Nerd vs. Geek

Since I mentioned not knowing the difference between geek and nerd in my last post, I decided to what every self-respecting girl would do. I did a little research.

First things first we have dictionary definitions:
geek: a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity
nerd: an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit

So it would seem that the main different there would be intelligence and enthusiasm but otherwise the definitions seem pretty similar.

A few google searches later and from what I’m understanding, a nerd is industrious, intelligent, understands thing and a geek Interested in things that others are not interested in, know a lot about their interests, but usually do not understand underlying principles. If we were to take, for example, Star Trek, the basic idea is that a geek knows everything about the show, but a nerd understands the science behind it.

I’m also seeing a lot of references that nerds are more academic, are concerned with maths and/or science.

There’s a lot about geeks being the ones who go to conventions, who will wear t-shirts etc with designs pertining to their fandom/s. Nerds, on the other hand, are seen as introverted and socially awkward.

Basically, if my understanding is correct, both Jack and myself are geeks and nerds, whereas Lucy is ‘only’ a geek.

I’m definitely on the nerd side of things with the maths and the science and like understanding how things work and am fascinated by, for example, how science fiction technology in a show like Star Trek inspired real life technology. But I’ve got a lot of geek in me for my love of science fiction and I do get very hyper-enthusiastic about things and will talk your ear off if I get excited about something.

Lucy is definitely a geek. She doesn’t get into the nitty gritty under the bonnet of the things she loves but when she obsesses, she will know everything about her current love. She happily obsesses and really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She’s got the collectors set, joined the forum, wears the t-shirt, can wax lyrically and poeticaly and generally has fun wiht her interests.

My husband will happily claim the label geek and will tell you he was a geek before it was cool. But don’t let his never ending supply of graphic t-shirts fool you – there’s a whole lot of nerd inside of him. The man has an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering and was a RAF mechanic. He’s also an astronomy nerd and understands a lot more physics than he lets on.

I’m also pretty sure that wanting to understand the difference between geeks and nerds puts me firmly in the nerd category!

Growing Up Geeky

I think I was always destined to be a geek. Or a nerd. Possibly both – I’m never entirely sure what the difference between geek and nerd is. I should probably look that up.

I was never the child that asked ‘why’ – that was my brother. I always wanted to know how. How does this work, how does that work, how does x make y. I was the child that took everything apart to see what it was made of, to see how it worked. Sometimes I even put them back together again – and sometimes things even worked after I’d finished. I was always fascinated by space and wanted to be an astronaut.

But I always liked science, and maths, and wanted to know how things worked, I read comics, and I enjoyed watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone – that kind of thing.

Can you tell I was never the cool kid at school?

Yeah, I was the nerd but because my brother was one of the cool kids – and a footballer – luckily, I didn’t get picked on. One guy tried and Mark broke his damn arm. Got expelled for a week but yeah, everyone left dorky little Sam alone.

Unless they wanted help with their science or maths.. and then I became really popular.

I kind of loved that, tutoring other kids, helping with their homework. I never did it for them but I would sit and try to help. I loved that moment when I explained something to someone and you could see the understanding dawn in their eyes. THAT is one of the reason why I became a teacher.

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

Before I say anything else, I need to preface this post with two things:
Firstly, I haven’t written a book report or review since secondary school which was a lifetime ago and I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing
Secondly, I rather adore Neil deGrasse Tyson and the man can basically do no wrong in my eyes.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed his latest offering Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

Is it a marketing trick, I wonder? Publishing a “small book” and then even attaching the words “… for people in a hurry”. Or is it an elaborate joke by Neil Degrasse Tyson himself?

Because this book isn’t all that small content-wise.

Books about the universe make you realise how insignificant we are, but this book also explains how little we know. We think we know, but we know NOTHING. Eighty-five percent of all gravity comes from an unexplained source, dark matter. Then there’s dark energy, which we also don’t know anything about. There are theories, yes, but they’re just that. The book also tells us about Einstein, who in my opinion is the star of this book (and not just the book!). He managed to pose theories that to this day stand up to the many tests.

I had preordered it a few months ago and had forgotten all about it. It was a very nice surprise when it arrived (The joy of preordering stuff !) A few chapters in, I decided to also buy the audio version. Listening to Degrasse Tyson’s voice while laying in bed is like having a warm, comfortable blanket on you. (Sorry, Jack!)

The material within the book, however, has the power to knock you right out. So I wouldn’t really recommend listening to this while preparing to sleep. The implications of this book are slightly frightening. The promise that this book will “in a hurry” prepare you for your next cocktail party where you can pretend you are knowledgeable about the universe is slightly misleading. No, this book is a gateway into astrophysics. It tells us not to be in a hurry, stand still and realise you are part of a great mystery.