Last minute holiday presents: Science Ink

Dave Wolfenden's jellyfish tattoo

I’ve had a copy of Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, written by Carl Zimmer, sitting on my desk for a few months now. Once people see it, they can’t stop flipping through the pages and pages of science-themed tattoos, gasping and chuckling and sighing happily. It is scientist crack.

Science Ink is admirably organized for this kind of browsing. Designed by Charles Nix, it’s a beautiful book – cutouts on the cover give you a peek into a tattoo collage on the inner flap, and the layout of the pages is varied and visually pleasing.  The tattoos are organized into sections by theme (e.g., “Earth Sciences”, “Darwin” ), and the book has both a standard index and a “visual index” with tiny thumbnail photos of the tattoos, organized by the bearer’s last name.

Since my colleagues are mostly ecologists, they tend to head straight to the Natural History section. The lab favorites are Dave Wolfenden’s jellyfish (pictured to right, in book on p 164), Allen Collins’ siphonophores (p 167), and the stunning Endangered Species tattoos designed for the Extinked project (p 186). Other marine life highlights are the Glaucus atlanticus sea slug and cydippid ctenophore on Clare D’Alberto’s tree of life (p 143) and Josh Drew’s sexy spawning checkerboard wrasse (p 107).

For scientists, the book has the additional delight of recognizing tattoos seen in person. It’s quite entertaining to flip through the book and recognize our own RickMac’s leg and Southern Fried Scientist’s back and Glendon Mellow’s arm. I even recognized a tattoo from a gentleman I last saw in a hot tub at the 2005 Western Society of Naturalists conference. (No, I won’t reveal which one – but I remember it because it’s a striking tattoo! And yes, marine science conferences ARE quite fun.)

Keeping Science Ink on my desk makes me happy. It’s fun to watch the reactions of the more traditional visitors to my office (they love the science but are mildly shocked by all the body parts on display), and it’s cheering in the long dark teatime of the graduate student soul. I’ll certainly be flipping through it for inspiration for my second science tattoo, which I’ll eventually get in celebration of my PhD. So if you’re doing some last-minute shopping for the science lover in your life – hey, there’s seven more nights of Hanukkah! – Science Ink would make a fine gift.

6 Replies to “Last minute holiday presents: Science Ink”

  1. Last year I got my weedy seadragon tattoo, as a symbol of fatherhood (I have 7 kids). This year, I added a giant pacific octopus as a nod to Aurora the Octopus (Alaska Sealife Center), a symbol of motherhood. Perhaps in 2012 I’ll get a patch of sargassum tattooed on my back and throw in seven little critters hiding in there.

  2. Hi Miriam.

    I am stopping by each blog of the @scio12 attendees to say Hi and to give shoutouts on twitter. I have fond memories of your Mad Men styled clothing and some semblance of a conversation between you and Carl Zimmer while both under the influence at #scio10! Never fails to make me smile. :)

    I’ll see you next month in NC!

  3. Thanks Joanne! Love the blog comment project, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again as well! Incidentally, there is photographic evidence of the #scio10 Carl Zimmer happy fun bar time – he signed my hand. :)

  4. My birthday approaches. Last year’s giant pacific octopus took 6 hours to finish. This year I may top that. I want to get a sleeve illustrating a patch of sargassum seaweed. Hiding therein would be a sargassum fish, shrimp, filefish, pipefish, crab, nudibranch, and a kuda seahorse. One critter for each of my children.

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