Nerds and Words (about science)


Many of you will already have seen this because I have been promoting it shamelessly on twitter. But this is the video of the talk I mentioned in a post back in March that my daughter Eleanor gave on a topic she feels passionately about: corduroy.

I thought it might amuse some of you. It did me.


Elsewhere on the internet the Guardian Science Podcast interviewed journalist Simon Jenkins about the SpoofJenks campaign sparked by his now infamous article. The interview starts at 22 min 44 secs in.

If you listen, you will hear that Jenkins defends his article by re-writing it in his head. He shifts to the more serious point (not articulated in the written version) that science and scientists need to make their case for funding. As if that were news.

Jenkins also takes a rather narrow view of what he considers to be worthwhile research. Work on Alzheimer’s disease is good but he is less impressed by cancer research for some reason and more dubious still of blue-skies or fundamental work such as that going on at the LHC.

There is a serious debate to be had here. I wonder if Jenkins is really prepared to engage with it properly. There is much to ponder but for now I will state my position with words from Pasteur:

“Chance favours the prepared mind.”

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30 Responses to Nerds and Words (about science)

  1. Jennifer Rohn says:

    It’s a great video, Stephen – I don’t know if the person who introduced her was joking that she was considering a career in stand-up, but in all honesty I think she could really make it.
    I know it is all tongue in cheek, but are you maybe slightly concerned about perpetuation of all the tired old stereotypes in her depiction of nerds? I felt uneasy even as I laughed along with everyone else.

  2. Stephen Curry says:

    Ha – the teacher introducing her was not joking: that was Eleanor’s self-declared career aim… (pity the poor parents!)
    On the stereo-typing thing maybe you have a point but I won’t be able to argue sensibly on this was because she is my daughter! One could take the view that she was demanding a new respectability for the ‘stereotypes’ – in a wonderfully original way.
    You and she should probably talk it over sometime… I’ll have to set up a meeting. πŸ˜‰

  3. Jennifer Rohn says:

    Please don’t think I’m criticizing in any way…it was a wonderful performance. I was just curious what you thought on the manner. It’s just that I can’t really see that depiction as accurate for the majority of scientists I work with. Even the kids I know who are obsessed with video games also seem to be quite fashionable.

  4. Stephen Curry says:

    No worries Jenny. I don’t really think the target was scientists – Eleanor was thinking more about people her own age. And there was no intent to make any kind of serious point.
    But I feel ever so slightly uncomfortable speaking for her in public when she can do it so well herself!

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Cath – remind me to send you some stripey socks for your next birthday!

  6. Cath Ennis says:

    Multiple colours per sock for maximum happiness!

  7. Kristi Vogel says:

    That’s excellent, Stephen – your daughter has great stage presence and poise. And, of course, teh funny. I would encourage maintaining the paleness; as another melanin-challenged individual, I’m afraid I’ll soon regret my summers in a non-nerd outdoors job (lifeguard and swim coach), as a teenager. I’ve never had a bad sunburn, but I accumulated a lot of UV exposure-hours over the years.
    I agree with Cath on multiple colors in socks; I try to use multicolor self-striping yarns in my handknit socks whenever possible.

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    We usually burn the kids on the first sunny day of the year and then realise we should dig out the sun-cream….!

  9. Kristi Vogel says:

    The tube of sun block is out year round here, for some of us, as the UV indices are high most days. I use SPF50 every day for face and neck, and once I start wearing short-sleeved shirts in the spring, it goes on the arms and hands as well. And I swim laps at an indoor pool nowadays – the school district natatorium is about a mile from my house, and swim cards are very inexpensive. Really, though, I should probably plan to retire (if I can ever afford to do so) to a Scandinavian country, or to northern parts of the UK. πŸ˜‰

  10. Nicolas Fanget says:

    @Stephen, “We usually burn the kids on the first sunny day”, be careful with that barbecue!
    @Kristi, don’t believe what they say about the North of the UK, I got sunburnt in Tongue (View Map), beautiful Kyle though!

  11. Stephen Curry says:

    Kristi – if I lived in Texas, I should never go outside. Never. Being a #gingerninja has its downsides, you know.
    @Nicolas – one day I’ll get the hang of it.

  12. Kristi Vogel says:

    @ Nicolas: I never managed to travel in Scotland, during the three years I lived in the UK. Big mistake on my part! I visited a friend in Stockholm in June, several years ago, and got a mild sunburn (suntan the next day) during a boat trip to the archipelago, and hiking on Finnhamn. I was totally complacent about sun exposure so far north … also very distracted by eiders and other birds I’d never seen before. Heh!
    @ Stephen: I noticed that many fellow equestrians here, who are ginger and/or lighter-skinned than I am, wear longsleeved shirts year round when outdoors riding. I adopted the habit when I was spending several hours at a stretch, exercising my horses for polo. It’s annoying at first, but you get used to it, and you’re going to sweat anyway, regardless of sleeve length. I wore batting gloves too, because with sweaty hands you can’t grip the mallet or reins properly.

  13. Cath Ennis says:

    I once got sunburned on the west coast of Scotland. In February.

  14. Nicolas Fanget says:

    @Kriti, I think extreme Northern (or Southern) latitudes are bad for us white faces because the atmosphere layer is quite thinner. I could be wrong though, but my personal experience in Iran/Iraq (no burns, at all) seems to confirm it.
    @Cath, respect, there is what, 6 hours sunlight (i.e. street lights come off) there in February?

  15. Stephen Curry says:

    Kristi – Ever played against his Prince Charley-ness? I hear he’s quite good at polo… not much cop at anything else, apart from meddling in UK healthcare and architecture.
    Cath – freak weather or freak? πŸ˜‰
    @Nicolas – but didn’t lighter pigmentation arise in northern climates? (Really not sure of my ground on that one…).

  16. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Ah yes, but that is generally believed to be to allow production of sufficient amounts of vitamin D. I understand that when our life expectancy was +/- 20 years, it was more important to grow quickly with tough bones rather than avoid skin cancer (hence the rise of the #gingerninja), and is more due to short days in winter rather than the intensity of the light. But then there is the wavelength to take into account as well.
    Not really sure of my ground either, but there must have been loads published on this…

  17. Kristi Vogel says:

    I think there’s some concern about producing sufficient amounts of vitamin D, for functions other than bone strength, now that more people are cautious about sun exposure. I don’t know enough about potential roles in cardiovascular health or anti-cancer properties to pontificate about it, though.
    @ Stephen: I have only played with several poloists who’ve played with your royal (The Six Polo Degrees of Prince Charles?). In the past he has played at the King Ranch in South Texas, and also at the Houston Polo Club (I think), and I seem to remember being told that he’s a particularly strong player at the #4 position, or “back” (usually more of a defensive than scoring position, but any of the four players on a team can score a goal). I did once play in an arena match on the same team as a certain recently engaged royal of Monaco. I think I was chosen for my willingness to play nice and share chances to hit the ball, thus decreasing the likelihood of being shot off my horse by the security detail (stationed around the perimeter of the arena).

  18. Cath Ennis says:

    Combination of very sunny day after weeks (or possibly months) of gloom, snow on the ground, strong wind, and being outside literally every second from dawn to dusk. I’m rather proud of my achievement!

  19. Γ…sa KarlstrΓΆm says:

    Stephen> Splendid. She’s awesome. Thanks for sharing this here!
    All about Vitamin D> One of the things not obvious to people who move to Sweden… need to give those small kids VitaminD as an addative (usually they come in VitamA&D drops, twice a day) since we ehh… don’t have too much sun in the winter/fall/spring/”non sunny summer days”.
    As of the whole “getting burned in Sweden but not Iran” issue… Although I haven’t been in Iran I got sunburnt in both Turkey and Sweden so I don’t know about that. And here in Memphis (TN,USA), I can withstand about 15 mins in the sun sans sun blockers – but I get lines and look a bit pinkish/red though…. so I call “green eyes and freckles make a bad combo with sun” although I’m not a gingernija… πŸ˜‰

  20. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Nicolas – that makes more sense than my errant wonderings. Being ginger is a tough gig, no doubt about that.
    You do move in elevated circles Kristi – so good of you to condescend to speak to us. Much appreciated! πŸ˜‰
    Cath – I can only conclude from this and other evidence that you are freakishly outdoorsey.

  21. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Γ…sa (our comments crossed) – will pass on your words of encouragement.
    My guess about being burned in Sweden but not in Iran is that people may be misled by the air temperature. If it’s hot, you expect to get burned and take precautions. I got my worst frazzling at the top of a snowy mountain in Austria in April. It was very cold but very sunny and I looked like a beetroot for a few days.

  22. Cath Ennis says:

    Heh! Common misconception caused by selective blogging of only the fun stuff. I don’t write about the time I spend on my sofa with a laptop…
    I guess I might be outdoorsy by London standards, but in Vancouver I’m actually closer to the basement-dwelling troglodyte end of the spectrum.

  23. Kristi Vogel says:

    @ Stephen: Yes, it’s really rather embarrassing, innit? So … Kiplingesque and Sloane Rangery. I blame my riding experiences in London, particularly at the Ham Polo Club in Richmond Park, for sowing the seeds of obsession. I don’t play any more – miss the adrenalin rush, but not the bruises.

  24. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Just to make things more confusing, I have spent many summers at altitude in Auvergne and the Pyrenees, including on snow and glacier, but hardly ever got burnt, whereas the sea in general triggers huge burns. No sailor me!
    Although I agree with Stephen that that temperature thing might have an effect, and the conservative society of the middle east means that long sleeves and trousers are worn anytime you’re in public (well, usually anyway, there is huge variation depending on where you go).

  25. Stephen Curry says:

    Ha, ha Cath – well, what’s stopping you from blogging about slobbing on the couch? I’m sure you could make it interesting.
    @Kristi – no need to be embarrassed. I’m just an inverted snob. I’m sure the polo crowd know how to have a good time! Ever tried Buzkashi where there are about 300 horse-riders all chasing after a dead goat. Well, I think that’s what they do.
    @Nicolas – was it a sea of fire? That might explain it… πŸ˜‰

  26. Austin Elliott says:

    I don’t tend to go out in the sun much, though did when I was a kid, esp Cape Cod summers in the late 60s. But as I got older found I used to burn/freckle. ‘Er Indoors says that my Celtic heritage has left me with lurking (recessive?) genetically ginger tendencies. Both kids also v pale, esp the daughter.

  27. Stephen Curry says:

    It is a cross we shall have to bear with fortitude, Austin. Of course, you have the advantage of living in Manchester. πŸ˜‰

  28. Ian Goodfellow says:

    Brilliant! The phrase "Mini-Me" comes to mind though….. anyone that knows Stephen will understand.

  29. Stephen Curry says:

    Ha Ian – I suspect several round here will know what you mean! πŸ˜‰
    BTW – welcome to Nature Network.

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