This week Massive Science published a special story I have been drawing for them over the holidays: Chaos in the Brickyard, a comic based on an allegorical/metaphorical story published by Bernard K. Forscher as a letter to Science in 1963. If you have been following me, you know how much I LOVE metaphors and I always loved this one in particular because I think it captures in a clear and accessible way (although extremely simplified) the process of scientific research, which from the outside may often seem like an obscure, almost mystical, endeavour.
I have been fascinated with this story for many years, since I have first read about it (I think it was in the excellent The Trouble With Scienceby Robin Dunbar). However, in the past few years, because of my work as a science communicator researcher at the Center for Science and Society I have become increasingly interested in the history and philosophy of science and the fundamental questions of what exactly is this thing called ‘Science’?
The letter does not provide answers (if you are looking for those I strongly recommend Real Science by John Ziman) but illustrates the important distinction between data collection and theory building, and what happens when this distinction is lost.
I think this is an important reminder in a world increasingly dominated by Big Tech and Big Data, which seems to value volume of research more than novelty or depth, often confusing ‘predictions’ with ‘explanations’, constantly challenging and undermining the value of the Humanities. I could rant about all of these things for hours… but I prefer to tell stories instead of giving lectures, hoping that they will be passed down the generations and spark a wider debate. So, please, go ahead and read it!
PS: also, if you enjoy allegories about science, On Exactitude In Science by Jorge Luis Borges is one of my all-times favorites (maybe the subject of a future comic?)
Despite everything 2017 was a pretty good year for me, probably one of the best I had. I published two books (Cervellopoli + The Senses) and spent most of my time reading and writing about the science of storytelling, metaphors and visualization. A lot of new ideas are brewing in my brain and I can’t wait to start working on them in 2018. I wish your neurons are fired up too!
Voice has reached me that some friends of mine still didn’t know I have a new book out, so I guess I’m miserably failing at this whole self-promotion thing. Indeed, I have realized that I had never even announced it here on my blog (but you, dear readers, regularly check my website matteofarinella.com, follow me on the twitter, and all the rest, right?).
Anyway, to avoid any confusion, here we go: I made a new book – GO BUY IT!
It’s called The Senses and it has a warm red cover, full of silver and gold shiny things (FIG. 2) which looks great next to Christmas trees, Menorahs, previous books by the same author, and what have you. Also – SPOILER ALERT – it’s about the brain and it subtly denies the existence of the ‘Soul’ so it’s perfect for your atheist friends too (happy Festivus everyone!).
No, seriously, I have been working on this since early 2015, so it was incredibly exciting to finally hold it in my hands this past October. Nobrow, as usual, made a masterful job with the printing! After some delays with the shipping it looks like it’s finally arriving to bookshops around the globe and I have heard that Amazon is even shipping it directly to your doorstep. I can’t wait for you to read it and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
I’ll be back in the new year with more science comics, thank you all for your support!
Hey, I have a new short comic in the latest issue of LÖK ZINE on the theme of TRIAL/PROVA. It is a sci-fi story about automation, free-will and artificial superintelligence, partly inspired by future scenarios described in Nick Bostrom‘s Superintelligence and partly by a talk I have seen recently about the Three Mile Island incident.
If you are curious about it you should order a copy of LÖK#09. I still haven’t checked out the latest issue but it’s usually packed with experimental comic goodness from all over the world!
The leaves are starting to turn in New York and so I have decided to dig out this double page spread that I made last Fall.
This was meant as the opening for a short story about a chlorophyll molecule which, as the season changes, has to abandon the the leaf-farms and embark on a long trip to the tree-castle. I eventually abandoned the project, but in weekends like this I still like the idea of a medieval-fantasy plants biology comic.
This last year I had less and less time to draw as my research project advanced. It’s sad, but I always knew that it would be difficult to combine science and illustration in everyday life. Hopefully the things I’m learning will help me, and many others, to make more and better science comics in the future!
A very welcome exception has been this series of ‘collectable cards’ celebrating women scientists, which I have been developing with Massive Science in the past 2-3 of months. I have made approximately 1 per week and there are now 9 of them, neatly arranged on their Instagram. You can find out more about each one of these pioneering scientists and discover new ones in Our Heroes series on their website: https://massivesci.com/themes/our-heroes/
I made a quick motivational illustration to promote themarch for science, happening next month on April 22nd. Feel free to repost it, print it, or use it any other way that may help spread this initiative (let me know if you need it in high resolution). I hope it can inspire some scientists to get out in the streets and stand up against anti-science governments!
I have just returned from ASU Emerge, an art and science festival in Tempe, Arizona. The theme of the 2017 edition was Frankenstein, “a 200-year old novel that still motivates us to think critically about our creative agency and scientific responsibility”. I was there mostly to talk about Neurocomic and document the amazing work done by the other participants but since the science behind Frankenstein has interesting connections with the history of neuroscience and a little known Italian scientist from my hometown, Bologna, I decided to make a special minicomic for the occasion (very much in the spirit of the Little Albert Experiment).
Here is a digital version for those of you who couldn’t get a copy at the event. Many thanks to ASU and the organizers for supporting my work!
PS: as usual you can read this story also on Medium.
After more than a year spent working on it I can finally announce that Cervellopoli, my first children’s book, is now published!
Editoriale Scienza approached me back in 2015, asking me if I was interested in writing an introduction to neuroscience for younger readers. I had no experience in writing children’s books but thanks to their expert guidance (and a lot of help at the colors from my friend Marie De Beaucourt) I can say that I am very happy with the result.
But the final judgement is now up to my new readers, so if you know a little Italian speaker please consider buying the book for them (I hope to have soon an English edition as well). Thanks!
Christmas is upon us and I realised that I have been so busy this year (between my new research project and my new books) that I didn’t have time to draw any short stories, which have always been my favourite format. So, when I learnt about the troubles of Christmas Island on the new Planet Earth (and later discovered that the story is even more complicated) I decided that it was time for a little personal project. This short comic is the result, it’s inspired by science – because of course it is – but I hope it can also be read as fiction and enjoyed regardless of the science. However, if you do want to know more of the biology here is all all the info you need. Happy holidays!
NOTE: Available also on Medium, with larger images.