ask a scientist



name: rachel
query: a friend and i have been having an argument as to the accepted definitions and "coolness" ordering of such terms as nerd and geek. dork would probably be in there too. as fellow scientists who i think have established themselves at the cool end of the spectrum thus giving credibility to your thoughts and decisions on the matter, what do you think? is it better to be a nerd or a geek? is one smarter than the other? can you be both at the same time? should i end my love affair with chemistry if i ever want to be seen as more than a freak (but the lasers are so darn cool...)?


Firstly, most importantly: don't, don't, DO NOT quit chemistry if what you want is to be cool. What's cooler than chemistry? Nothing. On the spectrum of cool to gay, nothing (nothing!) is left of chemistry.

Take a look at Louis Pasteur. Louis Pasteur was the goddamn shit. To be clear, there's no higher praise than 'the goddamn shit'. Louis Pasteur -- so it's said -- would walk into a salon full of upper crust early-bohemian hepcat types with their ivory opium pipes and their velvet waistcoats and pinstriped top hats and fake mustaches, etc., and he'd be wearing scuffed shoes and a damp wool sweater vest, and everyone's eyes would snap to Louis like iron filaments scattered on a tray addressing a newly-arrived magnet.

As to ordering the terms 'nerd', 'geek', and 'dork', it's 'nerd', 'geek', 'dork', just like that, coolest to gayest. That's because dorks have no special skills whereas nerds are very smart and geeks are people who love gear and equipment and are passionate about RPGs and, often, crystals. It goes without saying that Louis Pasteur was a nerd; you may not have known that he was also a geek. Indeed, it was his obsession with the paraphernalia of chemistry, particularly beakers, that kept Pasteur in the lab when less-captivated chemists were out beating hobos.


name: Haley
query: hey scientists. you guys make amazing music and i need a guy's opinion on my trouble. there's this very hot guy who lives in my building, and hangs out with people who i know but am not really friends with. (but also hangs out with my best friend and this another person who i'm not really friends with) With me so far? cheers. I've hung out with my friend and the girl and my crush once, and it wasn't much fun, because they all had these inside jokes and I didn't feel included. but he's HOT, and friends with my friends, and lives in the same what should be my next move? WHAT should I do?


Gotta get your message across.

Got. To get. Your message. Across. To this person.


name: claire oh
query: i am the commander in chief of a little game called "spork" at my high school ( if i haven't explained it well enough) where nearly seven score of young folks pay me a crisp five dollar bill in exchange for the name of another member of the seven score. then, all members carry around sporks. if a member catches their assigned member without their spork, they jab the flesh of the offender. the offender is forever banished from the proceedings until only one remains. the final player is rewarded for months of carrying around a plastic utensil with the absurdly large stack of green papers with pictures of abraham lincoln. it's a lovely tradition that truly separates the strong from the weak. however, as the queen of these proceedings, there is invariably conflict regarding the legality of these, excuse my vulgarity, "sporkings". however, the true dilemma occurs in that i am tempted to use this mound of seven hundred dollars for my own purposes. given the chance, i would hop on a plane to come see my favorite scientists (since they tend to avoid pittsburgh like the plague). what sort of ethical standards prevent me from doing this? social repercussions?


What's great about the game Spork is that it's a perfect, comprehensive metaphor for life in early third-millenium-a.d. North America. To your question, there are often logistical problems with misusing money that your peers have given you in confidence, but those shouldn't be confused with ethical problems, of which there are none. Social repercussions can include a diminished willingness on the part of your peers to entrust you with money, whether it be their Spork ante, their retirement savings, what have you.


name: Dani Lee
query: Hi WA
I live in Miami. It's 4:00 am on Sunday and I cant sleep. I was doing some research on hair extensions - and I stumbled upon your site. I know what your thinking - but don't judge me, there for my dog. I would like to check you out. Do you ever come to this area. We never get anyone good here - Except for 'Puff' Daddy and En Reek A En Glaze E Us. Can you help this Damsel?

Kitten says Meow!

Dani Lee,

Kitten says meow, Dog says bow wow, y'know? Our fist says KAPOW! Do you see? Don't worry, that fist isn't aimed at you. The fist is flung at all those who would seek to come at us in a threatening manner to "front", to offer frontage and it speaks these dark syllables: kapow.

We've never been to Miami, although Keith is from Miami (Michael's from Texas and Chris is from Utah; this you know). Will we ever come to that area? Shit yes. Keep an eye on the Shows page.


name: Jennie
query: Hey, my parents want me to major in Nursing, but I don't want to. Is there a way I can major in something else without them being angry at me?

Of course. The key is to come up with something even better than Nursing. Chiropractics, Orthodontics, Angioplasty, Megalopepsi, Telekinesis, Mixology, Cryptogramics, Inorganics, Ceramic Tactics, Graphics, Tactics, Fragmentology, Tactology, Tactical Graphics these are all great bets.


name: jimmyong
query: why does some people likes to touch my penis?


These people are called doctors. They touch your penis because your mom pays them to make sure you're healthy, and in order for them to do that they have to examine you; part of the examination process is taking a look at your penis. If this is happening with great frequency, these examinations, then there must be something scientifically significant about your penis, something these doctors need to document and try to understand, something that could possibly change everything, everything for all of us, everything for the better.

Maybe now, knowing that it's all on the level, you can relax and try to enjoy yourself!


name: turtle
query: what is insanity


Insanity is a sucker punch when you lean in for a kiss. Insanity is a cock tattoo. It's scrubbing the dinner dishes with cocaine. It's snakes with no tongues. It's a piccolo playing a bass line.


name: Shira
query: I got this really hot deal on brown pants...30 I said, pretty hot. But then I realized that my favorite shoes are green--The result, I look like a tree. Is this ok? What should I do?


Oh christ, this is going to come as serious relief to you: you actually look like an upside down tree brown on top, green on bottom. And while you're right that a standard tree look would be frowned upon, inverted tree coloration is considered interesting, whimsical, and stylish. Continue apace!

Other people whose lives we've touched:
Don't wanna visit doctor/How to nourish an efflorescing relationship/Dealing with a friend's bad taste/Life sucks/Negotiating office politics/Physics vs. Psychology
Mom won't let me live with Dad/Advanced bullshit theory/Which instrument should I play?
Convince mom to get a dog/Which shampoo/What's with Keith/Taking candy from Meekham
Lied about being a virgin/Can short fat guy get a girl?
I need help with my penis/my hoes/directions/a girl...
How does one get over a girl with whom he was once involved?
I'm falling for a girl...
I'm 13 and have been asked to a boy-girl sleepover...
I write to seek your cooperation as my foreign partner...
Me and my sister are trying to convince my mom...
I am trying to find out what something is made of.
I just woke up from an awfully bizarre dream about you...
In less than 72 hours I will be on a plane for tanzania...
We are confused about Chinese Firedrill etiquette...
I've been having dreams featuring a particular member of the band...
I'm a college student taking a science class...
I have a favor to ask...
I've been more or less completely miserable...
I am seeking celebrity opinions on a conundrum.



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