Nerd Nite

Nerd Nite. What a great idea!

This is a night when nerds come together over beer to hear about all things nerdy. The basic idea is that everyone has something that they know more about than everyone else, so let’s share what makes us uniquely nerdy! Nerd Nites were started by Chris Balakrishnan, a doctoral fellow at Harvard, who spent enough time at his local watering hole talking about his research that the bartenders there asked him to do a presentation one night in the hopes that he’d get it out of his system. And so, Nerd Nite was born! It has now spread to multiple cities and Nerd Nites can be found in DC, Chicago, Munich, NYC, Austin and as of this month, here in San Francisco!

Nerd nite first visited this fair city last year with great success and this past Thursday was the first of San Francisco’s now regular evenings of nerdery. Topics included “I was a teenage ichthyologist” presented by Bart Bernhardt, “It’s not it’s size but how you work it” in which Brady Burgess described the use of nanoparticles in anti-fungal therapies and my personal favourite “Is it fake money if you can buy real hookers with it?” in which Jennifer Russell discussed the new issues arising from the growing online gaming economy. The title was taken from an extreme case in which a woman posted a craigslist ad offering sex in exchange for $5000 World of Warcraft  gold that she needed to purchase an epic mount (Seriously). The woman, who did manage to complete the exchange, was never charged with solicitation. This online world of fake money is so new that the IRS and lawmakers just don’t know what to do with it. Money spent on these online worlds is on the rise with bizarre new advances all the time. For instance, Jennifer told us that 7-11 has teamed up with Zynga, the creators of popular facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Now when you purchase an ice cream at 7-11 you get a code that you can punch in at home to get your free Farmville cow (speaking of which I’m proud to say that I have been Farmville-sober for 60 days now!). Even crazier, you can go to the 7-11 and use your real $10 to buy a gift card which you then turn in for fake Farmville dollars. What the hell?

I guess all that is left to do is to decide what I’ll try to present on! I’m leaning toward “Are zombies scientifically possible?” Thoughts? Suggestions?

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6 Responses to Nerd Nite

  1. Angela Richardson says:

    Of course your presentation has to be ‘Are zombies scientifically possible?’! We’ve all been waiting for this culmination! And you should post a video of it on your blog so we can see what all the super-nerds think. I’m excited to finally see this!

  2. missphd says:

    Boo, I am too late and too unoriginal. I looked up past talks and someone gave one about zombies and parasites last year. Guess I will have to keep thinking!

  3. Dr.Clank says:

    The fake online money = real world money phenomenon isn’t as abstract an idea as one might think, especially when one considers how Wall Street, investment futures, and the other “real” money-making schemes work (see recent global recession). Comparatively, sex-for-WoW-gold is a pretty straightforward and logical proposition.

  4. missphd says:

    Yeah, I guess the idea with stocks came out of something tangible though. Theoretically you’re buying a part of a company that actually does or makes something. Whereas with World of Warcraft you will never get anything tangible from it.

    • Dr.Clank says:

      Well that’s my point: are stocks tangible? I can pay a broker to take my $100 and buy $100 worth of the Acme Company. Can I touch it? Eat it? Smell it? Can I take my $100 worth of the company and put it on my shelf? Can I let my friends play with it? If Acme widgets turn out to be defective and the company suffers, my $100 magically turns into $37. Where’d the other $63 go? It’s just gone. It no longer exists. How’s that for tangible? My WoW epic mount provides me happiness, it makes other players envy me, and it looks cool. Ditto for my Farmville cow. That’s at least as tangible as an email telling me that I own a fraction of a company.

      For the record, I don’t play WoW or Farmville. I do, however, own a couple of thousand units of a Mutual Fund, which in turn is composed of shares in dozens of companies, some of which are investment firms that don’t have any physical assets but rather they consist entirely of emails or pieces of paper that indicate the company owns little bits of a bunch of other companies. The idea that all companies “do something” or “make something” is no longer true.

      • missphd says:

        Yes, I guess that is true about companies with no product/service. It is also true that something is only worth what someone will pay for it, so I suppose the fact that someone is willing to pay for an epic mount gives it value.

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