Nine Gift Ideas For the Science-Loving Art Enthusiast on Your List

Be it a book, movie, calendar or game, these picks are perfect for the hardest-to-shop-for people on your list

Courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Given the growing public interest in artsy science and sciency art, I like to think these gifts are sure to impress your friends and family this holiday season!

For the movie buff:

If there is a participating theater near you, grab tickets and take a movie-loving friend or family member to see the documentary Chasing Ice. Inspired by a trip to Iceland in 2005, photographer James Balog embarked on a massive project called the Extreme Ice Survey. He deployed time-lapse cameras across the Arctic as a means of gathering visual evidence of climate change. “His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate,” says the movie’s Web site. Outside Magazine says Chasing Ice “should be required viewing for every policymaker on earth.”

For the athlete:

Leggings with muscle print

Muscle leggings by Black Milk. Courtesy of Flickr user Brett Jordan.

Unfortunately, the women’s running tights that Nike released in mid-October, boldly decorated with X-ray images of bones, flew off the shelves and are currently out of stock. The company described the spandex leggings as giving a glimpse into the wearer’s “inner toughness,” and, boy—or shall I say, girl!—they were fierce. But, if you have an athlete on your list who’d be willing to make equally as bold and scientific a fashion statement, consider these muscle leggings from the Australian clothing brand Black Milk.

Rorshock in Color Board Game

Rorshock in Color

For the game nut:

Some families (mine) are into games, while others (my husband’s) cringe at the mention of them. If yours is the former, think about bringing the boardgame, Rorshöck in Color, to your holiday gathering. Loosely based on the ideas of Swiss pyschoanalyst Hermann Rorschach, who designed his “Rorschach test” on the premise that much about an individual’s personality could be deduced by what he or she sees within a set of inkblots, the game comes with 20 cards, each with a different inkblot painting. When one player responds with what they see in a given inkblot, another refers to a handy book of diagnoses. “Don’t worry, you haven’t lost your mind: The diagnoses here are funny, cheeky and downright irreverent,” claims the game’s manufacturer. As the tagline says, Rorshöck in Color is “a game for colorful personalities.” (Recommended for ages 15 and up)

For the art collector:

DNA portraits, shown here, are reminiscent of barcodes. Courtesy of DNA 11.

One of the very first posts I wrote for Collage of Arts and Sciences was about a clever company called DNA 11. Since 2005, founders Adrian Salamunovic and Nazim Ahmed have filled orders placed by people around the world wanting their very own (and sometimes even their dogs’) DNA portraits. The customer swabs his inner cheek and then rubs that foam swab onto a paper card, which DNA 11 provides in a DNA collection kit. Once the company receives the sample, technicians in DNA 11′s genetics lab—the very first of its kind devoted solely to art making—isolate specific DNA sequences and create a unique digital image–a pattern of highlighted bands–that is then printed on a canvas. For the artist or art collector on your list, DNA 11 offers a gift kit. The kit includes all the materials a recipient would need to collect his or her DNA sample and submit it for a custom portrait.

America’s Other Audubon. Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.

For the bookworm:

America’s Other Audubon, published this past May by Princeton Architectural Press, is an incredible book for anyone interested in scientific illustration. To most, John James Audubon is a familiar name, but author Joy M. Kiser tells the story of Genevieve Jones, an illustrator whose artistry and scientific accuracy rivaled Audubon’s and yet history forgot. In the 1880s, Jones and her family published 90 copies of her masterpiece, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Ohio. Today, only 34 of those 90 originals are known to exist. (The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is lucky enough to have two.) Yet, in America’s Other Audubon, Kiser brings Jones’ story and her detailed illustrations of delicate birds’ nests and dappled eggs to the public for the very first time.

For the shutterbug:

Nikon Small World First Place Peters

The blood-brain barrier in a live zebrafish embryo. Image by Dr. Jennifer L. Peters and Dr. Michael R. Taylor.

Introduce someone near and dear to the fascinating world of photomicrography. For 38 years, Nikon has hosted an annual “Small World” competition where skilled researchers submit photographs captured through a light microscope. This year’s top winners, depicting everything from a zebrafish embryo to coral sand, and the retina of a fruit fly to a close-up of garlic, are featured in a 2013 calendar.

Sun Print

Sun print. Courtesy of Flickr user .scribe.

For the crafty kid:

A fun way to teach a child about the beauty of nature is through sun printing. Using a SunPrint kit, one can put leaves, flowers and other objects on chemically-treated solar paper and place the composition to the sun. In a matter of minutes, the areas exposed to sunlight are blue whereas the areas blocked by the objects are white. The design can be preserved by dipping the paper in water and allowing it to dry. Once your child has mastered sun printing on paper, she or he can apply the technique to fabrics. Light-sensitive cotton, silk, t-shirts and scarves can be purchased at


Periodic Table of Heavy Metals

Periodic Table of Heavy Metals by Pop Chat Labs

For the nephew or niece who eats and sleeps with Beats headphones on:

Pop Chart Lab, a Brooklyn-based company founded by Patrick Mulligan, a book editor, and Ben Gibson, a graphic designer, has made it its mission “to render all of human experience in chart form.” Music is no exception. Check out the Periodic Table of Heavy Metals print and the Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names, which takes an almost scientific approach to linking all the Lils, Bigs, Daddys, Masters and Doctors populating the genre’s history.

Petri Dish Ornament G13 Pink

Ornament by Artologica

And, last but not least, for a party’s host or hostess:

A petri dish ornament! Artist Michele Banks watercolors—resembling bacteria-laden agar—are actually quite beautiful.




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