Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nerd Nite Orlando #3

 Nerd Nite is an informal gathering at which nerds get together for fun-yet-informative presentations across all disciplines, while the audience drinks along. Nerds and non-nerds alike gather to meet, drink and learn something new. Three speakers will present for 20-25 minutes each on a fascinating subject of their choice, often in an uncanny and unconventional way. It's like the Discovery Channel…with beer!

Josh, with his thick dark beard and stiff collared dress shirt, referred to himself as the "Orlando Nerd Boss." He and Nathan Selikoff were busy setting up computer and projector equipment as people arrived at Stardust Video and Coffee. I had arrived early and ordered a "Rob Reiner" which was a meatloaf sandwich. Growing up, my mom used to make meat loaf once a week so it is comfort food. As I started to sketch, the place became packed.

The first talk was by Clayton Louis Ferrara and he spoke about the Secret Life of Nitrogen.  He outlined it's history and how it was used in chemical warfare in WWI. After the war a chemist found that Nitrogen could be used in fertilizer and it became a multi billion dollar business. In America there is a suburban culture that takes pride in lush green lawns. An incredible amount of money is spent to fertilize, water and then cut lawns. Clayton is by a biologist. He gave us the sad news that over 200 otherwise healthy Manatees had died last year. He had photos. These giants hadn't been hit by motor boat propellers, they died by choking on Algae. Run off from lawns has gone into the rivers causing intense red tide algae blooms. Once clear water became a green sludge killing the manatee's native food sources. Clayton encouraged us all to plant native plants in our yards. These native plants would need no watering or fertilizer. These zeros-capes can also be incredibly beautiful with tall native grass and lush ground covers.

The second talk by Ricardo Williams was about "Absurd Movie Genres." His talk basically outlined films that he liked and how they crossed established genres. A good story doesn't always need to be pigeon holed.

The last talk, "Technological Telekinesis", was by artist Nathan Selikoff.  It began with the Star Wars theme music and a look at planet Earth on the screen. Using a Leap Motion Controller on his laptop, Nathan held his hands over the computer and manipulated the Earth, zooming in as if we were approaching the death star. The Google Earth program allowed him to fly right over Orlando and fly down its streets until he reached Lake Eola. This entire flight was navigated by a new interface that before was just in Science Fiction movies. This new interface can allow artists to sculpt and draw in three dimensions. Most of the software is open sourced and the hardware has become affordable. An infrared light tracks the motion of your hands keeping track of its orientation in 3D space. Nathan wrote his own program called "Beautiful Chaos" that uses math equations to create forms in space.

Nerd Nite is every 2nd Thursday of the month.  These type of events are cropping up all over Orlando. There is Pechakuche, Cafe Scientifique, Tedx Orlando,  and the Mini Maker Faire. Get your Nerd On and help change the world. The July Nerd Nite #5 will  be  tonight at 7pm at Stardust Video & Coffee (1842 E Winter Park Rd  Orlando, FL)
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