Geek – Nerd Relativity

Geek-nerd relativity is a wonderful part of the skeptical community. Members usually lie on one extreme of either the geek or nerd scale and often both. Last night in bed (this isn’t getting as sexy as it sounds), I was participating in my nightly ritual of falling asleep to the Harry Potter audiobooks read by Jim Dale. Aside: my boyfriend hates it.  I think this is pretty geeky in itself, but there was a detail I wanted to confirm from the storyline that I couldn’t recall despite calling myself a Potter fanatic. I couldn’t possibly fall asleep without seeking out the answer that was plaguing me. Out comes my handy dandy friend Google and I stumbled across the Harry Potter wiki. It was at this moment I realized that by geekdom is not near as prolific as I might have thought.

The detail of the wiki astounded me. I found myself flipping through several wiki pages before forcing myself to put my phone down and actually fall asleep. This got me thinking of where do I actually fall on the geek scale!? Fellow Skepchicks will tell you that I am not the most traditionally geeky of us. I schedule my autumn weekends around football games… every Saturday and every Sunday. In fact, I might be the least geeky as I didn’t know what a TARDIS or a MMO was before I was included amongst the Skepchick brethren. [queue laughter, they did] Perhaps, I am just a different type of a geek: a sports geek (more on that later).

So why the hell am I a Skepchick? Oh yeah, I am huge nerd. My Ph.D. is in computational quantum chemistry first of all. They might as well have stamped ‘NERD’ on my forehead during commencement right after I was hooded. I do science many, many hours a week, but I don’t live and breath it ‘off-clock’ (ha, like that exists in academia) as some of my other colleagues do. I am not strictly speaking that science makes your nerdy, but I generally perceive nerdiness as someone that obtains information in a traditional book worm fashion. Subjects can be incredibly diverse, which is one thing that makes nerdiness awesome. Whereas, I view geeky as someone who favors fictional based scenarios. What are your definitions? For me though, much of what I do daily is filtered through my nerd lens.

Geek/Nerd Scores — It’s all Relative! 

I don’t want to characterize myself by two sweeping generalizations. There are other things going into my composite score that only I know, similar to you only know how geeky or nerdy you are. I wanted to come up with a rough scale to evaluate myself and would love to see where Skepchick readers fall as well. [Warning: this is not meant to be scientific at all, just having fun here.] I would say my Geek Score is 45, while my Nerd Score is around 90.


So do these scales intersect? Am I a little geeky because I am nerdy? Or am I nerdy because I grew up a little geeky? I think they definitely intersect and are symbiotic. For me, my love of sports and stats research as a child turned into pursuing research as my grown-up job. Science fiction is another classic example. I don’t spend much time in that wormhole, but many do. There is literature, gaming, and a plethora of other outlets where geek and nerd intersect.

However, one of the things that always entertains me is when I am not spending time with my normal crew. I am still fairly new to this city and most of my social situations aren’t dominated by scientists and skeptics. I notice that the scale slides fairly dramatically towards me being excessively nerdy and slightly more geeky. It is relative to who you are with. I don’t believe these scales are absolute. Perhaps my scores change to Geek Score: 50 – Nerd Score: 98.


The scale also slides the other way. One that is obvious to me is at conferences. My nerd cred is seriously depleted when I am around the elite in my field. Geek Score: 45 – Nerd Score: 55.

nerd-scaleDo you have certain interests that tip one scale heavy in one direction or the other? What are they? Do yours intersect more than mine? What are your scores? What are your relative scores? What are they relative to?

Shameless Plug: Every Friday at 5:00 EST beginning 2/15, I am co-hosting a radio show with Johnny Crosskey named We Have Sports on the internet radio station, RhinoOnAir.com. I am really excited for this new project to debut on Friday as everything became real yesterday while we were recording promos in the studio in St. Petersberg, Florida. It will be podcasted if you can’t catch the show live. Johnny and I have been working on developing a unique, fun sports talk radio show for months now and I can’t wait for our debut this Friday! If this isn’t your cup of tea, it is also a great place to check out Florida’s local artists. Take a listen! 


Jacqueline, a true Floridian, wandered up to the tundra of Athens, Georgia to receive her PhD in computational quantum chemistry. Returning to her roots, she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Tampa in the field of computational biochemistry investigating the wonders of penicillin-like drugs. When she is not slaving over the computer, her varied interests include international travel, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, fancy food, (American) football, and Belgian quadrupels. She is also the founder of EligibleReceiver.com, a football blog with an exclusive female writing staff. Check out her sports ramblings there or follow her on Twitter @jhargis9.

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  1. I don’t know…geek and nerd are words that are almost impossible to segregate into defined separate spheres as they have been used interchangeably often. If we’re going by almost a pop-culture vs. purely intellectual pursuits type of divide, I’m definitely more “geek”…video games, comics, science-fiction, fantasy, movies, table-top games, etc. etc. … love most of it. I suppose I’m a “word nerd”…as a copy editor by profession and a writer by choice, and I get pretty worked up about baseball statistics (sabermetrics probably started me on skepticism in the first place).

  2. There is always the classic Geek Test: http://www.innergeek.us/geek.html.
    I haven’t taken this for at least a decade. I scored high on lots of it (including ‘do you have a collection of antique calculators’) but my score suffered significantly by my not being into Star Trek much.

    1. Update: just took the latest version and scored 34.1%. Sigh.
      It isn’t so Star Trek centric any more.

        1. Jacqueline, I meant to say great post!
          Also, about that test – heavily biased against Whovians vis a vis Trekkies.
          Although either is acceptable, I am highly suspicious of any so called scientist who does not identify with one or the other.

          1. Thanks!
            I am truly a failure as a scientist as I have never scene an entire episode of either. My boyfriend puts forth a relentless effort to get me to watch Star Trek. He may win one day. Perhaps I need a good gateway episode of both shows.
            I missed so much humor in grad school and to this day with the other Skepchicks. Back to sports radio now.

          2. Oh dear, me and my big mouth.(removes foot, inserts other foot)
            Being a Skepchick more than makes up for anything else – and there’s still plenty of time for your boyfriend to convert you! :)

  3. It really does slide around depending on your surroundings. There is nothing like the awkwardness of being used to being around 50 on both of those scales with your usual group and then suddenly finding yourself around people that deem you a 100 on both. Though I actually enjoyed what it was like feeling more like a 25 or so on the geeky scale when I went to Convergence. It was a fun role reversal and I love asking people about their foreign-to-me geek passions.

    Generally I’m a geek of all trades, in that I’ve at least heard of most geeky things but I’m not deeply into any one thing.

    And I may not understand much about football, but I am just itching for a new baseball season. Because the Red Sox have *got* to do better this year than they did last year.

    1. Well your Sox can’t be much worse… Spring Training is about to start down here and I am going to get to use a sweet press pass. Can’t wait.

  4. I wasn’t fond of Jim Dale’s reading anyway (I listened to a couple), but I hate the American texts. I would like to hear the Stephen Fry audios for the UK (i.e., “real”) editions.

    (Was that geeky or nerdy? I’m confused.)

  5. My cat is called Fortran. If that doesn’t snap the needle off the geekometer, I don’t know what will.

    1. My cat is named Eric (all my pets are named Eric – one pet is all, right?). And yes, to get permission to have him in my building, I had to fill out a form… and cross out /dog/ to write in /cat/, instead. But I didn’t use a crayon…

  6. 47%+ (if I complain that the test result likely includes more digits than are significant to the calculation, will that score me extra points?) *super geek, super geek I’m super geeky* …
    Jacqueline, I listen to Lovecraft audio books to fall asleep…

    1. “Now I lay me down to sleep
      I pray Great Cthulhu my soul to eat”
      Fuck, man, what are you doing to your PSYCHE?!

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