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20 Apr Science tattoos at our faculty 1

Science/Mathematics arm tattoo of Euler’s identity and Science/Biology chest tattoo of a microtubule, both in black ink

“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” – Johnny Depp.

To some people tattoos are not just their story, but stories of life, the universe or even mathematics.

For science journalist Carl Zimmer the inspiration for his book “Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed” started with the science tattoo of his best friend: a DNA string. Not any plain old DNA sequence; it represented the initials of his wife. Fascinated by science tattoos Zimmer started collecting pictures of other scientists who felt the urge to express their love for science on their body even though he himself does not have any inkt on his body.

This lovely picture book inspired me to look for science tattoos and their stories on the UvA Faculty of Science. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether these tattoos are nerdy or cool (or both)!

Rico’s Euler’s identity: an unlikely success story

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Rico’s Euler equation, three weeks old. Image: Dorine


The What

Rico is an outstander: not only is he a 26 year old physics bachelor student, he also has a scientific secret hidden under his sleeve. In big, black letters he has the beautiful mathematical formula written on his arm. When I asked him why he chose for Euler’s identity, he told me a story I didn’t expect.

The Why
Rico was not like most teenagers. He roamed around the streets, had wrong friends and smoked joints. This resulted eventually in juvenile detention. Thanks to his mother (who got an honourable place on his right shoulder) he managed to talk his way into MBO (intermediate vocational education) and HBO (higher professional education) fast tracks.

During his HBO education he fell in love with mathematics. He decided to take math to a higher level and applied for UvA. After two summer school crash courses and some persuasive talking he got admitted to physics.

The Calculus 1 course introduced the Euler’s identity and Rico was amazed. It “summarized almost all of mathematics: combining algebra and geometry, containing natural logarithm, pi and the imaginary unit of the complex numbers. It’s mind-blowing!” He knew he wanted this tattoo and got it as soon as money allowed. It reminds him how happy he is with his decision to study physics.

Nico’s microtubule: a work of art

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Nico’s microtubule, just after it was placed. Image: Tanatos Artetattoo


The What

Is it an octopus? It is science fiction? No, it’s a microtubule!
A what? Microtubules are components of the cytoskeleton of a cell. They help maintaining the structure of the cell and provide platforms for intracellular transport.

The Why
The Puerto Rican biology master student Nico wanted a tattoo since he was 18. In 2012 he took the big step: a microtubule was tattooed on his chest. Because he considers tattooing an art form, a friend of his (a tattoo-artist) designed it. At the time Nico was following a course on the inner workings of cells. Thus, for inspiration he showed him a video about the inner life of a cell. His friend chose to tattoo the aesthetically pleasing microtubule.

In 2012 Nico wasn’t sure he would be able to continue his study, therefore he decided to get this tattoo. It would remind him of his beloved biology.

So, what do you think are science tattoos nerdy or cool? And what ode to science would you like to have (or do you already have) on your body? Let us know!

WTF dorine

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WTF Dorine

WTF Dorine

GRAPPA master/Beta-Gamma/interested in developments in science/running/traveling/nutrition and health
WTF Dorine

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