Science Tattoo Emporium: How To Get In

By Carl Zimmer | January 18, 2010 2:21 pm

The Science Tattoo Emporium continues to thrive, long after I first wondered aloud in August 2007 whether scientists had any cool tattoos of their research hidden under their lab coats. I continue to get photos at a regular rate, and as I post new ones, they continue to get noticed anew by places like Digg and Boing Boing.

Initially, I was so stunned by the influx of photos that I posted just about anything that came my way. But as the emporium has grown, I’ve become choosier about which ones I post. So if you are considering sending in your own scientific ink, please read these guidelines:

1. I’m most interested in tatoos that tell a story. The most interesting stories are the ones about how people became scientists. I love this one, for example.

2. When you send in pictures, please include a paragraph in which you tell me who you are and explain the significance of the tattoo. I prefer people to tell the story of their tattoo in their own words.

3. If you’ve been so inspired by the emporium that you’ve dashed out and gotten a tattoo of your own, do NOT immediately take a picture and send it to me. I don’t enjoy staring at raw, bruised flesh. Neither do readers of the Loom. Let yourself heal before grabbing the camera.

4. Make sure the photograph is well lit and at high resolution.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science Tattoo Emporium

Comments (18)

  1. NotCarlZimmer

    I stopped regularly reading when the site became inundated with pictures of tattoos. I think the loom would benefit from having them in a tab or something rather than plastered over every inch of the front page.

  2. Some very unique ink and great stories to boot. It’s interesting to see what the “scientists” and “techies” will come up with next in their pursuit of ink.

  3. Eva

    Science tattoos are the new lower-back butterfly or Chinese symbol. Soon *everyone* will have one, and it won’t be unique.

  4. jon

    who cares about tattoos? Carl do you have a tramp stamp you’re trying to justify or what? Geez.

  5. Would that tattoo count as a crib sheet? I can see it now: “Why no professor, this isn’t a cheat sheet; it’s just my tattoo.” :-)

  6. saltamonte

    Tattoos of any sort, scientific or not, are patently moronic. Why anyone would infuse their skin with an ink graphic is adolescent and egotistical at best. It says, “Hey, look at me I have this cool tattoo that will last forever and frequently make me wonder what I was thinking when I got it in the first place”. I really don’t get it, but it must be peer pressure, a desperate need to be different, or herd mentality. My position is supported by the large number of medical specialist making money with tattoo removal these days.

  7. Stanley H. Tweedle

    That’s some fancy periodic table!

    Not that I want to have one because I hate getting that tattoo ink in my skin!

  8. chimaera


    Not liking tattoos is fine, but calling anyone who has them a bunch of names and wording it so condescendingly actually makes YOU look adolescent and egotistical.

  9. Saltamonte:

    Say what you will about tattoos in modern society, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. However, from an anthropological standpoint, with tattooing going back through centuries and across cultures, referring to such a practice as “moronic” is narrow-minded and culturally biased.

  10. Long live the Science Tattoo Emporium!

    Carl, maybe you can track down the participant in this study of ways to remove tattoos:

    “One person was voluntarily tattooed with 2 of the studied inks.”

  11. Azkyroth

    This isn’t restricted to practicing scientists, is it?

  12. I’ve been an intellectual badass (insert tattooed nerd) since I was about 16. I used to read about Existentialism when I was waiting for the plane to land before my next skydive. I caught grief on both sides of the line.

    Although, having my neuroscience quote tattooed on my back to where it sticks out of halter tops is a fun party trick. After invading my personal space, many drunk men touch it as if the lettering will get bigger and easier to read. I even had a guy put his glasses on to read it! Its about that time when I have to explain who Viktor Frankl is, what the quote means, how long it took be to become a neuroscientist, and if I would like to go out on a date or if I’m married. My husband still laughs about it. In fact, he tends to be the one that throws in, “Honey, show them the rest of your 45 hours under the needle!” My wedding ring hides another tattoo. =) And who doesn’t just LOVE Abby on NCIS? They even made her Goth! It’s great!

    Honestly, there is nothing better than being a hot woman with lots of ink and a brain that makes some people wonder if I’m some sort of “Mind Ninja”. I think someone should create a graphic novel on the subject, because that would be AWESOME!

  13. This is a very interesting topic. Tattoos have become a very important form of self expression in our culture and feels good to see the science community embracing this as well. Thanks for gathering and sharing these tattoo images!

  14. @Eva: unfortunately you’re right. The “Geek Tattoo” section on is full of caffeine molecules, DNA models, E=mc^2, and “name of my mother/spouse/dog in binary”. The selection in here is somewhat better IMHO.

  15. Madame Furie

    What? No analemma yet? That will be my next ink … I’ll be sure to wait until it heals before I send a pic.

  16. Analemma Al

    Just got my Analemma. Hurt like HELL but glad I did it. Just sent it to Carl.

  17. SabrinaSchu

    I have an Analemma tattoo, don’t have a nice picture though, when I have one I’ll be sure to send it in :)

  18. Dude thats some periodic table ink right there. I could of done with that in my Chemistry exams.


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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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