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11 Great Geeky Math Tattoos

1. Polly Want A Tattoo?

It shouldn’t be all too surprising that when it comes to math tattoos, Pi designs are the most common. The majority of these designs are either blocks of numbers or the basic Pi symbol. But at least one person came up with a more creative tattoo: They used the symbol as a perch for a parrot named Pie. I can’t tell you who owns Pie and has this great tattoo, but I can tell you it was done by artist Shannon Archuleta.

2. I Heart Pi

When it comes to tattoos of Pi number strings, Scruffy’s design is one of the best: She used the numbers to create the shape of a heart. As one Geeky Tattoos commenter pointed out, it works on a second level because no one knows how long Pi goes on, just as no one knows the depths of true love.

This lovely tattoo was done by Steve at Art Freek Tattoo.

3. Sea Spiral

Perhaps second behind Pi in math tattoos is the Golden Spiral. While there are plenty out there, Thom’s version, which shows the perfect ratios of a nautilus shell, is by far one of the most visually striking—and it certainly does a good job at reflecting his stance that mathematics is the language of nature.

4. The Number Game

While the digits making up the Golden Ratio tend to not look as aesthetically appealing as the image of a Golden Spiral, Milad’s tattoo is still fascinating—especially because he ensured that the rectangle formed by the digits features sides in the proportion of the Golden Ratio. Milad got the design because the Golden Ratio is the precise reason he became fascinated by math at a young age, and because the design is the closest mathematical explanation of beauty.

5. A Strong Foundation

Mark’s tattoo might not be the most stunning out there, but it’s still something close to his heart: He loves math so much that he chose to get the Zermelo-Fraenkel with Choice axioms of Set Theory, the nine axioms that make up the foundation of mathematics.

That’s not Mark’s only math tattoo. On his other arm, he has the Y Combinator formula.

6. Have A Heart

After learning her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on Valentine’s Day, Josephine got a tattoo of one of the formulas for a heart curve, a fitting symbol of support and a great tribute to any loving mother.

7. The Gods of Math

Alison is a high school physics teacher who also studies world religion and draws spiritual inspiration from the natural laws of the universe. To reflect this approach to life, she decided to get the Mandelbrot set, the equation for hydrostatic equilibrium, the equation describing entropy, and the Delta symbol on her back to symbolize the powers of creation, preservation, destruction, and change in the world.

8. Schrodinger’s Tattoo

In the future, Brittany hopes to be what she calls a “wacky, flannel-sportin’ physicist." Her first step toward achieving that goal was getting Schrodinger’s equation for the wave function of a particle tattooed on her back, because it represents the fundamental source of “quantum weirdness.” She says she likes the design because it reminds her that “no matter what happens in my life, there is an infinitely Glorious Plan swirling all about us.”

9. HumbleBragg

Josephine Schuppang studied Crystallography at the Technical University in Berlin. After writing her thesis on the transmission electron microscopy of nitride semiconductors, she wanted to get a tattoo to mark the occasion, but because all the formulas she used were too long and complex, she decided to stick with the fundamental formula of Bragg’s Law.

10. Musical Math

Here’s one most of us probably remember from algebra. That’s right, it’s the legendary Quadratic Formula. Sharon, an undergraduate math student at Arcadia University, got the design to show her love for mathematical formulas and equations. This particular formula is one of her favorites because she learned to sing it to the tune of “Pop! Goes the weasel"—which means this is probably the most musical of all math tattoos as well.

11. Spaced Out

Juan Barredo spotted this lovely set of Maxwell’s Equations on the back of a fellow attendee at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace Conference in Washington D.C. The equations, which relate to space-time formulations, certainly fit in at a place like that.

Special thanks to Discover magazine’s Science Tattoo Emporium, which is loaded with great math and science tattoos (as the name implies). I know plenty of you Flossers have tattoos and when we posted the librarian and book tattoos articles, many of you posted your own photos of tattoos that fit in those categories. So do any of you math-lovers have formulas or mathematical symbol tattoos? If so, please share them in the comments!

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.
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History
Mütter Museum Showcases the Victorian Custom of Making Crafts From Human Hair
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

During the Victorian era, hair wasn’t simply for heads. People wove clipped locks into elaborate accessories, encased them in frames and lockets, and used them to make wreaths, paintings, and other items. "Woven Strands," a new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, explores this historical practice by featuring dozens of intricate works culled from five private collections.

According to Emily Snedden Yates, special projects manager at the Mütter Museum, hair work—as it’s called today—was common in England and America between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The popularity of the practice peaked in the 19th century, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s prolonged public mourning after her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861. People in both the UK and U.S. responded to her grief, with the latter country also facing staggering death tolls from the Civil War.

With loss of life at the forefront of public consciousness, elaborate mourning customs developed in both nations, and hair work became part of the culture of bereavement. "[The 19th century was] such a sentimental age, and hair is about sentiment," exhibition co-curator Evan Michelson tells Mental Floss. That sentimental quality made hair work fit for both mourning practices as well as for romantic or familiar displays of fondness.

Palette work culled from the collection of Evan Michelson and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Palette work from the collection of Evan Michelson
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Most hair artworks were made by women, and created solely for the domestic sphere or as wearable trinkets. Women relied on multiple techniques to create these objects, fashioning wreaths with hair-wrapped bendable wires—a process called gimp work—and dissolving ground hair into pigments used to paint images of weeping willows, urns, and grave sites. Watch fobs, necklaces, and bracelets were woven using an approach called table work, which involved anchoring hair filaments with lead weights onto a table and using tools to twist them into intricate patterns through a hole in the furniture’s surface. Yet another technique, palette work, involved stenciled sheets of hair that were cut into various shapes and patterns.

Hair work remained popular until World War I, according to Michelson, who co-owns New York City's quirky Obscura Antiques and Oddities shop and organized "Woven Strands" along with 19th century decorative arts expert John Whitenight.

“Women hit the workforce, and death occurred on such a huge scale that it really swept away the old way of mourning and the old way of doing things,” Michelson says. By the early 20th century, tastes and aesthetics had also changed, with hair work beginning to be viewed “as something grandma had,” she explains.

The Mütter’s exhibition aside, people typically won’t see hair work in major museums. Being a craft primarily performed by women at home, hair works were usually passed down in families and often viewed as worthless from a financial and artistic perspective.

“A lot of hair work was discarded,” Michelson says. Many owners repurposed the shadowbox frames often used to display hair work by removing and tossing the artworks within. Works stored in basements and attics also frequently succumbed to water damage and insects. Antique dealers today typically only see hair jewelry, which often featured semi-precious materials or was encased in a protective layer.

Sepia dissolved hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Sepia dissolved hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Yet examples of hair wreaths, palette work, and other delicate heirlooms do occasionally surface. They’re prized by a small group of avid collectors, even though other connoisseurs can be grossed out by them.

“People have this visceral reaction to it,” Michelson says. “They either gasp and adore it—like ‘I can’t get over how amazing it is’—or they just back away. There are very few other things where people are repulsed like this … In the 19th century no one batted an eyelash.”

“It’s a personal textile,” Snedden Yates explains. “It’s kind of like bone in that it doesn’t really decompose at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. It’s not made of tissue, so if you keep it in the right environment it can be maintained indefinitely.”

Table work culled from the collection of Eden Daniels and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Table work from the collection of Eden Daniels
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

“Woven Strands” features examples of gimp work, palette work, table work, and dissolved hair work. It’s often hard to trace these types of artworks back to their original creators—they typically don’t bear signatures—but the curators “really wanted to find hair that you could connect to an actual human being,” Michelson says. “We chose pieces that have provenance. We know where they came from or when it was made, or who actually donated the hair in some cases, or what the family name was. We also picked out things that are unusual, that you don’t see often—oddities, if you will.”

Woven hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Woven hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Displayed in the Mütter Museum’s Thomson Gallery, “Woven Strands” opens on January 19, 2018, and runs through July 12, 2018. On April 7, 2018, master jeweler and art historian Karen Bachmann will lead a 19th century hair art workshop, followed by a day-long historical symposium on the art on Sunday, April 8.

Michelson hopes that “Woven Strands” will teach future generations about hair art, and open their minds to a craft they might have otherwise dismissed as parochial or, well, weird. “We hope that people see it and fall in love with it,” she says.

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