Nerd Nite #23

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 7 August at A Rolling Stone (Note the venue!)

7 August Speakers

“What a Time to be Alive! (Seriously)”
by John “the Robert” Rynearson

Housing crisis, inflation, war, ram raids, climate change – it’s getting a bit intense out there. But despite the world’s very real problems and the challenges inherent to our human condition, there has never been a better time to be alive than RIGHT NOW.

John “the Robert” Rynearson was a high school history teacher, guitarist in a ska band, landscaper, and community theatre actor in the last century. Since then he’s lived in Japan, met a girl from Dunedin, moved to New Zealand, cleaned out the Eastgate and Palms Farmers stores after the earthquakes, helped to create two children, and now works by day as an HR Tech Consulting Manager and by night as a standup comedian in Christchurch. John has at times felt down about the state of the world, but between reading Steven Pinker, viewing the WWI exhibit at the Canterbury Museum, and rocking out to 220k minutes of Spotify last year – he is on a mission to turn your frown upside down.


“My Life in Trash – 2002-2022”
by Sharon McIver

Sharon never planned to become an expert in waste reduction, but when she set out to research Aotearoa outdoor electronic dance parties (raves) in 2002, you could say the trash found her, and picking up litter both informed her research and broke her heart. Post doctorate, she worked in the Sustainability Office at the University of Canterbury where she undertook a waste audit and upgraded the recycling system which led in 2012 to the establishment of Our Daily Waste, a waste minimisation consultancy specialising in events, signage, and waste audits. Sharon ran ODW until 2022 – when broken by a decade of sorting other people’s trash – she gave up trying to save humans from extinction and went back to teaching. This is that story.

Dr Sharon McIver is an aquarian earth monkey with a busy brain that has tried on many vocations – care worker, banker, hospo, nanny, music retail, music journalism, eco warrior, and lecturer – but who is currently making a comfortable living out of her twin passions: writing and teaching. Also loves dancing and knitting.


“Riding the Rollercoaster of Polyamory: Research on the Highs and Lows”
by Patrick Boudreau

Thinking of having your Kate and Edith too? Let’s dive into the latest polyamory research.

Patrick has a PhD in advennture psychology. He is a senior lecturer in spot psychology, a qualified firefighter, skydiver, and pagalider. He gets bored easily, so he has analysed data from a recent study on the disadvantages of polyamory with Dr. Amy Moors, a researcher from the Kinsey Institute.

Nerd Nite #22: Presidential Picks, Cozy Tricks, and Aurora Pics

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 3 July at Little Andromeda (Note the venue!)

3 July Speakers

“How America Gets its Presidents”
by Peter Field

Everything you might and might not want to know about Americans electing presidents in 2024 and for 200 years before that. 

Peter heads up Humanities at Varsity and has just returned from the USA.


“Cold homes are not a curse, they are by design… so let’s change it!”
by Julie Villard, Registered architect (OA / NZIA / ADNZ / NZGBC)

Come and find out how a French architect finally cracked down on the curse of cold NZ homes with the unexpected help of Kate Winslet. With a mix of building sciences, modern technology, and sustainability, this sweet yarn will help you to make smart choices about your house and lifestyle, how to feel warmer and dryer at home tonight and how to be better prepared for the future.

NZ Awards winning architect and eco-friendly specialist, Julie Villard has a passion for design, sustainability & technology, she built her skills and knowledge in France, Canada, Switzerland and for the past 12 years, here in New Zealand. She is now the welcoming face of the Christchurch City Council’s Eco Design Advisor service, advocating for smarter, healthier and more energy-efficient homes. She provides support and free independent advice for new homes & retrofits, to homeowners, designers, and manufacturers. Her main drive is to debunk building myths and encourage everyone to do better now. With a strong scientific background, she explains among other things, what she calls ‘’the physics of the building’’ and the various principles of what constitutes an eco-build. Remember: Knowledge is power…. But only if it is shared. So come and nerd out with her!


“The Night The Sky Caught Fire – the Great Aurora of 2024”
by Matthew Bridle

The aurora is a magical phenomenon that has been enthralling civilisations since the beginning of time. This talk will uncover some of the many mysteries of the aurora and will give you some pointers on how to see one for yourself. It’ll cover the May 2024 geomagnetic storm, and how you too can get amazing aurora photos.

By day Matthew is a software engineer, and by night he’s a keen aurora chaser.  He’s been fascinated by space weather and its many effects on Earth since he was a teenager and loves driving to remote locations to watch the night sky, and hopefully get some pictures of the Southern Lights!

Nerd Nite #21: From the Ring to the Heart and Mind

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 5 June at A Rolling Stone (Note the venue!)

5 June Speakers

“The 4 Flavours of Pro Wrestling”
by Taylor Ruddle

Did you know that pro wrestling in different countries is actually really different from each other? Comedian and lifelong rasslin’ fan Taylor Ruddle takes us on a deep dive through the culture and styles of the 4 major professional wrestling cultures – America, Japan, Mexico and Europe. We will explore the cultural aspects of each country and how they influenced the unique presentation of the pro wrestling shows that they produce as well as some of the superstars in each region. Pro wrestling skeptics are most welcome, you might just come away with a newfound appreciation for the art form known to some as “Redneck Anime.” Can you smell what The Rudd is cooking? Come along to find out!

Taylor Ruddle is an award winning stand-up comedian based right here in Ōtautahi Christchurch. When not writing the most egregious puns, gags and goofs you’ve ever heard of he spends his days playing video games, watching pro wrestling or attempting to get fit. The key word there being attempting. Taylor hosts a podcast called Ruddle Me This available on all the podcast platforms as well as aired every Friday on Plains FM and performs stand-up comedy every week at The Austin Club in Christchurch.


What can young people teach adults about better sex and relationships?”
Dr Tracy Clelland

You learn a lot by listening to children and young people talk about relationships and sexuality when you have been an educator/researcher for 30 years. I have learned that adults get busy and forget the fundamentals of healthy, joyful and pleasurable relationships—elements that young people are told to work out for themselves. As one 16-year-old stated,” How do we learn about sex and relationships? It’s like Nike says, you just do it”. This talk will explore what children and young people can teach adults about nurturing the joy and pleasure of intimate relationships. Be prepared for an interactive talk where you may have to talk to the person next to you—just like in a relationship.

Tracy is a relationship and sexuality educator, teacher, researcher, mother, adventurer, and former university lecturer. Fundamentally, Tracy is an advocate for people’s right to access sexual and reproductive healthcare and education that supports kōrero about sexuality. When she is not off backpacking in Africa, she can normally be found mountain biking in the hills.


“It’s NOT all about sugar: ultra-processed foods and their impact on mental health”
by Julia Rucklidge

Over the last few decades, scientists have been uncovering an uncomfortable truth: Our current modern food environment is affecting our mental health. In this talk, Prof Rucklidge will discuss what we know about food choices and mental health problems and simple ways to improve your diet for optimizing brain health. The talk intends to challenge our current approach for addressing mental health challenges in our community and suggest one avenue for big change.

Professor Julia Rucklidge, a clinical psychologist, is the Director of Te Puna Toiora, the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab at the University of Canterbury. Originally from Canada, she’s a renowned clinical psychologist focusing on nutritional interventions for mental illnesses. Despite having no training in nutrition and lived off cheerios as a kid, she keeps getting invited to speak on food! With hundreds of publications and global talks, she advocates for healthy eating to enhance mental health. Notable achievements include co-authoring “The Better Brain,” a TEDx talk with 5 million views, and receiving awards like the Ballin Award and being named one of New Zealand’s top 100 influential women.

Nerd Nite ChCh Turns 20!

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 1 May at Little Andromeda.

1 May Speakers

“Digital interfaces so bad that they’re good: a case study of parking meters”
by Tim Bell

Have you ever been frustrated using a digital device? Perhaps even had violent thoughts about it? Have you ever wondered why something that is pitched as “user friendly” isn’t? The technical name for interfaces that suck is “poor usability”. In this talk we’ll look at a particular case that provides a goldmine of usability problems: paying for car parking.

Tim is a computer scientist who is kept away from society by being allowed to teach at the University of Canterbury. When teaching about digital interfaces, his philosophy is ‘don’t get mad, get even’; the worst interfaces he comes across are photographed and reported in his teaching. When he’s not computer sciencing, he sometimes manages to get out in public by playing in a band.


“A brief tour of the Universe over all space and time (in 15 mins)”
by Karen Pollard

As they say in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Space is big, really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” In this talk, we’ll take a quick tour of the universe in space (which is big) and in time (which is also big) in 15 minutes (which is small). We’ll see how we go…  

Karen grew up in Christchurch wanting to find out more about space, particularly the stuff in space, …. which can be hard to study, because space is big, really big. Karen actually wanted to be an astronaut when she was small, but she suffered from terrible motion sickness, so she decided looking at stuff in space using a telescope was a much better idea. She is currently the Director of the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory in at Tekapo, which houses the largest optical telescopes in New Zealand, so she doesn’t have to buy her own.


“Parenting: the single greatest blockage to sustainability
by Mr. G

Despite growing pressure from global communities and decades of scientific arguments for sustainability and climate change, very little has been done to progress humanity on environmental and social progress. Why then, should we turn to parenting to unblock positive change?

Mr. G is a Sustainability and Change Management Coach improving the sustainability journeys of companies, NGOs and Governments from Cambodia to Poland and now at home in New Zealand. His mahi has won him the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation’s Green Business Awards in Cambodia and helped push the sustainable business agenda for organizations such as the United Nations to the Royal Government of Cambodia. Recently he’s helped the Crusaders to the Christchurch Town Hall improve their waste diversion to above 80% averages.

Nerd Nite #19: Gnomes, Sticks, and Recycling Tricks

Join us on the first Wednesday of every month!
Next event is 3 April at A Rolling Stone.

Note: We have increased ticket prices by $5 so we can provide you with even more great nerdy content. As a thank you, all attendees on 3 April will be entered to win some of the nerdy new merchandise launching in a couple of months.

3 April Speakers

“Life Lessons from a Sentient Twig”
by Dr Morgane Merien

For animals, your appearance can make or break your survival. As renowned masters of camouflage, stick insects use their outward form to hide and deceive their predators. However, their deceiving looks are not their only trick. Stick insects have a range of adaptations which have allowed them to flourish throughout the world. In this talk, Morgane will help you learn why stick insects are amazing, and why they are now your favourite insect.

Dr Morgane Merien has spent the past 8 years of her life looking for these sentient twigs in the New Zealand bush. After earning her doctorate in biology trying to answer the question of whether stick insects actually look like sticks, she moved to Christchurch to work at Canterbury Museum as a science communicator. Her love for the smaller, often-neglected critters of our world knows no bounds, and she strongly believes in trying to turn anyone who meets her into lover of bugs.


“How Garden Gnomes and Creativity Can Save Our Planet”
by Henry Sunderland

Think garden gnomes are just tacky lawn ornaments? Think again. Henry Sunderland is here to change your mind and explain why garden gnomes are the unsung heroes of environmental protection. In fact, the word “gnome” means “to know,” embodying the spirit of Earth stewardship.

Henry is a gnomologist, the world’s leading expert on garden gnomes. He has travelled the world with these diminutive figures, spreading their message of environmental guardianship. He even coined the term GNOME (Guarding Naturally Over Mother Earth) to describe their role. A creative thinker and community artist, Henry has a predilection for the iconic and kitsch. With a collection of over 80 gnomes, he’s known in Christchurch for his initiative in starting the flowers in road cones campaign.


“Trash Talk: Demystifying Christchurch’s Green Bin and Recycling Rules!”
by Maria Lamb

Maria is here to tell us all about the recent changes to the green bin and recycling requirements. She will debunk common recycling myths and walk us through the journey our rubbish takes once it leaves our homes.

Maria Lamb is the Waste Minimisation Advisor on the Transport and Waste Unit of the Christchurch City Council Resource Recovery Team. Maria is a nerd about all things waste and recycling. 

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.