If you haven’t already seen the article about Amazon.com’s $23million book about flies, please check it out.
A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).
What I loved about this article wasn’t just the conclusion the author reached, which is worth reading the article to find out. But the fact that he reached it at all, and the methodology. Because right here, we have quintessential geekery.
The difference between a geek and a non-geek is that a non-geek would have laughed his head off and passed it around to all his friends, but a geek, after laughing his head off and passing it around, then established a methodological approach to figuring out why this absurd situation had come about in the first place.
If you read the article at Io9, there’s even a spreadsheet as they track the price fluctuations between the two sellers, and they determined a pattern as first one price adjusted, and then the other.
Not contented with that, they then figured out why the prices were set as they were, and to what purpose.
Geeks have a bad reputation as being aloof and not quite comprehending human nature, but here you see that they do: when it’s necessary to decipher the absurd, human nature came under the microscope and was analyzed accurately.
This tickles my inner geek, and I read it to my Patient Husband and our tragically geeky Kiddo#1, and we all got a good laugh. But I keep thinking about it and realizing geekiness, while it sets you apart to some extent, it has its uses.