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.