Carl Zimmer: Science Tattoo Emporium (Encoded Heart)

Carl Zimmer is a blogger and writer for both The New York Times and Discover Magazine, which also hosts his blog, The Loom Zimmer writes on a wide range of scientific topics. He is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed. When Zimmer asked on his blog how many scientists out there had tattoos, he was inundated with photo submissions and commentary, which he has collected into the neat book you can see and order below. It’s our pleasure to share some of them…


The tattoo shown here is from Willow Brugh. She writes:

I had this deep fascination with transhumanism in college (still do, to a degree), and geared up to go to law school in anticipation of the coming legal war over prosthetics and implants. Who controls the information going through your cochlear implant? If you would gain more dexterity through an artificial limb, is it legal for a surgeon to remove a fully operational biological limb? But I’ve seen law school brainwash a few people, so I started getting quotes tattoo’d on me as reminders of what I hold dear. It’s ASCII hex because the abstraction of language is fascinating to me, and because while my relationship to the quotes might change, our relationship to the networks we build (and how we speak to/with them) will only become more complex. Three lines of code in, I found out about the EFF and figured I should go into helping make a world where those cases happen. So I co-founded a maker space (Jigsaw Renaissance) and a way to link hacker and maker spaces together (Space Federation), and then got into engaging those communities with humanitarian response. That’s still my focus, with Geeks Without Bounds, we’re an accelerator for humanitarian projects.

The heart and its surroundings are because the quotes just keep coming up, and I didn’t want to look like the matrix. Many of my mental battles have been about accepting organic nature and seeing how it relates to the digital, and wanted to express that by having body art which embraced form. So I was sending all these pictures of images and tattoos I liked to my tattoo artist. A month before I went in for two more lines of code, all the conversations I was having started revolving around how I needed to pay more attention to my heart (I’m a bit of a robot, and learning to interact with emotion for the sake of people I care about has been a long and arduous journey). I walked into Action Tattoo, and Aaron had drawn this thing up – transit lines for the structures we build reflecting the organic world we come from, and the particle trails, and circuits, and of course the heart. So we got it done.

More details are at Willow’s blog. (Thanks to Vaughan Bell for noticing Willow on a train and pointing her in my direction.)

Click here to go to the full Science Tattoo Emporium on Carl’s blog.

Click here to see more TAM Blog articles from Carl Zimmer: Science Tattoo Emporium

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