason Tabrys focuses on the ways TV and film present the afterlife while seeking answers to very heavy questions.

BIO: Jason Tabrys is a pop culture bon vivant, writer, editor, podcaster, comedian, and dancer. This is his second Nerd Nite Philly appearance in as many months by popular demand.

It all gets underway on Wednesday, February 5th at 7:30pm at Frankford Hall (1210 Frankford Ave deep in heart of Fishtown). $10. There’s an ATM on site and a Wells Fargo up the street.