Let’s face it, the holidays can be CRAY-Z. Which is why given the opportunity to kick back with the Nerd Night crew for one last series of talks before the New Year felt like it was meant to be.
The air was festive and the crowd was lively as the Nerd Nite Boston 10 year Anniversary and Winter Soul-stice celebration got underway on Tuesday December 10th at the Oberon. There was music, there was booze, there were presents, there were guest speakers and thanks to Nerd Nite Toronto there was even delicious pizza.
The evening started out with a brief introduction by Tim Sullivan, and then the endearingly über nerdy Nerd Nite regular and Canada’s Greatest Know-it-all Andrew Rader took the stage to present a talk titled, “The Future is not Star Trek… but that’s O.k”
It was edifying and entertaining as Rader, dressed like a science officer in the United Federation of Planets, walked us through how the future is and isn’t like Star Trek. He ran down an extensive list hitting on everything from holodecks to replicators to inter-species sex. “So, I think in a lot of ways we are already Star Trek. Certainly in computing we’re way ahead [of the original series]… in other areas like transporters things like that, probably not ever going to happen or at least in the forseable future,” he said. “But, I think we have a very bright future and I think we will within our lifetime start the process of being an interplanetary species, start settling other worlds in our solar system.”
Despite the disappointing news that teleportation will never eliminate my commute Rader once again left us with a lot to think about, and more importantly he introduced us to “Klingon Style” a parody of “Gangnam Style”, which let’s face it, is the gift that just keeps on giving.
But, it wouldn’t be an anniversary without revisiting the talk that started it all, “Brood Parasitism in Indigo Birds,” which debuted at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain in 2003. With an audience coming down off the intense high of a cutthroat “Nerdee Yankee Swap” Tim Sullivan finally introduced “…The Godfather of Nerd Nite… Chris Balakrishnan!”
To start out, we got a little history. “On this very special Nerd Nite extravaganza I’m going to ask you to let me get nostalgic for a while… ” said Balakrishnan. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Nerd Nite started in Jamaica Plain. Actually, in this shit hole called The Midway [Cafe]. The Midway was my watering hole. I drank too much there and they let my crappy band play there and that’s why largely, I had the cache to do something like this. I mean not every bar would let someone get onstage and talk about their science… The Midway, the visionaries that they are, let me do that. He was excited and stood on stage with the air of a seasoned Nerd Nite veteran. “One of the great things about the Midway is that people would heckle, viciously…” he said,”you don’t even have to be nice! You can tell me I suck!”
Balakrishnan’s talk included anecdotes, reflection on the early days and even some heckling by the audience as he moved onto brood parasitism. Giving us a quick primer in evolutionary biology he set up the examples of brood parasitism he was going to cover in his talk.
As it turns out brood parasitism is just as ruthless as it sounds. He had charts, pictures and diagrams of the web of treachery and subterfuge used to perpetrate the deception. There was even video evidence documenting baby birds pushing unhatched eggs out of the nest and killing each other, it was like something out of Game of Thrones. “Now I have to tell you this example is even worse than the Cookoos, it is even more frightening…” Balakrishnan said, “I’ve given this type of talk to audiences with children and I’ve skipped the video part because it is too scary because birds don’t normally have a giant fang, but these birds have a giant fang and they use it to kill baby birds.”
As cruel as nature might be it was definitely cool to finally be able to hear the talk that started it all and which I’ve heard so much about. As always, Nerd Nite delivered something unique and special, and while this was it for 2013 they have lots of plans for the upcoming year, so there is always next year!