TS Tidbits, 8.6

The first edition of TS Tidbits (name still subject to change) features Nerds.

  • Nerd Girls. A group of female engineers at Tufts University reclaims the use of the word “nerd.” Media coverage tends to focus on the fact that they’re not ugly.
  • Fake nerds. A book excerpt about hipsters who appropriate the nerd image to look cool.
  • Why Nerds are Unpopular. A long, somewhat rambling piece about nerddom, noting that nerds are too focused on interesting things to work at being popular.
  • Nerd Camp. A Slate author writes about summer camp, complete with 90 minutes of “Mandatory Fun.”

Themed links?! Yes. For now.

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Vy is a recent graduate working in a neuroscience lab with children and monkeys. She likes sewing, knitting, lifting weights, and reading in her free time. Especially reading about science!


  1. August 6, 2008 at 11:57 am —

    Themed links! I love it. The Fake Nerd story reminds me of a time I wrote an article for a local alt weekly on shopping for glasses, and one saleswoman told me that about 3 out of 10 customers bought glasses without a prescription so they could look cool/smart. Poseurs!

  2. Joy Wang
    August 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm —

    Why Nerds are Unpopular: From the perspective ofone of the students in middle school, I can say that I agree with some of his statements and would like to disagree with others.
    1) Nerds are unpopular in the social hierarchy. Yes and no. Yes, most nerds get ignored, and picked on and bullied beyond reason, simply because they tend to be quiet, keep to themselves, and are different from most people. Case in point: I have a friend (let’s call him M) who is obsessive about computer games and sci-fi. To make things worse, M’s not quite exactly the most attractive person, though he’s a great friend once you get to know him. And he gets picked on by the jocks and cheerleaders (rough groupings here–not all jocks and cheerleaders are the same) because he fits (sort of) the nerd image. No, nerds don’t have to be picked on. Not always. Case in point: me. I think I could qualify sufficiently as a nerd, and I’m proud of it. I’m not getting quite the ostracism that my friend M is getting from the same group of people. Strangely, the same people who pick on M want to be my friends. Let me backtrack a bit: A lot of teachers really like me. I didn’t ask for it, but most of my teachers (and their teachers) are on fairly good terms with me. I don’t know how important of a factor it is in the jocks/cheerleaders wanting to be my friends. But I have a feeling that it may be some of it, since M is pretty much neutral with all of his teachers and he gets picked on more than I do. Or maybe its a fear of punishment if they pick on me? I’m not too sure. I’m not really athletic (I play field hockey–y’know, sport with the girls running around in kilts?–but I’m nowhere near good at it), I’m not that pretty (not that I care about it, because it’s worth naught anyway), and I’m pop culture illiterate (no interest in conformity, no clue about modern music, unless Jennifer Higdon counts). So what’s the difference?
    2) Being smart –> nerd –>unpopular. Strange thing is, many students want to be smart. I’m sure there’s a statistic somewhere, I just can’t think of where I saw it, that a majority of students rank being smart as consistently more important than looking pretty or being athletic. I don’t know what happens between what students consider important and what actually happens, but it’s strange.
    3) Some tidbits of my own. Nerds really don’t have the time to work on conforming or whatever, because there are more pressing concerns to worry about. Like passing tomorrow’s test or fixing that bit of code that you managed to write on your TI-83 Plus calculator, only to have it fail moments later. (Really, programming on calculators is fascinating) It did ramble a bit, but did make some interesting points. Being a nerd’s like living on an island away from everyone else. Even when you get to the mainland, you never really belong.

    Nerd Camp: CTY. They’re a great program. Actually just finished Long-Distance High School Biology (It was Algebra II last summer, though I’ve sworn off learning anything in 3 months ever again. It’s insane). I honestly can say that I’ve never been to one of their camps. I have at least five or six friends who have gone there, for various diciplines, but I’ve never gone myself. 90 minutes of Mandatory Fun. *chuckles* Figures they would have to be told that. Me? I go to band camp. Well, orchestra camp, but essentially the same thing. When CTY kids spend five hours a day studying, orch dorks spend seven or eight hours practicing. At camp, I would get up 6 ish to start practicing at 7 (which was when you were allowed to start practicing), which gave me an hour’s worth of practice before breakfast. It was fun in a sadistic sort of way. There was no mandatory fun time either, except for free time from 4-6 (which I spent practicing and swatting flies) and after dinner, which occasionally involved setting marshmallows on fire. FUNFUNFUN!!!until we realized that there was a lot of dry tinder and wood-only buildings. Then things got scary.

    That was one really long ramble on nothing in particular.

  3. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm —

    The guy wrote the Why Nerds are Unpopular essay from a decades-ago point of view. I think things are changing now, especially as technology is becoming an increasingly important part of life. You know–the new “nerds are sexy” thing. I like a man whose IQ exceeds his weight.

    Others quibble over the definition of nerd, distinguishing it from geek and dork. Maybe your friend is more of a geek. Which is not insulting. It’s simply a statement.

    Anyway, my friend and I loved setting marshmallows on fire! You peel off the charred outside, and are left with a crunchy shell with a soft, melted inside. Mmm…

  4. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm —

    Also, people have told me that since I switched to contacts I look “stupider.”

    To which I have no reply. I just have no idea what to say to someone who thinks “stupider” is a real word…

  5. Joy Wang
    August 6, 2008 at 1:53 pm —

    I just switched to corrective lenses several months ago. It was a peculiar feeling, not having monstrous glasses perched on my nose. I suffered from glasses separation anxiety for a few weeks.

    I’ve almost (almost!) given up on comprehending the teen psyche. I don’t think any one ever will. We teenagers are still crazy though. That’s one thing the author definitely got right.

    Melted marshmallows annoy me. I have no idea why. Probably because they take forever to scrub off tables and suchlike. When you start lighting sticks on fire and running around with them, though, things start getting reeeeally scary.

  6. The Beatsmith
    August 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm —

    “I just have no idea what to say to someone who thinks “stupider” is a real word…”


  7. August 6, 2008 at 3:12 pm —

    I talked about the Nerd Girls when the Newsweek article came out a month or so ago. That one was particularly bad about focusing on looks instead of some really cool, smart girls. The people interviewed for that one certainly didn’t intend for that to be the focus of the interview though.

    I like a man whose IQ exceeds his weight.
    I love that!!!

  8. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 3:59 pm —

    Beatsmith: Wow. I almost checked the dictionary but did not.

  9. August 6, 2008 at 6:44 pm —

    if “stupider” isn’t a word, we’re going to have to find something else for boys to go to Jupiter to get more of.

  10. August 6, 2008 at 7:52 pm —

    I like a man whose IQ exceeds his weight.

    That’s not entirely fair to those of us above 6′. I mean, at 160lbs I’d be anorexic. Sure, I suppose it would be super-sexy to have an IQ of 220 or somesuch, but how many people do you think can really claim that with any kind of honesty?

  11. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm —

    You said it yourself. It would be super-sexy to have an IQ of 220.

    I know a few men, anyway, who can make this claim. Well, from what I know of their weights and what I can guess of their IQ from spending time with them. They range from 5’7″ to 6’1.5.”

  12. Kerry Maxwell
    August 6, 2008 at 9:51 pm —

    I like a man whose IQ exceeds his weight.

    That’s not entirely fair to those of us above 6′.

    Yes, this seems somewhat unlikely in a properly *man-sized* individual. I had the good fortune of knowing an expert in the field of IQ tests ( ) and even with his flattering estimates of my IQ, my weight and IQ were at best even in my late teens/ early twenties. Maybe if you substitute *Boy* for *Man*, that sentiment seems less unrealistic?

  13. August 6, 2008 at 10:12 pm —

    Wait, you know a few men who can claim a 220 IQ? Can I get an introduction?

  14. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 10:14 pm —

    Oh, I thought you meant “how many men can claim that their IQ exceeds their weight.” I don’t know any 220 IQ scorers.

    Anyway, they were *young* men. Maybe they’re not properly “man-sized” yet at this age. We are on Teen Skepchick, after all…

  15. August 6, 2008 at 10:15 pm —

    Well, yeah, short guys can do it, sure. It’s entirely possible for a reasonably smart guy to have a, IQ above his weight when he’s 5’8″ or whatever… at 6’4″, that’s no small feat, though. 😛

  16. vreify
    August 6, 2008 at 10:19 pm —

    I guess I would have a hard time dating a man who’s 6’4″ anyway. Not only would he be more than a head taller than me, but romantic acts would be kind of awkward.

  17. TheNerd
    August 6, 2008 at 10:24 pm —

    I LOVE today’s theme!

  18. August 6, 2008 at 10:26 pm —

    You’d be surprised at how awkward it’s not, I think. Now I’m going to abandon the subject, lest I find myself accused of trying something untoward with a Teen Skepchick. 😛

  19. Gabrielbrawley
    August 6, 2008 at 11:05 pm —

    I was one of the nerds who was bullied in Jr and Sr High School. I finally started lifting weigths and taking martial arts classes. I became what Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls “The nerd who could kick your ass.” After I kicked a few asses I wasn’t bullied anymore. I made it through high school and went on to college where I found a wonderful new world and thrived. I look back at high school as the worst time of my life.

  20. csrster
    August 7, 2008 at 2:07 am —

    Real nerds give their weight in kilograms (yeah!).
    Real _real_ nerds give their weight in newtons (booh!).

  21. August 7, 2008 at 4:42 am —

    Real nerds know that you can’t give your weight in kilograms, only your mass.

  22. August 7, 2008 at 5:30 am —

    I’ll admit, I always insisted on being a geek, not a nerd, as if it’s so much more dignified. But as a glasses-wearing computer professional, I’m sure either term is completely accurate. 🙂

  23. Eric Wallace
    August 7, 2008 at 10:54 pm —

    My IQ is about 10 times my weight. In stone. That counts, right?

  24. August 7, 2008 at 11:05 pm —

    I don’t know, in my high school, a few classmates have told me they would like to be as “smart” as me, so that they could have an easier intuitive understanding of stuffs I usually understand in a second. In fact, that is at least somewhat the reason I am at least known to some degree at my school. Also, people seek help to me at science questions occasionally. So, yeah, I am not bullied or anything like that.

  25. Kerry Maxwell
    August 8, 2008 at 9:09 pm —

    In retrospect, there probably was a time in my teenage heyday when my IQ did indeed exceed my weight (in pounds), but now I am fat and old. I was so much smarter then, I’m dumber than that now.

  26. August 15, 2008 at 10:10 pm —

    Ah, the memories. I still have my Nerd Pride button some MIT friends gave me back in the mid-80s. That wasn’t exactly the Stonewall of the movement, but it did mark a turning point.

    Of course, this is all just a trend. Novelty, they say, is as old as the hills. Like most social phenomena of our day it was anticipated by Mad Magazine:

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