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Nerd Nite #97: Post-Apocalyptic Life, Tech Addiction, Baby Yoda

The first Nerd Nite of 2020 (which just so happens to be our tenth anniversary year) is TONIGHT!

Here’s what you can expect:

Jason Tabrys, “Let’s Brightside the Post Apocalypse!”

In this satirical talk, pop culture critic Jason Tabrys tries to find the silver lining in what film, TV, and fiction has told us about our dystopian future.

Bio: Jason Tabrys is a pop culture bon vivant whose work can be found across the far reaches of the Internet.

Charmaine Esinger, “Treatment of Tech Addiction”

Tech addiction can fall under the umbrella of video game, screen-time, internet, digital and social media addiction. In this talk, psychoeducation will be provided on how tech addiction mirrors other addictive cycles and co-occurs with mental health conditions. We will focus on identification of tech addiction, recent research findings, as well as common treatment modalities for enabling healthy and sustainable digital media use.

Bio: Charmaine Ensinger, LMFT, is a Clinical Supervisor and CBT Mental Health Therapist. She works at Wedge Recovery Center – Frankford Enhanced Outpatient Mental Health Facility which works with the low-income North Philadelphia community.

Chris Cummins & Jason Tabrys, “Pop Culture Cuteness Battle”

Join Chris and Jason as they pit Baby Yoda, BB-8, Baby Groot, Babu Frick, and Baby Sonic the Hedgehog against each other for an interactive battle royale to determine pop culture’s cutest creature. Think of it as Sophie’s Choice with puppets!

Wednesday, January 8th. 7:30pm. $5. Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Avenue. (There is an ATM on site and a Wells Fargo up the street).

The Nerd Nite Holiday Spectacular Is Wednesday, December 11th!

headerThe Nerd Nite Philly Holiday Spectacular! Wednesday 12/11. 7:30pm. $10.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! At least that’s what we are forced to believe during this time of year. But fear not, your pals at Nerd Nite Philadelphia are determined to keep the humbugging at bay with our first ever Holiday Spectacular. Join us for an evening of fun, talks, games and prizes that will give you a break from seasonal stress…at least for an hour or two.

Among the highlights will be:

• Talks on the nerdiest holiday songs ever recorded, the greatest Muppet Christmas moments, and info on nerdy gift ideas!

• Comedy from returning guest Glen Tickle!

• A live performance from Skeletor Claus!

• The Nerd Nite Philly Ugly Holiday Sweater/T-Shirt Contest with prizes from NECA Toys, Mill Creek Entertainment, and more!

• The return of The Cost Is Correct, the retro-pricing game show from Ben Leach.

• Surprises galore!

As much fun as this event will be, it will also be bittersweet as this will be the last Nerd Nite Philly event with Gina Lavery. She has been the beating heart and soul of this event for the past ten years, and is leaving us to focus on her work in making Philly a better place to live! We absolutely love her, and we hope you’ll come on out to say goodbye.

Who knows, there might even be a holiday singalong or two!

The Nerd Nite Philly Holiday Spectacular
Wednesday, December 11, 7:30pm
Frankford Hall

Be there or be ho ho ho square!

Nerd Nite No. 90: Family Jewels, Quantum Computing, Star Wars Law

It’s Nerd Nite time again, and we’ve got three more talks guaranteed to entertain and enlighten you!

– Rachael Vause, “Handling the Family Jewels in the Middle Ages”
Apart from Frodo’s ring in Lord of the Rings, or maybe even Littlefinger’s mockingbird pin in Game of Thrones, you’ve probably never thought about the jewelry of the Middle Ages. But rings have power and sigils signal identity. As far back as the 5th century, people expressed power, heritage, beliefs, and personal style through adornment. In early medieval England, jeweled brooches and swords were passed down with stories of great deeds told round the fire. Talismans like the fang of a beaver worn around the neck, or a ball of crystal worn on the belt, granted protection during life as well as in the grave. Even after the introduction of Christianity at the end of the 6th century, people sought protection from both the Old Ways and the new. Helmets featured fierce boars or dragons, while also featuring the Cross or prayers to God. After existing side-by-side with pagan talismans for more than 150 years, why did Christian jewelry eventually become the dominant form? Cultural groups create power objects to answer a basic psychological need for protection, as well as to materially express new ways of thinking and believing. Objects in intimate contact with the body can work to change entrenched cultural notions about the mind/body relationship, specifically in the process of religious conversion. Through the study of jewelry, the early Middle Ages emerges from the shadows a much brighter and more complex place than we imagined, full of the exchange of ideas and glittering products of artistic invention.

Bio: Rachael Vause is a PhD Candidate at the University of Delaware specializing in early medieval art of the British Isles. But call this period the “Dark Ages” at your own peril, because she’s not having it. Rachael aims to shine a light on the inventive and imaginative people of the 5th-11th centuries, both in the western world and other areas such as the Middle East. This summer Rachael will give a paper at the University of Leeds on Fatimid jewelry in Islamic Caesarea. Not content with sticking to one discipline, Rachael incorporates anthropological and biological science with art historical research in order to better understand what drives humans to make fascinating and beautiful things.

– Max Henderson, “The Emerging Role of Quantum Computing in Machine Learning”

Data science has been rapidly growing over the past decade, and its applications have become ubiquitous in our daily lives. As these applications consume more data and need faster response times, new technologies and algorithms are needed to meet the computational demands. Quantum computing is a highly promising emerging technology that could present significant opportunities to accelerate the training of machine learning algorithms and improve data science methods.

This presentation will provide an overview of quantum computing, with a focus on practical applications in industry. The current state of quantum computing hardware technologies will also be explored, including some of the ways people are leveraging these devices for advanced machine learning applications.

Bio: Max functions in a variety of roles to help QxBranch grow. He helps support projects involving quantum computation, machine learning, and data science. He has held Data Scientist positions at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Lockheed Martin, providing technical solutions in cyber, bioinformatics, and natural language processing
domains. Max has a Ph.D. and MS from Drexel University in Physics
as well as a BS in Physics from West Chester University.

Thomas Harper, “The Law of Star Wars Strikes Back”

Star Wars may be full of lightsabers, space battles, and one very awkward brother/sister crush, but it’s also brimming with legal issues. Could Darth Vader legally interrogate Princess about the hidden Rebel base? Are Ewoks a bunch of furry war criminals? Join Army JAG attorney Major Thomas Harper as he returns to Nerd Nite Philly to break down these issues and more from the galaxy far far away.

Bio: Major Thomas Harper served on active duty as an Army JAG officer for seven years before switching to the Army Reserves and private practice. During his time in the JAG Corps, Thomas has served in a variety of positions, including as a prosecutor, a criminal defense counsel, and as an operational law attorney advising on the law of war and rules of engagement in combat operations in Afghanistan.

While he loves all things geek, he is a massive Star Wars fan and collector who still proudly carries a Darth Vader lunchbox. Thomas blogs and podcasts for The Legal Geeks (, using Star Wars to teach about a wide variety of legal topics. He regularly shares his love of Star Wars on the national stage, and has presented at San Diego Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, WonderCon, and DragonCon.

We will have complete details soon. As always, it’s a $5 cover (cash only, ATM on site and there’s a Wells Fargo up the street). The show starts at 7:30pm sharp, but we recommend getting there early to enure a good seat!


Wednesday, March 6th.  Frankford Hall


Nerd Nite No. 89: Higgs Boson, Biomedical/Animal Research, The Fonz

Hello again nerds!

It’s been awhile since our last Nerd Nite Philadelphia event, and we are so pleased to announce our triumphant return!

Our hiatus is over, and here’s the info on our next event:

Jonathan Heckman with “My Universe Is Bigger Than Yours. And So Is My Higgs Boson.”

Why is the Universe so big? And why are atoms so small? And what does it have to do with the Higgs boson? One of the big puzzles confronting physicists is how to make sense of the very big and the very small in a single framework. Explanations range from everything being a giant cosmic accident to the presence of deep new physical principles which control matter, space and time at the shortest scales imaginable. Come learn how theorists continue to propose new ideas and how experimentalists are beginning to test some of these proposals at particle accelerators and telescopes around the world.

Bio: Jonathan is an Assistant professor in the physics department at the University of Pennsylvania, and mainly works on string theory and what it can tell us about subatomic particles, the size of the Universe, and everything in between.

Dr. David Garbe, “Communicating the Importance of Biomedical and Animal Research Through Education”

Since 2012, in an effort to educate the public about the importance of biomedical and animal research, PSBR has engaged more than 26,000 students, 2,200 teachers, and countless numbers of the general public. It is our belief that quality education is essential for changing the conversation surrounding the lab animal and scientific communities while opening people’s eyes to the value of biomedical and animal research. During this talk, attendees will learn about PSBR and the programs we offer. We will also provide tips and strategies for communicating, debating, and exploring the health and medical benefits that humans, as well as animals, obtain from biomedical and animal research.

Bio: Dr. David Garbe went to high school in a small New York town called Narrowsburg. Following high school, he spent four years at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1998, Dr. Garbe embarked on his scientific journey in the laboratory of Dr. Meera Sundaram and performed cancer research using C. elegans as a model system. He then attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and used Drosophila melanogaster to study nervous system development. Upon obtaining his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at UPenn in 2007, Dr. Garbe performed research focused on discovering novel therapeutics for mood disorders at Pfizer and then investigated the underlying mechanisms of circadian biology and sleep at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, Dr. Garbe was also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia as well as Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges.
Since joining the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research (PSBR) as their Outreach Educator in 2016, Dr. Garbe has developed numerous in-class programs and activities, presented to countless classrooms, and engaged over 4,000 students. Dr. Garbe also participates in Teacher Professional Development Programs, Science Fairs, Career Workshops, and Public Community Outreach initiatives. He was recently promoted to Director of Outreach and Education and looks forward to extending the scope, reach, and mission of the organization to educate the public about the importance of biomedical research and its significance to human and animal health.

Chris Cummins,”The Perfectamundo World of the Fonz”

Ayyy! In the late-1970s and early ’80s, The Fonz was the coolest being on Earth. But how did Henry Winkler’s portrayal of Milwaukee’s greatest greaser become such a pop culture touchstone? In this talk, Chris Cummins will explore the how, when, and why of how a Happy Days supporting character eventually dominated the show, discuss the merchandising bonanza he spawned (including two cartoon spin-offs) and generally talk about a brief but magical time in history when the Fonz was everything.

Bio: Nerd Nite Philly co-boss Chris Cummins is a regular contributor to Den of Geek, is the producer and host of the events Sci-Fi Explosion and Music Video Book Club, and is an Archie Comics historian.

Wednesday, February 6th. 7:30pm (arrive early to ensure you get a good seat).

Frankford Hall

1210 Frankford Avenue

$5 (cash only, ATM on site and there’s a Wells Fargo up the street).



Nerd Nite No 87: Dying in Space, Star Wars and your Genome!

Here’s what we have lined up for you on August 1:

Death by Snu Snu or: All The Ways That Space Will Kill You.

Traveling to distant worlds has long been a dream of us earthbound humans, and incredible advances in technology mean humans will likely walk on Mars in the next few decades. The only limit is our imagination.

But there’s one little problem…space is a really scary place.

Join professor and science communicator Michael McConville for a sobering look at all the ways that space can kill us — from the dramatic to the mundane — and how scientists are trying to ensure that humans truly become an interplanetary species.

In space, no one can hear you scream, but they might see you boil.

Michael McConville has always wanted to be an astronaut, and as a fifteen-year veteran of the planetarium field, he gets to make others feel like astronauts every day. A six-time presenter at Nerd Nite Orlando, this is Michael’s first talk for Nerd Nite Philly! Michael is noted for his unique storytelling ability and a love of learning and exploration. This very particular set of skills is useful in his other day jobs, as sales manager for the planetarium company Spitz, Inc., and as a professor of American History. Michael is an alumnus (twice!) of the “maybe national champions” University of Central Florida.
What Can Your Genome Say About You?

In the last decade, we suddenly have access to each position in our DNA. My talk will focus on what this can (and cannot) tell us: about ancestry, health, and behavior.

Shweta Ramdas is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. She moved here from Michigan (go blue!) where she studied the genetics of diseases in humans.
The Law of Star Wars

Could Han Solo legally shoot first? Were R2-D2 and C-3PO unlawfully discriminated against in the Tatooine cantina? From war crimes to child custody, the Star Wars galaxy is brimming with legal issues. Join attorney and Army JAG officer Thomas Harper for a breakdown of some of the biggest legal topics in the galaxy far, far away.

Thomas Harper is a Lehigh Valley attorney with the firm Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo. Thomas served on active duty as an Army JAG officer for seven years and now serves in the Army Reserves. During his time in the JAG Corps, Thomas served in a variety of positions, including as a prosecutor, criminal defense counsel, and as an Operational Law attorney advising on the law of war and rules of engagement in Afghanistan.

While he loves all things geek, he is a massive Star Wars fan and collector who may or may not still carry his lunch in a Darth Vader lunchbox. Thomas blogs and podcasts for The Legal Geeks (, using Star Wars to teach about a wide variety of legal topics. He regularly shares his love of Star Wars on the national stage, and has presented at San Diego Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, WonderCon, and DragonCon. You can follow him on Twitter at @thomasLharper.

Plus, nerdy fun, surprises and perhaps even a little bonus talk!

Join us!

Nerd Nite Philadelphia

Wed., Aug 1. 7:30 pm (doors at 4, we recommend getting there early to ensure you score a good seat).

$5 cash only, there is an ATM onsite and a Wells Fargo up the street.

Frankford Hall

1210 Frankford Ave, in the heart of Fishtown