Reader survey: nerdy memories

On the flight back from England I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about a bunch of nerds sharing an apartment.  It’s not very funny, unfortunately, but it’s surprisingly accurate in its delineation of the primary branches of nerddom.

Anyway, one of the nerds in the episode took fervent exception to a non-nerd character mistaking light-years for years.  And this reminded me of the time in college that I went to see Star Wars, and at the point in the movie when Han Solo brags that the Millenium Falcon is the only ship to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, I yelled out “The parsec is not a unit of time!”

Anybody got a nerdier memory than that?

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10 thoughts on “Reader survey: nerdy memories

  1. John Cowan says:

    This reminds me of when Isaac Asimov was taken to see 2001, at the point when it became unmistakably clear that Hal was going to kill the astronauts, he whispered to his companion, “They’re breaking First Law! They’re breaking First Law!”. To which the companion replied, “So why don’t you strike them with lightning, Isaac?”

  2. range says:

    Hmm, I can remember all of the dialogue from the original Star Wars movies by heart. When I was a kid, I used to watch Empire and Jedi at least once a month.

  3. son1 says:

    I was at the early Sunday night show of a local university film series. Five minutes into the movie, the screen went black … and then the lights came on. Amid the groans, and as most of the student volunteers dashed to the back to fix the projector, one guy stood up in front of the auditorium (really, a large classroom) and offered to take musical requests while the repairs were finished.

    All the requests from the audience were for songs from Gilbert & Sullivan — and he sang every one, extemporaneously, from start to finish. He did this for ~15-20 minutes (and he had quite a nice voice, actually). It was a nerdy tour-de-force.

  4. Brian S. says:

    I’m not sure if it can compete with the public nature of your display, but when I was in college my friends and I had a way of point out girls made to replace the standard o’clock system. A target was given a location in three coordinates: the first two being polar coordinates (radians from the speaker’s right hand, and meters in that direction) and the third coordinate being the z-score (standard deviations from the mean).

    To tease me about a girl I was interested in, my friend set to point her out in our system. He said Pi/2, but stuttered on the 2, and then 7 being the meters in front of him, but I heard the stuttered 2 in the second coordinate and took the 7 to be the z-score. I was so surprised I nearly dropped what I was holding and loudly said “what???” When we realized the misunderstanding we hurried home to figure out just HOW attractive she must be to earn a 7 z-score. It took maple with Digits turned way up to show that she must have been the most attractive girl to ever have been (or ever will be).

  5. Daniel says:

    I actually had a debate over the “Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” comment this summer. My initial interpretation was that Han is actually using “theorist units”, where distance and time have the same mass-dimension, and thus are used interchangeably. But then that would correspond to taking less than ~40 years to complete the Kessel Run, so that doesn’t seem quite right…

  6. Richard says:

    In junior high (grades 7-9) I had to give a science class presentation. I gave a long talk at the blackboard presenting my own explanation of the formula that yields the total resistance across multiple resistors in parallel. I had rapt attention from the class who I’m sure were thinking “who $#&% is this alien and what on earth is he talking about?” I wish I a video of that event. Well … maybe not.

    I had a friend who was into model rocketry and I helped fire some of them off. Not good enough for me. I found an article on calculus in the family encyclopedia and went about figuring out how to calculate what maximum elevation a rocket would obtain based on thrust, burn duration, weight of the rocket, etc. I think I obtained results within about 20% of reality. Not having a wind tunnel I couldn’t factor in the effects of air drag. I remember writing equations on the blackboard in high school algebra, I’m sure to a lot more head scratching. This was a jock school with nothing like a science or math club.

  7. tscocca says:

    And who ever told you that the Kessel Run was a unit of distance?

  8. chanson says:

    Just the other day I saw another joke about that “Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” line in this episode of the Spitzer Science Center’s “Robot Astronomy Talk Show.” It’s very cute. I don’t know if that counts as a nerdy memory, though…

  9. Some great nerd stories here, I can’t top any of them

  10. Ryan says:

    Sort of late to the party on this one, but I wish to share my own nerdy anecdote relating to the Kessel Run. Apparently (probably saw it on Wikipedia) there is a really awkward retcon in the expanded universe (= bad spinoff novels) to the effect that the Kessel Run is littered with black holes and therefore the usual routes go around the long way. The Falcon, being so fast, is able to skim closer to the holes than other ships and therefore makes the trip in less distance (owing to the gravitational effects of being so close to so many black holes, who knows if it takes less time!)

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