Nerd Nite #18: Stayin’ Alive to Make Money on the Giant Fish

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 6 March at A Rolling Stone (note: new venue).

6 March Speakers

“Stayin’ alive with chest pain – why Christchurch is the best place to be”
by John Pickering

In the noughties when you had sudden onset chest pain you went to the emergency department and got to spend a night in hospital – but chances were that you weren’t having a heart attack. Now, thanks to work in Christchurch, if you’re not having a heart attack you will be out of the ED within a couple of hours – no angst, no problem, no cross infection. This is the remarkable story of how science and innovations in Christchurch ED have changed the lives of millions.

John’s wife calls him a doctor, but not the kind that helps people. He counters that he is the kind that tells the kind that helps people what to do. Specifically, he reads the numbers to help design and monitor diagnostic pathways for emergency medicine physicians. Once called a physicist, now more often a biostatistician, but he prefers Skrymaster (looking into silvered objects – aka his computer screen – to predict the future). He has a Research Professor title from the University of Otago, but most of his time is with the Christchurch ED and funding from the Emergency Care Foundation charity.


“Is the North Island Really a Giant Fish?”
by Bernard Darnton

We’ve been telling each other stories for thousands of years, far longer than we’ve been writing things down. How many of these stories were once BREAKING NEWS!!!? Geomythology attempts to tease eye-witness accounts of geological events from their protective cloak of myth. With examples from New Zealand and elsewhere, we’ll look at what kind of stories get mythologised and how well we can match up myth with history.

Bernard Darnton is New Zealand’s leading amateur geomythologist, which goes to show that if you define a niche narrow enough, you can always be number one. As a child in London, his grandmother would take him to the Geological Museum. His interest was physical and scientific. Hers was more esoteric. In New Zealand, the floor really is lava. Both the geology and the mythology are fascinating, and sometimes they overlap.


“Ten Minutes to Millionaire: Unveiling the Hidden Fortune You Never Knew You Had!”
by Dan Lewis

In this talk, we’ll explore a paradigm shift in how we perceive value, think about money and the way we behave. By leveraging evidence-based research, we’ll propose a formula that could help quantify the worth of enhanced wellbeing and productivity, demonstrating how small, incremental changes can compound into significant wealth. Not only will you see yourself differently, you may even become filthy rich too!

As a licensed Financial Planner with a couple of degrees and a knack for understanding human behaviour, Dan is on a mission to decode the mysteries of our money psychology. Dan may not be the “top dog” in financial advising or psychology, but his journey has taken him around the globe, working with people from all walks of life. Every day brings a new adventure in exploring the fascinating world of money, values, and how we can live our best lives.

Nerd Nite #17: Rolling the Dice of Life: Board Game Design and the Martian Odyssey in Nature

New year, new Nerd Nites! We’re back on the first Wednesday of every month!
Starting 7 February at Little Andromeda.

7 February Speakers

“Don’t Hate the Player – A Board Game Designer’s Journey”
by Andy Bell

Andy has always loved playing board games, but a couple of years ago he had the crazy idea that he might be able to actually make one. Last year, his card game Ulterior Design was released into the wild. Through the process of designing, playtesting and publishing his game he got to see firsthand how a game goes from idea to product. In this talk, he will share some of the lessons he learned along the way, and some of the tools he uses for both creating his own game designs and analysing the games he plays.

Andy lives in Mairehau with his wife, his son, a cat and two chickens. As of writing this he has 73 board games in his collection, which isn’t that many really… His favourite games are Paladins of the West Kingdom and Gloomhaven, but some of his favourite games to introduce to non-gamers (ie.”gateway games”) are Splendor, Cascadia and Ticket to Ride. Andy is the designer of the game “Ulterior Design”, which is a quick, puzzly card game about competitive interior design that was released in 2023.


“Is Earth Just a Prep for Life on Mars?”
by Jack Heinemann

Humanity is terraforming Earth into a planet that can even make Mars look desirable as a potential new home. But what’s in it for Mars?

Jack is a university academic lifer; a molecular biology professor of poo, antibiotic resistance, and techno-utopian dreams. There is some bullshit he’d like to share with you.


“Nature for Nurture”
by Dr Bex Dollery

Ever wondered why everyone suddenly started walking your favourite park in lockdown or why posh shops have bird song rather than blaring out Taylor Swift? Let’s check out why sometimes it’s (scientifically) cool to be a hippy.

Over the years Bex has collected as many certificates in ecology, psychology, and natural health as she could manage, gaining the Nerd status. A lifelong love of all things natural, an intense interest in connections and relationships, a 25-year career in ecology and a need to practice some serious self-care means that she has delved deep into the world of using nature to bolster her own sense of peace.

Nerd Nite #16: How To Survive Plant Sex with Clothes

Join us for our last show of the year!
Our next event is 1 November at Little Andromeda.

1 November Speakers

“Twists in Survivor: Losing faith in your own format”
by Henry Hickman

Survivor has been airing for over 20 years, with us currently enjoying its 45th season. Yet, 2000’s Survivor: Borneo is almost a different game compared to Survivor: 45 (yes that’s the real season name, don’t worry reader, we will cover that too!). Let’s explore the twists that some would argue have kept the show fresh, and some would argue have taken every aspect of Survivor, and twisted it into a form barely recognisable compared to what it originally intended to be.

Computer science PhD student/stand-up comedian Henry Hickman has just spent the last two months of his life preparing for his very first presentations at international research conferences and now wants nothing more than to talk about a show he has dedicated far too many hours of his life to. An innocent curiosity for a show called “Survivor: South Pacific” in 2011 at the ripe old age of 12, caused him to fall down a rabbit hole that his friends and family wish he could come back from. Since then, he has seen every US, Australian, New Zealand, and South African season of Survivor multiple times, played online Survivor games, and been described at parties as “that weird kid who knows a lot about Survivor”, but Henry’s social life loss is your night’s gain!


“Sex in Plants”
by Paul Broady

They’ve been doing it for more than 400 million years. It’s not simple but nearly all our food depends on it.

As an ancient, retired university teacher Paul knows how to bore the backsides off an audience. Plant life-cycles were particularly excruciating. Hopefully, you will not squirm too much.


“There’s No Such Thing as a T-Shirt Machine”
by Sophie Woodhams

A brief history of where your clothing comes from and who made it. From prehistoric dresses to clothes today and how you can make better choices about what you wear. 

Sophie Woodhams can be found working in an office as a structural engineer, doing her best to push back against the sea of blue gingham shirts by wearing clothes she has designed and made herself. Sophie is also an avid reader, novice gardener, and occasional knitter.

Nerd Nite #15: Reviewing the Fat Doctor

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH.
Our next event is 4 October at Little Andromeda (back for the rest of the year!).

4 October Speakers

“Peer Review Review”
by Christoph Bartneck

The peer review process is essential to modern science. Researchers conduct studies and submit their results to a journal. An editor manages a review process involving external experts. But what happens when you study the peer review process itself. How do scientific organisations react when they become the subject of an experiment? Not well, to say the least.

Dr. Christoph Bartneck is an associate professor in the department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury.  His interests lie in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction, Science and Technology Studies, and Visual Design. He is a passionate science communicator and the press regularly reports on his work, including the New Scientist, Scientific American, Popular Science, Wired, New York Times and the BBC.


“Fatphobia 101: why we hate fat people”
by Kelsie Inglis

Why does the F-bomb roll off the tongue more effortlessly than the word ‘fat’? Why do we invest excessive time and resources to avoid being fat? And why do we discriminate against those who are? Let’s dissect the historical, cultural, and bias-driven elements of fatphobia, and challenge the norms perpetuating this socially acceptable prejudice.

Kelsie is a strategist, podcaster, fat woman and strong advocate for the use of both f-words. When she’s not on her soapbox about fat acceptance and inclusion, she is the General Manager at Publica, a strategic development and creative agency here in Ōtautahi. 


“Full Moon Syndrome: medical superstitions and you”
by Robin Page

Being a first responder is hard. You have to battle killer bugs, short staffing… and the moon?! Maybe the astrologists are onto something after all…

Robin is a medical nerd who owns 8 different helmets, two different lightsabers, and has strong opinions on his favourite flavour of energy drink. When not stitching up the general public at christchurch hospital, he wears his underwear on the outside and fights crime alongside a certain reclusive caped crusader but secretly wishes the man in question would put some of that money towards the emergency department social fund instead.

Nerd Nite #14: Horse-Ducks Killing Robots with Science

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH.
Our next event is 6 September at Little Andromeda (back for the rest of the year!).

6 September Speakers

“Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?”
by Mike Dickison

You stumble into the arena. Two doors face you; behind one is a gigantic duck; behind the other a hundred tiny horses. Which door should be your fate? The horsey-duck-ducky-horses question was dreamed up on a UK talk show a decade ago, and has been posed to numerous celebrities, including President Obama. Now it’s your turn. But be warned: the answer is more complicated than you think, and involves Galileo, biomechanics, evolution, and something called the Demon Duck of Doom.

Mike Dickison has a PhD in the evolution of giant flightless birds, and has previously spoken at PechaKucha Christchurch on exactly what kind of bird Big Bird is, and at Nerd Nite on how to vandalise Wikipedia. He did his undergraduate study at UC and VUW, and went to graduate school at Duke University. Since then he’s been curator of the moa collection at Whanganui Regional Museum, and is currently a freelance Wikipedia consultant living in Hokitika.


“Killer robots and your imminent demise”
by Doug Campbell

With the advent of Chat GPT, Alpha Go, and self-piloting delivery drones, the technologies of artificial intelligence and robotics are poised to put enormous destructive power in the hands of ‘lone wolf’ hackers and terrorists. What can society do to stop this from happening? The answer, it will be argued, is “bugger all”. Are we all going to die? Yes.

Doug Campbell is a father of three, the owner of two badly behaved dogs, two badly behaved love birds, and a quite well behaved rabbit, and a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Canterbury where the topics he teaches include the existential threat to humanity posed by certain emerging technologies.


Talk Nerdy to Me: Why science is so hard to explain and what can be done about it?
by Molly Magid

Have you been lost trying to read a journal article with a title like “Nonequilibrium sensing of organometal halides with high-sensitivity nanophotonic sensors”? Have you struggled to understand a presentation about how the phenomenology of psychology draws on hermeneutic philosophy? If so, you know that science can be really hard to explain. We’ll take a journey through the history, jargon, and structure of science to understand why it’s so hard to talk about and what can be done to make communicating about science easier.

Molly Magidis a science communicator and science journalist. She has been telling stories about science since she was six, when she wrote a biologically accurate story about ladybugs. She enjoys sharing her passion for science through making podcasts, writing articles, and declaring her love of longfin eels on the street.

Nerd Nite #13: Exercising Spiders Dying

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH
next event is 2 August at Cascade Bar.

2 August Speakers

“Microbes are everywhere – The modern woman’s guide to dying of dysentery”
by Tori Head

Being a 21st century woman is hard – especially without the adrenaline rush that comes with the constant fear of tuberculosis, polillo and black plague. Fortunately, even in 2023, a painful microbe induced demise could still be yours. Supermarkets, local swimming spots and even your own house can be a petri dish for food and water borne illness, so bring along your raw chicken to find out where they come from and how NZ is working to reduce your risk of dying from dysentery. 

Tori Head works at the institute for environmental science and research in the Public Health lab. She has an honors degree in Immunology and Microbiology from the University of Otago. Most importantly, her mothers cooking resulted in food poisoning multiple times as a child, giving her a deep distrust of potentially uncooked chicken (her main qualification for speaking on this topic). 


“How to ignore fitness industry bullshit, to focus on health, fitness and movement stuff that works”
by Dr Susie Stevens

We are fed so many lies when it comes to the fitness industry – most of them targeting vanity, consumerism and inexperience. This sweet yarn will help you ignore the distractions, but focus on the good stuff – a tiny lesson on critical consumerism when it comes to all things exercise.

Dr Stevens is a total nerd with all the bracketed credentials that run after my name to prove it. She’s been in the game for 20 years, so don’t let her child-like height fool you into thinking I’m 12. She likes Mr Mint-Choc from Rollickin and a decent Whiskey. In the daytime, she works at the University of Canterbury, but at night, she fights crime.


“Widows, somersaults, suicide and the smell of vomit: Katipō and redback spiders”
by Cor Vink

There are two species of widow spiders in New Zealand; the endemic katipō and the invasive Australian redback. Where they live and what they do may surprise, delight and/or horrify you.

Arachnologist Cor Vink is a Senior Lecturer in Entomology at Lincoln University. He has worked on spiders for nearly 30 years, which means he knows some stuff about them and he’s older than he’d like to admit. He is particularly interested in New Zealand spider taxonomy and systematics (describing new species and figuring out how they are related to each other) and their ecology. Cor doesn’t have any pet spiders because that would be weird.

Nerd Nite #12: 3D Stopping Pests: A History

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH
next event is 5 July at Cascade Bar (note the new venue).

5 July Speakers

“3D Printing Stop Motion: Solving A Challenge, Creating Another”
by Dale Hayward

Technology may be the solution for a lot of problems, but it can inevitably open up the door for many new challenges. Join Dale Hayward as he takes you behind the scenes on how he and his team used the latest in 3D printing technology to bring his epic stop motion film, Bone Mother to life, proving that innovation and challenges always go hand in hand, sometimes in hilarious ways.

Dale Hayward is an animator, director, and co-founder of See Creature Productions and See Learn Academy. When not collaborating with brands like Nike and Hot Wheels or working on projects like Netflix’s The Little Prince or Kiri and Lou, he can be found running in the hills with his kids or finding some strange thing to animate with his wife.


“Weird Ideas in Pest Control”
by Pamela Niskanen

Put down that aphid sprayer, gardeners, you’re just making pesticide-resistant aphids, and the chemicals are running off into our waterways. The natural way of making that aphid go away is biocontrol: introducing a predator, but that comes with its own set of problems. Learn about the extraordinary steps taken by scientists to find a solution that freaks out aphids, while leaving the ecology of your garden intact.

Pamela Niskanen is a freelance science writer living in Christchurch, New Zealand, with interests in plant biology, ecology, conservation and biosecurity.


“‘Dear Sir: Please remove your pig’: Life as an Inspector of Nuisances in Early Christchurch”
by Annabel Armstrong-Clarke

The Inspector of Nuisances was a role established in 1862, in the very early days of the Christchurch City Council.  With no sewage system, no drainage, no rubbish collection, no Board of Health, limited roads and footpaths, and few by-laws yet established – this was a city filled with many ‘nuisances’ and the Inspector had a very busy life. By looking at their reports from 1862-1877, presently being digitised and made publicly available, they give colour (and smell) to our picture of life in the early days of the city.

Annabel Armstrong-Clarke is the Archivist for the Christchurch City Council. She has a strong interest in making the collection more visible and accessible to the citizens of the city, and is digitising these early records as fast as funds allow (although acknowledges not everyone needs to be as obsessed about early drainage systems as she is).

Nerd Nite #11: Minds, Maps, and Relationships

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH
next event is 7 June at 12 Bar (note the new venue).

7 June Speakers

Fewer Orgies, Waaaay More Talking: Common Myths about Polyamory, Debunked
by Janel Atlas

Are polyamorous people naturally less jealous? Isn’t ethical non-monogamy just an excuse to cheat? Or at least a sign of lack of commitment? Polyamory may have gone more mainstream over the past decade, but there are still heaps of myths and misconceptions circulating. Janel will help sort truth from fiction and offer insights that can support your happiness regardless of whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, poly-curious, or unpartnered. 

Janel Atlas, PhD, is a recovering know-it-all, writer, and relationship nerd. She has identified as polyamorous since 2017 and currently works as a mindfulness facilitator in schools as well as a relationship coach supporting individuals, couples, and polycules to love better, communicate more healthfully, and design their connections instead of unquestioningly going along with the status quo. Janel never feels more on point than when she’s supporting people to live authentically and with kindness.


“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”
by Rodrigo Martinez-Gazoni

It is responsible for much of your pleasure, including 100% of your orgasms. You almost never think of it until it is triggered, and when it is, you expect it to work on call. But sometimes it fails on you, and depending on who you are with, things can get quite embarrassing. And we all know that sometimes thinking with it can lead you to make very bad decisions too. If you show me yours I promise I will show you mine, and then we can have a play with that hot and sexy thing between your… ;P

Rodrigo was a normal kid growing up, until he got bitten by a weird spider near a local power station. No, unfortunately he didn’t get the slightest sign of even the lamest superpower. Not even an allergic reaction! Realising he was not born a mutant, and with limited access to radioactive material, cosmic radiation, or strange medical experiments that could give him superpowers, he went into science. In time, he got to work in all these fields but sadly he never really got superpowers… …or did he? Falling short of becoming a polymath like his ‘non-super’ heroes, he became a polygeek: a superhero trapped in an extremely lucky physicist, who finds everything interesting.


Finding your way in the world
by Riki Cambridge

An exploration of what makes a great map, and some examples from throughout history.

Surveyor by day, orienteer, and self-confessed map nerd by night. Riki’s fascination with maps has taken him across the globe and transpired into a full-time career.

Nerd Nite #10: Inverting Littered Eggs

Join us for our 10th fun, nerdy Nite on 3 May at Little Andromeda.

3 May Speakers:

“Thinking by Inversion: The Power of Turning Things Upside Down”
by Cam Irvine

Thinking by inversion is a way of looking at problems backward and forwards that give a different perspective. Simply put, we as people can make better decisions if we strive to avoid stupidity instead of trying to be brilliant.

Cam Irvine, CIMA®, CRPC®, CFP®, BSBA is a Lifestyle Financial Planner who provides people with financial advice and helps them learn about money. Thinking by inversion is useful when planning for a person’s future because it can provide hindsight, before the fact. He is also American and just can’t stop talking.


Eggs: Uniting the World Through a Teenage Digital Revolution
by Kane Stewart

Kane will go into how to build a cult following of nerdy teenagers and touch on the implications of social media, AI, and fostering real human interaction. He’ll discuss how the Egg Academy is building a community to connect the world with creativity.

Kane is the Founder of the Egg Academy, a digital skills academy for teens. He previously worked as a high school maths/economics teacher in Christchurch and at the video game company Cerebral Fix. On occasion, you may see him as an Egg.


“Throwaway living! Systemic Issues, Inconvenience, and Litterbugs”
by Hugh Benson

In the 1950’s the world changed. Plastics came on the scene and in a short time, everything was available in a disposable form. Yet, along with the convenience of plastics, came a Grinch to spoil everyone’s fun. One who disallowed the clean disposal of this most modern refuse… the Litterbug. Come along for a journey that spans seven decades as he dives into the worst offense of the playground, and the only primary school lesson which carried through to adulthood: “Don’t be a Litterbug.”

Hugh Benson is a PhD student in Environmental Psychology at the University of Canterbury. When procrastinating from study he forages and makes delicious things out of said forage. When there is no forage, he sits quietly in a dark room and somehow visibly hates plastic. This writer is unsure how he does this visually, perhaps a peeved expression? mayhaps a maleficent aura? His hatred of plastics arose when they murdered his parents in the back alley of a theatre. You caught me, that was a lie. Plastic actually destroyed his home planet of Krypton, a fate he wishes to avoid for our shared home… Earth.

Nerd Nite #9: Selling LEGO Economics

We’re hosting our fun, nerdy nights on the first Wednesday of EVERY MONTH
next event is 5 April at Little Andromeda.

5 April Speakers:

Beyond Bricks – The Wild World of LEGO
by Centuri Chan

Jump aboard the LEGO monorail for a journey of discovery!  Centuri will give us insight into the colourful realm of the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) community, share some anecdotes from his experience creating large-scale LEGO models, and remind us of the importance of being creative in our everyday lives.

Centuri grew up with LEGO, and never really grew out of it. He is an 80’s geek and is obsessed with toy robots, toy dinosaurs, and toy robotic dinosaurs.


“An Electronic Penny for Your Thoughts – Money, banking, and why you hate your job”
by Paul Ferguson

We paywave, we swipe, we credit card. But we rarely give any thought to where electronic money comes from. Electric money’s origin, and eventual deletion, are taken for granted as a fact of economic life. Paul explains exactly how this process works – and how we could do better.

Paul has an engineering brain by trade but began investigating the subject of economics after the global financial crisis starting in 2009. He ran a monetary reform group for several years, presenting at various conferences, writing in national newspapers, and raising awareness amongst political groups. It’s sure to be a topic that will develop ‘interest’.


“Who Are We and Why Does That Matter?”
by Ekant Veer

Understanding the importance of identity, meaning and belonging is particularly important for marketers essentially manipulate you to buy into their BS so you buy their stuff – and sometimes you may never even realise it’s happening. In this talk, Prof. Veer talks about the various tools marketers use to create a sense of community and build a connection to things, places, and spaces to bolster loyalty to a product, brand or even city. By understanding these tactics, we can hopefully be more aware and wary of these tactics to be more responsible and mindful consumers in society.

Ekant Veer is a multi-award-winning Professor of Marketing at the University of Canterbury. He has been named as one of the Top 40 under 40 Business School Professors worldwide; an Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award winner, and five times winner of the UCSA’s lecturer of the year award. His work looks at the role that marketing can play in driving social change and community well-being to empower consumers to make conscious choices that benefit them and the society in which they live. He writes a bit, and sometimes people publish it; he talks a lot, and sometimes people listen; he is asked to consult for various organisations and occasionally they buy him a coffee for his time. However, he’s usually best known for stirring shit in the media and taking pretty pictures of the stars – neither of which are that relevant to this talk.