Nerd Nite #16: Mars, Bugs, and Surrogacy

If you are a fan of TED talks, the Discovery Channel, Wikipedia binges, and drinking, Nerd Nite is the show for you!

Thursday, October 22, Nerd Nite Denver tackles scientific topics great and small: from human exploration of Mars, to human surrogacy, all the way down to the sex lives of bugs.

Join us in October as senior research scientist Bill Farrand takes us to Mars with NASA’s rovers; Ellen Trachman shows us the new-fashioned way to make babies; and David MacNeal explains all the ways bugs are having better sex than the rest of us. 

Grab your tickets!

  • When: Thursday, October 22 – doors at 6:30pm, show at 7:00pm
  • Where: The Oriental Theater
  • Tickets: $5 online, $8 at the door – 18+

FULL LINEUP

These Wheels are Made for Roving: Exploring the Surface of Mars with Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity 

by Bill Farrand 

When the Spirit and Opportunity rovers landed in 2004 they didn’t find any Tharks or H.G. Wellsian tentacled creatures with leathery skin, but they did find evidence of an early Mars that was more Earth-like than previously recognized. Both rovers vastly exceeded their nominal missions with Spirit exploring until 2010 and Opportunity still in operation and now exploring the rim of the ancient Endeavour crater. Spirit and Opportunity were joined on Mars by the larger Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity in 2012. All three rovers have helped to transform our view of the surface of Mars from a barren, dead volcanic planet to one that was once much like the Earth with flowing ground and surface waters and stunning scenic vistas. 

Speaker Creds

Bill Farrand is a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He has a B.A. in Geology from Franklin & Marshall College and a M.S. and Ph.D. in the Geosciences from the University of Arizona. He has worked extensively in terrestrial remote sensing as well as in the remote sensing of Mars and of the Moon. In the terrestrial remote sensing field, Bill has worked extensively with data from airborne hyperspectral remote sensing systems for both commercial and government programs. Bill has been a Participating Scientist on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission since 2002. Bill has worked extensively with multispectral Pancam data from both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers looking at the multispectral reflectance of rocks viewed by the rovers at the Columbia Hills of Gusev crater and on the plains and craters of Meridiani Planum. He is also involved in several other projects examining terrestrial analogues of Martian surface materials, working with orbital remote sensing data of Mars, and examining the hyperspectral reflectance of dry and ephemeral lakes. In his free time, Bill is an avid rock climber and also enjoys skiing, hiking, taking his dogs on walks, and pursuing useless TV and movie trivia. 

Test Tubes & Turkey Basters: Law and Ethics in Creating Families the New-Fashioned Way

by Ellen E. Trachman

The advent and advancement of assisted reproductive technology has changed the way families can and are being formed. Now grandmothers can give birth to their own grandchildren and courts are awarding embryos to their infant genetic siblings to determine their future use. As gamete donors and gestational surrogates become common place, sci-fi fantasies have become a reality, and family dreams fulfilled. Paired with parallel advancement in LGBTQ rights, the law struggles with applying old concepts of personhood, parental rights, inheritance, and citizenship to new forms of families and the inevitable conflicts that arise. 

Speaker Creds

Ellen E. Trachman founded Trachman Law Center, LLC in order to bring dedicated and compassionate legal representation to those wishing to build a family through adoption or assisted reproductive technology. Originally from Los Alamos, New Mexico, Ellen completed undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley and law school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Ellen practiced law in the investment management group of Sidley Austin LLP, a large international law firm, in San Francisco and corporate law for a well-respected Colorado practice before founding Trachman Law Center, LLC. Ellen is a member of the American Bar Association Assisted Reproductive Technology Committee and Adoption Committee, the Colorado Bar Association Family Law Section, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and Resolve (a national infertility association). 

Even Educated Fleas Do It

by David MacNeal

Bugs make the Marquis de Sade look like an amateur. They have the most metal sex, putting the Kama Sutra to shame. In order to keep our planet’s biomass humming along, with an annual, global pollination contribution of $216 billion, insects reproduce in high volumes. But how have their absurd acts evolved over the past 400 million years? And with global warming leading to numerous, unseen insect extinctions, how will they fare over the next 400? Luckily the insect Dr. Ruths of the world (i.e. conservationists) are trying to figure that out, and sometimes that means coercing bugs to have sex–by hand. 

Speaker Creds

David MacNeal is a Denver-based journalist whose work has appeared in Wired, Medium, Outside, etc. He’s also writing a non-fiction book about our (love-hate) relationship with insects due out summer 2017. Examining the inner workings of insect sex is just one of the perks of the job.


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As always, a huge thanks to our primary sponsor Sexpot Comedy and to our photographer partners in crime From the Hip Photo!

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