Friday, April 28, 2006

Is that a TI-82 in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Back in high school, where I was in a math/science/computer magnet program, we used to make up "magnet pickup lines" (like the title of this post). This was partly an exercise in cleverness and puerility, but partly a rueful acknowledgment of our place at the bottom of the social food chain. We were not oblivious, earnest dorks on the model of Screech and Milhouse; we didn't even try to get asked to the prom, and we would have had too much homework anyway. It's not that we were terrifically bitter about this, at least not those of us who got laid occasionally, but we were under no delusions: we were nerds, and there's nothing hot about nerds.

But it seems that the attraction value of nerds may be on the upswing. In the last few days I've been coming across a lot of material on the general sexiness of scientists. The first was this article, linked from FrinkTank, in which a neuroscientist with a results-skewing British accent successfully makes science into a pickup strategy:
"I’m a scientist too, actually," I confess.

As her sneer begins to deepen, something snaps. Damn it! I’ve spent four years, six months and two days in graduate school, I have twenty-four years of solid education under my belt, I have a Dean’s Reference for excellence for my undergraduate thesis! I have successfully written (and got funded) two grants! I am published, by George! I’m not ashamed of this!

"Yes, a scientist," I continue, with a little more pep in my vocal-stride now. "My specialty is neuroscience."

Oh yes. That’s got ‘em. That’s not geeky! That’s cool! Seriously, think about it for a minute. The devil’s in the details, see. "Scientists" are sad geeks with bad hair and no social skills. Ecologists however, are cool as fuck. They’re saving the world, y’know. Pharmacologists can be awesome too. They’re working on saving our lives and helping us live forever. Neuroscientists? Now they freaking rock! How cool is it to do something like that for a living! I study your brain!
This is a discovery almost as important as any advancement in neuroscience: being a scientist doesn't have to be a social death sentence! In fact, there's an entire blog's worth of hot guys and girls just oozing smarts (and degrees!). Here you can find high cheekbones and boyish smiles, along with phrases like "The development of metal-mediated reactions has greatly expanded the synthesis of small molecules and polymeric materials" and "The systems under development in his group are anticipated to show a high affinity for (i) atom and group transfer chemistry and (ii) reactions at robust X-H bonds, where the X-H bond refers generally to a C-H, Si-H, B-H, or H-H bond." If that don't turn you on, what will?

Well, maybe AIR's Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, where the brains with manes go to seek their own kind. (Props to hot scientist Tara at Aetiology for both of the above, by the way.) Steven Pinker, whose locks do not mess around, was unanimously declared to be the first member; this tickles me because I had a former friend who hated Pinker, and we always theorized that this had to do with hair envy. Some of the hair is straggly and not so luxurious, and some of the faces underneath are startling, but it's a dangerous place if you're swayed by long hair or degrees (I'm guilty of both). Luckily I've got a physicist of my own, with legitimately luxurious hair, and if I can trick him into letting me take a picture of him without a ponytail (and maybe with the sphere!), I'm totally nominating him for the LFHCfS.

So the moral is, only nerds may be recognizing it now, but nerd is the new black, and soon there will be nothing hotter than pumped-up calculators, perky pocket protectors, taut coverslips, or a really built circuit. Men will make passes at girls who wear glasses, and the thicker the better. Nerds will, in every way, be back on top.

And yet, and yet. We don't have safe search on at home, so usually when you put pretty much anything into a Google Images search, your first results are naked or half-naked girls. So when looking for an image for this post, I figured if I just put in "scientist," I'd likely as not get some photos of a cleavagey pinup with glasses and a lab coat. No dice. Looking for "sexy scientist" got porn or research, but not both, and no other set of keywords (scientist pinup? sexy lab coat costume?) seemed to do it either. I eventually had to resort to private stock. So be warned: the hot nerd revolution is not yet universal. Take care when whipping out your CV, your pipettes, or your electrophoresis results at the singles bar.


coturnix said...

There were recently several articles on on scientists, dating and sex in various permutations, e.g., this one:
and this one:

4/29/2006 1:27 PM  
jess said...

Yeah, that second one is the article I quoted at the beginning of my post, although since I got it from someone else's link, I didn't really look at the parent site... Lablit's definitely something I should keep up on. The author of the first ought to be pleased about the Sexy Scientists blog. In fact, someone should probably nominate her.

I was going to mention that on my first day of graduate school, my friend Karen and I split up the campus hunting grounds, and I got all the hard sciences. Sure enough, while Karen's still searching Art History and All-English-Except-Renaissance for likely prospects, I totally cleaned up in Physics. So I may be sad to see word get out about how hot the sciences are. Heretofore, it's been a niche market, which has worked strongly in my favor.

4/29/2006 7:27 PM  
Tara said...

"nerd is the new black"

I love that!

Apparently, E! has an upcoming special, Rise of the Geeks. Of course, it's about actors who are also "geeks," but I think it's part of the larger trend you mention.

4/29/2006 10:56 PM  
jess said...

Oh man, maybe I actually should publish this (as my mom suggested, despite the fact that it broadly hints that I have sex -- way to go, mom!). If there's going to be a Sexy Geek Explosion, I gotta get in on the ground floor.

5/01/2006 5:26 PM  

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