The Jokes Physicists Tell About Chemists [Science Tattoo]

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Stevens Johnson, a physics professor, writes:

After years of needling from my musician wife (who has a pair of music tattoos on her shoulders), I finally took up the challenge and wasted a large amount of time designing my own science tattoos. I greatly enjoyed the time and effort to get them just right, to reflect who I am and what I do (Prof. of Physics and Engineering).

The right shoulder tattoo [CZ: above] is a 3D perspective abstract view of a gaussian photon, a “particle of light,” the red vertical undulations represent the electric field, the black horizontal undulations the magnetic field. It is propagating to the right, seen here as a snapshot in time. The photon is the single most common manner in which information is transmitted from one place in the universe to another. The tattoo artist suggested adding the faint shadows to give it depth, but the real reason I agreed was the ironic (oxymoronic?) humor of a particle of light casting a shadow.

The left shoulder tattoo [CZ: below] is a 3D perspective of the Periodic Table with the Planck Snake weaving around it (note the h-bar, Plank’s constant, in the eye). The snake represents the wave nature of matter, and Physics in general. (The infinity symbol the snake forms is a bonus.) The combination of the Periodic Table of Chemistry with the Planck Snake of Physics is also an inside joke at the expense of chemists: It took the Quantum Mechanics of Physics to explain to Chemistry its own Table of Elements.

I had no idea there were others who wear their science on their bodies until I did a web search, on a lark. Imagine my surprise. I think I’m hooked; I may not be done designing science tattoos.

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