DNA Ink

We’ve been pretty serious for a while, which always makes me a little edgy. And “tattoos” or some version thereof continues to be one of the biggest search terms for this blog. So, to raise the font size of “tattoos” in the tag cloud, I’ve put together a gallery of eye candy.

In their 1994 book, The DNA Mystique, Susan Lindee and Dorothy Nelkin write that “habitual images and familiar metaphors…provide the cultural forms that make ideas communicable.” The double helix is the scientific icon of our age—much like the Bohr atom was during the Cold War. Putting it on your body identifies you with science, with biotechnology, with life. It is also just a stone beautiful image, which works in a line, say down your spine, wrapped around a biceps or ankle, or curving sinuously just about anywhere. The best collection of science-themed tattoos of course is Carl Zimmer’s “Science Tattoo Emporium.” Many of these were borrowed from his archive, so a big hat-tip (tat-hip?) to him. I have the hardcover version Science Ink prominently displayed on my coffee table. Others drawn from elsewhere around the web. Click the picture to open the original url.

tree-dna

A DNA riff on the Darwinian image of the “tree of life.” But it of course also reminds me of the eugenics tree…

eugenics-tree

Foot tattoos are hard. Here's a cute rendition of unwinding DNA that flows nicely with the anatomy.

Foot tattoos are hard. Here’s a cute rendition of unwinding DNA that flows nicely with the anatomy.

Not the best execution of the image (no major and minor grooves), but a neat black-light effect that reminds me of fluorescent labeling.

Not the best execution of the image (no major and minor grooves), but a neat black-light effect that reminds me of fluorescent labeling.

Just. Wow.

Just. Wow.

All right, I admit I'm wondering whether this represents bacterial DNA (and is therefore circular).

All right, I admit I’m wondering whether this represents bacterial DNA (and is therefore circular).

An interesting “biomechanical” visual effect.

Here artist Jason Stomber has woven the double helix into a full sleeve.

Here artist Jason Stomber has woven the double helix into a full sleeve.

Clever use of the DNA icon by a pair of twin sisters. Of course, when they line them up, they become prokaryotes.

Clever use of the DNA icon by a pair of twin sisters. Of course, when they line them up, they become prokaryotes.

 

 

5 thoughts on “DNA Ink

  1. Steve

    Looks like tattoo artists certainly do need to be educated about the major and minor grooves. Although less symmetric and regular than the artists’ conceptions in most, I think that the “actual image” (with its alternating grooves) is more visually interesting.

    Reply
    1. genotopia Post author

      Agreed about the greater beauty of the more anatomically correct model. But most artists tattoo what they’re given by the client, so it’s the general tattooed public that needs to be educated.

      Some artists are educated about science, btw. My first tattoo was a spiral with a series of nested triangles, representing the irrational number phi. My artist knew all about it–the numerical value, its presence in nature, and so on. It was fun to have my first experience under the needle be by someone who looked so different from me, but was geeked out about some of the same things.

      Reply
  2. Tattoo Girls

    Some of these are known as “Photorealistic” tattoos and are very life life. Some of them are very very good and must require the tattooist to have some amazing skills. That archive is pretty comprehensive.

    Reply
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