Calvin and the Cosmos [Science Tattoo]

By Carl Zimmer | January 2, 2010 2:33 pm

calvinEmily writes, “Ever since I was a kid, I have had a love for astronomy. I studied Earth and Planetary Sciences in college and am now in graduate school, studying to be a middle school science teacher. Another love I had as a kid was reading Calvin and Hobbes. My science tattoo combines these two childhood loves — with Calvin and Hobbes looking up at the 8 planetary symbols and the symbols for a star and water. Just like Calvin and Hobbes, I will always be gazing up at the sky with wonder and awe.”

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Comments (40)

Links to this Post

  1. 9 Cool Calvin and Hobbes tattoos | July 20, 2010
  2. 9 Cool Calvin and Hobbes tattoos | ForeverGeek | October 3, 2010
  1. Love it!

    Sorry, too pissed to say anything more sensible.

  2. Chris

    That’s awesome! =)

  3. Cain

    Awesome!

    Both of their expressions are perfect. I hope you never wear long-sleeved shirts.

  4. Carl

    Tattoos are stupid and people who get tattoos are stupid.
    This instance is then compounded by being a stupid person who got a stupid tattoo trying to appear intelligent but still “cool” (read: stupid) enough to get a tattoo that showcases their stupidity.

    The only thing more stupid is the fellow dunces here cheering on the original idiot.

  5. Not bad at all, and the planetary symbols look like a tattoo bracelet.

  6. Ethan

    good luck getting a teaching job…

  7. Erich

    I’ve got my tattoos facing the same way. Everybody tells me I’ve got my tattoos “facing the wrong way” but I tell them I got these tattoos for my enjoyment because I want to look at them.

    Look at this doucheback Carl who posted above. “Tattoos are stupid and people who get tattoos are stupid”. Why not just say “everybody who isn’t me is stupid.” In fact, why bother posting your worthless opinion in the first place if not for validation? News flash Carl – nobody cares!

  8. While I don’t bar jerks from leaving comments, extreme jerkitude will not be tolerated. Neither will F-bombs. Details on my comment policy are here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/01/10/comment-policy/

    So, if you keep wondering why your nasty, obscenity-laced comment isn’t showing up in this thread–well, now you know.

  9. mark

    that’s briliant. ignore Carl.
    it’s not pointing the wrong way, because it’s for you and nobody else.

  10. Adrian

    The tattoo is awesome. Now I really want a tattoo, especially if it pisses of Carl even more.

  11. Haxor

    Oooo, oooo! Me 2! I want to get a tattoo so I cans look c00l. Then I cans be L33t!
    I’ll make mine Hello Kitty doing nuke physics!

  12. Alvina

    @Adrian: Me too!
    Love your tatoo! :D

  13. Hank Fox

    Eh. Well, it’s sort of cute, but it’s not very well done, is it? Calvin already looks rather indistinct — in a few years, he’ll be a smeared blob.

    And then there will be all those years when the tatt will still be there but nobody will know who or what the Calvin and Hobbes COMIC STRIP was. And Emily the 8th grade science teacher will be long past wanting to go to the trouble to explain, for the ten-thousandth time, what it’s all about.

    Looks like a lack of foresight to me.

    Emily, I picture you in those many hot summers to come, putting on your long sleeves and wishing you’d taken up guitar instead of tattooing.

  14. Alexander

    That is a great tattoo! It looks good and references one of the few syndicated cartoons that has ever been worth reading.

    It’s kind of amazing how many people here are opposed to tattooing according some arbitrary societal mandate. Quit being so damn condescending.

  15. Anthony

    I am not the biggest fan of tattoos because more often than not people tattoo some really stupid stuff on themselves. Also, it shows how some people are so susceptible to trends.

    Having said that, I think her tattoo is cool. It means something to her and it represents a part of her. It wouldn’t matter if in 20 years no one knew about Calvin and Hobbes – it means something to her and makes her happy.

    I love how she put it “Just like Calvin and Hobbes, I will always be gazing up at the sky with wonder and awe.” Makes a lot more sense to me than someone who puts a tribal pattern on their back.

  16. michael ainsworth
  17. Hank Fox

    “It’s kind of amazing how many people here are opposed to tattooing according some arbitrary societal mandate.”

    Yeah, Alexander, nobody could POSSIBLY have any rational reason for being less than thrilled with tattoos.

    I just hate it when people are so negative and judgmental about smoking. I mean, it’s just some societal mandate, isn’t it? As long as people are happy riding that old tobacco horse, it’s up to them, isn’t it? Because after all, there are no objective standards, and tobacco is completely harmless.

    Ahem. Alex, I actually have a few fairly good reasons for wishing people were more cautious about tattoos. I also have reservations about the buying of lottery tickets, and signing up to join the Army. (On the other hand, I sometimes think it would be better if young people today had full access to fireworks, guns, alcohol and helmet-free motorcycle riding, like we did when I was a kid.)

    The problem is, it takes a while to explain those subtle reasons, and most of the gung-ho people aren’t interested in listening that long.

    Doesn’t mean the reasons don’t exist. All I want is for people to get the full story. Because it isn’t all positive. Getting a tatt isn’t like having your throat ripped out by demons from hell, but it’s also not like putting a My Little Pony sticker on your cellphone.

    Also: From this side of the line, to me it looks like YOU are being every bit as arbitrary and condescending, in your estimation that us non-fans of tattoos are nothing but arbitrary and condescending.

  18. Although you should tend to avoid getting “pop-culture” tattoos of any kind, I think Calvin and Hobbes have passed into icon status… although that might be subjective.

    I like it myself…

  19. Brian Too

    I loved Calvin and Hobbes. Especially Spaceman Spiff!

  20. Collingwood

    What’s the point of posting to illustrate your particular opinion that you don’t like the tattoo for irrelevant reasons xyz, when the original poster’s intent was to share a positive, creative thing from their personal life? No one’s reading to learn your opinions, so spend a few minutes doing something more constructive with your time instead, geez!

    Like this is tattoo conoisseur critique hour!

  21. Hank Fox

    Collingwood, I do it because you always have to try. And also because I live in this world, and want good things to happen in it.

    Also, the “original poster” in this case was Carl Zimmer, and the very fact that he has a blog invites comments, both positive and negative, on every post.

    My replies here speak to the heart of your assertion that this tattoo, or tattooing generally, is something “positive and creative.” I’m simply pointing out that this is not always the case. It’s something that needs to be said.

    Gosh, it’s awful that there’s so much wrong with me, huh? And so great that there’s nothing wrong with you. Heh.

  22. looking up at the 8 planetary symbols

    I guess you’re glad you didn’t get the tattoo a few years ago. Then you’d have to explain to everyone what that funny-looking 9th symbol was for. :-)

  23. runaon

    two questions then, Hank:

    why exactly are tattoos negative?

    how much of this negativity is due to preconceived notions about a person’s appearance equating to his or her character?

    i’m not querying in order to tell you that your opinion is wrong, simply that perhaps society should take a step back and realize that a calvin and hobbes tattoo isn’t the equivalent of 20 years at Angola.

    just a thought. :)

  24. nuoc lon

    its a good idea mang, are u gonna get some background or something to fill in that empty space??

  25. Hank Fox

    So, runaon … all that other stuff I wrote — you didn’t understand it?

    I’m not sure what you’re asking.

  26. andrew

    I think tattoo’s underline a fundamental flaw in reasoning…

    1. A person’s personality, likes and dislikes, change over time.
    2. Tattoo’s are permanent.

    (This part is my personnel opinion.)
    3. Is done mostly by hipsters to look cool to other hipsters. It’s superficial and is the equivalent of playing your music loud when driving down the street… putting on a display of what you think is ‘cool’.

    Young people just don’t get number 1.

    If you like art and Calvin and Hobbes I think you can get pictures that are on a paper and not on your skin (You can look at it when you want and put it away when your done).

    Also, Carl your rules suck. F’bomb?!?! What grade are we in here? Are children a big part of your demographic or are we all just a little too delicate and sensitive?

  27. Sorcha

    Why do people who dislike tattoos feel compelled to comment on posts about them? Do they really think they’re going to change anyone’s mind by repeating the same old anti-ink rhetoric and false assumptions about tattoo aficionados that we’ve all heard a thousand times before? Or do they just imagine that we enjoy hearing them pontificate? Maybe they just enjoy the sound of their own voices (so to speak) so much that it doesn’t matter to them that nobody really cares what they have to say.

    Seriously. There are a lot of things I don’t like – football, American Idol, stinky cheese – but I don’t go around haranguing the people who do like those things. I go about my own business, focus on the things I do enjoy, and try to remember that those other people are adults with the right to make their own decisions, and since I don’t know them, I’m better off not assuming what kind of people they are or why they like the things they like.

    But maybe that’s just me.

  28. Hank Fox

    Sorcha … duh. You really don’t get it? Damn.

    Tell me how football, American Idol and stinky cheese harms anyone?

    But smoking and drinking, for instance, DO cause harm. And we DO hear haranguing about them. Hell, there’s a national organization, MADD, that exists to harangue people — and even lawmakers — about drinking.

    So, just to spell the point out in small words: Tatts are not totally harmless. That fact is worth repeating.

    As to the “anti-ink rhetoric and false assumptions about tattoo aficionados that we’ve all heard a thousand times before” the point is that people like you might have heard it a thousand times before, but you never listened.

    So it needs to be said a few more times, until it soaks in on people like you. Until you figure out that it’s not a matter of what someone does or doesn’t like, it’s this other thing that you don’t get: Caring.

  29. Marvin

    Hank,
    “So, just to spell the point out in small words: Tatts are not totally harmless. That fact is worth repeating.”
    Yeah, you’ve repeated that a few times. But then you go off on a tangent and haven’t backed up your assertion that there’s all these negative aspects to tattoos that we are all blissfully ignorant of. Emily and the other commenters have at least given reasons for why she/they enjoy tattoos, which basically boils down to personal choice. I’d never get a tattoo, but am fine with others getting them. What’s your argument?

  30. Jenna

    Hank – I am really not understanding how you think that tattoos are not totally harmless. I really don’t care about your opinion, or anyone else’s opinion about tattoos, more specifically MY tattoos. I have my entire back & leg tattooed and I have plans for pretty much the rest of my body. I am currently in the military (which it seems like you frown upon as well, if i read your post correctly) as well. Each of my tattoos are near and dear to me. Some remind me of people; I have a tattoo for my mom, my brother, my nephew, my niece, my best friend, and my husband. I don’t have names, except “Mom”, but I have a thing for each person. I have some tattoos just personal to me and my experiences in the Navy. I love how tattoos look. I love what tattoos resemble. And yeah, some people get some bad tattoos. I never understood why people get tribal tattoos. I can’t understand what that would mean to someone except: I have a tattoo of a lot of black lines.
    And for the record, I am not here to argue with you about this, I just wanted to state my side of this discussion as someone who is tattooed. I don’t feel like they are harmful to anyone. I know that they are permanent. I know that they probably won’t look awesome when I am old and wrinkly. But I love them and I will continue to get them until my entire body is covered, and nothing anyone could tell me would make me stop.

  31. A girl with a Calvin and Hobbess tattoo looking up at planetary symbols? I would love to meet this girl

  32. inky blinky and nod

    Wow! Imagine the crazies that would come out if that was a fetus on your arm, instead of a thoughtful and lonely kid stargazing.

    I love the chorus of posts on this site, too bad the loudest voices are from the disturbed..

    Tatoos are sexy unless they wear little white suits on an 80’s TV show.

  33. Shawn

    Wow, I mean WOW! People are truly dense in this world. Tattoo’s have been around for over 5,000 years. So I am sure it is just a “fad”. If you feel that they are not for you, well then good. That’s is your personal choice. I still don’t get where the harm is in a tattoo? I think the people that have an issue with Emily’s tattoo, have a deeper issue with not liking themselves, and trying to get everyone else to be as miserable as them. Did your mommy not kiss you good night? Not enough hugs? Living a lonely life and need people to pay attention to you? It’s ok, I’m here for you and will kiss you good night. It’s easy to be a tough guy on the internet, cause talking to someone in person might be dangerous.

  34. Vince

    Wow, a lot of folks forgot Emily, remember it’s her tatoo. So Emily, I wish you great success teaching middle school science. Take your sense of wonderment, communicate it to the kids, tell loads of great stories, and treat the students like human beings and you will be off to a successful career…yea, I’m a retired middle school science teacher. 33 years, 7th grade, loved it.

  35. Smiley

    So Hank Fox is basically saying that you should think about getting tattoo’s because they could accidentally kill someone else or ruin a family like alcohol or cigarette’s. So everybody knows.

  36. Diz

    On the internet, Hank is known as a troll. You’ve all been trolled.

    Seriously, you’re talking to someone who equates tattooing to drunk driving and 2nd hand smoke. I know it’s easier said than done & I’ve failed in this myself, but he really should be ignored.

  37. Diz

    Oh, great tattoo btw, C&H shaped a pretty huge chunk of my childhood.

  38. Jim

    I realize I’m late to this feeding the troll party, but I just wanted to say to Emily your tattoo is awesome. I am a psychologist and work for a multimillion dollar company making enough money to choke the trolls in this room, contribute to science, and serve our government fairly frequently as a contractor/consultant. I also almost never wear long sleeve shirts as a personal preference (I tend to sweat easily) and I have forearm tattoos with plans to continue to at least the half sleeve. Know how much they have hindered my career? I have yet to hear a negative comment from my colleagues. In fact, I have had more comments on my shoes (Vibram KSO Sprints) than any other feature about me, and besides the tattoos and a few piercings I also have spikes/flohawk hair. My point is I stick out like a sore thumb and am still constantly finding that the quality of my work far outshines my stylistic choices- as it should be. Any person who is willing to take their graduate education and use it to teach our children should be commended. Who cares whats on their skin? If dermal pigment bothers you, you are basically validating racism (as skin color is also only dermal pigmentation as well). To equate permanent art with disease causing habits is invalid. One MIGHT be able to make a cogent argument about the former stereotypes of sailors, bikers, and criminals (like the Yakuza) and tattoos, but this is an increasingly weak argument as body modification and skin art are so prevalent now that people from all age groups, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. are getting them. Do people make poor choices sometimes? Yeah on everything, in every aspect of life. So we are either compelled to try to control every other person out there to our preferences, OR we live and let live, and offer guidance when we can. Have I discouraged others from getting a tattoo before? or a specific image? Yes I have, but these were for context specific reasons (not legally old enough, picking something trivial/ without meaning, etc.), not because I have some personal agenda to stop body art. It’s OK to not like tattoos, it is not ok to hammer on people when they are trying to share a positive part of themselves.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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