If you have a difficult-to-buy for Ph.D. or science club president (nerd alert!) on your gift list this holiday season, don’t settle for socks or underwear because you figure everyone needs them. Sure we do, but they rank about a one out of 10 on the fun-to-get-as-a-present-o-meter.

Wired News surveyed scientists around the country to find out what was on their wish lists. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, wants a machine that can decode the human genome for $1,000. While we wait for someone to invent that übertool, check out the Wired News science geek gift guide for presents that will show your nerdy friends and relatives you understand the things their superior brains like. You’ll find mind-expanding gift ideas for everyone on your list, from AP chemistry students to zebra-fish genome researchers.

Blokus — Science geeks love games, but the diversions must challenge the brain more than, say, Chutes and Ladders. Blokus ($30) is a favorite at the Exploratorium Store (which has lots more science-y gift ideas). They say the game develops logic and spatial perception. Plus, Blokus was game of the year in Europe in 2002.

Digital Blue Zoomshot — This binoculars/digital-camera combo magnifies images 10 times through the binoculars, then captures digital snapshots with one click. It can hold up to 100 images, which you can download and edit with the included software. Digital Blue says it’s adult- and kid-friendly (ages 7 and up). You can buy it ($60) at Digital Blue’s website or at major toy and electronics retail chains. Also check out the company’s Digital Movie Creator and QX5 microscope.

PDA — Our Ph.D. sources tell us their days of vitamin E deficiency are over. Now more than ever, researchers want to share their discoveries at conferences around the world, so they need mobile data. Scientists are also increasingly collaborating with other labs, since the mixing and melding of various disciplines is becoming commonplace. They’ll love an all-in-one gadget: Try BlackBerry’s new, sleek 7100t design ($300).

Cook’s Illustrated — This magazine not only has consistently gorgeous cover art, it will also appeal to the inner geek in any food enthusiast. Buy a subscription ($25 for the first gift subscription, and $20 for more) for delish recipes and the latest in cooking gadgetry. The mag even has a web page devoted to food science.

More here.