Chaos in the Brickyard

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.

ChaosInTheBrickyard_00a

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 Science by 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.

ChaosInTheBrickyard_00c

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!

ChaosInTheBrickyard_panel1.jpg

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?)

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The Trial

Trial_01_detail

Hey, I have a new short comic in the latest issue of LÖK ZINE on the theme of TRIAL/PROVAIt 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!

LOK09.jpeg

Winter is coming

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.

WinterIsComing

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.

Frankenstein Aldini

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!

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PS: as usual you can read this story also on Medium.

Christmas (Island) special

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!

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NOTE: Available also on Medium, with larger images.

 

Human Brain Project

For a long time I meant to write something about the troubled history of the Human Brain Project, the EU flagship project which promises to create a computer simulation of the human brain by 2023. I am interested in this project partly because computational neuroscience was the subject of my PhD and partly because I think it raises many important questions regarding scientific funding.

When last year Graphic-News asked me to draw an article for them I immediately suggested this topic and here is my first piece of graphic journalism! Now finally available also in English:

Human Brain Project Farinella

(Full disclosure: I am one of the scientists who signed the open letter to ask for revisions of the HBP project).

Rosetta

I spent the best part of the week drawing a 6-pages comic to submit to the Stripburger open call. It’s a science-fiction story with much more ‘fiction’ than ‘science’ (for once) which I wrote a long time ago and it was really good to get out of my system. It features comets, an evil scientist and some kind of love… it’s a metaphor for how science, in its attempt to control the universe, sometimes forgets about human emotions. I hope you will be able to read it in print soon, in the meanwhile here is the cover:

Rosetta comic Farinella

Sealand

Farinella Sealand

This is a page from my latest comic, you can read it in full on my new website. Yes, I have a new website! Also the blog has a new design, did you notice? This is all part of my new year resolution of becoming a professional cartoonist. Sadly the truth is that I am still working full-time as a research scientist. But starting from next month I already have some interesting commissions and many other projects lined up. So watch this space, this time I mean it.

Little Albert Experiment

Thanks to everyone who came to play with Neurocomic at the first Imperial Fringe night! (it was really fun to draw zombie comics with you kids)

In case you couldn’t make it, here is the science-horror comic we were giving away.

We still have a few copies left so if you want some for your Halloween party let me know.

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

Farinella - Little Albert Experiment

PS: someone the other night was asking me what happened to Watson and Little Albert after the experiment. Well, here is a more complete (and possibly even more terrifying!) version of the story.