Tag Archives: Isaac Newton

Colour: an art/science open call for submissions

The submission deadline for this open ‘art/sci’ call is January 17, 2018 (from a November 29, 2017 Art/Science Salon announcement; received via email),

COLOUR: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

An exhibition exploring colour as a phenomenon that crosses the
boundaries of the arts and sciences.

Artists and designers revel in, and seek to understand, the visceral,
physical and ephemeral qualities of colour. Sir Isaac Newton began his
scientific experiments with light and prisms as ‘a very pleasing
divertisement, to view the vivid and intense colours produced
thereby’. His investigations ultimately changed our understanding of
the fundamental nature of light and colour. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
challenged Newton’s understanding as limited, and introduced colour as
an emotionally charged phenomenon. He proposed an alternative
methodological approach based on ’empathic observation’.

COLOUR: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? calls for art inspired by, or
questioning, scientific concepts about colour: art that encapsulates
colour knowledge from multiple perspectives.

We are not looking for the merely colourful – rather we look for work
engaging ideas, theories and aspects of colour – both conceptual and
physical – that highlight colour knowledge as richly meaningful across
diverse ways of knowing.

To this end, we invite proposals that present, consider, or respond to
research about colour and colour phenomena. Work may relate to:

* physical colour phenomena, e.g. light sources, interference,
iridescence, scattering, reflection
* chemistry of dyes & pigments
* colour vision / colour perception
* colour renderings of energies outside of the visible spectrum
(ultraviolet, infra-red, etc.)
* colour meanings (cultural, scientific, philosophical)
* cross-sensory colour sensations and understandings
* colour theories
* colour histories

SHOW DATES: MARCH 7-25, 2018.

COLOUR: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? is jointly sponsored by Propeller
Gallery and the Colour Research Society of Canada [1]

SHOW LOCATION: Propeller Gallery, 30 Abell St, Toronto, ON, Canada

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Wed Jan 17, 2018, 11:59pm [which timezone?]

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION HERE:
HTTP://HUUTAART.COM/OPENCALLS/COLOUR-WHAT-DO-YOU-MEAN-BY-THAT [2]

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:

You may submit more than one submission, provided the concept is
substantially different for each piece, with a maximum of three
submissions. With each submission, please provide at least one image
(maximum 4 images) relevant to your proposal.

Details about yourself and your work including:

* Name, address, email, phone number, with a brief bio.
* Title of Work, Year, Medium, Size and Value in $CAD.
* A brief written statement about the work, including how the work
deals with, or draws its inspiration from, diverse ways of knowing about
colour (max. 150 words).
* NON-REFUNDABLE SUBMISSION FEE OF $50.00 PER SUBMISSION.

CURATORIAL TEAM MEMBERS: Doreen Balabanoff, Robin Kingsburgh, Janet
Read, Judith Tinkl

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

* 25% commission collected on any work sold as a result of this
exhibition.
* For more information visit our website: www.propellerctr.com [3]
* If selected, you agree to allow us to use your submission material,
without compensation, in any potential catalogue/publication for this
exhibition.
* Selected artists will be contacted by email not later than January
31. Delivery instructions will be given at that time.
* An event at the exhibition, related to International Colour Day,
March 21st, will be announced in early 2018.

Please direct inquiries to:

Nathan Heuvingh
Gallery Director
gallery@propellerctr.com
1-416-504-7142

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PropellerTO/ [4]
Twitter: @PropellerTO
Instagram: @propellerygallery_to

The co-sponsor for this upcoming exhibition, the Colour Research Society of Canada has a website that proved to be a delightful surprise.

Getting back to COLOUR: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?, good luck with your submission, and should it be accepted, good luck with sales!

Complex networks to provide ‘grand unified theory’

Trying to mesh classical physics and quantum physics together in one theory which accounts for behaviour on the macro and quantum scales has occupied scientists for decades and it seems that mathematicians have discovered a clue so solving the mystery. A Sept. 13, 2015 news item on Nanotechnology Now describes the findings,

Mathematicians investigating one of science’s great questions — how to unite the physics of the very big with that of the very small — have discovered that when the understanding of complex networks such as the brain or the Internet is applied to geometry the results match up with quantum behavior.

A Sept. 9, 2015 Queen Mary University of London press release, which originated the news item, describes the collaboration between Queen Mary and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology mathematicians,

The findings, published today (Thursday) in Scientific Reports, by researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, could explain one of the great problems in modern physics.

Currently ideas of gravity, developed by Einstein and Newton, explain how physics operates on a very large scale, but do not work at the sub-atomic level. Conversely, quantum mechanics works on the very small scale but does not explain the interactions of larger objects like stars. Scientists are looking for a so called ‘grand unified theory’ that joins the two, known as quantum gravity.

Several models have been proposed for how different quantum spaces are linked but most assume that the links between quantum spaces are fairly uniform, with little deviation from the average number of links between each space. The new model, which applies ideas from the theory of complex networks, has found that some quantum spaces might actually include hubs, i.e. nodes with significantly more links than others, like a particularly popular Facebook user.

Calculations run with this model show that these spaces are described by well-known quantum Fermi-Dirac, and Bose-Einstein statistics, used in quantum mechanics, indicating that they could be useful to physicists working on quantum gravity.

Dr Ginestra Bianconi, from Queen Mary University of London, and lead author of the paper, said:

“We hope that by applying our understanding of complex networks to one of the fundamental questions in physics we might be able to help explain how discrete quantum spaces emerge.

“What we can see is that space-time at the quantum-scale might be networked in a very similar way to things we are starting to understand very well like biological networks in cells, our brains and online social networks.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Complex Quantum Network Manifolds in Dimension d > 2 are Scale-Free by Ginestra Bianconi & Christoph Rahmede. Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 13979 (2015) doi:10.1038/srep13979 Published online: 10 September 2015

This is an open access paper.

From Australia: a recipe for baking lenses

Here’s the recipe from an April 24, 2014 Optical Society news release on EurekAlert,

All that’s needed is an oven, a microscope glass slide and a common, gel-like silicone polymer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). First, drop a small amount of PDMS onto the slide. Then bake it at 70 degrees Celsius to harden it, creating a base. Then, drop another dollop of PDMS onto the base and flip the slide over. Gravity pulls the new droplet down into a parabolic shape. Bake the droplet again to solidify the lens. More drops can then be added to hone the shape of the lens that also greatly increases the imaging quality of the lens. “It’s a low cost and easy lens-making recipe,” Lee [ Steve Lee from the Research School of Engineering at Australian National University] says.

I’m still marveling over this image,

Caption: This photo shows a single droplet lens suspended on a fingertip. Credit: Stuart Hay. Courtesy: The Optical Society

Caption: This photo shows a single droplet lens suspended on a fingertip. Credit: Stuart Hay. Courtesy: The Optical Society

For anyone who doesn’t know much about producing lenses and why these baked droplets could improve lives, the Optical Society news release provides some insight,

A droplet of clear liquid can bend light, acting as a lens. Now, by exploiting this well-known phenomenon, researchers have developed a new process to create inexpensive high quality lenses that will cost less than a penny apiece.

Because they’re so inexpensive, the lenses can be used in a variety of applications, including tools to detect diseases in the field, scientific research in the lab and optical lenses and microscopes for education in classrooms.

“What I’m really excited about is that it opens up lens fabrication technology,” says Steve Lee from the Research School of Engineering at Australian National University (ANU) …

Many conventional lenses are made the same way lenses have been made since the days of Isaac Newton—by grinding and polishing a flat disk of glass into a particular curved shape. Others are made with more modern methods, such as pouring gel-like materials molds. But both approaches can be expensive and complex, Lee says. With the new method, the researchers harvest solid lenses of varying focal lengths by hanging and curing droplets of a gel-like material—a simple and inexpensive approach that avoids costly or complicated machinery.

“What I did was to systematically fine-tune the curvature that’s formed by a simple droplet with the help of gravity, and without any molds,” he explains.

Although people have long recognized that a droplet can act as a lens, no one tried to see how good a lens it could be. Now, the team has developed a process that pushes this concept to its limits, Lee says.

The researchers made lenses about a few millimeters thick with a magnification power of 160 times and a resolution of about 4 microns (millionths of a meter)—two times lower in optical resolution than many commercial microscopes, but more than three orders of magnitude lower in cost. “We’re quite surprised at the magnification enhancement using such a simple process,” he notes.

An April 24, 2014 Australian National University (ANU) news release on EurekAlert adds more details to the story,

The lenses are made by using the natural shape of liquid droplets.

“We put a droplet of polymer onto a microscope cover slip and then invert it. Then we let gravity do the work, to pull it into the perfect curvature,” Dr Lee said.

“By successively adding small amounts of fluid to the droplet, we discovered that we can reach a magnifying power of up to 160 times with an imaging resolution of four micrometers.”

The polymer, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), is the same as that used for contact lenses, and it won’t break or scratch.

“It would be perfect for the third world. All you need is a fine tipped tool, a cover slip, some polymer and an oven,” Dr Lee said.

The first droplet lens was made by accident. [emphasis mine]

I nearly threw them away. [emphasis mine] I happened to mention them to my colleague Tri Phan, and he got very excited,” Dr Lee said.

“So then I decided to try to find the optimum shape, to see how far I could go. When I saw the first images of yeast cells I was like, ‘Wow!'”

Dr Lee and his team worked with Dr Phan to design a lightweight 3D-printable frame to hold the lens, along with a couple of miniature LED lights for illumination, and a coin battery.

The technology taps into the current citizen science revolution [emphasis mine], which is rapidly transforming owners of smart phones into potential scientists. There are also exciting possibilities for remote medical diagnosis.

Dr Phan said the tiny microscope has a wide range of potential uses, particularly if coupled with the right smartphone apps.

“This is a whole new era of miniaturisation and portability – image analysis software could instantly transform most smartphones into sophisticated mobile laboratories,” Dr Phan said.

“I am most able to see the potential for this device in the practice of medicine, although I am sure specialists in other fields will immediately see its value for them.”

Dr Lee said the low-cost lens had already attracted interest from a German group interested in using disposable lenses for tele-dermatology.

“There are also possibilities for farmers,” he said. “They can photograph fungus or insects on their crops, upload the pictures to the internet where a specialist can identify if they are a problem or not.”

That Lee created his first droplet by accident and almost threw it away echoes many, many other science stories. In addition to that age old science story, I love the simplicity of the idea, the reference to Isaac Newton, and the inclusion of citizen science.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Fabricating low cost and high performance elastomer lenses using hanging droplets by W. M. Lee, A. Upadhya, P. J. Reece, and Tri Giang Phan. Biomedical Optics Express, Vol. 5, Issue 5, pp. 1626-1635 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/BOE.5.001626

This paper is open access.

I wish Lee and his team great success in making this technology available, assuming that it lives up to its promise.

The Veil of Nature: Museum of Liminal Science (play & installation) in Vancouver (Canada) and You Are Very Star (experience) online

Science hasn’t always been the science we think of and practice in the 21st century. For example, Isaac Newton, famed English physicist and mathematician was not the scientist we believe him to be as Stuart Clark’s Sept. 21, 2012 post for the UK’s Guardian newspaper online points out,

Often wrongly portrayed as a cold rationalist, Isaac Newton is one of history’s most compelling figures. It is true that he was capable of the most precise and logical thought it is possible for a human to achieve: his three years of obsessive work that gave birth to the Principia, containing his theory of gravity, stand as the greatest achievement in science.

Just as certainly, though, he was also consumed with what we would now view as completely unscientific pursuits: alchemy and biblical prophesy. [emphasis mine]

Tempting as it is to dismiss all of this as somehow removed from Newton’s science, his belief in spirits and what the alchemists called active principles almost certainly allowed him to conceive gravity in the mathematical form that we still use today. [emphasis mine]

Today’s science practice is the result of a long process and it includes the embarrassing (for some) such as alchemy and biblical prophecy, as well as, a 19th century scandal where an occultist, Madame Blavatsky, attempted to introduce Hindu and Buddhist teachings into Western Science.

A science installation featuring spiritualism à la Blavatsky, The Veil of Nature: Museum of Liminal Science, and an environment resembling a 19th century laboratory that immerses the participant in a multi-media, multi-sensory experience is opening on Friday, June 14, 2013. From the June 10, 2013 Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) news release,

Imagine walking into a multi-media environment that looks like a 19th century science lab on the outside but, on the inside, immerses you into a sensory world where science, spirituality, illusion and intuition fuse.

Gruben [Patricia Gruben], a screenwriter, filmmaker and associate professor, and Gotfrit [Martin Gotfrit], a music composer, sound designer and professor, will unveil The Veil of Nature: Museum of Liminal Science on Friday, June 14 at a reception. It is from 6 to 9 p.m. in Room 2205, Goldcorp Centre.

The duo’s free, public, cube-shaped, multi-sensory world will remain open until July 6. A presentation in its own right, the installation is also intended to prime the public’s creative appetite for The Secret Doctrine. The play, penned by Gruben, is about the intellectual triumphs and scandals that engulfed Helena Blavatsky, a 19th century Russian occultist.

The play runs July 2 to 6 at the Goldcorp Centre. [149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC Canada]

Scholars and scientists of Blavatsky’s day alternately lauded and defamed the co-founder of the Theosophical Society in India in 1881 for injecting Hindu and Buddhist teachings into western science. Blavatsky’s ideas are laid out in her tome, The Secret Doctrine, published in 1889. Gruben’s play is named after the book.

Gotfrit composed the music and soundscape for the installation as well as the play. Toronto-based designer Marian Wihak conceived of the installation’s innovative design. …

“We wanted to explore the threshold between rational science and intuition and we could only go so far in the play because we have to keep the story moving. The installation allows visitors to experience for themselves some of the questions that Blavatsky posed.

“For example, we play with the illusionary nature of our world, the interchangeability of matter and energy and the cyclical rather than linear progression of time.”

Adds Gotfrit: “The sound and music are designed to offer another sensory mode and to extend visitors’ experience beyond the visual, tactile and olfactory,” adds Gotfrit. “I use a multi-channel immersive audio system and my generative music software to trigger visitors’ aural experience and respond to it subtly.”

You can get more information about the installation and about Madame Blavatsky at the http://www.theveilofnature.net./,

June 14 – July 6, 2013, Tuesdays through Saturdays

Open 3 – 8 pm, Appointment recommended

Room 4350, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

149 W.Hastings, SFU Woodwards, Vancouver

I tried to make an appointment/sign up for a time but was unable (not sure if it was the system or me). You can try for yourself here. As for Gruben’s play, The Secret Doctrine, you can find out more and/or buy tickets here.

ETA June 12, 2013: Patricia Gruben very kindly noted (in response to my query) that you have to scroll over to the extreme  right to click on the SAVE button in the lower corner of the screen after filling in your name and choosing a date and time to book a viewing of the installation. (On my system the button had moved [disappeared from my perspective] and I didn’t scroll all the way to right.)

I wish them well with the installation. I last wrote about immersive experiences and installations in a March 6, 2013 posting about the Cleveland Museum of Art.

I recently posted (June 7, 2013) about an immersive, transmedia theatre production opening in Vancouver, Canada, You Are Very Star. For anyone who can’t get to Vancouver, you can get a bit of the show experience and, for those of us who will be attending the show, our experience can start at any time, from the *June 10, 2013 announcement (Note added June 12, 2013: The show opens on June 15, 2013 but there are previews in the days leading up to it),

Electric Company Theatre would like to invite you to begin your You Are Very Star experience. The show doesn’t begin when you walk through the doors at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vanier Park.
 
The show is now.
We recommend that you begin this endeavour as soon as possible, as you will have the opportunity to explore and investigate in the coming days before your scheduled performance.
As it is an online experience using innovative technology, we recommend that you take the following steps:
1. Use a computer, as you will not be able to view it on a tablet or smartphone.
2. Restart your computer (a fresh slate is good for all of us). Close other applications and browser tabs;
3. Viewing experience will be most optimal on Chrome. You may also use Firefox or Safari browsers- they should have the most recent update;
If you have any issues with the experience, please let me know by responding to this email.
Are you ready?

I’ve tried it both on Chrome and on Firefox. Both the Chrome and Firefox experiences were stunning although I experienced slightly better visuals on Chrome; I got further into the experience on Firefox (my system is held together with chewing gum and baling wire). Definitely try this out.

* Corrected June 14 to June 10.

Take control of a 17th century scientific genius (Newton, Galileo, Keppler, Liebniz, or Kircher) in The New Science board game

Thank you to David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis) for the Sept. 16, 2012 posting (by way of Twitter and @JeanLucPiquant) about The New Science Game currently listed on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site. From the description of The New Science board game on Kickstarter,

The New Science gives you control of one of five legendary geniuses from the scientific revolution in a race to research, successfully experiment on, and finally publish some of the critical early advances that shaped modern science.

This fun, fast, easy-to-learn worker placement game for 2-5 players is ideal for casual and serious gamers alike. The rules are easy to learn and teach, but the many layers of shifting strategy make each game a new challenge that tests your mind and gets your competitive juices flowing.

Each scientist has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. No two scientists play the same way, so each time you try someone new it provides a different and satisfying play experience. Your scientist’s mat also serves as a player aid, repeating all of the key technology information from the game board for your easy reference.

The “five legendary geniuses’ are Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Gottfried Liebniz, and Athanasius Kircher. The Kickstarter campaign to take control of the five has raised $5,058 US of the $16,000 requested and it ends on Oct. 17, 2012.

The game is listed on boardgamegeek.com with additional details such as this,

Designer: Dirk Knemeyer

Artist: Heiko Günther

Publisher: Conquistador Games

# of players: 2-5

User suggested ages: 12 and up

Description:

Players control one of the great scientists during the 17th century Scientific Revolution in Europe. Use your limited time and energy to make discoveries, test hypotheses, publish papers, correspond with other famous scientists, hire assistants into your laboratory and network with other people who can help your progress. ’emphasis mine] Discoveries follow historical tech trees in the key sciences of the age: Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The scientist who accumulates the most prestige will be appointed the first President of the Royal Society.

The activities listed in the game description “make discoveries, test hypotheses,” etc. must sound very familiar to a contemporary scientist.

There’s also an explanatory video as seen on the Kickstarter campaign page and embedded here below,

David notes this about game quality in his Sept. 16, 2012 posting (Note: I have removed a link),

The game was heavily tested by the folks at Game Salute, and comes with the kind of quality details you might expect from games like Ticket to Ride or the various version of Catan.  If you’re interested in getting a copy of the game, it will run $49 U.S., plus shipping for destinations outside the U.S.  See the Kickstarter page for more details.

You can find out more about Conquistador Games here.

Science tattoos and a brief chat with Carl Zimmer about his book, Science Ink

I’m back with another New York Academy of Sciences public event (my Jan. 3, 2012 posting listed a number of events), this time it’s  Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed with Carl Zimmer. Here’s a description of the event (which will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 from 7 – 8:30 pm),

How much do you love science? Enough to get it permanently inked on your skin?

Join award-winning science journalist and New York Academy of Sciences regular Carl Zimmer for a talk on his latest book, Science Ink, which showcases over 300 tattoos dedicated to the pursuit of science.

Tattoos have been a part of human culture as far back as Neolithic times. Scientists have uncovered tattoos on mummified ancients from Western China to Egypt to Scandanavia. And the subjects of those tattoos vary as much as the cultures—from elaborate animal and organic designs to simple graphic designs thought to have therapeutic qualities. In more modern times in the Western world, tattoos came into vogue in the late 1800s when British elites began to tattoo themselves—both Winston Churchill and his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, had tattoos. And today, it’s clear that in American culture, tattoos have had a resurgence in popularity.

Choosing what to mark your body with permanently is a source of much conversation and consternation. And as Carl Zimmer discovered after a blog post asking about science tattoos, there is a passionate group of people who made the choice to ink themselves with science.

In this special event, Zimmer will speak about the science and history of tattooing, and offer highlights from his book Science Ink, which features a gallery of scientific tattoos, spanning fields from evolutionary biology and neuroscience to mathematics and astrophysics. In addition, Zimmer is inviting a handful of those featured in the book to come and share the compelling personal stories behind their ink.

Here are more details about the event, pricing is as follows,

Member:                                                                   $15

Student / Postdoc / Fellow Member:           $10

Nonmember:                                                           $25

Student / Postdoc / Fellow Nonmember:   $20

In a Jan. 9, 2012 posting on his blog, The Loom, Carl Zimmer offers more information about his book and upcoming talk plus a discount,

Get $10 dollars off admission by using the promo code ZIMMER. Register [here or http://www.nyas.org/scienceink]

The address and contact details:

The New York Academy of Sciences

7 World Trade Center
250 Greenwich Street, 40th floor
New York, NY 10007-2157
212.298.8600
nyas@nyas.org

As for Carl Zimmer and science tattoos, I decided to investigate a bit further. Here’s an excerpt from Carl Zimmer’s website bio webpage,

The New York Times Book Review calls Carl Zimmer “as fine a science essayist as we have.” In his books, essays, articles, and blog posts, Zimmer reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums, and festivals, and he is also a frequent guest on radio programs such as Radio Lab and This American Life.

In addition to writing books, Zimmer has written hundreds of articles for the New York Times and magazines including National Geographic, Time, Scientific American, Science, and Popular Science. From 1994 to 1998 Zimmer was a senior editor at Discover, where he remains a contributing editor and writes a monthly column about the brain.

Since 2003, Zimmer has written the award-winning blog, The Loom. Along with essays about science, The Loom is also home to a popular gallery of science tattoos. In November 2011, Zimmer will publish a book of his favorite selections, called Science Ink: Tales of the Science Obsessed.

Zimmer is a lecturer at Yale University, where he teaches writing about science and the environment. He was also the first Visiting Scholar at the Science, Health, and Environment Reporting Program at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named. [emphasis mine]

I do love a sense of humour. As for Zimmer’s latest book, Science Ink, his website offers some excerpts from it (here are a few samples),

Astrarium, p.71
“Although I’m not a scientist by trade,” writes Lauren Caldwell, “my work on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature has provided ample opportunity for me to become acquainted with the work of some brilliant scientific innovators. Though we have discarded some of their ideas, their work retains all of its vital visual force. ¶ “Years ago I discovered and fell in love with the comprehensive diagrams in Giovanni de’Dondi’s 1364 Il Tractatus Astarii, which contained the plans for the first famous astrarium. Each piece has its own delicate mechanical beauty, but I chose for my backpiece the Mercury wheelwork. Of course, you couldn’t track Mercury with it—de’Dondi followed Ptolemy—but his astrarium remains a lovely and impressive testament to human ingenuity and curiosity. ¶ “The more spare geometrical diagrams that surround the de’Dondi piece are taken from Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica—of which little enough, I imagine, need be said. Though in many respects these two men couldn’t have been more different, they shared a vision of a universe as elegant and aesthetically compelling today as it was when they lived and worked.”

Astrarium tattoo (from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer)

DNA monster, bottom p.102
Jay Phelan, a biologist at UCLA, got his DNA tattoo in 1990 while he was in graduate school. “As I got deeper into the study of evolution, genetics, and human behavior,” he writes, “I realized that there was a tension between what my genes ‘wanted’ me to do and what I wanted to do, from the fattiness of the foods I ate, to the selfishness/selflessness I showed to others, to issues with managing my money, my risk-taking, and my relationships, and more. It dawned on me that I was fighting a never-ending battle. Anyway, I tried to come up with a design that captured that tension and, once I did, decided to get it tattooed on my back.”

DNA monster tattoo (from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer)

I was sufficiently fascinated to send off a few questions to Carl Zimmer about science tattoos and his upcoming talk at the NYAS and he very kindly replied,

  • Given the title of your latest book (Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed), I’m wondering if you have any tattoos.
    If so, what is it?

I don’t have any tattoos actually. I’ve never been particularly interested in getting one, and am no big fan of needles. But I find the lack of a tattoo is no impediment to appreciating the tattoos of scientists.  If I sell of whole bunch of copies of the book, maybe I’ll have to celebrate by getting one. I was thinking about getting  my wife’s name, Grace, spelled out as amino acids.

  • What most surprised you about this book?

At first the surprise was simply that any scientist at all had tattoos.  The initial flood of pictures that filled up my e-mail inbox was amazing. After I got accustomed to the idea that there is lots and lots of scientists with tattoos out there, the next big surprise was how many interesting stories there were, illustrated by these tattoos. Stories from the history of science, stories from the personal lives of the scientists. And since telling stories is my job, I decided to turn Science Ink into a book of miniature essays.

  • Is there any branch of science that attracts more people who are willing to ink their bodies?

I don’t see any field being way in the lead compared other ones. In fact, what really impressed me was that just about every branch of science I can imagine ended up being represented in the book. I have groups of linguistics tattoos in the book, astronomy tattoo,s medical tattoos ,tattoos about quantum physics, and so on. Basically, by looking at these tattoos you end up taking a tour of all science.

  • Could you briefly preview a little bit of your Ja.24.12 talk?

I’m going to be talking at the New York Academy of Sciences about what got me into this peculiar project, and some of the things I learned about scientists and science in the process. But I’m also going to be talking about tattooing itself. It’s actually a pretty fascinating scientific subject in its own right. Anthropologists have found evidence of tattooing in many cultures around the world, and it goes back thousands of years. So I think that tattoos speak to something really important about what it means to be human–and, in this particular case, what it means to be a scientist.

Dear Carl, Thank you for taking time out of a very busy schedule (he has a talk scheduled Jan. 20, 2012 too; scroll down to the next paragraph for information about that event plus all of his usual work) to respond. I hope the book is a huge success.

There is one other related Science Ink event that might be of interest. The ScienceOnline2012 conference, January 19 – 21, 2012 (no spaces left for attendees), held annually in Durham, North Carolina and (mentioned in my Nov. 2, 2011 posting) is hosting a Science of Ink tour for 30 people to the Dogstar Tattoo Company on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. The webpage for the tour notes that it is completely booked but if you follow the Twitter hash tag (#SciInk) you may be able to get on the tour (as people do drop out of these things for one reason or another). From the tour webpage,

Join us on Friday afternoon, January 20th, at the Dogstar Tattoo Company in Durham, NC’s Golden Belt district for a lecture by Carl Zimmer on the science of tattoos, a reception & tour of the studio, and the opportunity to get inked (or just watch the process!). Carl will have his book, Science Ink: The Tattoos of the Science Obsessed available–and we can probably convince him to sign a few ☺

This isn’t your typical tattoo shop. When Carl Zimmer first saw the photos, he declared, “It’s like a cathedral of tattoo parlors.”

When you register, please indicate if you definitely plan to get a tattoo, might want to get a tattoo, or definitely don’t plan to get inked (but want to observe). [emphasis mine]

Good luck with getting on the tour or getting to the talk in New York. As for anyone from Vancouver who might be hoping that Carl Zimmer will be here for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2012 annual meeting, sadly, the answer is no.