International Space Age Comics

The European Space Agency broke onto the scene (or at least my consciousness) in a big way this year with their Rosetta project.  If you haven’t heard about this, I’m definitely not the person to explain it, but let’s say that Rosetta pulled up alongside a moving comet after a decade, then landed the Philae probe onto that moving comet.  Exciting stuff!

This was the first I’d heard about the European Space Agency, but going through the archives of one of my new favorite webcartoonists recently, the Frenchman Boulet, I found out that he’d been invited onto a reduced gravity aircraft by the Centres Nationales d’Etudes Spatiales to experience Zero-G and make comics about it!

His comic about the experience covers the anxious build-up, the kinds of experiments being run on the craft, and of course the main attraction, the experience of weightlessness…

The further back I go into Boulet‘s archive, the more I see why he was invited on this trip, as an amateur science enthusiast with some strong opinions about space exploration, as well as some strikingly exquisite sci-fi imaginings, as below…

And of course, as far as space exploration outside the US goes, there was a more direct, and more controversial, comic response to another noteworthy space mission, this time out of India:

Political cartoon on India's Mars Mission by Heng Kim Song

India’s Budget Mission to Mars, political cartoon by Heng Kim Song in New York Times

Singaporean cartoonist Heng Kim Song made the above comic in response to the Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter Mission, which was done on the cheap but has succeeded in orbiting Mars.  The cartoon caused a bit of a furor with the New York Times apologizing for running it, but India is definitely an unexpected entrant to the space race…  But the democratization of space exploration is an exciting prospect; the more the merrier, science wins all around!

Internet Comics

There are lots of comics on the internet, but how many of those are about the internet?

Infomaniacs by Matthew Thurber

From Infomaniacs by Matthew Thurber

At tomorrow night’s New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium event, Matthew Thurber will discuss his comic Infomaniacs, originally serialized online and since published by Picturebox.  With an internet-addicted protagonist, the comic developed into a thriller confronting issues of privacy and ownership online.

In his talk he’ll discuss the influences on the comic and the making of.  This interview in The Paris Review  might be good preparation, as is this live-action trailer for Infomaniacs:

Later this week I’m going to an event for librarians about Google Glasses, which I am skeptical of, but have yet to see in person, so why not.  However, I was reminded of Vision Machine, the creator-owned comic by Greg Pak and RB Silva, which is freely available online under a Creative Commons license.

Vision Machine #1

From Vision Machine #1, by Greg Pak & RB Silva

Released in 2010, the three issue series imagines a sneakily dystopian future where everyone has a set of iEyes, networked video camera glasses created by Sprout Technologies.  It’s only a matter of time until users regret never reading the terms of agreement when they’re bombarded with ads and lose access to the content they generated to Sprout.

Worth reading now that Google Glasses are an actual thing, and a good companion piece to Infomaniacs.

Stand up for your Health

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how sitting down all day is slowly killing us, so i jerryrigged myself a standing desk (3 boxes on a table), from whence I am writing to share this Atlantic video about the health risks of desk jobs and the importance of good posture & regular cubicle exercise.

Not sure if there’s a limit to how much time you should spend at your standing desk but I’ve been pushing it lately, what with school-work, work-work, and finding-postgrad-work-work.  So as you’ve noticed, post frequency has taken a hit and will probably remain a bit irregular…  Sorry ’bout that!  Hope you can get through the fall without my good cheer…  😀

Time Loop Toons


Saw this super adorable (but ultimately sorta sad) short cartoon by Evan Red Borja at the first Sans Diego Film Shorts screening on Monday.  Title & inspiration taken from the real life fossilized Alpine caveman Ötzi, found in 1991 (be warned, creepy mummy photos ahoy).

If you happen to be a filmmaker and have a movie (live action or animated, short or feature length), you can submit it for consideration for the planned October Sans Diego screening!  Visit their site for more information…

Dinosaurs of a Feather

My last evolution-themed post was inexplicably super-popular, so I thought I’d try it again, especially since fellow science nerd Randall Munroe of xkcd is also getting in on the game:

Birds / Dinosaurs Evolution from xkcd

Copyright Randall Munroe

Dino-fan Dina from David Willis’ Dumbing of Age was a bird-as-dinosaur advocate even earlier though:

Birds / Dinosaurs Evolution Dumbing of Age comic

Copyright David Willis

Admittedly, it takes some mental reconfiguration to think of birds as dinosaurs, but then I see a sparrow hopping around on it’s scaly little legs, and I guess I can see it.  But there’s a certain TV nerd who’s been aware of the secret dinosaurs in our midst for even longer…

Also, check out Tuesday’s post for a one-act opera about Darwin by Justine F. Chen, who’s new opera about Turing is being performed tonight as part of the InsightALT festival of new opera.  It’ll be live-streamed here, at 7pm tonight.

Chen’s Sci-Operas

Continuing with this week’s InsightALT festival for new opera, first comes the news that all events, starting with tonight’s master-class with soprano Catherine Malfitano, will be live-streamed here, by Opera Music Broadcast.  Not sure what the relation between the two is, but American Lyric Theater‘s YouTube channel does have lots of full video of past events, so guess it’s legit!  On the other hand, you can still buy tickets here!

Anyway, the first opera performed this week is by Justine F. Chen, on Thursday at 7pm (PS: happy last week of APAHM!).  Her opera is The Turing Project, about computer science pioneer Alan Turing.  Any operatic depiction of science should be interesting, and Justine has actually gone to that well before for American Lyric Theater, as evidenced by this one-act opera, “On the Origin”, about Darwin:


This was created as part of American Lyric Theater‘s Composer Librettist Development Program, pairing composers with writers for a pretty fun-sounding curriculum on the words & music collaboration…  If any of my readers are interested though, you’ll have to wait until next year to apply  : P

To prepare for Thursday, you can also visit Chen’s site for some audio samples of past works, including operas, monodramas, and songs.

Cuddly Lil’ Bone Crushers

To accompany yesterday’s post on flu virus evolution comics, here’s a more in depth (and cuddlier!) one courtesy of Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics summarizing the work of Zhijie Jack Tseng, currently of the American Museum of Natural History, on the convergent evolution of savage bone-crushin’ jaws in hyenas and dogs.

You can also see a related comic version of this video, which is neat…  Always impressed by Cham’s animated thesis comics…  which you can see much more of on PhD TV!

Hyena-Dog convergent evolution comic by Jorge Cham

Copyright Jorge Cham