I was reading an article on the Cracked.com website the other day and it got me to thinking about the deplorable state of 21st century nerddom. The article was entitled 7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics, just the sort of thing that would attract an old-school nerd like me. While several of the miracle materials were really not all that novel; carbon nanotubes, aerogels, perfluorocarbons, one that did catch my eye was transparent alumina. I'm a regular reader of Cracked.com, so I know sometimes these guys feign stupid for its comedic value, but it was clear to me that they genuinely didn't know the difference between alumina and aluminum. That's when I realized these guys are geeks, not nerds. Geeks like all the same stuff we nerds like; D&D, Star Wars action figures, Monty Python movies. The difference is, nerds know about other subjects as well. There are two topics in particular, that are near and dear to the nerd heart, science and military history. A geek teenager may have a poster of Optimus Prime on his wall, but a nerd is just as likely to have one of Albert Einstein.
Now, once upon a time, nerds were the dominant species. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I and my friends were the school nerd club. We were the only people at home on Saturday night playing D&D. We didn't have to worry about wannabes stealing our subculture. Nobody wanted it. We would hang out in the school cafeteria debating the implications of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for Star Trek transporter technology and everyone else would look at us like we were aliens, and we liked it that way. Nowadays, it's cool to be a nerd. Everyone from Vin Diesel to Shaq is now down with the culture. But it's obvious to me, they are all geeks, not nerds.
At this point, I should be clear. I'm not trying to bash on geeks. They're pretty cool and most women at gaming conventions are likely to be geeks, rather than nerds. However, I do have to say that the lack of knowledge most geeks display of topics of such vital importance can be disconcerting and even a bit aggravating. So, to all you geeks out there who yearn to be nerds, you need to do some homework. Read some non-fiction once in awhile. As a public service, I provide below, a list of 10 people you should know something about. It's a good start.
By the way, you get bonus nerd points for being able to produce all those accented characters in that list using just the "Alt" button and the number pad on your keyboard.
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