This month, hosted at Komedia, a larger and rather upgraded venue than the usual gathering area, Nerd Nite featured a SciFest Special. Nerd Nite, featuring nerdy science, laughter and quizzes, fascinates nerd all over Brighton. This months passionate speakers were appearances from Professor Jonathan Bacon, Dr John Wood and The Science Museum’s resident comedy team, Science Punk.

Kicking things off was a brief light hearted introduction – What is it to be a nerd? One definition states that a nerd is a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills. But if you ask me, that’s incorrect. A true nerd is a single-minded expert in a particular technical field, which led nicely on to this months science speakers.

Animal Disease

We all know about diseases such as SARS, HIV/AIDS, Avian Influenza as just a  few examples. But did you know that these are all diseases that have been transferred from animals to humans? These are called Zoonoses.
Dr John Wood, previous influenza virologist at the World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory in Hertfordshire discussed what fruit bats and civets have in common, and how some virus can jump from animal to human at alarming rates causing mass panic.

South American social spiders, Darwin and Game Theory

Prof Jonathan Bacon, a Professor of Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences at The University of Sussex, gave a captivating talk on South American social spiders, Darwin and Game Theory.

If you are like me and suffer from Arachnophobia, this was not the presentation for you.

With videos featuring thousands of spiders in rugby balls sized nests and spiders hanging from overhead power-lines to catch their next victim- it certainly made my skin crawl. Bringing back memories of only the night before when a huge spider (in reality, probably the size of a 2p coin!), went running across my bedroom floor.

Moving away from my hatred of spiders; Bacon went on to apply John Maynard Smith’s research of Game Theory onto these little creepy crawlies’ activities. This concept states that for a set of behaviours to be conserved over evolutionary time, they must be the most profitable avenue of action when common, so that no alternative behaviour can invade.

Thus, the spiders have a set of behaviours that they abide to when they form webs and ‘hunt’ for food.

Science Punk

At this point in the night, a little bit of science silliness begins. And this month was no exception was Science Punk’s science – faction (fiction and fact) quiz. Through intensive selection, four members of the audience were chosen to take part on stage. And would you have guessed… I was one of them (chosen purely on the fact I had never seen Star Wars… or was it Star Trek – I’ve never seen either! Yes, okay…. I can hear you all judging me, much like the whole audience as I was presented on stage!)

As the quiz got underway, we were all given a ‘team’ name of a famous sci-fi film and presented with a cup of water with a wire in, that would work as our nerdy buzzer. After several rounds, I was knocked out and the remaining contestants went into the final stage. Taking a strange twist, it involved dried bug eating and I was very glad that I was safely back in my seat!

Having witnessed some very large and creepy bugs be consumed the winners got their prices – more dried bugs – and the night was over.

Much to say, apart from being terrified by spiders and diseases, February’s Nerd Nite certainly lived up to expectations! Fun, laughter, nerdy conversation and lots of science passion – I know I’m going to be heading back to Nerd Nite in March.

Keep an eye out for The Badger’s next preview of the Nerd Nite: March in the coming weeks.

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