cartoons that capture science + science culture

And…I’m back from a quick bout of post-ESA 2011 exhaustion (a few more posts on the way from ESA by the way)!

Loved Julie Palmer’s quick post last month on Bioephemera about a recent NYT article featuring graduate programs. The commissioned art for the piece strikes me as a more “serious”, NYTimes-y version of Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics (which was also featured recently in the NYT). I don’t have to tell any of you graduate students out there how great Cham’s uncanny depictions of your life actually are. According to the NYT article, he started writing the comics as “therapy” for coping with grad school. Even with no formal training in the arts, he’s made a career out of his creativity, and I think we grad students are all in his debt for bringing a little humor to our strife.

On the one hand, cartoons have the potential to engage us in biology without worrying too much about being ‘serious’. Exhibit A, Natalie Dee:

Thank God I'm Not an Earthworm by Natalie Dee. Available from http://www.nataliedee.com/archives/2011/Jun/

Thank God I'm Not an Earthworm by Natalie Dee. Available from http://www.nataliedee.com/archives/2011/Jun/

Cartoons also have the potential to bring awareness to how science can be perceived (or be ignored) in our culture. Again, Natalie Dee:

It's Gonna Last Forever Because of Our Unlimited Supply of Dead Dinosaurs by Natalie Dee. Available from http://www.nataliedee.com/

"It's Gonna Last Forever Because of Our Unlimited Supply of Dead Dinosaurs" by Natalie Dee. Available from http://www.nataliedee.com/

They can also serve as commentary on the process by which scientific research is sometimes (but not always!) conducted, as Cham often does with PhD comics:

Independent Research Study (c) Jorge Cham 11/17/1997 Available from www.phdcomics.com

Independent Research Study (c) Jorge Cham 11/17/1997. Available from http://www.phdcomics.com

If you didn’t know PhD comics movie is coming soon, hold on to your freakin’ hats, because it’s almost here!

Comics can also help describe some of the more endearing qualities of we who practice science (Randall Munroe of xkcd.com is very good at this):

Finally, no post on biology humor would be complete without a nod to Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Out of greatest respect for my favorite comic of all time, I can’t post one here. Here’s why. I’m sure many of you out there know of some great bio-comics! Let me know about them with a comment!

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