The Jokes Physicists Tell About Chemists [Science Tattoo]

rightshoulderphoton600.jpgStevens Johnson, a physics professor, writes:

After years of needling from my musician wife (who has a pair of music tattoos on her shoulders), I finally took up the challenge and wasted a large amount of time designing my own science tattoos. I greatly enjoyed the time and effort to get them just right, to reflect who I am and what I do (Prof. of Physics and Engineering).

The right shoulder tattoo [CZ: above] is a 3D perspective abstract view of a gaussian photon, a “particle of light,” the red vertical undulations represent the electric field, the black horizontal undulations the magnetic field. It is propagating to the right, seen here as a snapshot in time. The photon is the single most common manner in which information is transmitted from one place in the universe to another. The tattoo artist suggested adding the faint shadows to give it depth, but the real reason I agreed was the ironic (oxymoronic?) humor of a particle of light casting a shadow.

The left shoulder tattoo [CZ: below] is a 3D perspective of the Periodic Table with the Planck Snake weaving around it (note the h-bar, Plank’s constant, in the eye). The snake represents the wave nature of matter, and Physics in general. (The infinity symbol the snake forms is a bonus.) The combination of the Periodic Table of Chemistry with the Planck Snake of Physics is also an inside joke at the expense of chemists: It took the Quantum Mechanics of Physics to explain to Chemistry its own Table of Elements.

I had no idea there were others who wear their science on their bodies until I did a web search, on a lark. Imagine my surprise. I think I’m hooked; I may not be done designing science tattoos.

Click here to go to the full Science Tattoo Emporium.


0 thoughts on “The Jokes Physicists Tell About Chemists [Science Tattoo]

  1. There are those who work in borosilicate, there are those who work in 316SS. Alarms should sound when somebody comes at you with an erasable maker and a whiteboard. Chalk and slate are the spec.

  2. John S., maybe start with a Philosopher’s Stone, whatever that looks like, or a caricature of Karl Popper. Just a couple of thoughts.

    GP, you’re taking this too seriously: The Planck Snake is just an invention of mine for the purpose of the tattoo itself. I doubt it will ever take on the same level of significance as, say, Schrödinger’s Cat. But if it does, you saw it here first.

    Romeo, I’ve seen tuxedo t-shirts, but a t-shirt tattoo really would be over the top.

    Uncle Al, I’m more of a theorist and computationalist than a lab rat. I agree, chalk and slate is superior to those &*%# whiteboards. I specialize in using colored chalk for detailed diagrams and figures in my lectures. There’re almost as much fun as using those big fat crayons from kindergarten.

  3. It’s clear to me after looking at these tattoos that alcohol and body mutilation constitutes a large part of the academic culture.

    How about sculpting bodies by regulating diet and getting regular exercise?

  4. Joerg, that’s a good one, Planck scales! Hadn’t thought of that. Fits in nicely, though.

    Bruce, in warm weather I cycle 17 to 25 miles a day in 60 to 90 minutes, and lift weights in cold weather. So far as I’m aware, no other faculty on campus have tats, although a lot of undergraduates do.

  5. Bruce, three science/medicine tattoos here and will finish my fifth Olympic distance triathlon this summer and am pushing for an Iron Man next spring before intern year. Sometimes after you’ve sculpted enough its time to decorate.

  6. Tye, I like your dedication and your comment. After reading it, my wife tells me I, too, had too much sculpted canvas to go undecorated, to use your words.

    Thank you, Bob and Tim, for your kind remarks.

  7. I’m a tattoo artist myself and I’m very happy to see that even the intelligent people of the world enjoy body art. I love the concept of science art! I’ve seen molecules done, periodic tables done, and even an amino acid based piece! the photon, however, has the most artistic aspect I’ve come across thus far. even to someone who had to read the write-up on the 3-d formation of a photon to understand what I was looking at, I could sit back and appreciate it for what it is: art.

  8. Thanks, Nik. The photon tat was my first. I spent an enormous amount of time trying to get it both accurate and artworthy. I’m happy to hear you think I succeeded.

  9. Oh, wow! These tattoos are great! I Love them both. I’m definitely a tatted chick and I wouldn’t mind getting a design of yours done seeing as it’s time I get a tattoo that combines my love for ink and science all in one.

  10. Gadarene, you’re obviously a gal with good taste. 🙂 But don’t unduly rush into more tats just on my account. (Sorry. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity for that line!) Thanks for the compliment. There are more science/engineering/math tats in the works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *