At last! Science draws a line between geeks and nerds

Using Twitter data, and actual math, a line gets drawn in the sands of Tattooine/Tyree to finally separate the worlds of geeks and nerds. Crave's Eric Mack tours this newly defined dorky universe.

A trio of nerds or geeks? Turns out that according to (one man's) science, cosplayers are more geeky than nerdy. megadem

At long last, a line of demarcation more clearly dividing the respective territories of geeks and nerds is being drawn with the help of (what else?) science.

Scientist and software engineer Burr Settles took on a little weekend project this year to try to more precisely define the realms of geekdom and nerdaliciousness using data scraped from Twitter.

Settles took a look at how often various words occurred within tweets alongside "geek" and "nerd" and then, using a mathematical equation that I sadly am not quite nerdy enough to explain adequately here (Settles finds "math" to be a much stronger part of the nerd vocabulary, as is the word "vocabulary"), plotted the following graph to serve as our first-ever atlas of a subcultural universe occupied by two sometimes dueling empires.

Burr Settles

So what can we learn from this delicious statistical exercise? Settles himself drew the following conclusions from his data:

In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., "#stuff"), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., "hypothesis"). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too.

My eye was drawn to the center of the graph, arguably the "sweet spot" where both the geek and nerd subcultures begin to overlap. Here we find the obsessions that appeal to geeks, nerds, and -- since they aren't on the extremes of the geek or nerd kingdoms -- potentially mainstream folks, too. This is where we find things like "zombies," "books," "doctorwho," "computers" and "thehobbit." Hollywood is clearly already tapping into this nexus of awesome, although "Zelda" is another point of affection for both geeks and nerds that hasn't yet been fully capitalized upon. (Somebody call Joss Whedon's people!)

Also interesting is the vocation that lies on the far nerdy end of the spectrum: cellist. On the uber geeky end of things, we find "culture" and "shiny," which seems to fit nicely with Settles' assessment that geeks tend to obsess more over certain creations, including shiny new gadgets.

But what are the areas of strong interest for both nerds and geeks? The arenas and characteristics where we might all find enough ground to come together to form a new world order of dorkiness are "gamer," "glasses," "avengers," and (of course) "starwars."

So who shall unite us all? What charismatic leader has just enough geek and nerd appeal to merge the worlds of "The Avengers" and "Star Wars" with the legends of both Zelda and "Star Trek"?

Patton Oswalt comes very close in this appearance on "Parks and Recreation," but the New Hope of our Next Generation may lie more strongly with the fake J.J. Abrams in the video below. Could this be the man to vanquish the Borg while simultaneously preventing the construction of a new Death Star?

 

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