His fingers are long, which is both helpful and frustrating depending on the situation. His long fingers have the ability to do little detailed tasks, like twisting those wires with these wires to make the radiation flow in just the right amount for the desired result. He uses those fingers whenever he gets uncomfortable, touching the back of his head and ruffling his already unkempt hair. He tends to do this whenever he's around Charlotte and he can't seem to help it. She regards it as another one of Daniel's quirks. He traces lines on the table when his mind stops flashing numbers and he can think about other things. He draws lines in the air sometimes when a chalkboard isn't available. He puts his thumb on one temple and his middle finger on the other, shading his eyes (which he closes) when he's stuck or trying to figure out an especially difficult problem.
Those fingers prove cumbersome at other times, like when he has just a nub of chalk to write on his chalkboard with. He could just get a new piece, but with the way his mind flies around, he might forget what he was doing by the time he gets back with the new piece of chalk. So he fights his long fingers and his hand dashes across the chalkboard quite speedily, but not speedily enough. His thoughts race ahead and he has to concentrate to slow his thoughts enough to allow his hand to catch up. He tries to make his hand write faster and it almost always starts cramping. He is so used to the ache, however, that he completely ignores it and keeps going until he's done. His writing becomes virtually illegible but as long as he can read it later, it doesn't matter how messy it looks. He scratches down various numbers, equations and notations about his studies or anything he thinks might be useful. When he feels like his head is too full of things, he jots some thoughts down either in one of his various notebooks or on a spare space of chalkboard.
He always thinks in numbers and equations. Even in the bloody grocery store, he'll do things like count the aisles and divide it by the number of people in each. He comes up with an equation for how many people will buy milk and meat or just milk. He checks how full some bags of chips are and tries to figure out exactly how many chips are in each bag. The cashiers think he's crazy, seeing him walk around the aisles, whispering to himself, sometimes holding up his hand to help mentally tally something. They think it's ridiculous and their image of him doesn't improve when he comes up to their till with messy hair and his shirt half un-tucked. He tells them what the total is going to be long before they even get halfway through ringing in his items. They call him "The Nutty Professor" behind his back.
One day there is a tall, ominous looking man hovering in the magazine section. Daniel doesn't particularly pay him any mind, until the man begins following Daniel to his car. Daniel is one prone to imagining "worst case scenarios" almost constantly and immediately thinks about being robbed and left for dead in the parking lot. He hurries to his car and is thankfully inside with the doors locked when the man approaches. Daniel wants to drive away, but the man blocks his way and motions for Daniel to roll down his window. Daniel opens it a crack. From there, he finds that he has been chosen to go on important mission. He scoffs, sure this is a joke played by someone at the college. He soon learns, however, it was anything but a joke.
They pick him because of those equations and numbers that he can't seem to ever stop doing. They need someone who knows the type of things he knows. When he talks to others at the college about his theories, many listen long enough to tell him he is wrong or crazy, and many others say politely that they don't think any of that possible. He understands their point of view, for previously he never thought those things possible either. These people, this dark man, however, believe him. They don't think he's crazy at all. He's not "The Nutty Professor", but someone who knows physics inside and out, who has all the answers and theories necessary to deal with the strange things they encounter, who can come up with the solutions to problems quickly and accurately. They tell him they need him for his knowledge on electromagnetism, time travel, the space-time continuum and more. They say they want him because he's the best. Daniel tends to disagree on that point, as he is positive there are others better than him. He doesn't argue, however, as the deal is lucrative. He has to accompany a group of people to a special island in the pacific to find a man. They say the nature of the island deal a lot with the things Daniel know so much about which is why he is coming. They assure him it will be a simple trip. It turns out to be anything but simple.
Firstly, there is Charlotte, a woman on the team who he fast develops a schoolboy crush on. That makes things difficult at best, as he wants to impress her and be with her, though she doesn't exactly seem to reciprocate any warmer feelings than a friendly coworker would. Then there is this island. This island that causes planes and helicopters to drop out of the sky, that has a bizarre time delay on it (something Daniel has only ever dreamed of discovering and testing), among other more alarming oddities. He isn't prepared to see all the people, and to have to be the one to admit they are not there to rescue them. In fact, there are others back on the boat that are there to kill them. That they should have hid with their friend - what was his name? oh yes, Locke. He hates to see the suspicion and mistrust on their faces, the fear and uncertainty. He doesn't want to be that person. So he keeps trying to tell them the exact truth, to earn their trust. He does his best to get them away from the island because that's what they want and they thank him. It feels good and for a short time, he isn't just a bumbling physicist with long fingers and messy hair. He is someone who is helping and saving people, carrying them to the freighter where they can go back to safety, back to their homes, back to the world.
And then the freighter explodes.
Now he is the guy who has brought a boatload of people to their death. He has another boatload with him and he doesn't know what to do. The freighter is gone and so he tries to head back to the island. And then that is gone, in a huge flash of bright, white light. He doesn't know for sure what has happened and that makes him extremely nervous. The people in the boat look to him for answers. The guy driving the boat has to know what is going on, what to do. He could guess at what has happened, sure. In seconds he has hundreds of numbers and equations flashing through his mind, instantly creating a theory that he figures is about eighty-five percent accurate. That still leaves a large fifteen percent margin that he is actually way off. Judging by what he has had to deal with so far, he is more inclined to doubt himself and think his ideas are wrong. Besides that, guessing what has happened brings him no closer to a solution on what to do.
He presses his thumb to one temple and his middle finger to the other, shading his closed eyes. He fights to block out the questions and panic from the other passengers. He runs through his mind in search of answers, like running through a maze he himself has created. His other hand absently counts figures and he whispers to himself.
He is back to being "The Nutty Professor", who looks like he has all the answers, who seems to know a lot, but hasn't known enough to save anyone. Worst of all, he's lost Charlotte, for she was on the island when it disappeared. He glances around at the watery horizon, hoping to see anything. He does his best to hold onto any form of hope, but by dusk, it is hard to think of anything except the possibility of dying in a motorboat with several other people.
He doesn't know which direction to head. The island is no longer there, nor is the freighter, which leaves no place to land. He doesn't want to waste the little fuel left in the motorboat's engine and so thinks it wise not to just pick a direction and drive. The others in the boat have given up arguing about what to do and have decided they are indeed stuck. Barring a miracle, they are going to stay stuck.
It is one of the only times in his life where Daniel is sure his numbers aren't going to help him.