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Nuclear physics tattoo – an anomalous contradiction, internal integrity or superficial pointlessness?

Obrázok používateľa Duro Kotulic Bunta

The following lines in a FAQ-like structure describe and shed some (photons of) light upon the why’s, when’s and how’s of a nuclear physicist being heavily tattooed with scientific designs. It serves primarily as an optimization of time with regards to the detailedness level, so that it is not necessary to repeat the explanation every time somebody asks, often in a cut-off version (thus not meeting the author's inner criteria for completeness and consistency). Secondary aim is to provide some ideas and maybe inspire those converging towards having some external pigment molecules in their skin. :-) 

1. What’s the point of becoming heavily tattooed? Isn’t that a sign of deteriorating or inferior mental and social abilities, irresponsible frustration or personal crisis?

Such a question would be influenced by being a subject of cultural prejudice and would not take into account global cultural heritage. Tattooing is an ancient and long term part of humankind culture and history, frequently demonstrating cosmological views of its bearers. One should realize that traditional western culture possesses an understandably biased local and temporary point of view. The recent tendency of tattoos becoming part of the western culture with a disappearance of its criminal or subcultural stigma is thus merely a natural incorporation and enrichment, merging the past, present and future, elimination of temporal or spatial constraints, it is an enhancement sprouting from the very roots and in many cases not a superficial trend. Moreover, humankind’s culture and development of ideas and approaches is not dissimilar to DNA and genetic evolution – both profit from being broad-spectral and diverse, subsequently shaping the future more plastically and flexibly, generating new information, ideas and approaches. And without ideas we would have no wheels, steam engines nor computers and rockets. Not everyone will probably agree with such an approach, nevertheless, there is high probability of consensus that it is a valid and benign point of view, which – if serving for personal enhancement – is generally useful and beneficial.

2. Why would a nuclear physicist become heavily tattooed? Isn’t that contradictory or pointless and superficial?

It depends on one’s subjective perception. Part of the answer is identical with the previous one (cultural heritage and perception of Homo sapiens as a species in space and time), the second part is fascination by natural sciences and history. My previous experience (nuclear astrophysics and computational biochemistry) provides me with data-driven and fact-based opinion that it is the multidisciplinary approach which unveils the hidden associations and improves our understanding of the Universe. Being tattooed is just an extrapolation of such a multidisciplinarity into the socio-cultural environment. It has nothing to do with a pursuit for an external beauty, demonstration of a revolt or with being a subject of modern fashion trends – it is just a manifestation of respect to an astounding harmony and beauty of the natural laws shaping the world around us, it is just an external condensation of the internal feeling of simultaneous connection with the nature and humankinds history. Numerous indigenous tribes have demonstrated (and still demonstrate) their cosmological views by their tattoo, and so does a modern nuclear physicist – there is nothing exceptional nor inferior in manifesting one's own perception of synergy of science, history and culture by a personal graphical design.
Last but not least – even if you consider being heavily tattooed to be an anomaly, then it is useful to note that having a perception, thinking and behaviour independent on local political or cultural policy is the crucial part of scientific approach, from geographical (space) as well as historical (time) point of view. Tattoo is from a certain point of view sign of an independent behaviour as well, thus having the same basis and being mutually compatible.

3. Isn’t there a risk of regretting such an irreversible decision? The tattoo will undoubtedly look ugly when becoming old and large area tattoo cannot be reasonably (with price, time and health aspects in mind) removed even by the recent state-of-the-art lasers.

Careful consideration is a must for any responsible and sane person. With the purpose of my tattoo (not enhancing external beauty, but revealing the internal beauty of the natural laws and humankind’s cultural heritage) it is clear that becoming older would not deteriorate the tattoo at all – oppositely, especially the ancient hieroglyphic papyrus motive will gain even more authenticity and further converge to better genuineness. Less readable, more fading – that had been anticipated and taken into account. Saying it with IT jargon - that’s a feature, not a bug. The tattoo is there firstly for my conscience, not for others. Carefully selected biochemical and physical laws and milestones of our history cannot become subject of any regrets regardless of its current visual aging, as regretting it would be equal to regretting the existence of the natural laws depicted by the tattoo themselves. Moreover, the tattoo was realized in my forties after careful long-term (20 years) consideration and analyses, thus avoiding any immature or irresponsible behaviour giving satisfactorily long period of time to mature the motives and design.

4. What about skin diseases – would not the pigment cause or at least passively hide a potential malign melanoma/cancer?

In order to reduce significantly any potential risks the pigments and design of the tattoo were carefully evaluated with regards to two medical aspects:
- choice of hypo-allergic and non-carcinogenic pigments (the pigment ingredients were all subjected to cross-check in toxicological biochemistry databases for their safety and unhazardousness)
- no black area is greater or thicker than approximately 6 millimetres (and most of the design elements are intentionally much thinner and smaller), which is the statistically critical threshold value for benign melanomas or other forms of skin cancer.

5. Is there any adverse impact on work or interaction in other social environments?

Based on two year experience I have not encountered and detected any negative reactions neither in my regular job (working as a senior IT business and system analyst in a large bank) nor in any other situation where being dependent on other people’s opinion or behaviour (such as interaction with government and police officers, medical examinations, airport security checks etc). Occasionally, only older people may exhibit some (not verbally communicated) signs of disagreement. Contrarily, many people consider it an interesting feature (maybe an anomaly) serving as a starting point for conversation, thus enriching social interaction and communication. Some people are surprised or confused by the contrast of the form and content, but generally demonstrate curiosity rather than rejection. That must of course not apply to all jobs and countries, however, this is a local experience in the European Union in the everyday life and in public and banking industry IT sector.

6. With all that said, how do the tattoos look like and what’s their meaning?

Brief description:
The left hand is purely devoted to natural sciences, depicting chronologically ordered milestones in the evolution of the Universe – starting with equations defining the structure and properties of space-time, followed by equations describing all known elementary particles, continuing with selected thermonuclear fusions equations generating the chemical elements necessary for creation of life, and subsequent depiction of the DNA (as the basis of life) is completed with amino acidic sequences coding the letters MIND (as an onset of self-awareness) and SCIENCE (as the powerful tool which is extremely efficient in spreading the life across the Universe).
The right hand merges the science with history – starting with binary code defining the value of the electromagnetic force with zeros and ones inspired by the design of indigenous Inuit tribes, similarly designed word ‘Physics’, followed by ancient Sumerian sign for ‘Knowledge’, completed with an exact copy of an ancient Egyptian papyrus written in hieratic demonstrating outstanding abstract abilities of our ancestors for calculation of volume of a frustum (truncated pyramid) as early as 2500 BCE. Even nowadays vast majority of people (including scientists) would not be able to derive the formula without modern integral calculus. Finally, on the palm there is a chlorophyl molecule, responsible for most of the energy here on Earth, including me typing these words, you reading it and the computer or cell phone running in front of us.

More detailed description and pictures: refer to the following info-graphics:


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