Archive for the ‘Nerds’ Category

What’s in a name?

September 8, 2012
Pale tussock moth caterpillar

Hello there!

I met a new friend in the park today. He’s a fellow vegetarian, even shorter than me, with spiky hair and stumpy legs. Unfortunately I think I scared him – he took one look at me and froze. I had to leave him under the tree where I found him.

As you might have guessed from the picture, my small hairy friend is a caterpillar. I was delighted to see him (not only because I was looking for something to distract me from some work I was meant to be doing). I LOVE caterpillars – they’re small, colourful, comical and really cute. But after a squeal of ‘awww!’ my second response was, ‘what’s your name?’ (more…)


I am not a number – I’m a statistic

May 29, 2012
Number nine

Today’s post is brought to you by the number 9 (it’s my favourite)

It’s very annoying being treated impersonally, as ‘call number 18 in a queue’, or as a poorly defined Amazon customer (no I don’t want more baby toys, I only bought one for my friend). But we all exist as impersonal datapoints on many, many spreadsheets all over the place.

I’ve ranted with my friends about the strange decisions taken by insurance companies: why is insuring my car against fire and theft MORE expensive than comprehensive cover?? How is Catford classified as a flood plain?

But gradually I achieved (for me) a zen-like level of calm – I remembered that really I’m just a statistic. In this particular case, a woman in her twenties with a very old Ford Fiesta. And my friend is simply a Catford resident whose neighbours have made several claims for flooding (probably burst pipes, rather than Biblical inundations of south London). We’re all statistics. (more…)

Science pilgrimages

May 6, 2012
Toco toucan

Toco toucan – one of the animals I want to see one day in the wild (photo by Christ Parfitt)

Anyone who pretends that science is all about rationality really isn’t a very scientific observer. It’s easy to see that nerds are captivated by the standout stories from the history of science – I hope we’ve all felt that sense of overwhelming wonder as we imagine being the first man on the moon, or standing side by side with Darwin as he got his first glimpse of the animals on the Galapagos Islands. And our trips to historic scientific sites do seem a bit like pilgrimages to the scientific holy land.

I remember as a small nerd visiting the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, where I hopped from side to side of the Greenwich Meridian. I knew that it was only an imaginary line, but I got a real kick out of seeing it – even at the time I realised this was pretty irrational. (more…)

TV scientists – Sherlock and the nerd stereotype

January 9, 2012

Another well-used cliche

The BBC’s new series of Sherlock is total nerd porn. It’s the sort of programme that makes me shout possible plot developments at the TV screen in a vain attempt to show that my brain still works. It’s not an exaggeration to say that realising the significance of the combination Sherlock entered into Irene Adler’s safe (her vital statistics – score!) was one of my main achievements of 2012 so far (the other was a non-disastrous drive from Hampshire to London through biblical rain after a ‘driving break’ of about 6 months).

Anything that allows me to indulge my love of nerds gets my vote. Especially if it legitimises this minority view by translating it into brilliant prime time TV that arrives exactly when you need it, giving me an excuse to reimmerse myself in all the Sherlock Holmes stories (which I’ve already read about 20 times). But there’s one fly in the ointment. Does this not-so-guilty pleasure perpetuate a damaging nerd stereotype? (more…)

Why I love Sheldon Cooper

August 24, 2011

If you’ve never seen The Big Bang Theory, you might assume it’s some tragic sitcom about a load of teenagers trying to get laid ‘with hilarious results’. Thankfully you would be wrong. It’s actually about four physicists (although the getting laid bit is about right), and if you love nerds you need to watch it.

Clearly a LOT of people love nerds, because if you Google ‘big bang theory’ the first result is the show’s Wikipedia page (which does have spoilers). You’ll have to scroll down a bit further if you’re interested in the actual theory about the big bang. I wish I could say the show challenges prevailing stereotypes about scientists… except it doesn’t. But somehow I don’t care, because the character who steals almost every scene, Dr Sheldon Cooper, is my new not-so-secret crush.