Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nerd talk

I knew a brilliant math major when I was in college, the kind who was lead author of his own paper while still an undergrad. He was two years ahead of me and helped me not to fail freshman math. Now he's an Oxford professor and I saw his picture on Facebook yesterday with his sister. "You have the same hair!" I commented. And he replied...

"Not quite the same, actually. My curls have a nontrivially larger radius of curvature."

There were other Techers who talked like that. I always used to enjoy it. The nerd language came naturally to them and allowed them to express themselves more succinctly or precisely than any other vocabulary could. Once I sat on an L-shaped sofa with several others, one of whom wished to switch places with the guy at the other end. "Let's shift chirality," said he. Another time a chem major formed an antibody shape with a mold-able eraser and tried unsuccessfully to stick it on the end of a pencil. When it fell off a future doctor picked it up and said, "Let me affinity maturate it," as he molded it more firmly to the pencil.

And was our college any good at sports? Let me put it this way: while I was a student there, People magazine and the Los Angeles Times both featured stories on the Caltech basketball team... and its remarkably long losing streak. I lettered in fencing... because I showed up. I only made the team because there weren't enough women to fill it out. And this was a fight cheer I heard:

It's all right!
It's okay!
You'll all work for us some day!

So, not an athletic powerhouse. I fit right in and really enjoyed my college days. :)


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I didn't know you were talking about me :p

Rachel Gray said...

I've only just begun to spill your secrets. :)