Nerds, rise up!

Smarting from her failure to crack the top 1000 in the science blogger hot-or-not contest, Janet has declared a Nerd-off, in which us geeks, dorks, nerds, and poindexters compete to see who is the King or Queen of the pocket-protector crowd.

I think I should get bonus points for bragging about it a whole year ahead of time.

This conflict could spill over elsewhere, I warn you. Already the fellows at Sadly, No have joined in…even if they aren’t science bloggers, their nerdiness has long been apparent. I bet they were in the A/V club in high school. Actually, most of the big-name bloggers are obviously nerdworthy: come on, Duncan Black has to be a major geek, right?

I also think I should be declared victor for this photo alone. Man, if we open up this competition to photographic documentation, Janet doesn’t stand a chance.

I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Yeah, got this Nerd Score without even breaking a sweat.

As long as James Kakalios is gloating about his nerdy comic book habit in the comments, I’ll have to document what’s on my desk right now:

From back left to front right, that’s Darwin, Marx, and Freud; a naked mole rat; a bowl of cocktail squid and Fetopia beads; a nice springy squid; and the books are The Sandwalk Adventures(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), Five Fists of Science(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and The Prehistory of the Far Side(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll)

It’ll be a warm February in Minnesota before I’m outnerded.


  1. Carlie says

    My god! Did you get married when you were both 17 or something? Dang, the older I get the younger kids look.

  2. Carlie says

    I only got a 90 on the test. I think it’s skewed to older people in general, and some of the questions don’t really make sense. I mean, telnet? Sure, used to use it, but I’ve moved on, man. Doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing between nerd categories, either.

  3. markmier says

    97! Woohoo!

    I didn’t think I was that nerdy, to tell the truth. I thought I’d be an 80 or so.

    –Blessed are the 1337, for they shall pwn the earth.

  4. BruceH says

    I actually scored lower than I thought I would. The low marks were probably for admitting to an active social life. Also, I have no magazine subscriptions to nerdy publications. I have the internet for that, about which the test is silent. I got high marks for Unix/Linux usage and other computer related stuff.

    Oh, and mark, your “1337” comment is proof positive of your high nerd quotient.

  5. Dawn says

    I only got….well, I’m not going to admit how low my score is, but it’s at least 20+ points lower than anything anyone has posted. I don’t know if I’m sad or relieved.

  6. idlemind says

    98. F33R me.

    As for PZ, I don’t think that ‘stache is a sign of nerdiness, per se, but is a symptom of some other issues.

  7. says

    Only a 76 for me.

    Carlie is right about it being skewed towards older people, but it’s also skewed towards “computer nerds,” which are definitely not the only kind of nerd out there. I’m not so much of a computer nerd (Mac user, never built my own box), but I am a classical music nerd, a video game nerd, a cooking nerd, a language/linguistics nerd, and a college sports nerd.

    And I’m a man who lives alone with two cats.

  8. jb says

    Wow, you married a Norski! So did I – I’ll have to remind her that she’s still a goddess after these 37 odd years together. And yes, I was Utilities Commissioner (A/V) in high school.

    As an aside, I almost wasn’t allowed to participate (as best man) in my brother’s wedding into a fundy family because I had a beard. The horror!!!

  9. Tara Mobley says

    83% nerd, and it is skewed for the computer types. There are more ways of being nerdy than computers.

  10. says

    Two words: Puh Lease!

    I don’t need no stinkin’ tests to give me a Nerd score!

    As a physics professor who still reads comic books, I am a card carrying Nerd AND a Geek!

    (And sorry ladies, but I’m already married!)

    Hey – if it weren’t for Nerds and Geeks, you’d have to find out the latest sports scores by word of mouth!

    Geeks run this planet! And we’re not going to take any more shit from the Man!

    Face Front, True Believer!

  11. NelC says

    I’m a graphic designer, and I got 92%. It must be the age thing, plus getting the Manganese and Fermium questions right. Unless I got those wrong.

  12. TomMil says

    50% considering you have to be a pretty big freaking nerd to begin with, that is not encouraging.

  13. says

    A score of 94 for me. I agree that the questions are skewed a bit old. How many young nerds know about RPN, the one true entry system for calculators? It’s also rather forgiving of Windows usage, because a really hardcore nerd would not want to have anything to do with world-dominating Microsoft.

    I recognized that Mn stood for manganese because we used manganese as a catalyst to reduce copper oxide back to pure copper in high school chemistry (if I remember correctly). What I remember most clearly is that my apparatus blew up. That was exciting.

  14. Nes says

    96 also, though I fudged a little… Picked UNIX/Linux, though I’m running on Windows… but that’s only because I *would* be on UNIX/Linux if it weren’t for my video game obsession! I also got the Manganese right, and was able to tick “I just knew it” on the next question. I only picked “Plainly nerdy” though, so I scored a lot higher than I thought I would!

    Does anyone know which one is “not a real programming language?” I went to school for computer programming (if that isn’t nerdy…) and had to do FORTRAN, COBOL, C++, QBASIC (similar to BASIC I assume), and some others that aren’t on the list. I stuck with C++ and don’t remember FORTRAN and COBOL all that well, but I thought FORTRAN had something to do with generating reports, so I went with that one. (I’m probably mixing it up with RPG again…) Then again, I think COBOL had something to do with querying databases… Heh, outside of VB and C++, all the other languages have just sort of blurred together.

  15. idlemind says

    Um, FORTRAN was (and for some, still is) the primary computer language for scientific applications. No cookie for you. (And, yeah, RPG was that truly ancient business language often used for generating reports.)

    Then again, I work with some folks who don’t think C or C++ are real programming languages, either.

  16. Ichthyic says

    96. (but I think this is a GEEK test, regardless of the authors protestations otherwise)


    as to the computer language question, i was kind of stuck on that one myself. I seem to recall “programming” in all of the languages listed at one time or another… except assembly.

    I tried to look up a decent list, and noted that this one:

    does not include assembly as an actual programming language.

    OTOH, many other places classify it as a low-level progamming language, as opposed to the others on the list, which would be considered “high level”:

    I do wonder if there actually is an accurate answer to the question as it was posed.

    (i guess this is how i managed to score a 96?)

  17. Sunny says

    I got a 99% on the nerd quiz. Considering that I’m still an undergrad, this means it can only get worse…

  18. Nes says

    Yeah, Ichthyic, I guess my problem was what is the criterion/are the criteria for a “real” programming language in that question? I figured Assembly would definitely be a “real” one *because* it’s low level, so you’d *have* to be a nerd to use it. On the other hand, if it isn’t considered a language, that would rule it out and make it the one that isn’t a “real” one!

    I guess I’ll just consider an unsolved mystery, rather than hijack the thread ;)

  19. Ichthyic says

    how can you hijack a thread on nerddom with a nerdy question like that?

    I say an answer must be forthcoming! this mystery must not stand!

    You can’t be a true nerd until you’ve licked halite in front of your students, and tested the grittiness of a sandstone by chewing on it.

    speaking of sodium… you can take it to the next level of nerdiness by showing your students how to use pure sodium metal to blow stuff up.

    that’s got licking a lump of salt, uh, licked.

  20. Ichthyic says

    uh, don’t put pure sodium metal on your tongue though, just in case someone was thinking about combining the two ideas.

  21. says

    I only got an 89. It’s been a long time since I even had a GPA.

    I assume they intended that “Assembler” was not a programming language, although I disagree. They should have qualified it with “high-level” programming language, and we might have been on the same page. I gave them the answer I thought they wanted.

    I think I got bonus points for selecting the pre-1980 RPN HP calculator family. (Yes, they said pre-1990, but it was pre-1980 for me.)

    However, they didn’t offer me my selection for the photo of the woman. I was checking out the stuff on the table behind her. Was “Spock ears” the right answer?

  22. Henry Holland says

    You know, if someone photoshopped PZ’s anti-goatee out in that wedding picture, I’m sure the resulting picture would reveal a quite handsome young man. Just sayin’.

    Nerds are teh hawt.

  23. Nes says

    Thanks idlemind, I did indeed mix up FORTRAN with RPG. Drat! I absolutely hated RPG and want to forget it exists. I got to learn the fun column format that is shown in the first example at wikipedia.

    I don’t remember how to program in COBOL anymore, but the description from the list that Ichthyic posted made me remember it:

    COmmon Business Oriented Language. Sometimes referred to as a subset of english, rather than a programming language.

    And I would agree with that whole heartedly, especially after checking it out on wikipedia and seeing a few examples (continue through the “Defense” section to see a better one). I guess that means COBOL wasn’t another database querying tool like SQL…

    I think I had both of those languages in one of my quarters, and didn’t have FORTRAN at all. Man, took those classes only 6 years ago and I can’t remember this stuff; I must be practicing for Alzheimer’s…

    I think it could be Assembly, for reasons previously stated, or maybe BASIC, because it’s a “beginner’s” language. Or maybe C++, because it’s just an extension of C. I think the mystery remains unsolved!

    I suppose I could just take the test again (and again, and again…) changing just that 1 answer, and see how it affects my score, to figure out the “correct” answer… but that’s no where near as fun!

  24. says

    Tsk! I can’t believe that no one has figured out the computer language question yet.

    The only item listed that is NOT a computer language is BASIC! Basic is to programming as Duct Tape is to auto repair. Yea, you can do it, but you won’t get a finely tuned vehicle! Any real nerd knows that you risk brain damage in using BASIC.

    Assembly is of course the one true programming language, all others are merely shadows. I’d rather write in RISC or CISC over C any day.

    I thought I wasn’t much of a nerd. But I made a 99! I’m thinking that playing with AI on Telnet had something to do with that. (Any nerds out there remember the dragon Maur?)

    As for the element questions – I didn’t remember any of them. So I just looked at my copy of the periodic table tacked to my wall.


  25. says

    The only item listed that is NOT a computer language is BASIC! Basic is to programming as Duct Tape is to auto repair.

    I will not have duct tape maligned by likening it to BASIC!

    Anyway, duct tape is more like shell scripting. It’ll hold damn near anything together, but it won’t look pretty.

  26. says

    Geeks run this planet! And we’re not going to take any more shit from the Man!

    Too bad you can’t give out orders with those chickens in your mouth….

  27. Bokanovsky Process says

    Theron – I agree. I’m a historian too and I scored a *27*: “not a nerd, but definitely not hip.” I’ll agree with the second part, but not a nerd? Really? I teach Western Civ these days, and for Spring Break last year I went on a self-devised “cathedral tour” in England, because I’m nuts about Gothic architecture. Spending Spring Break staring at ribbed vaults and flying buttresses — And that’s *not* nerdy??

    Anyway, this is for you: Ferdinand II walks into a bar in Westphalia…stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

  28. bernarda says

    Last year the German broadcaster, DW-World, created a series of programs for their “Einstein Year”. You can find it at,1595,8495,00.html

    They have a little animated creature called Einsteinchen who explains the theories. Maybe you can get the doll.

    If you can receive DW-TV, it has lots of news and documantary programs in English. Or, you can brush up your German.

  29. says

    Well, I’m gonna a claim a couple of points bonus on my mediocre 92, for reading his comment
    “If I am called a geek, I gloat. If called a nerd, I gloat. I think the words should be combined into gerd or neek.”
    and recognizing that he’s testing us for recognition of the grue-bleen paradox. On Jan. 1 2009 all you gerds will be neeks, and vice versa.

  30. says

    Well, there are two cultures of geekdom – the science/math/computer one and the humanities/linguistics one. People who spend time reading about medieval architecture, learning at least the basic quirks of 8 different languages, invent their own languages, and read political philosophy in bed are as geeky as PZ.

  31. says

    Well, there are two cultures of geekdom – the science/math/computer one and the humanities/linguistics one. People who spend time reading about medieval architecture, learning at least the basic quirks of 8 different languages, invent their own languages, and read political philosophy in bed are as geeky as PZ.

    What about those of us who do both? I’m a computer science/math major who learns several languages in order to invent my own and cracks jokes about history (Frederick-William I, you so crazy!), philosophy and politics among my family.

  32. says

    Yay! I finally get to contribute something sciency (knew that CS degree would come in handy one day). Assembly was the one that wasn’t a real programming language. Assembly is just (mostly) machine code made readible for humans. Since it doesn’t have to be compiled (just replace MOV x0D x5A with 1101101101100110 and run) it isn’t a “real” programming language.

  33. says

    Well, I once went to a Star Trek convention on a date.

    So I think that ranks pretty high.

    Then again…I was *on* a date, so maybe that automatically disqualifies?

  34. Torbjörn Larsson says

    61. (The GPA question was off – they aren’t neerdy enough to realise what the web is.)

    Oh, and I learned that when I look at a girl, it isn’t the ears I notice.

  35. guthrie says

    By any account I am a nerd of some kind, since I can talk at great length on a variety of scientific and historical topics, and am currently building a small medieval-ish furnace for doing casting, glass making and alchemy. I also have translations of the appropriate original texts to guide me in what I am going to do.

    But I was only a 62, not much of a nerd at all. Which is because I am not into computers.
    I even went to the SF convention in glasgow a few months ago and realised I was one of the most normal looking person there.

  36. baldywilson says

    Since it doesn’t have to be compiled (just replace MOV x0D x5A with 1101101101100110 and run) it isn’t a “real” programming language.

    Yikes! What’re they teaching in CS these days! Assembly hasn’t been a copy-and-paste job since I had to hand-crank hex-codes from opcodes for Z80 processors! Most importantly, assemblers provide labels.

    All those offests and variable addresses have to be identified somewhere – calculating them by hand is not a trivial task :) Not to mention deducing the correct hex-code for a given addressing mode…

  37. LJ says

    Scored a 99. Hmm.
    For those who care: I thought the non computer language was assembly. There IS a computer language called assembler, however assembly is a process not a language.
    I pay the rent writing ASSEMBLER and Cobol programs for utilitly companies.

  38. says

    People are confusing assembly and machine code. Assembly language is compiled — the last time I wrote anything substantial in it, I used ORCA/M, which had all kinds of neat macros and higher level functions in it. Heck, assembly languages have mnemonics for the codes, and resolve relative branches for you.

    I’ve written Z80, 6502, 8088, and 68000 assembly language myself. Once upon a time, I could read 6502 and 68K machine code — I could browse a hex dump and puzzle out what the code was doing. That was very handy in hacking software; I had computers that I’d soldered hard interrupt switches into, so I could push a button and break into a simple monitor and scan running code. A few judicious NOPs and RTSs inserted into copy protection routines could do marvelous things.

  39. says

    I think “Assembly” doesn’t count because I call it “Assembler.” I got ‘only’ 77 perhaps because I’m more of a science geek manque than a computer geek. OTOH, I’ll bet nobody else has a monitor lizard on their monitor!

  40. David says

    I chose BASIC as not being a programming language, even though it was the 1st one I ever used. I think COBOL would
    be 2nd choice.

    I only got 95%, probably because I’m a fairly new father and have to give up some nerdliness to take care of babies. It didn’t penalize me for being married, but it also didn’t give me credit for carrying around a Linux machine in my pocket everywhere I go.

  41. says

    Assembly is just (mostly) machine code made readible for humans. Since it doesn’t have to be compiled (just replace MOV x0D x5A with 1101101101100110 and run) it isn’t a “real” programming language.

    Erh… you don’t use comments in your assembly code? No symbolic names for memory locations, data, address and I/O busses? If you do, you still have to compile it. (Admittedly the compiler isn’t working very hard at this point.)

    Assembly code is compiled into object code as an intermediate step before being assembled into executable machine language.

    Modern compiler/assemblers hide this step, but there are still a lot of programmers out there that remember the heartache of encouraging their compiler to work together with their linker and assembler, and comparing source to opcode to machine language to figure out which went wrong when the program crashed.

  42. says

    Well I guess I learned something new. In the Assembly Language class I took, it was a 1-to-1 substitution from Assembler to machine code. Crappy education! I was thinking about it some more though and I’m still sure that Assembler is the right answer. (Hopefully, I’m not just further exposing my ignorance here) Assembler is tied to a specific processor, so a program you write on a PC would have to be rewritten to run on an Apple. Whereas with “real” programming languages (C Pascal FORTRAN), a program written in C on a PC (if you write it to the C standard) will compile on any machine that has a C compiler written for it.

  43. says

    “Xris, the correct answer to the woman’s picture would be that Vulcans don’t smile.”

    That was the answer I chose, lacking any better.

    The question was “What is the first thing you notice about her?” not “What was the first thing you notice?” so that threw me off. “Her? What her?!”

    PS: The plants on the table behind her look like a Dracaena (to her right) and an Aroid (to her left), perhaps an Aglaonema. Perhaps she’s even reading these comments and will provide answers. Answers! We want answers!

  44. says

    Isn’t there a difference between compiling and assembling? (it’s been awhile since I did any assembly programming) All I ever had was one semester of assembly, but I thought that it was almost all just a 1-to-1 replacement. I remember there were comments and a few “macro” functions, but mostly it was just stuff like ADD=1100, SUB=1101, etc

  45. says

    What if you’re both humanities and science? My first degree was in electronic/digital/media/design and in photography, my second will be (in 2 semesters) in physiology. What is that– nerd^2? Anyway, in general, I think it’s fantastic for people to embrace their nerdliness/geekitude. Thank goodness the adult world in this respect doesn’t necessarily resemble that of high school (ugh).

  46. says

    OK, I just took that innergeek quiz, and it’s definately flawed. It awards points for wearing a digital watch, which (quite frankly) is mainstram these days.

    Selecting yes (because wearing a watch with a slide rule on it (plus, I get to tick the “I wear two watches to track different timezones” boxes while only wearing a single watch) is way more geeky, so I figure it counts) pushed me from “Extreme Geek” to “Geek God”.

  47. says

    PZ: I have the Sandwalk Adventures as well and it’s a great comic, although I didn’t think it was quite as good as Hosler’s first: Clan Apis. Do you have that one, as well?

    Oh, I scored a 68, “Low Ranking Nerd. Definitely a nerd but low on the totem pole of nerds.” In terms of social stature, is it worse to be a low or high ranking nerd?


  48. says

    I suspect the programming language question was BASIC, but I actually like some BASIC implementations, so I answered Pascal out of spite. What a mess that language is, partially due to Borland.

    Alon Levy: Which makes for people like me being really weird – humanists who make a point of studying computing. People who worry about how to design a measure of similarity amongst computer programs or the metaphysical assumptions in the Turing machine model of computation or the factors that go into the aesthetic experience of computer games or …

    James Allen: Since on many modern microprocessors the machine instructions get translated / understood as microcode, I dare say that argument doesn’t work. (A philosopher who knows about microcode? See what I mean in the previous remark??)

    plucky punk: I went on what could be called a date to a math library. I think I have you beat there. :)

  49. Nes says

    Thanks for all the comments on the computer language! I’m going to have to go with assembly, the people arguing for that one convinced me.

    PZ, that 99 nerd score is well deserved. Congrats!

  50. says

    I got a 98%, but I’m fairly heavily into computers.

    I also think that you’ve got some competition.

    For example:
    I’ve written a computer program based on evolutionary algorithms to compose music. I called it Darwin’s Jukebox. :-) For the trial run, it and I wrote a whole suite of dance tunes based around ancient dance forms and Darwin’s biography (e.g. Emma’s Waltz, Captain Fitzroy’s Galliard, etc.).

    I’ve also written a full-lengthy parody of The Mikado on the subject evolutionary biology. “I’ve Got a Little List” was especially fun. ;-)

    I did vector and tensor Calculus on my own in high school, after having maxed out all my math classes by taking AP Calculus in 10th grade. I needed three years of mathematics to meet the California state standards, and fortunately my teacher had a masters in mathematics and didn’t mind me doing independent study.

    The first career I ever wanted to have, at age five, was that of a wildlife cameraman so I could fly around in ultralights and take shots of nature.

    At one summer camp, I reconstructed the skeleton of a field mouse from an owl pellet for an independent project, without anyone having suggested it.

    I independently invented (I hope, because if someone stole my idea, I’d be pissed) one of those LED reflectors for bicyclists…and I still have the prototype.

    I know Latin, classical Greek, German, French, and am brushing up on my Arabic, so I can be as much a literary/historical nerd as I am a biology nerd.

    I have a binary LED clock, and figured out what it was and how to set it without the instructions or the original box (it was a gift from a friend of mine that came with a challenge to figure it out myself).

    In a general biology class, the professor didn’t know how the Michaelis-Menton equation was invented, so I derived it for him from the law of mass action without anyone ever telling me that one could do so. I just watched what he was writing on the board and noticed it could be done.

    I have a copy of Selected Papers in Molecular Genetics, pub. Academic Press that I bought…in high school. (And it remains one of my most treasured resources.)

    I’ve invented my own math and science jokes, and even submitted one to the host of “A Way With Words”, Richard Lederer and I’ve laughed out loud at the some of the gene names of Drosophila.

    And, lastly, my favorite childhood movie was Real Genius and have watched it at least a couple dozen times.

  51. says

    The programming language question is a sort of trick question. They’re ALL programming languages, in that they ALL are used to control hardware.

    I think your geekiness is determined by the language you SNEER at! If you collected programming languages like a car collecter collected fast, exotic and interesting cars, which of these languages is the Hugo?

  52. says

    Well, I am a biologist who still reads comics AND makes them. And I am such a huge nerd that super-nerds read my book (please see the Sandwalk Adventures at the top of the pile in the picture above). Does that make me a meta nerd? I’m not sure. But, the good news is that I have convinvced the National Science Foundation to give me money to specifically develop a science comic for teaching purposes. In other words, I have convinced a panel of science nerds that MY nerdiness is worth government funding. Of course, my inability to program anything more complicated than a VCR may take me out of the running…

  53. hank says

    I knew I should’ve hidden my shame about using a Mac instead of Linux.

    But this entire test is flawed. Nowhere do they require providing your ham radio call sign!

    — N6VSB

  54. jrochest says

    87. Not bad for an English prof.

    Of course, the lack of “all-time high Scrabble score” questions went against me.

  55. says

    Bokanovsky Process: Sure sign you’re a history nerd – if you’ve ever begun a sentence “The Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire)…” at a party. I rest my case.

  56. Xanthir, FCD says

    Holy crap, The Five Fists of Science actually *exists*? I pre-ordered the damned thing on Amazon and it dissapeared!

  57. False Prophet says

    Is “Five Fists of Science” any good? I saw it at a local comic shop and almost picked it up.

  58. Carlie says

    Theron – I think speaking (rather than writing) paranthetically about anything is a good sign about nerddom, not confined but majority-owned by history nerds. I know some historians for whom I swear I can hear the parentheses when they talk.

  59. says

    To be brutally honest, Five Fists of Science just isn’t that good. It’s got giant steampunk robots, it’s got Tesla with an electro-gun, but it’s light and fluffy fare and once it’s done you put it down and don’t think much anymore about it.

    The Sandwalk Adventures, on the other hand, I wish I could make required reading for new biologists. It’s Darwinian evolution from the point of view of sentient follicle mites, which sounds just plain weird and kind of facile, but it will make you think.

  60. Owlmirror36 says

    The Sandwalk Adventures, on the other hand, I wish I could make required reading for new biologists. It’s Darwinian evolution from the point of view of sentient follicle mites, which sounds just plain weird and kind of facile, but it will make you think.

    More of the science-filled works of Jay Hosler here – Clan Apis, some general science one-pagers, and hey! Some new stuff!

    Beats Jack Chick and Jim Pinkoski all hollow.