Geekiness and autism: Is there a connection?
Laura Nagle, 58, loves science but has struggled with communication all her life.
April 23rd, 2012
02:58 PM ET

Geekiness and autism: Is there a connection?

Laura Nagle loves physics. She peruses scientific papers for her own enjoyment, and she can sometimes work out the answers to cosmological mysteries in her head when she watches documentaries about the universe. She has read, in her estimation, about 12,000 books.

You might say Nagle, 58, is a geek. But if you knew that she also has had severe problems communicating with others throughout her life, and had trouble in school because she’s not “well-rounded,” you might guess that she also has autism.

“I find that physics, engineering – these things speak to my heart, and I see details, relationships and patterns that most people don’t,” says Nagle, who lives near Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Students chow down on cyber security weaknesses
Hungry Hungry Hackers at Georgia Tech gives students hands-on cyber security training.
April 23rd, 2012
02:22 PM ET

Students chow down on cyber security weaknesses

A group of hackers gathering under one roof might not sound like such a good thing, but they’re far from what you would call cyber crooks.

They call themselves the Hungry Hungry Hackers, or H3, and they aren’t hungry for marbles or breaching others' personal information. They’re students hungry to learn to protect digital assets and information systems. They seek weak points in a network built for them on Georgia Tech's Atlanta campus, then try to strengthen them - it'  a safe, ethical space for students to test their skills in cyber-security.

CNN Geek Out spoke to Toni Walden and Joshua L. Davis from Hungry Hungry Hackers about hacking culture, H3 and their Hungry Hungry Hackers Campus Challenge, known as H3C2, which unfolded earlier this month. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.

CNN Geek Out: So what is Hungry Hungry Hackers all about and how did it start?

Walden: It seemed like students really wanted to learn more about information security. So a bunch of us together at (the Georgia Tech Research Institute), and with some help from (the Georgia Tech Information Security Center),  Georgia Tech Association for Computing Machinery and Georgia Tech Gray Hat, came together to create a series of different challenges for students to engage in. H3 is about creating a hacking platform where students can learn and grow their skill in a fun and safe way, and it’s about sharing that common interest we have when it comes to information security.

We think school provides a really good theoretical understanding of problems one might see in the field, but what lacks is a hands-on perspective. We just want to offer students with ethical and fun experiences.

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'So You Created a Wormhole' authors combat bad pop culture time travel
A diagram from "So You Created a Wormhole" illustrates the danger of traveling through time and killing one's own grandfather.
April 17th, 2012
12:47 PM ET

'So You Created a Wormhole' authors combat bad pop culture time travel

Let's be upfront about it: Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch aren't scientists.

But the friends definitely have a love of the science of time travel, which they poured into their new book, "So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel."

Hornshaw and Hurwitch have seen way too many bad time travel movies and they have the same questions as other sci-fi fanboys and fangirls: "It’s hard to walk out of a time travel movie and not go, 'How do these things sync up?'" Hornshaw told CNN Geek Out.

"Phil and I are longtime geeks," Hurwitch said. "The atrocities of time travel plot devices began to stack up. We simultaneously came up with an original time travel show [still in 'drawing board phase'] and a guide book on how to do it properly."

Hornshaw said that their interest in theoretical physics and astronomy came from a lifelong interest in science fiction; the pair have been friends since third grade in Novi, Michigan.

"We read Michael Crichton’s 'Timeline' back in high school, and both of us were into the concepts from that book," he said. "What we wanted to do with the guide was to make it as simple as we could because it can get so expansive. We pay a lot of attention, but we don’t study up on anything more than what we’re interested in."

"In the book we’re more concerned with how science affects plot, as opposed to how it affects science," Hurwitch said.

Read more about their research and the best and worst moment in pop culture time travel after the jump:
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The evolution of on-screen sci-tech nerds
Brian Dietzen (left) portrays Jimmy Palmer on "NCIS." Simon Pegg portrays Benji Dunn in "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol."
April 16th, 2012
01:43 PM ET

The evolution of on-screen sci-tech nerds

Almost every crime show has one: the nerd that the “muggles” need to help solve the mystery. Whether hackers or science nerds, they've become a key part of the story.

For years, one of the best-known tech nerds on television was the incredibly awkward yet lovable Marshall Flinkman (Kevin Weisman) on "Alias," the cult favorite ABC spy series. Flash-forward to today's former hacker, the almost-as-awkward Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), who often steals scenes on "Criminal Minds," sometimes with boyfriend Kevin Lynch, played by Nicholas Brendon. And there's no forgetting "NCIS" forensic specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), who's not afraid to flaunt her goth style while working in the lab.

Here's a breakdown of on-screen geeks and how they're changing.
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April 9th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

'Game of Thrones' linguist: How to create a language from scratch

Editor's NoteDavid Peterson is the creator of the Dothraki language used in the HBO show 'Game of Thrones.' Peterson also is a member of the Language Creation Society.  A 30-minute profile of Peterson will air on CNN's "The Next List on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

The work of a language creator is often regarded with skepticism. "What's the big deal?" many ask. "All you have to do is make up words." And, indeed, one could proceed as follows:

a = blork
abandon = glurg
abate = plurfle
abattoir = gluff

And so on until there was a unique form for every word in an English language dictionary (in fact, with a computer program, one could produce dozens of "languages" like this in a matter of minutes). And while the resultant language would look different from English, functionally and semantically, it would be identical-a mere notational variant.

The reason, of course, is that language doesn't exist in a vacuum. While one can mix up the sounds of an existing language, by copying its vocabulary, one unconsciously duplicates the culture of that language's speakers along with it.

In building up the Dothraki language, I paid special attention to the cultural information a reader is able to glean from George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire." At the most basic level, we see a nomadic race of warriors tied inextricably to their horses: they ride horses, they give horses as gifts, they eat horse meat, they worship a horse god-even their alcohol comes in the form of fermented mare's milk. The word dothraki itself translates to "riders". As horse riding is so central to Dothraki existence, it seems natural that the concept would crop up in their language in a variety of ways.

For example, the basic way to inquire after someone's state is, Hash yer dothrae chek? That translates literally to, "Do you ride well?" or, "Are you riding well?" In English, though, an appropriate translation would be simply, "How are you doing?"

In another area of the grammar, Dothraki expresses immediate pasts and futures using the same verb: dothralat, "to ride". Here are some illustrative examples:

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