A few years ago, well known science writer Carl Zimmer was at a pool party with a scientist friend who studies genetics, and noticed a tattoo of DNA on his shoulder.
It prompted him to wonder if other scientists had similarly chosen to have tattoos related to their scientific pursuits. He put the call out on his popular blog, The Loom, and the responses became the basis of a feature he called the Science Tattoo Emporium (see my post from 2008).
Zimmer has now collected a number of the images into a book titled Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.
You can see a few pages from the book on the Amazon preview, but you can view many more of the tattoos by browsing back through the posts in the Science Tattoo Emporium.
Instead of monsters and flaming skulls, we have tattoos of real animals, both prehistoric and extinct, and scientifically accurate skulls of various species.
In place of iconic hearts, we have biologically accurate illustrations of the human organ.
Throw in molecular structures of various compounds (in the example above, the molecule for LSD), planetary bodies, illustrations of the golden section laid out against a chambered nautilus shell, various scientific formulas and, of course, other interpretations of DNA strands — and you have a range of unusual and fascinating tattoo images.
Unfortunately, the tattoo artists, and/or the artists who created illustrations they may have worked from, aren’t credited.
Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, (Amazon link)
Science Tattoos on Studio 360
My previous post on Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium
8 Replies to “Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsesssed”
Man these are cool. I’ve seen a few of these before – it might have been in colorA2Z, not sure. I’m totally thinking of getting something geeky myself :-)
I have often thought of getting a tattoo, but never settled on what the tattoo design should be… I have always been afraid I’d change my mind in the middle of being tattooed and end up looking like an over designed, under designed, white inked, smeared, partially erased, scribbled piece of paper by the time the tattoo artist was done. That, and even though I think tattoos are cool, I think the human body in it’s natural form is even cooler… especially when I’m doing figure drawing… which kind of segways into a story where we had a model one night who had “yours” tattoed on the back of one leg, just below her buttocks, and “Truly” in the same place on the other leg. The font was in old english, and even though I am a dedicated Dad, Husband, and a semi-pro?-part-time-dabbling-artist…. I just could’t help wondering if she was talking to me… :) …cheers, Mike
I just want to point out that the ‘golden ratio’ nautilus shell tattoo is bogus. There is no golden ratio in real nautilus shells, they all vary by significant degrees. It’s a common bit of bullshit passed on from early in school which never gets debunked. Most spirals do not have the golden ratio, it’s a silly argument to show the apparent ‘design’ of our universe, that it was arranged in mathematical perfection. This is very far from the truth.
Can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Two of my science-tattoo designs made it in, including the one on my arm.
Most of those tattoos are really awful. I sure hope this is not representative of what they have published in the book. Of course a few are nice, real nice. The molecule structure looks well done, the tree “DNA” is sweet. OK I just scrolled up to credit what I think looks good and after a second look. Almost all are great. Whatever the second to last is sucks and the shell, my god, that should not be shown on the internet. It amazes me when people publish pictures of crap tattoos. That is one of my biggest complaints of the tattoo craze the past 10 years. Crappy artists who don’t learn to lay ink. There are so many brilliant artists out there that it is inexcusable to allow someone who is not good to jack your body up.
Yes I am covered in ink and have been since I was thirteen. Many of my tattoos are terrible and I love each of them. So I am not bagging on the people I pointed out who have bad ink. But I just hate to see tattoos represented in the media like that. It gives the whole industry a bad rap.
Thanks for the comment, Jlanedc. I’ve seen lots of good and bad tattoo art myself. My intention here was not to showcase examples of tattoo art in general, but to point out the interesting angle that these are tattoos chosen by scientists that represent their own scientific field of interest.
the nautilus tattoo with the golden ratio overlay is the scientific equivalent of mistranslated chinese calligraphy
I’m looking forward to this book as well, since one of mine might be in it.
Side note: I did get an email from the author asking people for the artist/studio before publication. There’s a chance people forgot over time or didn’t reply (I did!). It is a shame to not credit the work.
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