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Future Is Here Festival

The national premiere of the new X-Men movie. The Mythbusters. Kirk Johnson. Brian Greene. Sir Patrick Stewart. George Takei. Ten of the best Nerd Nite presentations of all time from across the country.  Jetpacks. Whiskey. Whoa!

Since science is based in experimentation, at Nerd Nite, we too are always experimenting in new ways to share content across our cities. And boy have we created one doozy of an experiment. In lieu of our own global fest this year, we’ve teamed up with the Smithsonian’s second annual The Future Is Here Festival May 16-18, 2014 in Washington DC so you can learn about the merging of science and science fiction from the most prestigious minds in the world while enjoying cocktails and world-renowned entertainers. Fun! Tickets and additional info hereDISCOUNT: Enter discount code FIH_MEZZ to receive the All Access-level ticket for only $100 – a whopping $150 discount!


Friday May 16, 2014 (subject to change)
8-10pm: Cocktail Reception at National Air & Space Museum

Saturday May 17, 2014 (subject to change)
9am-5pm in Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Brian Greene, Cosmologist, superstring and multiverse theorist, author of “The Hidden Reality”
Adam Steltzner, NASA’s “rock and roll engineer”
George Takei, Star Trek’s Sulu and subject of the new documentary To Be Takei
Stewart Brand, De-extinction expert and Founder of The Long Now Foundation
Sara Seager, MIT Professor of Planetary Science and Physics
Kim Stanley Robinson, Hugo and Nebula-award winning science fiction author
The Mythbusters (Courtesy of the Science Channel)
David Brin, Scientist and Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction author

7-11pm: National premiere of X-Men Days of Future Past at The Warner Bros. Theater in the National Museum of American History.  Q&A with the film’s star, Sir Patrick Stewart, to follow.

Sunday May 18, 2014 (subject to change)
In Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
10am: Nerd Nite welcome and introductory remarks by Matt Wasowski & Dr. Chris Balakrishnan
10:20am: Dr. Chris Balakrishnan: Invasion of the Parasites: Birds?!!!!!! 
11am: Laura Lanford: Christ on a Cracker! (Apophenia, Pareidolia and Conspiracy Paranoia)    
11:40am: Joshua Moskowitz: Anatomy of a Space Shuttle Launch  
12:20pm: Derek “Agent D” Demeter: The ET Files: Move over M.I.B!    
1pm: Nicole Austin: Aqua Vitae or Hooch? The Secrets of Great Whiskey 
1:40pm: Mitch Anstey: Let’s Make Light of the Situation
2:20pm: Anna Seekatz: Fecal Matters: The Ins and Outs of Fecal Transplants  
3pm: Molly Wright Steenson: Pneumatic Tubes in Paris: It Really is a System of Tubes 
3:40pm: Alex Dehgan: Lemur Biology in the Axis of Evil: A Schistosomiasis Love Story in 10 Easy Lessons
4:20pm: Shyaporn Theerakulstit: Godzilla: History, Biology and Behavior of Hyper-Evolved Theropod Kaiju 
4:50pm: Closing remarks

Tickets and additional information available at Smithsonian.com/future


Invasion of the Parasites: Birds?!!!!!!
by Dr. Chris Balakrishnan, Founder/Godfather of Nerd Nite and Assistant Professor of Evolutionary and Behavioral Genomics at East Carolina University (Greenville, NC)

Description: Chris’s birds presentation. The one that started it all!

Bio: Founder/Godfather of Nerd Nite and Assistant Professor of Evolutionary and Behavioral Genomics at East Carolina University. Go Pirates!

Christ on a Cracker!  Apophenia & Pareidolia    
by Laura Lanford, Computer Scientist, Nerd (Chicago)   

Description: The human brain has a remarkable ability to attribute consequence to non-meaningful data patterns. While Nerd Niters are generally a skeptical bunch and not prone to over-attribution bias, understanding apophenia — the brain phenomenon that finds these patterns — is valuable information for understanding our survival as a species and, quite possibly, our individual quality of life.

Bio: Laura Lanford is a preparedness hobbyist highly skilled in making Type I errors. Ask her about the Post-Apocalyptic World after her second drink!

Anatomy of a Space Shuttle Launch
by Josh Moskowitz, Engineer and Former Space Shuttle Flight Controller (Philadelphia)    

Description: Successfully launching any spacecraft, especially one as complex as the Space Shuttle, is the result of thousands of carefully planned and executed events.  It requires years of preparation, training, and hard work by thousands of people.   Anatomy of a Space Shuttle Launch will explore some of the events that take place before and after lift-off, when and why they must occur, and what can happen if they don’t.  Strap yourselves in and get ready, because what goes up doesn’t always have to come down.

Bio: From 2004 – 2010 Joshua Moskowitz worked as a Mechanical Systems Flight Control Officer in NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.  He supported 19 space shuttle missions from the MCC while performing a variety of functions.  He also drank beer with astronauts and once made a paper clip chain nearly 3 feet long.

The ET Files: Move over M.I.B!
by Derek “Agent D” Demeter, Planetarium Director at Seminole State College of Florida (Orlando)

Description: You may have heard of the Men In Black (M.I.B) before, but I bet you have never heard of the super-top-secret Men In Silver Ties (M.I.S.T)! Join M.I.S.T.’s very own Agent D on a truly scientific exploration of extraterrestrial life in the universe. He will help us understand the implications of ET for the human race as well as how we can and do search for signs of other intelligent beings!

Bio: Derek Demeter has been Planetarium Director at Seminole State College of Florida since 2007, where he writes and produces new shows that explore the astronomy and history of numerous cultures from around the world. Derek also promotes science beyond the planetarium with his appearances at many other venues such as the Harmony Dark Sky Festival, Cafe Science of Orlando, local libraries, serving as Vice President of the Central Florida Astronomical Society, or simply setting up a telescope at local shopping centers to give the public a truly “out-of-this world” experience.

Aqua Vitae or Hooch? The Secrets of Great Whiskey
by Nicole Austin, President of the New York State Distillers Guild (Brooklyn)    

Description: Whiskey loyalty runs deep amongst lovers of brown spirits. Devotees of particular types, regions, and brands will defend the primacy of their favorites to friends and professionals alike, especially after enjoying a few. But what really makes a whiskey great? We’ll follow the process from grain to glass in search of an answer.

Bio: Nicole Austin is a Master Blender, Engineer and Distiller in the growing US craft spirits industry, the newly elected President of the New York State Distillers Guild, and is a seasoned imbiber of spirits.

Let’s Make Light of the Situation
 by Mitch Anstey, Research Chemist at Sandia National Laboratories  (Oakland)    

Description: LEDs, glow-in-the-dark t-shirts, and detergents that “make your whites whiter” are all possible thanks to a property called luminescence. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but it’s all the same general principle: turn energy into light! Humanity has quickly taken this property, carved it up, marketed it, and given it cool names like triboluminescence, cathodoluminescence, and sonoluminescence. Now it’s time to take luminescence back to the streets! The streets of Oakland! Come see some examples of this incredible property, and learn all you ever wanted to know about making light!

Bio: Mitch Anstey is a chemist by day and a sleeping chemist by night. He made esoteric metal chemistry his specialty at UC Berkeley. Thankfully, someone found that useful in the job market, and he now makes metals emit light for the good of the nation at Sandia National Labs. You’ll find him loving on the Easy Bay just about any day of the week, and he’s glad Nerd Nite has jumped over to the Sunny Side of the Bay.

Fecal Matters: The Ins and Outs of Fecal Transplants    
By Anna Seekatz, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

Description: Although disgusting in general, fecal transplantation has actually saved the lives of many patients suffering from recurrent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, a growing problem in the health sector.   In this presentation, learn about the importance of maintaining “healthy” gut bacteria and how fecal transplantation aids in repopulating this bacterial community. You’ll also become familiar with why these “good” bacteria are important, and appreciate the miracle of fecal transplants.

Bio: Since reading about Ebola in The Hot Zone as a child, Anna has been interested in infectious diseases. This interest morphed into a BS in biology at Western Washington University, followed by a PhD in microbiology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. As a graduate student, her studies concentrated on changes in the gut microbiota (the “good” bacteria that live on and in us) after infection with Shigella, a bacteria that causes diarrhea. Now, as a postdoc in Dr. Vincent Young’s lab at the University of Michigan, she studies Clostridium difficile infection, an antibiotic-associated pathogen of the GI tract, and its relationship with gut microbes. In the future, she hopes to continue her research on these complex bacterial communities and their impact in human health and disease.

It Really is a System of Tubes
by Molly Wright Steenson, Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UW-Madison (Madison)    

Description: We all laughed when the late Senator Ted Stevens told us that the Internet was a series of tubes. Turns out he was right: he was just off by a century. Under the streets of every major financial city in the world and on every continent but Antarctica, pneumatic tube postal systems delivered telegrams and mail, powered by massive and majestic steam engines. In the early 20th century, pneumatic tube systems came indoors, serving as the messaging and financial mechanisms of just about every major building. In this talk, I’ll look at the glorious history of the pneumatic post, especially in Paris, and we’ll see just how right the late senator was.

Bio: Molly Wright Steenson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UW-Madison. Pneumatic tubes have made her Internet famous.

Lemur Biology in the Axis of Evil: A Schistosomiasis Love Story in 10 Easy Lessons
by Dr. Alex Dehgan, Science and Technology Adviser to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (Washington DC)

Description: What’s it like doing research in areas as diverse as a poolhouse in Iraq while under fire, in the western reaches of the Himalayans in post-conflict Afghanistan, in the leech and predator-filled rainforests of southeastern Madagascar, and under the chaos of the collapsing halls of the Kremlin? Research, science diplomacy, and conservation exist in a variety of places from Afghanistan to Madagascar, and some of the cool scientific findings uncovered along the way will be shared, as will the joys of schistosomiasis, the Taliban, and being mortared while at work.

Bio: Dr. Alex Dehgan is the founder of a new startup, Conservation X Labs, and is a senior visiting fellow in the Office of the Provost at Duke University and will be focused on three major initiatives at the university – innovation and entrepreneurship, globalization, and the tropical conservation initiative.  Dr. Alex Dehgan mostly recently served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, with rank of Assistant Administrator, and founded and headed the Office of Science and Technology.

Godzilla: History, Biology and Behavior of Hyper-Evolved Theropod Kaiju
by Shyaporn  Theerakulstit, Actor, Writer, Director and D-List YouTuber (New York)

Description: Tsunami, earthquake, hurricane and typhoon all rolled in one, Godzilla, “King of the Monsters,” has both plagued and benefited humanity for over half a century. By examining the origins and zoology of this force of nature, people and nations will be better equipped to deal with the awesome destructive power of our radioactive visitor from the Cretaceous.

Bio: Shyaporn Theerakulstit is an actor, writer, director and D-List YouTuber, where he posts videos about drug addicted Easter bunnies, unemployed Superfriends and flying kittens. You can see examples of his internet hackery at http://www.youtube.com/shyaporn