Jun 8

Nerd Nite comes to Tokyo

Jay Noyes from Castle Tintagel talks about sword fighting at Nerd Nite in Tokyo.
Credit: John Matthews – john-matthews.net

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Here’s a great event for science lovers in Tokyo. Last Friday I got to go to the first ever Nerd Nite in Tokyo, organized by Amanda Alvarez from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and Andrew Woolner from the Yokohama Theatre Group, with photography by all-around video/audio guru John MatthewsIt was a cool chance to learn about some things that I knew pretty little about, in English, in a nice venue with good drinks.

The first talk was about swordfighting—about people who are brave enough to get dressed up in armor and slash it out with their friends using swords. And we’re not talking 11th century here—there are people doing this in 2016. The speaker, Jay Noyes from Castle Tintagel, a school where you can learn how to do medieval combat, talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the various weapons and armors they used, discussed fighting styles, and then corrected a number of misconceptions about the sport. As a former fencer and Kendo player, I was pretty interested in the style differences. I got to ask one of two questions, and asked if there were serious injuries or fatalities. Jay said he didn’t know of any fatalities, but knew of a person getting paralyzed—ouch—though he rightly pointed out that martial arts always present some danger.

The second talk from Mikael Reponen, a physicist at RIKEN, focused on the use of a technique called optical spectroscopy, where the orbitals of electrons are measured to give insights into the structure of the nucleus inside. I was quite interested in the talk, since we do a lot of work in that area, but I was a bit worried that it was technically a bit over the heads of people without a physics background. It’s not easy stuff to explain!

Lana Sinapayen from the University of Tokyo talks about robots controlled by neurons from a mouse brain

Lana Sinapayen from the University of Tokyo talks about robots controlled by neurons from a mouse brain.
Credit: John Matthews – john-matthews.net

And the third was a presentation on artificial intelligence. Lana Sinapayen from the University of Tokyo started her talk by describing an interesting experiment where mouse neurons are placed into a robotic vehicle and help it avoid bumping into things, and went on to talk about the nature of artificial intelligence and to describe her own experiment setting up a Twitter account that makes posts based on an analysis of her own tweets (and, as she explained, it make some pretty weird tweets!).

The next Nerd Nite in Tokyo is scheduled to be held mid-July, so if you’re around, consider checking it out. Anyone is welcome to present at Nerd Nite, so if you’re a nerd (😁), feel free to contact the group through Facebook or Twitter if you have any good ideas.

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