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Tattoos For the Math and Science Geek? 1186

An anonymous reader writes "I've been thinking of getting a sleeve of math and science tattoos for quite a while now. With the money saved up, the only question remaining is, what equations/ideas should I get? I know for certain that I'm going to include some of Maxwell's equations, and definitely Ohm's Law. So, if you were going to put a tribute to the great math and science minds on your body forever, which ones would you choose?"
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Tattoos For the Math and Science Geek?

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  • Personally, I've always enjoyed the beauty of Euler's identity [], any form of Gaussian (normal) distribution which has a standard form here [] and entropy in regards to information theory []. Of course, these are just personal favorites -- the last two because I am a computer scientist with so much college work hinging on them. You probably have personal favorites in chemistry or physics or another field even. Honestly, the loan formula [] is probably one of the most widely used and life changing formulas in the United States today -- especially given the recent financial crisis. I think it would be best for you to draw up your own formulas in a geometric display rather than someone else's symbols. I suppose that would require extreme precision on the end of the artist and also introduce interesting problems with the elasticity of your skin ... but I'm one for originality especially if you're about to mark yourself in a relatively permanent way.
  • Re:Quite simply, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drewhk ( 1744562 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:04PM (#32718272)

    It is better to tattoo P=NP, because you still can modify it later, if the opposite gets proven (just strike trough the equality symbol).

  • by EMB Numbers ( 934125 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:04PM (#32718298)

    You definitely want Quaternions and Euler Angles:
    The story behind Quaternions justifies permanent ink if any math theorem ever did: []

  • by malakai ( 136531 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:05PM (#32718302) Journal

    Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc BRACCHIUMis exiguitas non caperet.

    with one small change...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:09PM (#32718416)

    I designed my tattoo in Photoshop, and brought the file in on a USB drive. The tattoo artist could print it right out on the contact?transfer? paper (the stuff that makes it stick to your skin - not sure what it was called) and could follow all the straight lines and angles precisely. Worked out very smoothly and easily.

  • The fallout symbol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swm ( 171547 ) * <> on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:10PM (#32718444) Homepage

    I knew a guy who had the fallout symbol tattooed across his left shoulder blade,
    maybe 4 inches across, in all its black and yellow glory.
    I asked him why, but I don't recall his response.

    He did allow that reading physics textbooks in coffee shops was a good way to pick up girls.

  • Get a fractal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ALeavitt ( 636946 ) <aleavitt@gmail. c o m> on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:14PM (#32718546)
    Get a full sleeve of the Mandelbrot set drawn with (literally) painstaking detail and accuracy. That should keep you and your tattoo artist busy for a while.
  • Don't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:15PM (#32718590)

    Forget the tattoo. Just stick with t-shirts from ThinkGeek or whatever like the rest of us do.
    Someday when the anti-intellectual revolution comes and Sarah Palin is looking for some fresh necks for her guillotine (aka "Freedom Slicer"), your elitist tattoo will get you killed.

    Am I joking? Sometimes I don't even know.

  • Re:Let me see. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:21PM (#32718724) Homepage

    Tattoos hurt, they endanger your health, they are expensive, and most of all they are superficial. AKA they are for looks only.

    OK, yes, they hurt. That's true.

    As far as endangering your health, it means you're going to the wrong damned shop. Any tattoo place that doesn't have an autoclave, and single-use needles should cause you to flee. I've never seen an artist not using latex gloves, not using sterile gear, and not using ink in little disposable cup that get tossed when they're done. Any modern shop is actually very clean, and if it isn't, don't go there.

    As to being purely superficial, lots of people get tattoos that have a strong meaning to them (and, admittedly, lots don't). Some people get tattoos so that other people can see them and say "wow, he's got a tattoo, cool". Others get them entirely for themselves -- you can't see any of mine unless I want them to be seen. You're making absurd generalizations -- if 40% of Gen-Xers are sporting ink, there's almost no generalization you can accurately make about why people get them.

    Somehow I knew a story about tattoos on Slashdot would trot out a bunch of people who know absolutely nothing on the topic. Now everybody gets to make categorical statements they can't support with anything but opinion.

    Not everything outside of your experience is bad, or stupid. Just something you don't know about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:22PM (#32718748)

    Why is remembering an embarassing moment from your past a bad thing? So you went to TJ at 15 and got a Toad the Wet Sprocket tattoo on your thigh. You were having the time of your 15 year old life! Just because you're 37 now you prefer to deny you were ever younger? Everyone that pushed you through into adulthood misled you to think those were wasted years.

  • Smith Chart (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:22PM (#32718754)
    A guy that I once met had a tattoo [] of a Smith Chart []. Smart RF guy. Definitely dedicated to the field. ;)
  • by DudeTheMath ( 522264 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:24PM (#32718794) Homepage

    That's why I love that particular expression: addition, multiplication, exponentiation, the additive identity, the multiplicative identity, equality, everybody's two favorite irrationals, and the imaginary unit, all in one beautiful package.

  • Re:Before you do it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:11PM (#32719684) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like you've never gotten a tattoo. Before you get one you build up all this inherent meaning and long-term significance to the tattoo. Afterwards, you realize that it's just a cool picture (or phrase, whatever) that you wanted. Even if times and tastes change it's a cool link to who you were back when you got it.

  • Re:Before you do it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:14PM (#32719722)
    And I guess this is the important distinction between scientists and engineers. Whereas scientists will care about if an equation holds near the center of a black hole, the engineer is willing to define such scenarios as out of scope. The scope for scientists is unlimited, the scope for engineers depends on the product.
    And anon specifically asked for math and science geekery, so you've got a good point. If you want a scientific tattoo, stay away from Ohms law. If you want an engineering tattoo, go for it, get it done, and close the ticket.
  • by thirty-seven ( 568076 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:20PM (#32719802)
    Here's what Stephen Hawking has said he wants on his tombstone: S = (pi.A.k.c^3)/(2.h.G) It's the formula for the entropy of a black hole, also the maximum amount of entropy possible in a volume of space. It's interesting and extremely insightful into the nature of the universe because all the values on the right-hand-side are constants except for A (the area). So it says that the amount of entropy in a black hole, and also the maximum amount of entropy possible, is directly proportional to the surface area! This is very counter-intuitive and is related to the holographic principle [].
  • The Question! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Per Wigren ( 5315 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:25PM (#32719906) Homepage
    You should tattoo pi * 1337% []
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:33PM (#32720026) Homepage

    Bile? I was just making an observation in somewhat colorful terms. And it annoys me when people justify fads.

    I'm not justifying the 'fad' of tattoos. It took me 20 years of serious thought and waiting to get my first tattoo -- it's not like I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to get one last week. So, not everybody who gets ink is part of the 'fad'. Back in the late 80's, there were books like this []. Some of us have been aware of, and interested in, body modification for a long time.

    "By choice, I don't have anything more extreme that is visible to anybody unless I want it to be."

    So, you are ashamed of some of your tattoos.

    No. Absolutely not. I carefully placed my tattoos where I could selectively hide or show them depending on the situation. For business stuff, I prefer they not be visible because some asshats will just not get it. If I'm in a swimming pool, well, you're gonna see ink.

    Check and mate.

    Ass and hole. Dick and Wad. Slap and Nuts. How about Jack and Ass?

    Do you really think you've scored some great point of debate? Oh, wait, you're just a professional troll, and I've been suckered. I see what you did there.

  • Re:Quite simply, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bitt3n ( 941736 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:41PM (#32720134)
    he should get P=NP above the four knuckles of one hand, and the strike-through version on the other four knuckles
  • Re:Indeed. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:48PM (#32720270)

    And not only that, he's only got a "theme", not the content. If you have to ask for ideas, it's probably not something you've completely thought through.

    Or he could make the "theme" the content of the tattoo itself. When I met the woman that later became my wife, I was instantly taken by her tattoo of ... a book. A symbol of learning. Not of any one bit of content you may have learned here or there, but of the process of learning in itself.

    And yes, twenty-odd years later it's a bit blurry and splotchy and certainly doesn't look as pretty as back then - but the meaning is still there, as powerful as it has always been.

  • Re:No it isn't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DamnStupidElf ( 649844 ) <> on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:56PM (#32720412)
    I could probably sue an employer for sexual harassment if they tried to dictate the kind of underwear I wore. Similarly, are they going to turn away burn victims for jobs if their scars could be mistaken for a tattoo? Oh well, I'm sure technology will eventually provide the win with e-ink tattoos that you can just turn off when you're in the presence of idiots and morons.
  • Re:Before you do it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Idbar ( 1034346 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:05PM (#32720550)
    Well... I guess you can always start with 3.14 and keep adding decimals with time, as you feel more confident about having tattoos.
  • Re:No it isn't (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:08PM (#32720594) Homepage

    Nobody has to give you a job. If they don't like your 'x' they don't have to hire you.

    Note that the employer is breaking federal law if 'x' is:

    • race, color, religion, sex, age, ethnic group, or national origin
    • disability
    • genetic information
    • association with or marriage to someone (on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or disability)
    • previous discrimination lawsuits, or participating in discrimination investigations
    • participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group

    States have innumerable laws such as can't make hiring, firing, compensation, layoff, transfer, training, benefits, retirement, or promotion decisions based on:

    • status as a parent
    • pregnancy
    • results of a lie detector test
    • marital status
    • sexual orientation
    • political affiliation

    So clearly employees do have recourse for discrimination. Your "a job is a privilege not a right" is about a hundred years late.

    Also, yes the first amendment only applies to congress (and state governments from the 14th amendment) but the question here isn't of law, it's of whether something is right or wrong. Freedom of speech is the defining principle of American culture and law, and its violation is rightfully greeted with disgust.

  • Re:Before you do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:11PM (#32720644) Homepage

    Bad test. I'm far more likely to like something when I'm 40 that I liked when I was 20 than I am to like something when I'm 20 that I liked when I was 10.

  • Re:Before you do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:19PM (#32720768)
    A good test is to think about your favorite thing when you were one half your current age.

    Irrelevant. If he is say, 26 (or anything in that ballpark, or greater), this is crazy. You are comparing the decision making abilities and foresight of a 13 year-old child to those of an adult. The poster has certainly been thinking this over and wants to get at tattoo. No one is advising him to get a dragon screwing a pentagram on his forehead and skulls and swear words on his hands. There's nothing wrong with a tattoo (especially a clever one) if it is well done and located where it can be either displayed or hidden as desired. Live a little, and don't worry about every single thing you do today being so significant as to possibly, maybe, some day, somehow completely ruining your life.
  • Re:Before you do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:32PM (#32720988) Homepage Journal
    I am open-minded and willing to believe that the guy with sleeves and a mullet is not a moron once he proves it, but he's going to have a lot more work than the guy with short hair and a suit.
  • by justinlee37 ( 993373 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:45PM (#32721204)

    You don't think that some ideas or symbols are worth marking your body with?

    I have a tattoo of the symbol for infinity on the center of my back. Any T-shirt covers it up so 95% of the people I meet haven't seen it and don't even know I have ink. I got the tattoo after thinking of the idea and considering it for 1 or 2 years. My Dad took me to the artist who did all of his tattoos right after my high school graduation ceremony, and paid for it as a graduation present.

    I got the tattoo because the concept of infinity is closely related to immortality, timelessness, and endless life. It's ironic to tattoo a symbol for timelessness on a mortal body that will eventually wither, die, and rot. Therefore the tattoo is a personal reminder to live life to the fullest because it doesn't last forever.

    The tattoo is not a cheap joke. It's not a kitschy idea. I don't show it at parties to get a laugh out of people. It's a very personal reminder to be happy and enjoy life.

    You're right that it's very important to consider that tattoos last for the rest of your life (but not forever), and that they will eventually fade and possibly be warped by the wrinkling and sagging of skin. It's important to think about a tattoo for a long time before getting it to make sure that you want it, and it's also important not to get a tattoo of some political or scientific position you have that might change in the future. A tattoo of a flower is simple and timeless; flowers will always represent life, love, and beauty, and the tattoo could mark some important life event (such as my high school graduation). A tattoo that says "Bush Sucks" or "Jesus Saves" might not be a good idea because you might not always feel that way.

    So, in summary, some tattoos are indeed stupid, but the idea that getting a tattoo is inherently stupid is a stupid idea. I'm not worried about my tattoo fading or wrinkling because it's a tattoo about aging and death anyway; the whole point is that it won't be there forever. The next tattoo I'm going to get will simply read "no hope, no fear" and I've been sure that I want it for over a year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:53PM (#32721350)

    Use this picture of John "Horned" Conway []. (Here's [] the math behind it.)

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:00PM (#32721474)

    Tattoos 50 years ago were about getting drunk while in the navy.

    And don't forget: the reason why you did that back then was to prove what a Real Tough Man(TM) you were.

    I'd love to see what those 70-year-old guys think now that half the teenage girls they see have more ink than they do. I knew a number of middle-aged guys thiry years ago who had got tattoos when they were twenty years younger, and they all felt kinda stupid about it then. By now they must feel unbelievably stupid, because they realize that what their younger selves considered a mark of manly toughness was no big deal, since virtually everyone has more than sufficient pain tolerance to get inked.

    Tattooing as a practice has been around forever, usually as a means of expressing some aspect of social status, mostly among men. So while tattooing is certainly not a fad, the current "express your unique identity via a tattoo" certainly is, just as the "express how manly and tough you are" was.

    Hopefully when this fad passes people will realize that tattooing is no big deal, one way or another. It can be useful for people struggling to express their identity, but it says mostly, "This person went through a time in their life when they were sufficiently uncertain of who they were that they felt the need to spend money and time and a trivial amount of pain on ensuring some aspect of who they thought they were at the moment would be emblazoned on their skin."

    People who are secure in their identity don't need to do that. For some people who aren't secure in their identity it can genuinely help. For most, it's treating the symptom, not the cause, and that's rarely a good idea.

  • Re:Don't do it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:09PM (#32721658)
    He's making a joke about how it's regarded as incorrect. However, he doesn't really know what's he's talking about ;) The Brontosaurus is widely held to not exist, by the non-paleontologist community. There are two reasons: The first and most commonly held reason is that the original Brontosaurus reconstruction was a composite, and got the head pretty wrong. However, this was resolved a long time ago, so unless his tattoo from the 90's is from the 1890's, I'm sure he got the head right. (Besides which, creating composite reconstructions when bones are missing is an acceptable practice in the field, so long as you acknowledge this fact when you publish! Brontosaurus is not the first, nor the last, dinosaur to have inaccurate reconstructions at some point. Many dinosaurs even today are best-guess composites). So, though the Brontosaurus might not have looked like the earliest drawings (from 100 years ago!) it still existed. The second is an issue of taxonomy. Brontosaurus's original scientific name was Brontosaurus Excelsus. However, in 1903 it was argued that it's not different enough from the Aptosaurus genus to get it's own genus. So, the scientific name was changed to Aptosaurus Excelsus, instead. However, Brontosaurus was already in the lexicon. So, that became its common name. Within the field, Brontosaurus is an accepted synanym, though the scientific name is preferred (as always). Nobody would laugh at my ignorance if I claimed to own a cat, rather than the "correct" term "felis cattus", though in a scientific paper the scientific name would be preferred. In 1989 there was a bit of a stink over the USPS putting a "Brontosaurus" on a stamp. People said it promote scientific illiteracy to put the wrong name on the stamp. However, this is no more incorrect than putting a Bald Eagle labeled "Bald Eagle" (rather than "Haliaeetus leucocephalus") on a stamp. Outside of a scientific settings, there's nothing wrong with using the common name of a species. (And, in fact, Brontosaurus Excelsus is still an accepted synonym for the scientific name). Even in a scientific setting, it's usually not frowned upon to use the common name, once you've used the scientific name to make it clear what species you are writing about. One might put "felis cattus (cat)" and from then on refer to them as cats, without complaint.
  • Re:Before you do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:38PM (#32722138)

    Really!?!? Tattoos don't wash off, and should not simply be applied on a whim??? Thank!!!!!!!!1 And thanks to everyone who modded this insightful! Maybe you can answer my question: is water a good beverage, and should I consume it, or other beverages based on water? Thanks, because this is not plainly obvious to everyone!

    Funny, but according to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery about 50% of people with a tattoo eventually want it removed.

    People do impulsive, stupid things all the time, tattoos are no different. That's why you should always think before you ink.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:45PM (#32722236) Homepage
    Depends what two weeks of the year you are there. And what type of "farm" it is.

    From what I've seen, even if you do 10,000 acres of grain (be it corn, wheat, beans, etc) there are DEFINITELY times of the year when you don't do nuthin.

    Of Course, the planting season and the harvest season are pretty busy (24x7 if you can).

    But, if all you do is grain, there are some times when the most difficult thing you do is going to your favorite breakfast joint to drink coffee and tell tall tales.

    The hard kind of farming is when you deal with livestock. Those kinds of farms.... Yeah. It stinks. Literally and figuratively. Having livestock makes it hard to get away on vacation - ever, it's a dawn to dusk type of career. No, I'm not a farmer, but I live in farm country and I have a lot of friends who are farmers or grew up on farms. Most grain farmers have some sort of livestock though, from what I've seen. Until they want to slow down when they get old, then they sell off the livestock. Yes farming is hard, but it isn't torture, and it can be very profitable.
  • Mandelbrot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mattholimeau ( 1027730 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:59PM (#32723352)
    I haven't read all the replies, but I'm surprised that so far I haven't heard any mention of the amazing mandelbrot set. That could make for an interesting background at the least. If I were to do it, it would likely be some mosaic of all the most interesting math I could find, with probably some overlay of mandelbrot and the golden number (like, many many of the digits closely-packed) as the background. It would certainly take some time (yes, for me, probably years) to figure out what the foreground would be. Very interesting and introspective-inducing post. Shame on all those who preach "no tattoo" to someone clearly interested in a tattoo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @07:53PM (#32724586)

    As a heavily tattooed individual and as a tattoo artist, this is exactly right, this is my view on tattoos EXACTLY and precisely.
    Also, signs point to the fact that subby wants "a theme/idea" but is unsure and will go for anything "geeky/sciency" that people suggest - very unoriginal, very dull-minded, very fake.
    At this point, I do not condone this tattoo.

    / I've lurked /. for over three years and this is my second post ever. Time for me to get an account, I think. ari_j, I have been around the block and NEVER heard somebody with the EXACT same policy on tattoos as me - what you said, I've been telling people verbatim for 8 years now... except I say 4 years instead of 10 years. Cheers!

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.