Zen Pencils: Welcome to Science

By Phil Plait | June 7, 2012 11:58 am

Science inspires me. It’s a body of knowledge, a method of understanding, a way of seeing the Universe around you. It shows us what’s true versus what isn’t, and constantly reveals wonders and awe surrounding us that we might have otherwise entirely missed.

I’m not alone; science inspires a lot of people. One of them is Gavin Aung Than, a talented web comic artist. He created the site Zen Pencils, where he takes inspirational speeches — many by scientists — and draws comics that fit them. While these are web comics, he is able to putting images to the words that add a dimension and depth to them that is simply wonderful. He’s done this for people like Carl Sagan, Neil Tyson, and Neil Gaiman.

And now he’s added me to his list. He took my speech called Science Fare and created an amazing, amazing, piece of art to go with it. Here’s a small part of it:

Click to see the whole thing. The way he’s drawn the last bit actually chokes me up a little bit. Wow.

If you like it, he’s selling prints of the comic, and generously donating 50% of the profit to Every Child By Two, a charity that helps vaccinate kids and provides science-based information to parents about vaccinations.

I am simultaneously proud and humbled by this — a Schrödinger’s Box of emotions. My thanks to Gavin, and to everyone who finds a small bit of inspiration themselves from it.

Related Posts:

Science Fare
Zen Pencils does Tyson
Zen Pencils and words of wisdom


Comments (25)

  1. Wayne on the Plains

    Fantastic. Kudos to you both for this.

  2. eddie

    i was wondering when you were going to post on this.

    love the details “like the kirk cameron” poster… but can you tell from the sky in the last frame where they are? is it an accurate sky? that would be too much for me to handle if it were…

  3. My favorite part was the bowl of bananas!

  4. Vivienne Grainger

    Teared me up a bit, too.

    I really hope you can acquire a print of this (even, dare I say, the original).

    Frame it well, and hang it where you can see it on the days when you are at the bottom of that hill all the … stuff … rolls down.

  5. Colin Jagoe

    Cool! Great one, and nice words Phil!

  6. Crux Australis

    Man, it’s not often that a cartoon moves me to tears…

  7. Grrrr, I have to wait until I get home to see this, but I want to see it NOW! Zen Pencils is a great site!

  8. Joseph J Marcus

    Amazing. The end tore me up a little too. I just bought my almost-four year old son a telescope yesterday and got mine working. Tonight, it’s going to be a late night because we are going to look at Luna.

  9. AliCali

    @8 Joseph J Marcus:

    “…we are going to look at Luna.”

    Nice, the moon is very reliable. It’s just past full tonight, so it will be bright. When I look at a bright moon, I have the outside lights on and sometimes wear sunglasses; it’s just so bright.

    If you want another object, look for the Big Dipper in the North (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere). Follow the curve of the handle, and you’ll hit a bright star called Arcturus. Continue following the curve and you’ll see two points of light that look like stars. One is actually not a star. Point your telescope at those and see which isn’t really a star.

  10. This (the whole speech) reminds me greatly of this Tripod song – they’re an Australian comedy trio, and it’s called “Science Facts are Useful.”

  11. Jefferson

    I got a little dust in my eye. No really. That was very moving. Congrats Phil!

  12. Odd. My lacrimal glands seem to be acting up. Hey, correlation does not equal causation!

    ‘Cept when it does.

    Congrats on having your already formidable awesomesauce illustrated so beautifully, Phil! Incidentally, that’s my new favorite quotable quote (“Welcome to Science. You’re gonna like it here”) I think every science classroom should have that on a poster :)

  13. Grand Lunar

    This is absolutely perfect, Phil!

    And this should be shared with today’s youth. They need inspiration like this.

    I hope I can share this with my cousin.

  14. Peter Eldergill


    At what age would people recommend to by my son a telescope? (He’s getting close to 3 yrs old)


  15. I’m with Joseph in thinking I want to see that quote above every science classroom, every lab, every science colleage faculty building “Welcome to Science. You’re gonna like it here”.

  16. Gunnar

    A well deserved and touching tribute to not only to Phil but to all who are dedicated to promoting scientific literacy and the love of science!

    It dismays me that not only are Republican conservatives waging a war against science and reality, but it too often seems that even some Democrats and liberals sometimes dismiss its importance. As is widely known, California is struggling through a deficit crisis, and one of the remedies being proposed by its democratic Governor is to not only cut back on public education, but specifically on science education, namely reducing to only one the number of years of science instruction required for graduation from high school, which is not enough to satisfy the minimum admission requirements for the UC and California State university systems.

    How is this supposed to solve California’s economic crisis, especially given the well-established fact that nothing is more conducive to a healthy and prosperous economy than a well-educated, scientifically literate populace? If anything, education (especially science education) ought to be given greater emphasis–not less–even if in the short term it might temporarily increase the deficit. There is little doubt in my mind that, in the long run, nothing will do more to further hurt the California economy than failure to increase the educational and scientific literacy level of its citizens. It is my understanding that already, some high tech companies are leaving California, or avoiding coming to California in the first place because of a shortage of technically qualified and scientifically literate workers in the state.

  17. DrFlimmer

    I was just reading that again, but this time I tried to time it with the song “With Love, Vincent” from the Doctor Who series 5 soundtrack. Reading on from “They used physics…” with the music starting at around 2:20 is absolutely incredible. THAT gives tears!

    I think I found this blog after you posted that speech, at least I didn’t recall to have ever known it. It’s a brilliant speech. Absolutely brilliant!

  18. Simon

    His artwork is what brought be to your blog. Great to be here, will definitely be spending more time reading your work.

  19. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (12) said:

    . . . that’s my new favorite quotable quote (“Welcome to Science. You’re gonna like it here”) I think every science classroom should have that on a poster

    Would that it were so.

    Sadly, in many places, science is taught as a list of dry facts instead of the journey of discovery it actually is. Thus, it is not as much fun as it ought to be.

  20. Cindy

    I teach physics at a high school and I forwarded that to all of my colleagues. I’m going to have to get a print of it. The only problem is finding a spot on my wall to hang it – got a lot of astronomy posters up.

  21. Anjeanette Levings

    I found both of you within the last week. Independently. As a middle school social studies teacher, I try to show my kiddos that I love learning cool stuff. I love seeing people use their talents to enrich the world. To this end, I have been compiling a list of videos, cartoons, etc that I thought my students would find interesting, no matter the topic. These blogs and Zen Pencils have been making my job just a bit easier. Thanks to both of you!

  22. Chris

    Can’t wait to read the full web-comic-page. Work filter is currently blocking the site due to “adult content.”

  23. Another Phil

    I read that piece on Zen Pencils before seeing this post and seeing the quotee was a real curve ball!

    Thanks for recommending Zen Pencils a while ago, I added it to “Abstruse Goose”, “Tree Lobsters” and “XKCD” as must-reads.

  24. Rasputin

    He makes good art.

  25. Thank you! I LOVE IT. I knew somehow, before clicking to see the rest, that she was being gifted either a microscope or a telescope. Probably because it reminded me of my 10th birthday, when I asked for both. When my parents asked me why, I responded that we humans are right in between the two of those extremes and that I wanted to look in both directions. (Yeah, I was a smart kid. 😉


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