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Radiolab Reads: Science Ink

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 - 03:00 PM

This tattoo inspired Zimmer's book Science Ink. This tattoo inspired Zimmer's book Science Ink. (Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.)

Carl Zimmer's latest book got its start in a swimming pool. Carl was at a party one summer, when he noticed something new about his longtime friend Bob: a tattoo of what looked like a little strand of DNA on his shoulder.  

 

Bob is a neurobiologist, and since he was studying fruit fly genes at the time, the tattoo wasn't entirely out of left field. But it turned out there was more to the story. Encoded in the ink is a message--depending on how you read the genetic code, it either says "EEE" (the initials of Bob's wife) or “glutatmate-glutamate-glutamate.”

Carl wondered if other science enthusiasts were wearing their hearts on their sleeves, so he put out a call on his blog, and started collecting the photos and stories that streamed in. Now, he's compiled hundreds of science-themed portraits into a new book of body art and essays. Have a look at the slideshow below, and if you like what you see, you can pick up a copy of Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science-Obsessed here.

A traditional model of an atom.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
A traditional model of an atom.
Tatoo of a tree.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
Tree with DNA.

“The tree seems to be a potent symbol of life in human (at least Western) culture, and what better way to augment this symbol by putting the code for life (DNA) at its base? I got this tattoo to commemorate the beginning of my PhD in immunology,” writes Kevin Bonham of Harvard.

A depiction of the solar system, courtesy of Ken Klein.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
A depiction of the solar system, courtesy of Ken Klein.
A flattened representation of a buckminsterfullereine.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
A flattened representation of a buckminsterfullereine.

Buckminster Fuller became famous for his geodesic domes. In the 1970s, scientists discovered that carbon atoms can form ball-shaped atoms with the same geometry. These "buckyballs" can be found here on Earth as well as in space. Here, Robert Wesel shows off a flattened representation of a buckminsterfullereine.

ATP molecule
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
ATP molecule

Daniel Schmoller, a pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin is sporting a tattoo of an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. One of the most biologically important molecules, ATP transports and stores chemical energy within cells.

 

Skeleton of northern leopard frog
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
Skeleton of northern leopard frog

A tattoo of the skeleton of a Rana pipiens (northern leopard frog) on David Laurice, a grade school science teacher.

 

The full moon as seen from earth.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
The full moon as seen from earth.

Peter Luce’s tattoo of a full moon as seen from earth. Luce’s parents met July 20th, 1969, the night of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Milad Khongar’s tattoo of the numerical value of the golden ratio.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
Milad Khongar’s tattoo of the numerical value of the golden ratio.
If Cantor’s theorem, then love.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
If Cantor’s theorem, then love.

Melissa Schumacher’s tattoo of Cantor’s theorem written in Frege’s notation. Schumacher, a third-year grad student at MIT says, "When I look down on my arm, [there are] two lines of symbols, if I turn it over there’s a heart. What my tattoo says is if Cantor’s theorem, then love. It’s a necessary truth for me."

This tattoo inspired Zimmer's book Science Ink.
Image adapted from Science Ink by Carl Zimmer © Sterling Publishing, 2011.
This tattoo inspired Zimmer's book Science Ink.

Bob Datta's tattoo of his wife's initials, EEE, encoded into an image of DNA. The code for the protein glutamate is “E.” Depending on how you read Datta's tattoo, it either says “Eliza Emond Edelsberg” or “glutatmate-glutamate-glutamate.” Datta is a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School and a longtime friend of Carl Zimmer. His tattoo inspired Zimmer’s book Science Ink.

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Comments [4]

LIly from London

please bring on something different instead of loops.

Nov. 13 2011 08:08 AM
Chirpy

I have a mickey mouse!

Nov. 10 2011 07:14 AM
Jake Williams

I personally have an M.C. Escher version of a mobius strip tattoed in the center of my back.

Nov. 08 2011 10:38 PM
Joe Holm

I have a patient in my clinic who has the formula for torque tattooed on one of his forearms.

Nov. 08 2011 07:54 PM

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