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.

Cervellopoli

After more than a year spent working on it I can finally announce that Cervellopoli, my first children’s book, is now published!

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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.

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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 (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.

 

The Djerassi Fog

It has been almost 2 months since I returned from my Djerassi residency and my life in NYC couldn’t have been more different from the peaceful month spent on the Santa Cruz mountains. In the sweltering city I have been rushing to finish my next book, starting my new postdoc and meeting new people.

So here a little souvenir from Djerassi: an intricate visual metaphor in which the beautiful California fog (born by the convergence of evaporation and cold winds) becomes a symbol of what happens at the Scientific Delirium Madness – art and science coming together to create the breeding ground for new ideas.

I left the original page at the residency and I’m happy to announce that a limited edition of 10 signed prints will be sold at their fundraising event on October 16. So if you like this and you want to support a great institution get in touch with them!

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PS: scattered around the illustration you can also find little nods to my fellow residents. They probably won’t make any sense to anyone who wasn’t there with us but it was my way to honour this time spent together.

Visual Narratives For Science Communication

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I have a little announcement to make, so please allow me an unusually long post.

When I decided to become a freelance cartoonist in 2013, after finishing my PhD, I never seriously considered returning to academia. I simply didn’t think there would be an institution that would accommodate – even less support – my strange mix of interests. And probably there wasn’t, until Columbia University created the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience (PSSN for short) with the ambitious goal of creating:

a new paradigm for interdisciplinary university-sponsored research to advance understanding of mind, brain, and behavior, and the social foundations and consequences of new neuroscientific findings.
I only discovered the program in September 2015, when I first travelled to New York, and I just couldn’t believe my luck. The PSSN postdoc seemed like the position of my dreams and the next round of submission was only a few months away. I immediately started working on a proposal titled ‘Visual Narratives for Science Communication‘ and thinking of ways to bridge the gap between the apparently  distant worlds of science and comics.

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The good news is that my proposal was accepted! This means that I will have the chance to fully develop this interdisciplinary project and explore how we can use visual narratives to communicate science. I think the proliferation of science-inspired cartoons, animations and webcomics already proves their great potential, but as a scientist I want to go deeper and try to understand the cognitive mechanisms behind visual narrative communication.

Because I think scientists need new communication tools and I believe comics can help us. My hope is that soon they will not be considered just some ‘funny’ way to talk about science but an essential tool for science education. I hope one day to see a professional community of science cartoonists just like the community of science journalists we have today.

Finally – and this is one of the main reasons for me to write this post – I want to make clear that I can’t do this alone. We need interdisciplinary answers for interdisciplinary problems. Luckily, over the past years, I have already met many brilliant people, from many different fields, willing to support me. But I’m sure there are more out there who can contribute to this new emerging field. So, if you are interested in this project, whether you are a scientist, a journalist, a cartoonist, a designer, or any combination of these and much more… please DO get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, what you think and how we can collaborate.

I have big plans and more news will follow soon but in the meanwhile thank you all for supporting my work. I hope you will join me on this new adventure.

Ctrl Group

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I made this crowd illustration for Ctrl Group, a research and design company working in the field of digital healthcare and health-related technologies. It was really fun to draw because this is such an exciting (and complex) new world. Health apps, personalized genomics, caretaker robots, brain stimulators… Who knows what the future holds? One thing is sure: these guys are going to design the hell out of it! Keep an eye on them.

Shadow Biosphere

Hey, did you know that you can now preorder the new issue of LÖK ZINE which is all about cryptozoology? Personally, I contributed with a double illustration about the shadow biosphere (also called ‘weird life’) a controversial theory which argues that since we always look for ‘familiar’ life (composed of the usual stuff: proteins, RNA, DNA) we may have completely missed some non carbon-based microorganisms which could have evolved here on Earth! However unlikely I think it’s a fascinating idea, especially as we start looking for extraterrestrial life which may not look at all as we may expect…

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NOTE: the first half of the illustration was inspired by the petroglyphs carved in the so-called ‘desert varnish‘ which has been suggested as a trace of weird life. The second half of course was completely made up (although some sculptures that I have seen at the latest MoMA Picasso exhibition definitely provided some inspiration). Also, I strongly recommend this Mosaic article if you are interested in the ultimate question of “what is life?” (something that has always fascinated me as a biologist).

Mad Scientists

I’m working on so many projects at the moment that I really shouldn’t have done this, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation of doing a little Halloween drawing (especially with all the beautiful ‘haunted’ houses I’m seeing around Brooklyn these days). So here you go, I have decided to pay tribute to some of my favourite mad scientists in comics, films and video games – how many can you recognize?

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NOTE: while working on this I quickly realised that even in fiction scientists seem to be all middle-aged white males, so depressing… we really need more mad women in here! Luckily io9 already did some excellent research on the topic but I still think it’s fertile territory for cartoonists. Maybe it’s time to go back to my Rosetta character…

Goodbye Oliver Sacks

I had been in New York only for a few days when Scriberia wrote me from London to ask me if I wanted to do a scribituary about Oliver Sacks.  I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate commission than celebrating the great master of scientific writing, who was born in London 82 years ago but lived in New York for most of his life, so I eagerly accepted.

Here is the final result, which of course you can also find on the Scriberia journal, together with many other illustrated obituaries. It was hard to choose the most relevant facts in his incredible life but one thing was sure: the colour had to be some shade of indigo (listen to this Radiolab episode if you want to find out why, and learn more about Dr.Sacks).

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