About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerdism: Clutch or Kick

Shirasagi Dojo - David Gegen Goliath

 "Clutch or kick" probably makes at least a little sense to most people. You’ve likely heard something along the lines of, “she’s a clutch player,” meaning that she does well under pressure. The kick part is what confuses some people, but don’t worry, it has nothing to do with literal kicking, and these days no one intends to follow through on the kick part anyway. If someone looks you in the eyes and says, “clutch or kick,” here’s the background and what’s expected of you.

The phrase purportedly originates with the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) a team-oriented first person shooter game where each person is either part of the terrorist or counter-terrorist team and has objectives to complete. Each round is won by either completing the objective or killing all the opposing players. The phrase is likely a carryover from previous multiplayer first person shooter games, possibly earlier Counter Strike games, but CS:GO was the game that made the phrase ubiquitous among gamers of the early 2010s.

In gaming terms, the phrase is used when the last member of a team must face overwhelming odds to win the game by defeating all the other opponents in the last few seconds. Consider this scenario: all but one member of the counter terrorist group has been mown down by rifle fire, there are 3 terrorists guarding the bomb and 58 seconds left before it detonates and destroys the stadium. The lone counter terrorist might just give up under the circumstances, but over her headpiece she hears the voice of one of her dead teammates shout, “clutch or kick.” She knows she can’t disarm the bomb under fire, she must push in on the objective and mercilessly eliminate all the hostiles. That’s the clutch. Her motivation to accomplish this? If she fails, the team will kick her from the server and allow someone else to take her spot.

The reality is that the team probably won’t kick her, unless they’re playing a few unimportant casual rounds and feel like being jerks, but the phrase still inspires a try-hard mentality. 

Outside the gaming world, if you’re told clutch or kick then you’re facing a high-pressure situation where you’re the last hope for success. You have to close the last sale of the month, weld the seam no one else can reach, or convince the vending machine to release the cinnamon bun. Just take a breath, nod, and go to work. If you make the clutch, you’ll be a hero.

For extra nerd cred, once you’ve made it back with the win, ask your teammate how exactly he planned to kick you if you didn’t get the clutch.


Real Life Nerds Found the Loch Ness Monster

Sonar scan revealing Nessie
People have been hunting the Loch Ness monster for centuries. Some, like Steve Feltham, George Edwards, and Dr. Robert Rines have dedicated their lives to searching for Nessie. Even Google Street View got in on the action. But everyone's come back empty handed...until 2016.

That's right, earlier this year the UK division of Kongsberg Maritime used an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to discover the elusive Nessie.


Is Pokémon GO the Solution to Social Anxiety (and Maybe All the World’s Problems)?

Image via /u/DUBLZZ
It has more active users than Instagram, Snapchat or Tinder. It’s overtaking mammoth social media apps like Twitter. It helps people with social anxiety talk with strangers. It may even lead to a reconciliation in Korea…or cause an international incident. 

In case you’ve missed the stories burning up Twitter and Facebook feeds, Pokémon GO is an augmented reality mobile game released July 6th that allows players to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokémon found throughout the world. It’s not terribly different from most smartphone games: a player gets to create an avatar, consults an in-game map showing where to find perks and rewards, works to increase stats, and gets to battle other players.

But the best part about Pokémon GO is that players have to actually go out into the real world to find different Pokémon, visit Pokéstops, or battle at a Pokégyms, which are typically located at populated spots such as parks and tourist attractions, but also at restaurants, churches, and even police stations.


Real-Life Nerds: Winners of NASA's Star Trek Replicator Challenge

Maybe we can't walk up to our wall mounted replicators and get a cup of Earl Grey tea, hot, just by asking for it, but 3-D printing does bring us a step closer to making Star Trek style replicators a reality. NASA's February 2016 Star Trek Replicator Challenge asked students to use 3-D printing to engineer the future of food in space, and a panel of judges from NASA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and Made In Space, Inc. announced winners this week.

The competition encouraged students to think about future long-duration space missions and to design 3-D printable objects that will help astronauts eat nutritious meals in the year 2050. Students came up with designs ranging from devices for growing and harvesting plants to new ways of preparing, eating and disposing of food.

Kyle Corrette from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix brought home the win from the Teen Group (ages 13-19) with his Melanized Fungarium, which includes an outer protective shell, an irrigation system, and housings for an organic growth bed for fungus, which would provide a sustainable food source for astronauts on long term missions. The melanized fungus uses ionizing radiation, common in space, as an energy source. The fungarium is designed to be produced and used in microgravity.

Picture of junior winner Astro Mini Farm designed by Sreyash Sola. The Junior Group (ages 5-12) winner was Sreyash Sola from Eagle Ridge Middle School in Ashburn, Virginia, who designed an Astro Mini Farm designed to grow fresh crops on Mars. The device includes a printed lens on top to harvest the maximum Martian sunlight possible, and the container can be pressurized to about 1/10th Earth atmosphere so plants can grow. The entire device could be printed using material extracted from the Martian soil.

Each of the finalists won a MakerBot® Replicator for their schools and a PancakeBot for their own home. The teen and junior national winners also get to travel to New York City and join NASA astronaut Mike Massimino for a private viewing of the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum.

Be sure to visit the NASA website to read more about their Future Engineers challenges.


Nerdism: What is the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow?

This odd question is likely to come swooping into a situation where there are questions flying around fast and furious. Usually the preceding exchange will have nothing to do with birds or airspeed at all, which might be doubly confusing.

The swallow question originates from the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a seemingly irrelevant running gag involving the transport of coconuts from Africa to England that eventually turns out to be a crucial plot point.

Nerd Note:
There is no answer given in the film, but some researchers used wind tunnel tests and Strouhal numbers to estimate the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow at somewhere between 8.8 and 11 meters per second.  However, if you peruse the data, you’ll notice that there are a lot of variables involved in coming up with this broad estimate, but none of them account for wind speed, which is vital in calculating airspeed accurately. Ultimately, there can be no single answer!

While Monty Python fans appreciate the nostalgia, the film isn’t popular enough to explain why the swallow question still flies. Its longevity lies in the complete absurdity of the question, which makes it useful so many decades beyond its origin. Within the film itself, characters point out that there are too many variables to account for, not least of which is the species of swallow. The airspeed velocity conundrum is the perfect example of asking the wrong question in the pursuit of a solution to a problem.

Remember: sometimes you have to ask a different question.

The next time you’re faced with a barrage of questions and there isn’t enough information to come up with an answer, feel free to toss this gem into the mix.

Of course, the only appropriate response is, “What do you mean, an African or European swallow?”


Nerd Q&A: How Can I Say Interesting Things?

Alan Turkus - Conversation
I am a boring nerd who isn't considered cool at all. I generally talk about things which seem boring to others. How should I be interesting and cool?

The easiest way would be to hang around people who are interested in the same things you are. They will find the things you talk about interesting, and it will be much easier for you to be cool.

If you regularly find yourself surrounded by people who think your topics of conversation are boring, you should ask yourself why you're with those people.

Seriously, your free time is limited. Spend it with people who appreciate you.