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Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed Hardcover – November 1, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


 “Carl Zimmer is one of the best science writers we have today.” --Rebecca Skloot, author of the bestselling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“Zimmer brilliantly animates the intoxicating passions of science lovers in perfectly precise, perfectly poetic short stories.” --Jad Abumrad, host of the award-winning “Radiolab”
“Reveals the great ideas and deep passion for science in some of the most creative body art on the planet today.” --Neil Shubin, author of the bestselling Your Inner Fish
“Every page of this book is a delight. Be dazzled by the images, wowed by the formulas, and inspired by the stories behind them all.” --Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here

About the Author

Carl Zimmer is a journalist and lecturer on science writing at Yale University. His numerous critically praised books include Parasite Rex, which The L.A. Times called “capable of changing how we see the world”; Soul Made Flesh (one of the top 100 books of 2004, according to The New York Times Book Review), and Microcosm, which The Boston Globe called, “superb…quietly revolutionary.” He writes for countless publications, including The New York Times and Scientific American, and regularly appears on radio (including on Fresh Air and This American Life) and on TV. His blog, The Loom, is regularly cited as one of the web's best science blogs. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402783604
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402783609
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.2 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By hwash VINE VOICE on November 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Conflict of interest declaration: I'm on page 223 of this book, so I'm hardly going to give it a bad review, am I? BUT...

In the past I have been severely disappointed by "books of websites". E.g. the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics website was great fun back when the webmaster was updating it regularly, but the book was badly thrown together and a waste of time for people who've read the website content. Even my favourite webcomics don't have the same sparkle in print. I assumed Science Ink was going to be, like a webcomic compilation, a large thin paperback with not much added value from the editor's online photo album of other people's tattoos which you can find via his blog.

So I was greatly and pleasantly surprised (I think I pre-ordered before the photo of the book was up) to find, on unwrapping this, that it is a beautifully bound hardback with clever cut-outs in the cover that allow colourful photos on the endpapers to tantalise the viewer. The Gothic blackletter used for the word "Ink" on the cover and in the photo headings is a nod to stereotypical tattoo art. The size of this book is a bit larger in the horizontal dimensions but thinner than an average hardback novel, nowhere near as big as a "coffee table" book.

In addition to a normal index, there is also an ingenious "Visual Index" of thumbnail photos so if you can't remember who or what a cool design came from, you can still look for it easily.

Content-wise, I believe there are quite a lot of photos not featured on the website (at least a lot that don't look familiar to me), in addition to all the ones that are online. A lot of the text in this book consists of the tattoo submitters' personal accounts of why they chose their particular designs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a scientist but I have no tattoos. In fact, I abhor the idea of permanently marking my body with current interests. I have no bumper stickers on my car. My interests and my passions are kept within me to discuss with those I wish to discuss them. Someday my friends and family members might wake up and wonder what the hell possessed them to litter their bodies with ink - just as I expect all those car owners with Ford/Dole bumper stickers to wonder with regret. OK, you get the picture of my attitude. I love science but question tattoos. Nevertheless, I found this book so interesting that my tattoo views changed.

I purchased two copies for in-laws who love tattoos and are covered in them. These two people are dear to me and I support them in their interests even if I find them odd. What I discovered after reading the book on Christmas eve and Christmas day was that there are some incredibly creative people out there permanently marking themselves with their passions. I loved the intricacies of many pieces. Would I get a tattoo? No. Would I recommend the book to those who love tattoos? Yes. In fact, I would recommend the book to anyone who loves science and art. The book is a work of art.

Well, here is the rub. I might consider getting my social security number tattooed on my foot in barcode just for easy posthumous identification. There you have it! I changed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My caveat to this review is that I have a passion for all things science and tattoos, but I'm not an expert in either.

I pre-ordered this book with reservations because there are many"bad" tattoo books out here. And I thought how could these two co-exist together? Aren't scientists sort of nerdy? Aren't people who have tattoos super cool? However, I was knocked out when I received the book, you will see that both co-exist together very well. And lo and behold scientists are very cool or at least have very cool tattoos.

The book comes in a sturdy hard cover edition that has cut-outs on the front to reveal some of the science tattoos pictured in the book. This is a beautiful book that will last years on the coffee table or a favorite spot on your nightstand to explore again and again.

For the tattoo lovers there are plenty of beautiful and wildly different tattoos from the simple symbol of the null set, the intricate mathematical calculation of the set theory, to a rendition of outer space. If you are in need of ideas for a different kind of tattoo this is the book for you. Most of the tattoos are in color and for the most part the pictures are clear, although some of the tattoos are a bit fuzzy, but this could be a result of old and somewhat fading tattoos. There is also a Visual Index in the back of the book so that you can see thumbnails of all the tattoos along with corresponding page numbers so that you can locate the larger photo and read more information.

For the person who likes science there is a wealth of short and concise essays about the meaning of the tattoos pictured, why the person decided to get the particular ink and more background information about the particular science topic.
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I bought this book after hearing Mr. Zimmer speak on Science Friday, and haven't regretted it one bit. It's not just that so many of the tattoos are beautiful and creative, it's the stories about why they were chosen and the meaning they had for people who got them.

The book was actually a very inspiring book about science, too. Every one of these people felt deeply enough about at least one aspect of science that they wanted to wear it on their body forever. The text often used their own words to explain the scientific or personal significance of whatever symbol or equation or formula they'd chosen to use. Those words were often eloquent and powerful, written by people who knew their subject and who were passionate about it.

I also enjoyed the text written by Zimmer. He was informed and clear, and covered the subject without either oversimplifying or using confusing jargon. It was a nice balance, giving the reader a glimpse into the vast world behind each piece of art.

The book is more than just a collection of pictures, though the pictures themselves are worth the price. I felt that the book truly showed how passionate these people were about science and about their tattoos.
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