The ineffable joy of transforming boring scientific explanations into exciting comics



Jay Hosler’s Clan Apis is awesome. Usually, combining science and art produces something either soulless, contrived, or just boring, but Clan Apis is awesome. It’s made for young readers, but so lovingly crafted, that adults can dig it- and the drama, rather than a forced gimmick to teach science, is genuine and interesting. Because of this, I can’t wait for his new book.

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This article raises some interesting points, so thanks for that.

“a good friend of mine quite publicly declared that he was not interested in the boring scientific explanation for a rainbow.” That person was negotiating his/her identity by publicly claiming allegiance to supposedly beautiful/artistic things, “rather than” science and “logic”. So nobody should take what they say at face value. What they’re doing is putting down a concept in order to feel better about themselves. They’re saying, “I’m a fan of this team, the other team stinks.”

But putting that aside… it’s not the scientific explanation that is boring in these cases, it’s the person who is boring. “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” A person who is curious, who thinks critically, who has some degree of imagination, will be interested in explanations. I think anyone who thinks seriously about science will agree: every “answer” in science really comes with more questions, or at least with bafflement about the state of the world. A boring person who takes a rainbow for granted, who takes light waves for granted, is a boring person. The problem here is taking things for granted. People (like the person quoted above) have a fetish for “questions” and “mystery” or “unexplained beauty” but are completely ignorant of the fact that answers and explanations are even more baffling than the questions.

You mentioned that the discovery of a “new” species is exciting. But it’s been said that, “The new is not a style; it is a value.” In other words, people sometimes fall into the habit of being attracted to the newness of things, not to the nature of things themselves. You mentioned that getting to know aliens enriches our lives. That’s true, but the overlooked aliens are things we see every day and take for granted—a tree…with thousands of green hands grabbing sunlight from every direction, a bird which sings…an actual birdsong? Or the existence of “human language”. As soon as you stop taking something like “human language” for granted, you suddenly want to major in linguistics.

“New” things, new “discoveries” is a kind of Christopher Columbus syndrome. “New” “Discoveries” get the funding, they get headlines. People fetishize something that is “NEW TO EVERYONE!!!”. A person gets to “claim” something. To pin “#1” on his or her chest. But finding a new bug or species—even finding an ACTUAL ALIEN on the planet MARS—pretty much contributes nothing to science. It’s like finding a single deleted sentence from a book of 2,000 pages. The far bigger question is what do we really know about all the millions of forms of life that we’ve already discovered, that are not “new”? However much a “new” thing might enrich you, the array of things already “known” (by other people) will enrich you a billion times more than that. Your average ant on the ground is literally an alien species to anybody other than an entomologist.

At this point in my life the most boring and humdrum fact about geology on wikipedia makes me fall over myself with amazement. It’s also pretty earth-shattering to read about the current state of science education in america.

The problem here is people, parents, children, not having any regard for what’s around them, and taking it for granted. It’s a rare feat to have a comic rise above “pandering to bored ignorant people using dressed up bells and whistles”…into something that touches on the right points and highlights the heart of the matter, so I wish you luck.

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I have to agree that narrative and pictures can make abstract information not only more palatable but also more memorable for many people. This sounds great.


In a time when science is given the role of “last word” and “final arbiter” it is a very good idea to get some understanding of science.

Then when something is “scientifically proven” one can hopefully start asking meaningful questions and make better decisions regarding their health and environment.

Science adds to the beauty – it does not subtract.


On a related topic my friends have created a story book called The Squid, The Vibrio and The Moon, which explores micro/macro symbiosis from both the squid and the vibrios point of view…

“It’s the first storybook in the Small Friends series by Scale Free Network - stories about (mostly) positive symbioses between microbes and larger forms of life. Our intention is to inspire children and adults to love our under-appreciated small friends in the microscopic world.”

It’s very careful to keep the science side of things specific enough too.

They are on their 2nd edition after a successful pozible capaign…


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