Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

Pinned on December 30, 2012 at 6:32 am by Karl Fritzback

Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

Body art meets popular science in this elegant, mind-blowing collection, written by renowned science writer Carl Zimmer. This fascinating book showcases hundreds of eye-catching tattoos that pay tribute to various scientific disciplines, from evolutionary biology and neuroscience to mathematics and astrophysics and reveals the stories of the individuals who chose to inscribe their obsessions in their skin. Best of all, each tattoo provides a leaping-off point for bestselling essayist and lecturer Zimmer to reflect on the science in question, whether it’s the importance of an image of Darwin’s finches or the significance of the uranium atom inked into the chest of a young radiologist.

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Shi-Hsia Hwa says:

Great tattoo art/science book Conflict of interest declaration: I’m on page 223 of this book, so I’m hardly going to give it a bad review, am I? BUT…In the past I have been severely disappointed by “books of websites”. E.g. the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics website was great fun back when the webmaster was updating it regularly, but the book was badly thrown together and a waste of time for people who’ve read the website content. Even my favourite webcomics don’t have the same sparkle in print. I assumed Science Ink was going to be, like a webcomic compilation, a large thin paperback with not much added value from the editor’s online photo album of other people’s tattoos which you can find via his blog.So I was greatly and pleasantly surprised (I think I pre-ordered before the photo of the book was up) to find, on unwrapping this, that it is a beautifully bound hardback with clever cut-outs in the cover that allow colourful photos on the endpapers to tantalise the viewer. The Gothic blackletter used for the word “Ink” on the cover and in the photo headings is a nod to stereotypical tattoo art. The size of this book is a bit larger in the horizontal dimensions but thinner than an average hardback novel, nowhere near as big as a “coffee table” book.In addition to a normal index, there is also an ingenious “Visual Index” of thumbnail photos so if you can’t remember who or what a cool design came from, you can still look for it easily.Content-wise, I believe there are quite a lot of photos not featured on the website (at least a lot that don’t look familiar to me), in addition to all the ones that are online. A lot of the text in this book consists of the tattoo submitters’ personal accounts of why they chose their particular designs. However, Zimmer has written mini-essays on the subject of a tattoo where the wearer has not given a long annotation, and his clear and elegant writing also forms chapter introductions. The hilarious Mary Roach (I’ve read her “Stiff” but have yet to get a hold of the others) provides a short foreword.In summary, I would recommend this book without reservation to anyone interested in science or tattoos even if I wasn’t in it!

Patrick E. Mcknight says:

A perfect gift for your tattoo-covered friends I am a scientist but I have no tattoos. In fact, I abhor the idea of permanently marking my body with current interests. I have no bumper stickers on my car. My interests and my passions are kept within me to discuss with those I wish to discuss them. Someday my friends and family members might wake up and wonder what the hell possessed them to litter their bodies with ink – just as I expect all those car owners with Ford/Dole bumper stickers to wonder with regret. OK, you get the picture of my attitude. I love science but question tattoos. Nevertheless, I found this book so interesting that my tattoo views changed.I purchased two copies for in-laws who love tattoos and are covered in them. These two people are dear to me and I support them in their interests even if I find them odd. What I discovered after reading the book on Christmas eve and Christmas day was that there are some incredibly creative people out there permanently marking themselves with their passions. I loved the intricacies of many pieces. Would I get a tattoo? No. Would I recommend the book to those who love tattoos? Yes. In fact, I would recommend the book to anyone who loves science and art. The book is a work of art.Well, here is the rub. I might consider getting my social security number tattooed on my foot in barcode just for easy posthumous identification. There you have it! I changed.

Alan "Editor, HCV Advocate" says:

When Science and Tattoos Collide My caveat to this review is that I have a passion for all things science and tattoos, but I’m not an expert in either.I pre-ordered this book with reservations because there are many”bad” tattoo books out here. And I thought how could these two co-exist together? Aren’t scientists sort of nerdy? Aren’t people who have tattoos super cool? However, I was knocked out when I received the book, you will see that both co-exist together very well. And lo and behold scientists are very cool or at least have very cool tattoos.The book comes in a sturdy hard cover edition that has cut-outs on the front to reveal some of the science tattoos pictured in the book. This is a beautiful book that will last years on the coffee table or a favorite spot on your nightstand to explore again and again.For the tattoo lovers there are plenty of beautiful and wildly different tattoos from the simple symbol of the null set, the intricate mathematical calculation of the set theory, to a rendition of outer space. If you are in need of ideas for a different kind of tattoo this is the book for you. Most of the tattoos are in color and for the most part the pictures are clear, although some of the tattoos are a bit fuzzy, but this could be a result of old and somewhat fading tattoos. There is also a Visual Index in the back of the book so that you can see thumbnails of all the tattoos along with corresponding page numbers so that you can locate the larger photo and read more information.For the person who likes science there is a wealth of short and concise essays about the meaning of the tattoos pictured, why the person decided to get the particular ink and more background information about the particular science topic. This is really the heart and soul of the book–the passion behind the reason for getting a tattoo is often as interesting as or maybe even more interesting than the actual tattoo. One of the most intriguing pieces in the book (including a picture) is the copy of the oldest tattoo uncovered so far. The tattoo was on a man who was found in the Alps when the snow cover receded and exposed his body. It is the body of the man (nicknamed Otzi) who died 5400 years ago.The information presented is just the right balance–enough science to whet your appetite, but not enough information to overwhelm most people especially if you are not particularly geared towards science.As a person who has tattoos, I can identify with the authors regarding the meaning behind a person’s reason for getting a certain tattoo. It was refreshing to read about the passion and see the beauty of the tattoos. If I have any criticism of the book is that I wanted more….more pictures, more personal stories and at certain times more of the science behind what the tattoo represented.I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in science and/or tattoos.

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