Why Geeks Are The New Chic


It's standing room only at the one-year anniversary of the Secret Science Club in Brooklyn, New York. A crowd of about two hundred fills the dark downstairs lounge at Union Hall, a bi-level bar, and there are hip 20- and 30 somethings perched on every available surface, cradling PBRs or tonight's drink special—The Scientific Method.

At 8 P.M. the Superstar-of-Science Lecture will begin, but first tonight's host has a few announcements. "Same time, next month, geologist and NASA researcher Michael Rampino will be here to speak about mass extinctions and the history of life," he intones.

"Oooh, cool!" squeal four women—all in cat-eye glasses and vintage dresses—seated in front of me. In fact, the only bad news seems to be that the "Geek Chic" T-shirts are going fast.

When tonight's headliner takes the stage, a hush falls over the crowd. Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher, has got the geek chops, and yet he hardly acts the part of the quintessential nerd. Rather, he seems relaxed and affable, and with his first question, elicits a wave of appreciative laughter: "Who are all of these people," he asks this evening's host, "and why are they spending a weekday night in a science club?"

Why indeed? I ask Liz*, a willowy blonde artist in her early thirties, what brought her here. A tip from her astrophysicist friend, Ben, she says. "He's one of the most famous astrophysicists in the world. He discovered a star when he was 22!" she gushes. But tonight Liz is here with a wingwoman—a cute brunette with a pixie cut. They came for the lecture, but, says Liz, "I have a fantasy of meeting a really hot science guy." "Yeah," her friend chimes in, "Geek guys are mad hot."

Three 20-something Asian women I stop on the stairs agree. "My favorite are geek guys," says Veronica. "If a guy can have an intelligent conversation, and know what he's talking about, that's such a turn-on."

"Can I just add that I totally walk around my house in a giant red Napoleon Dynamite T-shirt," interjects her friend Pui. "He's so awesome!"

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